Should you refrigerate a honeycomb?

Quick answer

The quick answer is that yes, it is generally recommended to refrigerate honeycomb if you want to preserve it and prevent crystallization. The ideal temperature to store honeycomb is around 55°F. Refrigerating helps slow down the natural crystallization process and keeps the honeycomb from drying out or becoming damaged. However, some beekeepers advise not refrigerating comb honey if you plan to eat it within a week or two. The concern is that condensation can form when you take it out of the fridge, making the wax soft. But as long as you let it come to room temperature before eating, condensation should not be an issue. So for long-term storage, refrigeration is best.

Why refrigerate honeycomb?

There are a few key reasons why refrigeration can help preserve honeycomb:

1. Slows crystallization

All honey will eventually crystallize from liquid into a semi-solid state. This is a natural process and does not harm the honey. However, most people prefer the look and texture of liquid honey. Refrigeration helps slow down the crystallization process substantially. At room temperature (68-72°F), honeycomb may start to crystallize within a month. But in the fridge, it can stay liquid-like for 12 months or more. The ideal temperature to store honey is around 55°F. This cold temperature helps impede the motion of glucose molecules so they crystallize at a slower pace.

2. Retains moisture

Honeycomb is prone to drying out if left unprotected at room temperature. Refrigeration helps the comb retain moisture and stay soft and flexible. If it dries out too much, the wax can become brittle and crack more easily.

3. Prevents fermentation

Raw, unpasteurized honey has a low risk of fermenting if it contains too much moisture. This can lead to bubbling, frothing, and potential spoilage. Keeping honeycomb sealed in the fridge prevents fermentation.

4. Deters mold growth

Mold can occasionally grow on the wax comb if it is exposed to excess humidity or moisture. The cool, dry environment of the refrigerator prevents mold growth.

5. Keeps pests away

Honeycomb left out can attract pests like ants, cockroaches, and hive beetles looking for a sugar meal. Refrigeration helps keep pests away.

6. Minimizes damage

At room temperature, honeycomb is more likely to get damaged if accidentally knocked over or handled roughly. If the wax comb cracks or breaks, it can create a sticky mess. Refrigeration helps the comb solidify so it is less prone to damage.

How to store honeycomb in the fridge

Storing honeycomb in the refrigerator is easy. Here are some tips:

– Seal the honeycomb tightly in an airtight container. This prevents moisture loss and contains any drips or leaks. Plastic containers with an airtight lid work well.

– Wrap the container in a plastic bag as an extra precaution. This gives more insulation and prevents the honeycomb from absorbing fridge odors.

– Place the container on a plate or bowl on a fridge shelf. This catches any leaked honey.

– Ideal fridge temperature is around 38°F to 55°F. Avoid storing honeycomb in the coldest part of the fridge.

– Let refrigerated honeycomb come fully to room temperature before eating. Sudden temperature swings can increase condensation.

– Once opened, try to use the honeycomb within 2-3 months. Refrigeration cannot prevent crystallization forever.

Does condensation cause problems?

Some advise against refrigerating honeycomb due to concerns about condensation. When you take honeycomb straight from the fridge, moisture condenses on the cold wax. This can temporarily make the comb soggy and fragile.

However, condensation is not a big issue if you follow proper handling procedures:

– Let refrigerated honeycomb warm up to room temperature for at least 2-4 hours before opening. This allows the cold comb to equilibrate, minimizing condensation.

– After warming, blot any droplets with a clean towel before opening.

– Avoid putting refrigerated honeycomb in hot spots that increase condensation like direct sunlight or next to an oven.

– Go slow when cutting into refrigerated comb to avoid cracking wax. Use a serrated knife and gentle sawing motion.

– Once at room temperature, the comb regains its structure. The brief condensation does not do any long-term damage.

So while condensation is a nuisance, as long as you gently warm the honeycomb before opening, it should not cause any real problems. The benefits of refrigeration generally outweigh this minor hassle.

What temperature is best for crystallization?

The ideal temperature range to slow down crystallization of honeycomb is between 38°F to 55°F. This refrigerator zone dramatically delays the natural process compared to room temperature.

However, honey can still crystallize over time even in the fridge. At 55°F, honeycomb may stay creamed for about 12 months. At colder 38°F temperatures, crystallization may take around 18-24 months.

So while refrigeration is beneficial, it cannot prevent crystallization forever. Storing honeycomb at freezer temperatures below 32°F can extend the delay further. But this may lead to increased moisture loss. An excellent approach is refrigerating honeycomb for long-term storage, then freezing any excess.

Can refrigeration damage honeycomb?

Overall, refrigeration is highly beneficial for preserving honeycomb and should not cause any damage. However, there are a few potential downsides to be aware of:

– As mentioned, condensation can temporary make comb soggy and fragile after removing from fridge. Allow time to warm up before opening.

