Jim has pails of crystalized honey, but only wants enough liquid honey for his oatmeal this morning. How does he get that to work? Kim has a lot of good ideas. There are pail blankets, band heaters, boxes and more to warm a pail to liquid honey on the...
Jim has pails of crystalized honey, but only wants enough liquid honey for his oatmeal this morning. How does he get that to work?
Kim has a lot of good ideas. There are pail blankets, band heaters, boxes and more to warm a pail to liquid honey on the market, including our sponsor, Betterbee. Kim’s his friend Buzz, who made a warming box out of foam insulation, a lightbulb and a couple nails to hold it together. Cheap, easy, and it works.
This is the time of year that liquifying honey comes home. And as always, there is the opportunity for too much heat and spoiled honey, or even fire. Listen today for some good ideas on how to get enough liquid honey for your oatmeal tomorrow.
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Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, All We Know by Midway Music, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott
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Jim Tew: Kim, I've got three or four or maybe five buckets of granulated honey. All I want to do is liquefy about a pound of it.
Jim: What do you do with the other 49, 50 pounds in that can?
Kim Flottum: Yes.
Kim: It can be a problem.
Jim: Can you help? Have you got any comments? Do you want to talk about liquefying honey here for a few minutes?
Jim: All right. Hi, I'm Jim Tew.
Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.
Jim: We're at Honey Bee Obscura, where every week we talk about something pertaining to beekeeping. Today I've asked Kim to talk for a bit about how to re-liquefy some of our honey that's granulated.
Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world. Get ready for an engaging discussion to delight and inform all beekeepers. If you're a longtimer or just starting out, sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honeybees.
Kim: Jim, actually it's pretty simple, but there's some caveats you got to watch for. The biggest one is too much heat. The only way you're going to get honey that solid into liquid is to warm it back up to its internal hive temperature of around 98, 100 degrees and keep it that way for just long enough to get it liquid so it doesn't overheat and you get rid of all of the good things of honey and destroy them. Keep the quality of the honey, the flavor and the consistency and all of the good stuff still in the liquid honey. It comes down to two things in my opinion, it comes down to two things. It's what's your time worth and how much money do you want to spend?
You can spend a lot of money buying some of these pieces of equipment and not spend much time using them, or you can spend a lot of time and not much money. You can go either way. I'll just tell you to start, take a look at any of the bee supply catalogues that are out there. I've got Betterbee at hand and what they've got is they've got a blanket that they put around their pail. You can set the temperature. You can set that temperature at 85 or 105 or whatever you want and that blanket will get up to that temperature and that's all the warmer it'll get. The warmer it is, the faster it goes, but the more damage or at least the more harm you could do to your honey.
Everybody out there I think has, it's like a band that goes around your pail. That works, but I've got to tell you there's some issues you've got to be careful on that one with is that band right inside the pail where that band is on the outside gets warmer than the top or the bottom of the honey in that pail. You've either got to spend some time moving that band up, maybe start at the bottom and move it up slow or start at the top and move it down slow, then you're talking about time. There too you can do some temperature things.
Jim: That band is what I have and what I have used historically. It does the job. Basic piece of equipment, but you were spot on, it's not perfect.
Kim: Yes. Some of the older models get too hot, some of the newer ones are real sensitive. You can control the temperature pretty carefully, but getting too hot is the biggest problem. I'm all for moving it three or four times. Again, it comes down to what's your time worth and how much time do you want to spend doing this? There's the blankets, then there's-- some companies have boxes you can put that pail in. That box will heat up inside.
Again, it's temperature-sensitive, you can set it for a lower temperature, it will take longer, and that's actually not a good thing either. The longer you've exposed it to too warm temperatures, the more you're going to damage that honey. You're going to keep it at the 95 to 100 degree temperature if you can. Let me tell you about my friend, Buzz, who made his own.
Jim: Made his own what?
Kim: His own heating box.
Jim: Oh, heating box?
Kim: Yes. You can go to any big hardware store or building supply store and get this inch-thick heating or inch-thick foam. You know what I'm talking about?
Jim: Yes. Usually blue, maybe silver-colored.
Kim: A 4x8 sheet. What he did is he took that 4x8 sheet home, and he measured it out and he made a box big enough to hold two five-gallon pails. The bottom sits on the floor, it's insulated there. That bottom between the two pails that you can put on that bottom sheet of foam, there's about 10 inches between them. Right in that space between those two pails he put a light bulb holder. He ran the cord out the bottom of the box, then he just built the box around the four sides and the top. When you get ready to put your honey either in one pail or two in that box, you just lift the top off, you put the honey on the bottom and put the top back on, and then you turn on the light.
