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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Hiram, Northeast Ohio
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    If anyone is interested in expanding their operation to include maple syrup, but doesn't want to do it on the scale required to payback the investment a small commercial setup takes (at least a few thousand bucks), I think I have finally hit on a pretty good system--after 7 years of experimenting. This should work well for a range of about 10 to 65 trees, producing 5 to 35 gallons or so of syrup. The operator will need to have a weekend day and 1 or 2 late afternoons or early evenings every week they can spare during February and March. For me, 17 gallons of syrup means 500-600 extra from farmers market sales that my wife is already at anyway selling bread, plus all the leftovers I can use. Setup cost can be 50-250 bucks depending on what you can scrounge, so it can be profitable from the get-go. But softies who don't think that shlepping around 500 gallons of cold sap sounds like fun should just stay in front of the computer.

    The keys to my way of doing it are to use common steam table pans (either the disposable foil kind or salvage stainless ones) to create both a scalable evaporator and a freeze-thaw concentration system. Freeze concentration was the way natives processed sap, and it means the boiling stage is faster and more fuel efficient by 60-80%. It does require you to watch the weather report like a hawk, but I'm guessing most of us bee-folk are pretty well attuned to that already, especially here in the north. I collect sap in 3 or 5 gallon plastic drinking water containers that sit on the ground at the base of the tree, with plastic tubing that sticks directly into the taphole running the sap down to the container (no spiles.)

    If anyone is interested I can give you more details for three easy payments of $199.99Â…erÂ…or else just whatever feedback and pointers you come up with when you try it.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
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    <<with plastic tubing that sticks directly into the taphole running the sap down to the container no spiles.>>

    What size/type of tubing and holes? How deep do you drill?


    <<But softies who don't think that shlepping around 500 gallons of cold sap sounds like fun should just stay in front of the computer.>>

    Good one!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Lyme, NH, USA
    Posts
    165

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    Can you please explain the freeze-thaw concentration system?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Kiel WI, USA
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    Essentially, you let the sap freeze, then remove the ice, concentrating the sugar.

    But I'm not sure exactly what system Darrel's using.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    Anchorage, Alaska
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    >The keys to my way of doing it are to use common steam table pans (either the disposable foil kind or salvage stainless ones) to create both a scalable evaporator and a freeze-thaw concentration system.

    Darrel, are you arranging these pans to make a real compartmented evaporator or are you using just a single pan to boil away the sap?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Hiram, Northeast Ohio
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    Sorry for the delay guys, I was out of internet for a couple days. A couple youngsters around here asked me to explain how I make syrup, so I am typing up a little pamphlet for it (emphasizing safety) and I'll post that when I'm done if anyone's interested.

    I use a 3/8's diameter drill bit and tubing. I don't think you lose anything by using the smaller diameter, and the tree gains by it. To freeze concentrate, I don't really freeze it and then remove the ice, but freeze it into a solid block--in disposable steam table pans (2.5 gallons per pan)-- and then later let that thaw out to the pont that about 3/4 gallon is melted in each pan. This method seems to separate the sugar and water better than trying to remove ice as it forms -- which is what regular operators will do by allowing it to freeze on the tree--and what I did until I accidentally let everything freeze up solid one time. Anyway, once the blocks are frozen (which takes about three hours on a breezy 15 degree night) they can be stacked and stored in a homemade "cooler" that is a 4ft cube made from 2-inch thick polystyrene sheets (this is just for my own convenience so I can melt and boil when I want to). My pseudo-scientific tests show this method leaves from 85-95% of the sugar in the 3/4 gallon. Faster freezing and slower melting seems to help somewhat-- so the pans are frozen on a metal shelf with no cover on--or with just plastic wrap draped onto the surface of the sap if storms are in the offing-- and thawed just at atmospheric temps, not adding heat.

    I do use a "compartmented evaporator," in a very simple way. I drill a hole near the top of the pans and connect them with a threaded steel tube, with nuts on both sides of the pan wall where the tube passes through. If there is any seepage, it is quickly sealed by burnt sugar. This works with both stainless and disposable steam table pans. It might not really be neccessary-- you could easily just transfer from pan to pan, or just boil it down straight, as the boiling time is greatly reduced by the original 2/3 feeze reduction. I'm sure you could make a decent medium grade just boiling straight, and if you are just selling at a stand along with your honey, I think that is fine.