– Prolonged freezing below 0°F may degrade the texture slightly. Stick to fridge temps between 38°-55°F.

– Repeated temperature fluctuations from fridge to room temp can increase moisture build-up. Try to avoid excessive back and forth.

– Absorption of fridge odors is possible if not stored in an airtight container. Use a sealed plastic bin and plastic wrap.

– Condensation can encourage mold growth if not blotted up. Dry comb thoroughly before sealing in container.

So while refrigeration is safe for honeycomb, be sure to follow guidelines on temperature, condensation control, and storage containers. Avoid extremes like prolonged freezing. With some reasonable care, honeycomb can keep perfectly in the refrigerator for long durations of up to 1-2 years.

Does raw honeycomb require refrigeration?

Most recommendations advise refrigerating raw, unpasteurized honeycomb after harvest. Raw honeycomb has not gone through heat processing and filtration so it retains more natural pollen, enzymes, and moisture. This makes raw comb honey more prone to crystallization, weeping, fermentation, and spoilage at room temperature compared to pasteurized comb honey.

Refrigeration cannot make raw honeycomb shelf-stable long term. But it helps:

– Slow crystallization so the honey stays spreadable on the comb
– Minimize moisture loss and weeping
– Prevent fermentation by yeasts
– Deter mold growth

So while raw honeycomb always has a shorter shelf life than pasteurized, refrigeration can help extend it. Just be sure to use the raw honeycomb within 8-12 months and keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Can you freeze honeycomb?

Freezing is an option for long-term storage of honeycomb. The freezing process stops the crystallization process almost completely. However, frozen storage does have some disadvantages:


– Dramatically slows crystallization. Honeycomb can remain liquid for years.

– Kills any potential yeasts or molds. Prevents fermentation.

– Works well for long-term storage, especially if you harvest more honeycomb than you can eat within a year.


– Can increase moisture loss and drying of wax over time.

– Temperature fluctuations from freezer to fridge to room temp can increase condensation.

– Texture may degrade slightly after prolonged freezing.

The best practice is to refrigerate honeycomb for regular use within 6-12 months. Then freeze any excess in an airtight container for longer term storage of 1-2 years. Avoid moving frozen comb directly to room temperature as condensation will be excessive. Defrost in the refrigerator first before opening.

Signs your honeycomb has gone bad

Honeycomb can last for many months if properly stored but it can eventually go bad. Here are signs your honeycomb has spoiled and should be discarded:

– Crystallized texture becomes grainy, coarse, and hard – unable to scoop or spread

– Mold growth around wax comb – may be fuzzy or discolored

– Fermentation produces bubbling, foaming, froth, and potential rupture

– Strong sour, bitter, or rotten smell

– Darkening color and loss of clarity

– Weeping clear honey liquid from comb

– Presence of small larvae or worms – wax moth infestation

– Dried out, cracked, brittle comb

– Signs of rodent or insect infestation around container

If you notice any of the above, it is safest to discard the honeycomb. Always inspect honeycomb before use if it has been stored for an extended period. Using spoiled honeycomb can potentially cause foodborne illness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I wrap honeycomb in plastic wrap?

Yes, it is a good idea to wrap honeycomb in a layer of plastic wrap even when storing in an airtight container. The plastic wrap provides additional insulation against moisture loss, absorption of fridge odors, and any leaks if comb cracks.

Can honeycomb be stored at room temperature?

It is not recommended to store honeycomb long term at room temperature. Without refrigeration, the honey will crystallize rapidly within 1-2 months. It also has higher risk of fermenting or growing mold. Cool room temperatures of 55-60°F can prolong shelf life slightly, but refrigeration is really best for comb honey storage.

How do you know if honeycomb has gone bad?

Signs that honeycomb has spoiled include crystallized or granular texture, presence of mold, fermentation bubbles, an off smell or taste, weeping liquid, dried out wax, and evidence of pests. If in doubt, it is safest to discard old honeycomb. Always inspect honeycomb before eating if it has been stored for many months.

Can you freeze raw honeycomb?

Yes, properly freezing raw honeycomb can help extend its shelf life compared to refrigeration alone. Make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and an airtight container first. Raw honeycomb will still have a shorter freezer life than pasteurized honeycomb due to its higher moisture content. Use frozen raw honeycomb within 12-18 months.

Should you cut off wax caps before refrigerating honeycomb?

Most beekeepers recommend leaving wax caps intact on honeycomb before refrigerating. The cap seal helps retain moisture and prevent leakage in storage. Just make sure the container is airtight so the caps do not dry out and crack over time. Remove caps just before eating the comb honey for the best experience.

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