How To Process Raw Honey At Home?
Honey processing: Beekeeping is the only way to produce raw honey or bee honey and bees are the only insects capable to produce honey. So, if you like to produce honey, practice beekeeping either as a hobby or side business, or full-time business on a large scale.
Beekeeping is a really fun and good way to pass your time. Bees contribute to the pollination of a crop, beekeeping is environment-friendly, and greatly influences the agriculture and national economy. Without beekeeping, you can collect or harvest honey from natural beehives found in any tree or forest area. But it’s not so profitable and you have no control over the hives. If you like to produce raw honey commercially, beekeeping is the only way.
Remember, the bee collects nectar from flowers, together with enzymes honey is created inside the honey stomach. To produce one Kg of honey, about 60,000 flights are necessary while one bee visits about 3 to 5 million blossoms. It contains sugar, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, organic acids, proteins, tanning agents, and a huge number of antibiotic active components.
Raw Honey Harvesting Season
In the East Asia region including Bangladesh, raw honey is harvested mainly from December to March from the mastered oil flower, in a large quantity by the commercial beekeeper. This harvested raw honey is required to be processed again to keep moisture & other ingredients intolerable limits, such as moisture, enzyme, gluconic acid, etc. And moisture should be in between Eighteen to Twenty Two percent (18% – 22%).
Beekeepers use specialized equipment to commercially extract Raw honey. But new beekeepers can collect and sell a comb of honey without much special equipment and who is a beekeeper as a hobby can start like this as a relatively inexpensive way. A commercial beekeeper may be fully equipped and usually, they start out in an organized form with full preparation.
Although it’s expensive he knows to sell honey and it can be a lucrative business for him. Glass or ceramic or a similar bottle is the best for honey packaging. Plastic is not so good as it has a negative impact on honey that generates a bad smell. Plastic may change the color and quality of honey also if you keep it for a long time. Remember, pure honey will not rotten 2/3 years with proper packaging. Plastic containers may be used only for the short term. At harvesting season beekeepers usually use 50 Kg containers to handle the huge quantity of honey.
How to process Raw honey at home (DIY)?
Probably most people are not aware of how raw honey is processed. They think bees collect honey from flowers. But actually, the flower does not contain honey; it contains only nectar or glucose which is converted to honey afterward. This honey processing is performed naturally inside the stomach of bees when flying from flowers toward the hive.
This process is a chemical reaction that converts the nectar/glucose to honey. A bee has two stomachs, one for honey processing and another for food digestion. The honey processing stomach is completely separated from the other digestive stomach.
Do you know, every year millions of tons of nectar/glucose from flowers are remaining uncollected by bees? And finally, it is destroyed naturally. So, we need more bees to collect honey. Our current apiary can cover only a small portion of the flower fields, keeping the vast area uncollected and untouched.
Raw Honey can be processed manually or by an automated machine. Finely processed honey will last long and all of its ingredients remain within an acceptable limit. Processing by automated machines is simply because it’s easy to control the temperature.
Overheating can damage some of its ingredients and hence lose nutrients. For a commercial project, you need a processing plant that is very costly, not recommended, and feasible for a mini-project.
Processing or Pasteurize or Evaporate Raw honey manually
Even if you don’t have a Power Blanket or honey processing plant, still now you can do the same thing manually at your home with the help of kitchenware. But you have to be very careful and aware of honey ingredients. Your main goal is to reduce moisture levels and keep them at 18% to 22%. You should not apply direct heat to the honey & don’t raise the temperature too high. Follow the instruction as stated below:
01. Arrange 2 rice cooking dishes
Arrange two rice cooking dishes/sauces – one is larger and the other is smaller so that smaller dishes can seat inside the bigger.
02. Separator between dishes
Keep the bigger Dish woven and put three wood pieces inside the dish. These wooden pieces will keep the smaller dish separate from the bigger.
03. Fill the space with water
Now keep your smaller dish on the wooden pieces and fill the spaces between dishes with water. The water level should be less than the height of the bigger dishes.
04. Keep honey in the dish and attach the thermometer
Put your honey in the smaller dish and cover it. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and fully immerse its tip in the honey.
05. Raise heat at 145˚F
Start your oven and raise its heat slowly until the temperature of honey reaches 145˚F. Turn down the heat to keep the temperature steady at 145˚F. Use a thermometer to check the temperature frequently.
06. Keep moisture at a range of 18%-22%
Keep this temperature 30 minutes or until its moisture comes in the expected range (18% to 22%). Use a moisture indicator or honey Refractometer and stop the oven when you get your expected moisture. Find here to buy a Refractometer: High Measuring Range Honey tester 58%-90% – Beekeeping, bees Tri-Scales for Honey Moisture – Ade Advanced Optics Brix Refractometer.
07. Filter honey
You have to check several times the temperature and moisture. Finally, Pour the honey into a clean container after pasteurization/evaporation. After harvesting beekeepers need to filter several times in different stages. And hot honey is easier to filter than cold. The filter is not so expensive and beekeepers should not be lazy to filter whenever needed. You have to filter it until you see it’s free from any type of contaminant.
08. Keep honey on the jar or container
Keep your honey in the jar or container & Place a cap tightly on the jar or container to prevent any unwanted contaminants. Remember, a glass or ceramic container is better than plastic for long time storage. But for a short time or while harvesting you can keep in big containers like 5 Kg, 20 Kg, 50 Kg jars or buckets.
Now you may think why we don’t apply direct heat for raw honey processing. Direct heat can damage many ingredients of honey and as a result, you will get the inferior quality of honey. Overheating also can damage honey ingredients. The above process can be done while you buy raw honey from the market.
After honey production, you can consume it yourself or prepare it for sale. Usually, hobbyist Honey-bee farmers can collect honey for consumption, but professional beekeepers need to sell their products in the market. For doing so, they have to take approval from the authority, and the seal of such approval must be attached to the level of honey bottle or packaging.
Then they can sell honey either in bottled or liquid form or as a natural comb or a combination of both called chunk honey. For bottling, you need fresh and blank bottles that you can buy from any supermarket like Walmart or Target, etc. Even you can buy it online from Amazon or a similar store.
Beekeepers with few beehives are recommended to process honey manually as above or buy a simple and cheap power blanket. Before buying, check its benefits, price, refund policy, customer review, etc.
Sources of Information
01. Experience of own honeybee project,
02. Bee Journal.