When buying honey, this is a common question. Does honey go bad? Basically, how long can you keep honey before you need to throw it out?
Let us address a few critical points about honey first.
- Honey is hygroscopic or hydrophilic – which just means honey will absorb water from the air. When the honey has high water content, this is where fermentation occurs. Fermentation is a natural process – so if you want to make mead (honey wine), you love fermentation – for eating…not so much. This means honey needs to remain sealed! – so it limits or stops water absorption from the air.
- Liquid honey granulates – which forms crystals – this is a natural process, and fermentation may happen on the top layer. Crystals in honey are not necessarily an indicator of fermentation. This process is sped up in colder temperatures – so keep honey at room temperature (not in the refrigerator – unless you want crystalizing honey – which still tastes good – but many may not be used to it.
So in simple terms, honey can last an extremely long time in an airtight container at room temperature or even slightly warmer than room temperature. Crystallization does not mean it is going bad and can be returned to ‘normal’ with moderate heat (see our article on how to store honey)
If it’s not in an airtight container and the honey has started to ferment, you can scrape off the top layer of honey.
- Honey Bee Biology page 256