Inevitability honey will crystallize. While it’s a simple matter to heat up one or two jars in a hot water bath on the stove, heating up many jars or buckets can be a problem. Bucket warmers (a simple heating strap that goes around the bucket of honey) don’t heat evenly and have no thermostat so it’s possible to overheat the honey. Alternately putting jars in water ruins the label on the jar and leaves rings.
This simple honey warmer solves the problem.
|The warmer is built out of an old chest freezer that had been sitting in the barn and had been used for storing drawn frames. Any old chest freezer or even an upright refrigerator will do, or you can use a simple wooden box with some insulation. Anything that has some insulation and is big enough fit the buckets or jars you have will do.|
For a heat source I used an inexpensive ($20) ceramic heater (It’s the black box in the picture below). One or more incandescent light bulbs would work for a heat source as well. I disabled the built-in thermostat because it isn’t terribly accurate and used a Ranco ETC controller (model number ETC-111000, available from www.etcsupply.com or from our store.) Do not disable the safety switch in the heater however. It’s really overkill for the task, but is a nice digital controller that can be set from -30 to 220 degree Fahrenheit, has adjustable differential, and it can control 120v directly. Thermostats sold for use in your home often only control 24v and can’t be set over about 90 degrees. A cheaper alternative is wafer type incubator thermostat switch (Adjustable from 75 to 115 degrees and is available from www.dblrsupply.com)
With larger warmers, such as this, you will also need to add a small fan so the temperature remains even. Without the fan the temperature from the bottom to the top of the chamber can vary by several degrees which means the bottom of the buckets may remain crystallized if you are only setting it to just the temperature to liquify the honey.
The heater is placed on the bottom of the chest freezer and a wooden rack is placed over that. If using light bulbs for heat make sure there is enough space between the bulbs so as not to overheat the honey or even melt the buckets or plastic jars. You may even want to consider putting some aluminum flashing between the bulbs and honey containers so as not to heat the honey directly.
This chest freezer is large enough to hold 7 five gallon buckets (or lots of jars) at a time. To avoid overheating the honey or pasteurizing it, honey can be heated this way to fairly low temperatures, but it will take several day to fully liquify. Heating the honey to higher temperatures (above 100 degrees) will take less time, but can degrade the honey and it should be stored at high temperatures. This warmer is also useful for warming up creamed honey overnight (to around 90 degrees) so that buckets of creamed honey are soft enough to bottle easily.