Cloudy Honey

Our first batches of honey this year were crushed and strained from foundationless honey supers in September. The honey has pleasant floral aromas and flavours and is mildly sweet, not overpowering. It’s easy to take. The honey was cloudy with bubbles when we first bottled it but quickly cleared up and took on the appearance of apple juice and still looks the same today. Our last batch of honey was extracted in October using a local commercial beekeeper’s extractor. That honey was cloudy and has remained cloudy. The floral flavours and aromas are dialled down to 8 instead of 10, but are generally unaffected. It’s easy to tell what honey came from the extractor, though. Both of these photos were taken today:

Extracted honey (from October 2011).
Crushed and strained honey (from September 2011).

So why is the extracted honey cloudy? Well…

Probably because the extractor we used is cleaned only once a year at the end of each season. It’s still sanitary, but without regular cleaning, pollen, bits of wax and other particulates will build up at the bottom of the extractor. Honey that goes through the extractor near the end of the season will inevitably pick up more of those particulates, resulting in a much cloudier honey. The particulates, although harmless, will also cause the honey to crystallize sooner. (Jan. 25/12 update: The extracted honey crystallized within four months. See Crystallized Honey for more info.)

Another possible reason for the cloudy honey could be the fact that it was mixed with some Goldenrod honey that went through the extractor just before ours. I’ve learned that Goldenrod honey has a greater proportion of glucose-to-fructose — the magic ratio that accelerates the crystallization process. Canola, Aster and Goldenrod honey apparently are famous for crystallizing within days of being removed from the comb. If that’s the case, I can’t imagine Goldenrod honey ever being anything but cloudy. That being said, the higher glucose-to-fructose chemistry of the Goldenrod probably wasn’t transferred to our honey, not much of it anyway. Otherwise our honey probably would have crystallized by now. Most likely it was the accumulated particulates inside the extractor that contributed to the cloudiness of the honey.

I’m not bothered too much by the cloudy honey. At least it still has some of the natural floral flavours and aromas. Nothing beats raw comb honey, but given the choice of bottled honey, I’d pick the crushed-and-strained honey every time. It’s got a little extra something that puts it over the top.

Postscript: Most commercial beekeepers clarify their honey by heating it, which I think is bad news no matter how you look at it. Before I pass judgement, though, I’m going to clear a bottle of our cloudy honey by heating it. Then I’ll do a blind taste test between all the honeys that we own — crushed-and-strained honey, cloudy extracted honey, clarified extracted honey, and some honeys from other beekeepers — and then we’ll see what happens. Stay tuned…