Moisture content in honey
Ideally, honey should contain less than 17.8% water. If the moisture content is higher than 20%, it may ferment due to the presence of yeasts in the honey.
Honey is hygroscopic and if it is not carefully stored in a sealed container it will absorb moisture from the air.
The internationally recognised standard is that honey should have a moisture content of less than 20%. (23% for Heather honey in the UK). With a high degree of accuracy, Beekeepers must ensure moisture levels in their honey is within the legal limits.
The best way to ensure your honey is ready to harvest is by only spinning out capped honey. Some beekeepers use a refractometer to check the moisture content in their honey is within legal tolerances. Here is a link to UK honey legislation. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1348/made
- Always maintain clean comb in your supers – use starter strips and about three full sheets per super.
- Try to extract honey as soon as possible after it’s capped to avoid it setting.
- Always use clean utensils and equipment.
- Make sure the extractor is spotlessly clean.
- Keep honey or comb covered to protect it from dust.
- After extraction, you may need to warm the honey to about 40c for about 4 hours before fine filtering. Then allow it to stand in a settling tank for about 48 hours to allow all air to bubble to the top. You may speed-up this process with a small heat source under the settling tank (about 60 watts – no more)
- To keep honey clear, warm it for 10 hours in a cabinet at 40c. It will remain clear for about six weeks. Do not overheat as the honey will be spoilt and can only be used for cooking. Another way is to place your jars in a water bath on a piece of wood (to save the jars from breaking), bring up to 70c, turn off the heat, cover with a lid or newspaper and leave for 25 minutes.
- When all the air has reached the top, you can use a plastic scraper to smooth the bubbles off the surface. If bubbles remain on the top of the honey in the settling tank, air will converge just above the tap and the last few jars will have all the froth in them. Another solution is to skim off the froth and use at home!
- When bottling, hold the jar as close to the tap as you can so that as little air as possible is added as the honey falls into the jar.
- Before labelling for sale, make sure the jar isn’t sticky.
- Clean the outside of the jars with some form of glass cleaner or meths and polish with a soft cloth. Handle carefully so as not to put smears on the jar or lid.
Soft set honey
Soft set honey is also known as creamed honey. The benefit of honey prepared in this way is that it will always remain pliable. It is prepared by warming and then ‘creaming’ the honey with a blender as seen in Louise’s video.
Soft set is a good way of blending different types of honey. The creamer should never break the surface of the honey to avoid excess air getting into it.
Place your warmed honey (40c) in a settling tank, add any other honey you want to blend and mix together using the creamer until an even consistency is achieved. Allow the honey to settle for 12 hours. Then bottle the honey and label as soft set.
The remainder in the tank should be creamed again and allowed to settle for another 12 hours before bottling. This method keeps the air to a minimum and will minimise any frosting. This can then be sold as creamed honey and should be good for a considerable time.
Cut comb honey
When selecting comb for cut comb honey for show, make sure that the cappings are even and as white as possible. Of course, this also applies to comb for sale but in this case you don’t need a matching pair.
Avoid having honey on the surface of the wax and around the container. It looks unsightly and detracts from the appearance of a first-class product.
For combs with clear honey for show put the comb on a wire grid, wiping the cutter between each piece cut. For show, always cut in the same direction. You can be disqualified for failing to do that.
Allow the comb to stand on the wire grid to let the surplus honey drain out. Then carefully place into the container. You do not need to take these precautions with heather honey as it is thixotropic.
- Most shows require a matching pair of jars. This means jars of identical shape, mould numbers on the bottom and lids
- Follow the show labelling instructions; if it says half an inch from the bottom of the jar; put them there!