A Timeless Treasure: How Long Does Raw Honey Last?

Have you noticed expiration dates on the honey in your local grocery store but also heard the phrase “honey never expires?” It’s normal to be confused about this sticky situation. 

The bee and honey experts at West River Exchange are here to answer all your questions. After all, it’s super important for raw honey consumers and beekeepers to know their honey’s shelf life. In this article, we’ll demystify your jar of honey’s long shelf life, expand on the science behind it (including health benefits), and help you understand what it takes to store honey properly. 

Let’s make like a bee and buzz on!

Back to Basics: What Makes Honey “Raw”?

There are a few different types of honey, but right now, we’re just going to compare the main ones. They are raw honey and pasteurized honey. Here’s the main difference between the two:

  • Raw Honey: This is pure honey straight from the hive. Sometimes, beekeepers will filter out honeycomb and debris, but no additives or pasteurization exist. 
  • Pasteurized or Processed Honey: The only reason honey is ever pasteurized is to delay the crystallization process. It may also slow the fermentation process. This process involves bringing the honey to high temperatures and cooling it quickly. 

Manufacturers and beekeepers will sometimes add more sugar or other sweetener flavorings to their honey. Once this happens, the honey is no longer raw. 

Here’s the thing: Pasteurization and even adding extra ingredients to honey can change its healing properties. Food items like milk are pasteurized to prevent rapid spoilage and eliminate nasty microbes that can harm people. We’ll explain more later, but suffice it to say that honey doesn’t really need to be pasteurized.  

Raw, pure honey is delicious, offers oodles of health benefits, and, if stored properly, lasts for eons. 

So, How Long Does Raw Honey Last? 

We know you’re dying to know. When does raw honey expire? The answer is never. Honey is the only food on the plant that doesn’t expire and, if stored properly, doesn’t require pasteurization. 

So, we meant it when we said it lasts eons! Bees are nature’s most successful chefs. They create food that is delicious, lasts forever, and can be used in a myriad of ways. All we have to do as beekeepers and honey enthusiasts is take good care of these little guys and their honey. 

The Science Behind Raw Honey’s Longevity

Fun fact: Preserved and entirely edible honey has been found in Egyptian tombs—its shelf life is that impressive. Here are the main factors that contribute to honey’s extraordinary shelf life:

  • Low moisture content and high sugar content: Essentially, low water content works with high amounts of sugar to create a chemical environment where water flows out of microbial cells. This stops any microbes from growing or reproducing. 
  • Dense: Room-temperature honey is denser than water, making it hard for oxygen to dissolve, leading to a lack of microorganism growth. 
  • Acidic: Honey is naturally slightly acidic with a pH between 3.2 and 4.5 (predominantly gluconic acid). This makes it challenging for bacteria to grow. 
  • Natural preservative: Honey can actually be used to preserve other foods. (Pretty neat, right?) It contains chemical compounds like hydrogen peroxide, which help this process. 

Clearly, the shelf life of honey is a scientific marvel. Its natural antimicrobial properties mean that when stored correctly in an airtight container, it lasts longer than any other food. 

In its natural state, honey can even work as a mild antidepressant and anticonvulsant and has impressive anti-anxiety benefits. (Among other benefits.) 

Factors Influencing the Preservation of Raw Honey

Everyone loves having pure, raw honey close at hand. However, while it’s true that honey doesn’t expire, poor preservation techniques can harm this liquid gold. There are three main factors to keep in mind when storing honey:

  • Storage conditions, 
  • Humidity, 
  • And temperature.
  • Ideal honey storage conditions are pretty similar to other foods. Avoid keeping honey in direct sunlight. Keep the lid screwed on tight when not in use. Keep honey safe from small children or pets by storing it on a high shelf or locked cabinet. Some people like to keep their honey in the fridge, but this can change the texture and density of honey. It’s also really not necessary. 

Honey is a hygroscopic liquid, meaning it will absorb moisture from humid environments. Pretty cool, right? The only issue is that if there’s too much liquid in honey, it can ferment. Some humidity is unavoidable. Just do your best to store honey in an air-conditioned house or an area with good ventilation. 

When it comes to temperature, the key is not to get honey too hot. When honey reaches temps over 100 F, you risk destroying helpful enzymes. If it gets any hotter, honey can completely lose its health properties. 

Now, when it comes to bottling honey (which only our brave beekeepers bother with), you need to do one super important thing. Keep all equipment and your hands clean. Honey’s natural properties protect it from spoiling, but a dirty jar or spoon can introduce icky microbes. 

Bottling and storing honey just requires following a few careful steps. Do it right, and you’ll have excellent honey for years. 

Crystal Clarity: Reviving Crystalized Raw Honey

Picture this: You bought or bottled yummy raw honey and are excited to use it for years to come. You open your pantry only to see crystallized honey in the glass jar. Don’t panic! This process is entirely natural, and you haven’t done anything wrong. 

Honey crystallizes as its glucose and fructose bond together, forming little crystals. (Aww, honey crystals, so cute.) Some people like the crunchy texture of crystalized honey, but if it’s not your favorite or you need spreadable honey, just follow these four steps. 

  1. Fill a pot with warm water. Make sure the water doesn’t exceed 110 F. 
  2. Place your opened honey jar in the water bath, letting it warm up for a minute or two. 
  3. Take the honey out of the pot and stir, repeating the process until all honey crystals are gone. 
  4. Take the honey out of the water and allow it to cool, reaching room temperature, before screwing the lid back on and storing it. 

You may need to decrystallize your honey many times. The trick is to not let the water bath get too hot. You don’t want to damage the honey’s natural properties. Go slow and steady, and you’ll end up with spreadable honey in no time.

Discover Nature’s Sweetness with West River Exchange

Now you know that raw honey is an excellent investment that never spoils. This impressive food source is best bought locally, and at West River Exchange, we only sell exemplary raw honey from our happy Ohio bees. 

At West River Exchange, we don’t just sell gorgeous raw honey. We also sell top-of-the-line honey bee equipment to help experienced and beginner beekeepers expand their apiaries and keep their bees happy and healthy. 

Are you wondering where to buy bees? Fortunately, we sell package bees, nuc colonies, and strong queen bees. Check out our official beekeeping guides for more helpful information! 

We are dedicated to quality, natural beekeeping, and honey bottling. Discover the difference that happy bees can make at West River Exchange.