View Full Version : Is honey still honey.....

09-16-2007, 09:18 AM
... no matter what brand and price? Notice I said brand, because I believe it is clover honey (doesn't say actually). It is a Kroger brand I saw on sale, the 'Kroger Value' Pure Honey US Grade A, no other ingredients other than Honey, or Miel. :)

Anyhow, I got two, two pounds for $5.16 each, thought that was a good deal, and was going to use it in a batch for sweet mead, and possibly make a melomel with strawberries or peaches later as well. Any thoughts on this brand of honey? Is honey just honey basically no matter the brand?

Maybe I should go out and buy their entire stock, if this really is a good deal, since honey lasts forever, right?



09-16-2007, 11:42 AM
What you have there is a derivative of "pure honey," in the sense that it has been heat pasteurized and filtered to remove any hint of non-sugar solids, leaving you with a fairly light, perfectly transparent, and relatively unflavorful sugar syrup that just happens to be originally from bee product.

It will make an acceptable first mead, since it will ferment and there will be some traces of the varietal character of clover left when fermentation is over. But the grocery store honeys are really processed for mass-market consumption as generic sweeteners, and just like the American beers of the 50's and early 60's, there's not much of unique interest there.

Also, if you do stumble on some raw honey in your search for fermentables, keep in mind that while the sweetening power of honey will last almost forever if it is stored in a relatively dry and temperature stable place, the unique flavor elements inherent in a raw varietal honey are still subject to slow breakdown over the course of several years, so it is best to use honey that has not been around all that long when making your mead. Also, if the honey is subject to wet storage conditions it will absorb water from the air, and eventually dilute itself to the point where spoilage organisms can start to grow.

09-16-2007, 02:07 PM
Thanks for your reply.
So, anything grocery store bought honey will be as you described, right? If I want to get the best type of honey, I would need to find a farmer, or beekeeper and buy it raw, instead of the 'processed' sugar syrup?

Well, thanks again for the reply, I'm going to research where I can get raw honey local to where I live.

09-16-2007, 02:52 PM
Not exactly. Around here, the megamarts carry local "raw" honey in bottles, along with bulk raw honey at Whole Foods and the LHBS. Beyond that, there are plenty of online honey resellers that carry a wide selection of varietal honeys. It takes a little more looking, but it's worth it.

09-17-2007, 09:05 AM
Punkideas makes an important point for selecting honey when at your local grocery store. To make sure you are getting "unprocessed" honey (all honey is heated slightly), know your local producers and supply companies and look for their names on the shelf. It will be more expensive to get their honey in a grocery store than if you go directly to them.

If you cannot find a local supplier, take a look at the honeys. Highly processed 'syrup' is that perfectly clear, ocher colored stuff in clear jars or little bears from large non-name brand suppliers. The unprocessed honeys will usually be slightly opaque (not always), with small sugar crystals around the top (not always), will have alternate names such as White, Basswood, Wildflower etc., and will not come in little plastic bears (although some do).

As you can see, it is not always easy to identify the good honeys on the shelf, which brings you back to the original advice of - know your local supplier. You will nto regret building a relationship with someone who really knows his honey and is very happy to discuss it with you for hours.


09-17-2007, 09:59 AM
I wouldnt stick too closely to brands or stores in determining a honey. They dont really label very well if they are filtered or processed or even when it was harvested. Since honey lasts for so long it could be sitting around forever on the shelf. I agree with Angus. Educate yourself on the specifics of a honey in what they do.

09-17-2007, 12:42 PM
Ha! As a beekeeper, my answer is no.... :protest:

But then again, I can't comment on how the store honey works for mead because I only use my own!!

I like to echo the others comments about honey... don't let the crystal clear beautiful light gold color fool you... my honey is beautiful gold when extracted, but within a few weeks or months goes cloudy then quite solid. But it still is wonderful and makes great mead. I feel obligated to heat the crystals out when selling it, but I am keeping a bunch around that I will leave crystallized for meadmaking.

The store honey may be pure US honey, likely not, since there are a ton of imports from china that are laundered through other countries, as well as honey from other countries. It's definately blended.

I would find a local beekeeper, often you can probably get a good bargain on bulk honey. Then you know the source and be able to say that it is total local mead.


09-17-2007, 02:24 PM
I'll argue with Angus a tad. There's no reason for local honey not to be clear, heated, and I would not expect it to start crystallizing around the top of the jar.

