Particle surface characteristics, floc recoverability and fractal structure of alum-kaolin flocs were investigated using in situ particle image velocimetry (PIV) and microbalance with or without humic acid. Experimental results indicated that the zeta potential of kaolin particle surface after adsorption of humic acid was related with humic acid concentration and its acid-base buffering capacity. Adsorption of humic acid resulted in more negative electrophoresis on the particle surface. Coagulant dosages for particles to form flocs would increase with increasing humic concentration. PIV was used to evaluate floc structural fragmentation, floc surface erosion as well as recoverability after high shear. It was found that the floc size during the steady phase of growth was small, while the regrowing capability decreased in the presence of humic acid. The recoverability was closely related with floc breakage modes including floc structural fragmentation and floc surface erosion. The fractal dimensions of alum-kaolin flocs by mass-size method based on microbalance would decrease with increasing humic concentration. This study proved that humic acid had adverse influences on the performance of coagulation process.