Inside the box, there's also a thermometer that you can read from the outside. He runs it until it gets to be about 110 degrees at the most. That's the air temperature in the box, not the temperature of the honey. That's the air temperature in the box. The temperature of the honey is going to be about 10 degrees less, he says. When it gets up to 110 degrees or so, it takes about 24 to 30 hours for the air in that box to get that warm. When it gets that warm, he takes the top off, he turns the pails either 90 or 180 degrees depending on how the honey looks inside, puts the top back on and waits again until it's the right temperature.
Usually in two days at the most, the honey and both of those pails is liquid and it's only at the most, gone up to 100 to 105 degrees.
Jim: Hold on, is there a thermostat that turns the light off-
Jim: -or is he just manually monitoring this simple box?
Kim: He's manually monitoring it, but it's where it's easy for him to do. You could easily put a thermostat on there, have an on and off switch that would turn it off when it reached the temperature that you set it at. Easy to do, inexpensive, this whole thing cost him $20 to build. He holds the box together not by glue, what he did is he used long nails. That way if something happens and one side breaks or you set something on top and you-- caves in, you just take the nails out and replace that one piece. It's adjustable, it's adaptable, it's inexpensive, it's easy to use and it's safe.
Jim: Well, I like all of those things. We're showing our age-
Jim: -because you've got to be using a tungsten bulb in there. If you're using one of the latter day LED bulbs, nice heat, efficient lighting, [chuckles] much lower wattage and voltage and no heat. You've got to be using the older fashioned tungsten bulbs, they gave off more heat than light. You're right, when you started out you were very honest with me and with the listeners that you may be spending some time on this. Course is two five-gallon buckets for most people with just a few hives of bees in a small market, that's a lot of liquid honey to deal with there.
Kim: Yes, one of the things that we talked about when I first saw this, the first question I asked, I said, "I've got one pail. I don't need one this big." He says, "Well, you want it big enough so that that bulb isn't too close to that pail. There's still room in that box for air to circulate around that pail all sides." It's got to be big enough to accommodate one bucket. If you're going to just use one it's got to be bigger than just one bucket. Some of the ones that are available that you can buy already made are one bucket big. It's like a blanket that touches the pail all around the sides, the top and the bottom.
Jim: Well, I've never had this thought, but listening to you and envisioning what your friend has done made me realize this. Honey is going to granulate when you take it away from the bees. I've seen granulated honey and hives but they were beekeeper-assisted hives, too big, too much honey that had granulated. I wonder if honey granulates in small amounts in those natural cavities so that this is not really an issue, is the heat maintained? When you started out, you said that 90 degrees, 95 degrees, that's a common temperature in my ancestral home down in South Alabama. That was a routine day and that hive sitting out in the sun would be much hotter.
In the hive and those warm climates, the honey was never going to granulate, was it?
Kim: Probably pretty close. One thing I forgot to mention about this is you could put a case of honey in there. You know, 24 or 12 jars, loosen the lids. You'd have the same effect. You'd come out with all those jars liquefied.
Jim: I like this whole idea. It's simple. You're right. You don't have even to have a particular wiring. You could just lay a trouble light light in there. I'm wondering are we saying something that'll start a fire? In what way, Kim, are we giving out bad advice or having a conversation here that has some unforeseen consequence? I don't see anything readily.
Kim: You bring up a good point about flammable material, though, in that box because you get distracted and you forget or whatever. Suddenly you're not there in 24 to 30 hours to turn those pails. Can that internal temperature get hot enough to do something through that foam? That's a good question.
Jim: There is that caveat. Let me tell you a story about the band heater. Let me add all kind of caveats to this before I even begin the story. The band heater had been used to liquefy hundreds and hundreds of buckets. It was well used. It was no longer new, Kim, but we left that band heater on one night in my lab when I was still working for Ohio State and the next day came in and the heater had melted through the plastic five-gallon bucket in parts of it.
Of course, everything above the melt point had leaked out, was scorched and useless. What a mess that was. You almost have to leave these heaters going overnight, but it seems to me, Kim, that it's okay to worry about those heaters while they're on, no matter what kind of heater they are, because this is something we had to come up with because honey granulates when we take it away from the bees. If it's good honey.
Kim: There's some level of caution you need to make there. I guess you could be careless doing almost anything and get hurt or a wound or something but with a modest amount of caution. This box works, but the band things work, the blankets work, the boxes that you put your pails in work and anywhere that you've got electricity and flammable material, the opportunity for a problem exists.
Jim: Why don't we take a break, hear from a sponsor who has a lot of these devices that we've talked about?
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Jim: Aside from being careful and being cautious, here's one that's really hard to screw up. This was given to me, Kim, by a man who was not a beekeeper, didn't want to be a beekeeper, had no interest in being a beekeeper, but he liked to buy honey and eat it. When it would granulate-- he was from Alabama now, that's important. When you've got a natural hot day. He would put his granulated honey in two black socks and he would set that outside in the sun.