Making clear honey is relatively easy, you simply strain the honey through a fine mesh screen. It's normally done to remove wax capping and large bits of pollen. Some really fine specs of pollen end up in the honey, but if you let it sit for a couple of days they float to the top along with all the air bubbles . If you then bottle with a spigot at the bottom of the container you'll end up with very clear honey once the bubbles introduced during bottling rise to the surface. No heat needs to be used at any time, and this doesn't remove any flavours, etc.

Depending on where you're at, and hence the nectar source the colour of the honey will vary greatly as how quickly it crystallizes. Sunflower honey is renown for how quickly it crystallizes, with some beeks reporting they can't extract the honey since it's solidified within the comb. If you see crystals forming around the neck of the jar or a haze in the honey you know it's been sitting for a while. How long will depend on the type of honey. Once honey has crystallized you return it to it's liquid state by gentle heating in a stove with a pilot light or a warm water bath. A temperature around 100f should be fine to liquefy the honey, and that's only a tad warmer than the brood nest where the honey was made.

If you're interested in seeing how honey is extracted from a hive take a look at: http://geekfarmlife.com/2007/08/27/barncast-81-extracting-honey/

It's a rough little 10 minute video where we walk through pulling the supers, uncapping, and extracting. You'll see the strainer and everything involved.

09-17-2007, 03:19 PM
Argue away. I bow to the beekeepers knowledge over mine any day.


09-17-2007, 04:34 PM
My fine wildflower honey (linden?) starts getting hazy within 2 weeks of extraction. Some years are better, and I think my summer honey is still clear, different floral source.

No point in heating it if it is going to be dissolved in water for mead. It will only keep the flavors that might be driven off by heating.

Don't let hazy or crystalized honey bother you. It may or may not mean that it is old. If the crystals are larger, then it is might be a bit older, but if the crystals are small and not so grainy, this means that the honey crystalized quickly.

If it says "Packed in the USA" then it is cheap imported honey. But still works for mead.


09-17-2007, 05:03 PM
ok, how about this? I know this is probably an opinion question, but how much more will I enjoy my mead if I make it with 'raw' from the bee-hive honey, vs. store bought 'processed' honey?

Thanks for all the good information, since I'm still a new-Bee, I'll need to experiment for myself, and try different types of honey, and keep my eye out, ect.

09-17-2007, 05:10 PM
I think that the best answer to your question lies in your conclusion -- experiment a bit, and then do what pleases you. For the most part those of us with some meadmaking experience find that raw (minimally processed) honeys provide the most flavor and aroma in the finished mead, but that's not to say you won't make a pleasing product with more processed honey. I happen to use a lot of clover honey that undoubtedly has been heated and filtered extensively for my melomels. But in a melomel I'm usually looking for the fruit presence to predominate, and the honey to contribute just a hint to the flavor profile. For traditional meads and metheglyns I much prefer raw honeys. YMMV.

09-17-2007, 07:40 PM
Don't you guys know anything about honey. Everyone knows little plastic bears sneak out at night and fill them selfs with honey from magice honey trees. Then return to to store before morning, if they dont they turn into ugly garden nomes. That means all honey is all natural and Un filtered. :tongue3:

09-18-2007, 02:35 PM
So, the word is that raw honey from your local beekeeper is 'better', and the less processed it is, the better it is - OK.

However... ;D

I do live in Belgium. (rain, clouds, clams and lots of beers)
I know I could find one or two beekeepers in the 100Km range around Brussels, and get raw honey from them.
However, I don't think we have 'nomadic pollenisator' beekeepers in Belgium;
This is good and bad :
If I get my honey from the same, sedentary, beekeeper, i'll get honey that comes from the same area, which should be mostly from the same crops, year to year (unless the local farmers do crop rotation, but anyway.) and that is good.
However it'll always be the 'same' (quotes as it'll never be the same, only roughly similar) honey from year to year, and that is a mixed blessing.

My point here is that I view it as a good thing to be able to get mexican, chinese, or even U.S. honey. Sure it'll be processed, sanitized to a degree, etc... BUT at least that way I can get my miffs on varietal honey and try some honeys from crops that just don't grow around europe.

So it's up to what you're looking for, really. If you want it 'bio', 'natural' or even 'national' :usa2: then by all means, do find a local beekeeper and get honey as raw as he'll be able to provide it to you.
if you want to toy around, and finetune that eucalyptus-citrus-mint honey for a winter mead, then you'll need a distributor with varied sources.

As long as you turn it into good mead, any honey should do :cheers: