To understand the moisture content in honey, we should understand the process of honey-making by honey bees.
Honeybees collects nectar from flowers to make honey. Nectar have around 70% water.
A honeybee collects nectar and process it through regurgitation and deposited into hexagonal honeycomb cell.
Honeybees then dry out the excess moisture through fanning by wings.
Once the collected nectar (honey) attains a moisture level of 18%, honeybees seal the comb cell with wax. This is mature honey or ripe honey.
During commercial extraction of honey, beekeeper often extract honey before ripening. This unripe honey has moisture level anywhere between 20-25%.
Unripe honey tends to ferment because of high moisture content. Hence has a lesser shelf life.
How to check whether honey is ripe?
There are various tests to check the unripe honey.
Thumb test: Put a drop of honey on the thumb. If it slips from the nail, it is unripe honey. If it stays it is ripe honey.
Dissolution test: Pour a spoonful of honey in a glass of water. If it dissolves easily it is unripe honey. If it stays longer before dissolves, it is ripe honey.
Sticky fingers test: Take a drop of honey between thumb and index finger. Rub it to observe it’s stickiness. ripe honey is more sticky. Unripe honey is less sticky.
Refractometer or Brix meter :
Moisture content of honey can easily be identified using equipment like refractometer. It can give us exact reading in percentage.
According to the parameters honey should have moisture level in a range between 18-20%.
The conventional methods mentioned here are mistakenly considered as the purity tests, which is not true.