General honey properties are the result of the influence of separate groups of substances and characterize specific particularities of this product. The following properties are considered to be the most important: viscosity, crystallization, hygroscopicity, density, optical activity, thermal conductivity, thermal capacity, specific electroconductivity.
Honey viscosity is of high importance when it is centrifuged from the cells, filtrated, bottling and in other industrial processes. Honey of high quality is usually thick, viscous. Its viscosity depends on the amount of water, the composition of sugars, colloid substances in it. if the concentration of water is increased, honey becomes less viscous. Proteins and other colloid substances heighten honey viscosity, but there amount in honey is inconsiderable. The more honey contains fructose (fructose solution is less viscous) and the less other high sugars, the less is its viscosity.
Honey viscosity depends on temperature to a great extent. Viscosity of the honey that has just been taken out of a hive with a temperature of 30C is a four times less than that of honey having a room temperature. That's why it is strongly recommended to centrifuge honey as soon as frames have been taken out of the hive, not letting its cooling. When heated the viscosity of honey decreases. This honey property is used for packing honey. For reaching the necessary fluidity, the temperature should be 45C at 19% humidity.
Heather and buckwheat honey to a certain extent have thixotropic properties. That means that they liquefy when they are shaken, stirred, or otherwise disturbed. In order to centrifuge heather honey combs should be shaken in an extractor.
Honey crystallization or granulation is its natural conversion from liquid state into crystalline solid without deterioration of its properties. The process of honey granulation can be explained by the fact that one of honey sugars-glucose is oversaturated. Honey fructose as a more soluble substance crystallizes slower.
In the process of honey crystallization glucose crystals precipitate to form melezitose crystals. Fructose which is left in solution makes a viscous cover above and envelops glucose crystals.
Depending on the size of crystals, or to be more correct the size of crystals or to be exact of their inosculations, three types of crystallized honey can be differentiated: coarse-grained - the size of crystals is more than 0,5 mm, fine-grained -the size of crystals is less than 0,5-0,4 mm and of tallow consistence- the size of crystals is 0,04 mm, that are invisible to the naked eye, and such honey resembles tallow. The character of crystallization depends on the speed of this process. The quicker honey granulates, the finer crystals are. The following factors influence the speed of crystallization: the presence of embryonic glucose crystals ( the centers of crystallization), the composition, the temperature, the humidity, and the stirring of honey.
Quick crystallization of centrifuged honey is due to the presence of miniscule embryonic glucose crystals, that become the centers of crystallization. The more the number of embryonic crystals in honey, the sooner honey will granulate and the finer crystals will be. Pollen grains can also be the centers of crystallization, which are diffused in honey, and also other foreign admixtures.
Honey granulation depends on its chemical composition. An increase amount of glucose and melezitose in honey speeds crystallization; an increased amount of fructose, high sugars, and colloid substances slows the process of crystallization and makes honey more adhesive.
The speed of crystallization depends on honey temperature and humidity. At the temperatures of 14-24 honey crystallizes most quickly. Increasing or decreasing of the temperature slow crystallization as in the first case honey viscosity heightens, and in the second the glucose solution oversaturation reduces. At 27-32 C temperature honey doesn't crystallize and at 40C a granulated honey becomes fluid again. Temperature fluctuations have different influence on the speed of honey crystallization. Honey with heightened humidity (immature honey) presents itself a less saturated glucose solution that's why such honey is slow to crystallize. Immature honey often crystallizes not as a homogenous mass, but segregates into crystalline and syrupy parts.
Shaking and stirring honey hastens its crystallization, as glucose crystals contact the whole honey mass. When not disturbed honey crystallizes slower. Knowing the factors that regulate its crystallization makes it possible to control it: speed or slow it and get honey of the required consistence. By the way honey crystallizes it is possible to judge about its quality. Mature and high-quality honey granulate into a homogeneous mass. Honey segregation in most cases speaks about its immaturity.
At that fluid part of honey has high humidity and can begin fermenting. Heterogeneous crystallization and segregation can also take place in high quality honey, when it contains a large amount of fructose and that's why it granulates slowly. But such types of honey are scarce on sale.
When honey is heated, embryonic crystals are dissolved and because of granules of bigger size crystallization is hindered. Sometimes honey doesn't crystallizes completely, crystals form a sediment on the bottom or form intricate designs in honey (resembling mould), that may cause doubts of its quality.
Honey is a hygroscopic product. Hygroscopicity is capacity of honey to absorb water from air. This property is conditioned by high contents of sugars, first of all fructose and some other insipid substances. Hygroscopic properties of honey should be taken into account when packing, storing it and in industrial use. Some kinds of honey absorb more water from the air, than pure fructose or invert sugar. This property is widely used in making confectionery-cakes, gingerbread, fruit cakes. Confectionery gets stale not so soon and preserve an aroma better.
Due to its hygroscopic properties honey should be kept in barrels made of high-quality wood. Honey stored in barrels made of wet lag will absorb moisture out of wood.
As a result barrels crack and honey flows out. That's why honey must be packed into barrels with wood humidity no more than 16%.
Honey electroconductivity depends on its origin, solution concentration and temperature. At a temperature of 20 and with 20% concentration of dried substances this index ranges from 0,01 to 0,17 cm/m. There is a correlation between the contents of ash substances and electroconductivity. Acacia honey has the lowest electroconductivity among monofloral types of honey -0,0165cm/m, white honey-the highest -0,0573cm/m.
Among dark sorts of honey buckwheat honey has the highest electroconductivity-0,734cm/m, that is proved by a high content of ash elements in it.
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English translation © Irina Yelsukova