Though you can decide easily your favorite type of honey, many of us may find difficulties in selecting good quality honey. There are many brands of honey in the market place and their qualities are varied. Even some of them might be the fake or impure honey. To identify the quality of honey you should pay attention to the following key factors:
- Water content
Honey with low water content is considered good quality honey. If the water content of honey is greater than 23 percent (another source said greater than 19%), the honey is likely to ferment and lose its freshness. All unpasteurized honey contains wild yeasts that may survive and cause fermentation due to a higher proportion of water in honey. This results an increase of acidity, which then becomes an important quality criteria. The fermentation will not occur in honey that has a carbohydrate content > 83%, a moisture content < 17.1%, a storage temperature < 52° F (11° C), or that has been heat-treated.
Honey tends to absorb moisture from the air (hygroscopic). In climates with high humidity, it can be difficult to retain low water content in honey. In this case, airtight plastic buckets with lids are essential for honey storage. If honey is foamy, it means the honey is left too long in an open container and having fermentation. Properly extracted, treated and stored honey should not ferment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets standards for honey based on its water content.
|Minimum Total Solids (%)||Maximum WaterContent (%)|
To find out the relative quantity of water in honey, you can make a simple experiment by taking two same-size, same-temperature, well-sealed jars of honey from different sources. Turn the two jars upside-down and watch the bubbles rise. Bubbles in the honey with more water content will rise faster.
Pure honey is composed primarily of simple and natural sugars without additives, preservatives or chemicals. Unfortunately, fake and impure honeys have become commonplace in the market today and it is very hard to distinguish between both of them only by viewing on the shelf. Any pollen or constituent matter should not be removed from honey because it can damage the natural composition. Bee pollen contains vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein. Although it can make honey looks cloudy, the presence of pollen makes the honey even more nutritious.
The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources. The elimination of all pollen can be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration may diminish the quality of the honey. However, it is almost impossible to find unfiltered raw honey on the shelf because most customers like their honey bright and clear.
Pure honey usually contains a lot of gas, so often the case broken bottle itself being unable to withstand the pressure of gas from the honey. As the anticipation is usually on the bottle cap on the size of pure honey 250 ml often pierced with a needle for the gas can escape.
Honey is classified into seven color categories: water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber. Honey color is measured on the Pfund Scale in millimeters. The color is not a determining factor for the quality of honey, but honey with darker color usually has higher mineral contents, pH readings, and aroma/flavor levels. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, chlorine, sulfur, iron, manganese, and sodium have been found to be much higher in darker honeys. The color can also indicate the quality of honey because it becomes darker during storage and heating.
- HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural)
HMF is a break-down product of simple sugars (such as glucose or fructose in honey). HMF can occur naturally in honey through improper heat processing or extended storage. HMF is used as indicator of honey quality since it increases with temperature and storage time. High levels of HMF may indicate excessive heating during the extraction process. Honey should not be heated or processed so that the essential composition is changed. High levels of HMF (greater than 100 mg/kg) can also be an indicator of possible adulteration of the product with inverted sugars or syrups. In fact the earliest use of HMF testing was to detect the addition of invert sugar to honey.
Honey that is traded in a bulk form is usually required to be below 10 or 15mg/kg to enable further processing and then give some shelf life before a level of 40 mg/kg is reached. It is not uncommon for honey sold in hot climates to be well over 100 mg/kg in HMF. This is mostly due to the ambient temperatures (over 35°C) that honey is exposed to in the distribution channel.
- Inverted sugars
As mention earlier, high levels of HMF (greater than 100 mg/kg) can also be an indicator of adulteration with inverted sugars. The adulterated honey might not make you sick, but obviously the added sugars bring down the nutritional value of the honey. Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine the purity of honey, unless you can perform scientific laboratory test. Granulated or crystallized honey can’t be taken as a proof of adulteration since honey can granulate whether or not it has been adulterated. Crystallization is normal, especially in temperate climates. Honey from certain floral sources is also prone to crystallization.
Pure honey does not immediately dissolve in water. But sometimes the test result is not always that clear, since there are many honey varieties with different viscosity levels. In a very rare case, honey lovers or those who frequently consume honey may have the ability to detect any added sugar in honey by tasting it.