As the mood struck him, he loosened the cap, which you do every time, listeners, loosen the cap, he would go out and shake that naturally heated hot jar of honey. When it was reliquefied to his need, he's done. I'd recommend clean socks, Kim, since you're putting it around your breakfast jar, but this guy was just chatting that he did this all the time and it helped him with keeping his breakfast jar of honey liquefied.
Kim: I wonder if that'd work in Ohio.
Jim: There's a problem, isn't it? Right now, as the summer's waning, you could squeeze out something like that, but I'd really recommend probably if you use socks to maybe put a light bulb close by it or something like you're talking about. All the way from absolutely brain dead simple all the way up through building boxes with light bulbs and then maybe heat bucket bands or heaters. There was a picture-- I never saw the gadget, Kim, I just saw the pictures. Again, it was in a hot climate, in Southern California. They would put metal buckets and later on plastic buckets in the sun and they had a hole that would let the honey leak out as it liquefied.
In the sun, left out for what, a day or two or three? The honey was coming out in the sun, liquid was dropping into a container, a funnel below and being recollected as liquid honey down below using solar energy. Do you know of any other solar methods other than my friend's socks and this one time I saw a picture in Southern California thing? Do you know any other solar ways? I thought about wax melters. In those gadget boxes we put in the bee yard, can you put granulated honey and a wax melter in a container, in a jar and liquefy it? I don't know. I haven't ever done that.
Kim: The issue you run into there is temperature control. If it gets hot enough in there to melt wax, you've got a problem because it's going to be too hot for maintaining the quality of the honey you've got in there. Now, you can monitor it, run out and take a look every once in a while and see how it's doing. Put a thermometer in there, open it up a little bit if it's getting too warm. I suppose that would work. What's the word I want, that kind of lack of control or the time to constantly monitor it detracts from that technique a little bit. I suppose you could make it work.
Jim: There's all kind of distractions. The thing is there's always clever people out there. Now, they're doing something that I don't know about, so somewhere someone's figured out the sock thing, the buckets turned upside down with small holes in the lid in the hot sun in Southern California. It really depends on where you are.
Kim: Southern California this year is going to be pretty easy to liquefy.
Jim: A lot of places in the country it's going to be easy to liquefy honey. The thing that I'm struck-- what started the whole thing with me on this topic, Kim, was that I really don't want to have to liquefy a whole bucket because I want to fill a pound jar that I keep in my cabinet for using in my food. I'm trying to come up with a way-- I've never done this, but I wonder if we could ask people who are listening if they've got a technique worked out where I can go out to a five gallon bucket that's granulated with what? An ice cream scoop?
Kim: There you go.
Jim: Or a heavy steel spoon and scoop out a pound, two pounds of granulated honey. Then do what, Kim?
Kim: Good question.
Jim: Microwave it or put it in a jar. Put it in the oven. What are you going to do when you get it out? Some people would probably say, "Why don't you just eat it granulated, Jim?" Can we go with that? It's gritty, but if you're putting it on hot oatmeal, would that liquefy it enough? How much liquefication do I really need? People eat creamed honey all the time. That's what I wanted to do was I don't want to have to cook it over and over again. You heat up a five gallon bucket. I've got a valve on the bottom, I drain off three pounds. Then I close the valve off. I take my honey in and then what? Just a month later that bucket's granulated again. I heat it up again.
Every time I do that, even if I'm staying at 95 to 100 degrees or so I'm cooking off some of the volatiles off that honey. It's after a while, I've just got a sweet syrup left there. If anybody's got a neat technique for liquefying small amounts of honey, I'd like to hear about it and I'll be certain Kim gets it, just because it's a hassle to granulate a five gallon bucket over and over-- I'm sorry to liquefy a five gallon bucket over and over again, just to get my small amount off.
Kim: I think it's about time to wrap this up but I've got to tell you, what I'm hearing here right now is just bottle that whole bucket and let the bottles crystallize. Then you can warm them up one or two at a time over the next as you use it, rather than heat that five gallons up every time. That way you're not heating the honey over and over again, you're heating a little bit of honey once.
Jim: I'm having to reheat those little bottles, though, more than one time. It's not over and over and over again, you're right on that. All right. I've got honey granulated here in cans. I've got honey on the bees I still need to take off. I've got enough honey for about 65 to 70,000 biscuits.
Kim: [chuckles] I tell you what, save me a couple. I'll be down.
Jim: [chuckles] All right. Want to do something? I've got to liquefy some honey some way for my family, for me. My whole family eats honey and they want me to be in charge of it. I will be the guy handling it. Know this. Be careful with heat because you can really ruin some honey fairly quickly with too much heat.
Kim: Good advice.
Jim: Respect fire. All right, I'm done.
Kim: Until next time.
Jim: Thanks for listening.
[00:20:44] [END OF AUDIO]