    If you have an old chest freezer, that could be incorporated into the system to make it more convenient than watching and waiting and timing the freezes and thaws, and also allow you to do it further into the season. This would take some electricity, but freezing is still way more energy efficient than boiling (I think it's like 10 to 1 or more, especially if you are starting with cold sap of 45 degrees or so). I'm looking for an old used one to experiment with.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Anchorage, Alaska
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    Hi Darrel:

    " Backyard Sugarin' " is a good book available for the small operator who wants to produce some syrup for personal use, too. The book runs 95 pages and is listed new on Barnes/Noble for $9.50. It can also be purchased used from some of the used book sellers for up to $17.50. Go Figure.

    The evaporators shown in the book are all single pan sitting outside on 55-gallon drum stoves, or cement block fireplaces.

    My father lives on a small farm in upstate New York. For the past several springs I've taken 3-4 weeks time off work here and traveled back there to do the maple syrup thing. We currently use two single pans (transferring heated sap from the warming pan into the evaporating pan) and a Leader Half Pint Evaporator bought over in Rutland, VT. Our set-up is inside a front-opened lean-to.

    I'd sure like to see some pictures of your evaporating operation. While I can't afford the three easy payments of $199.99, I would be able to offer you a hearty handshake if I ever ran into you in the flesh.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    western new york state USA
    Posts
    20

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    Hi all,
    Just adding my two cents here. I have beeen producing maple syrup on a commercial basis for 37 years now and really cant agree with the freeze thaw method. It is very wasteful,it could be compared to only extracting 70% of your honey,and I don't think that is using this resource too wisely.After all the work you have gone through to tap the trees and place the tubing,boiling it all in using the tried and true method of evaporation makes the most sense. But what the heck if you are enjoying yourself you can do anything that trips your trigger.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Hiram, Northeast Ohio
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    731

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    "I have beeen producing maple syrup on a commercial basis"

    If I was trying to produce "commercially," I wouldn't even consider this method-- not because of the waste or efficiency, as I think I am getting 90% of the sugar at 1/3 the fuel cost -- but because while it is more convenient at a small scale (15-50 trees or so) I think it would be a mess on a large scale. The square footage I have dedicated for about 20-30 gallons is probably 600 square feet. This is outdoor space and under an overhang, but it just wouldn't be practical on a very large scale. But the 10% waste of sugar compared to the 65% savings on fuel is a good tradeoff.

    The idea here is both not having to sink in a couple or few thousand bucks, and doing it in your spare time when you have a full time job and can't neccessarily be there when it would be optimal. I tried running home after work, firing up the evaporator for boils (and beers) from 6 to midnight. That is fun, but not really too practical. This method has made things much easier--and I do still get to boil and drink
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
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    <<I'll post that when I'm done if anyone's interested.>>

    Interested!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Hiram, Northeast Ohio
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    "I'd sure like to see some pictures of your evaporating operation."

    I'll work on some pics. The weather here is looking like I won't really be back at it for at least a week. We had a couple nice thaws early but the deep freeze is on now. Backyard Sugarin' is the book I started with and it holds a proud place on my bookshelf. Up until this year I was using a ridged 2 x 4 homemade stainless pan that I bent up and welded myself-- worked great but I had put drain tubes on that were an incompatible metal and they decayed badly in about 5 years. I haven't gotten around to repairing that one, and I might just let it be--I like this new method.
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
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    <<" Backyard Sugarin' " is a good book available for the small operator who wants to produce some syrup for personal use, too. The book runs 95 pages and is listed new on Barnes/Noble for $9.50. It can also be purchased used from some of the used book sellers for up to $17.50. Go Figure.>>

    Used, on Amazon for $2.50.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    south river nj usa
    Posts
    59

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    why bye a book you can find everything you need to know on the net .i made my first batch of home made maple syrup two weeks ago i first started off with the bucktes hanging of the spiles that got old real quick so i went with the tubes to a 30 gal. drum ihave two realy old mapels and they leak sap like a river i checked today and i need to get two more barrels because i cant cook it till the weekend bye then i should have close to 100 gal.of sap and this is my first year doing it

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    western new york state USA
    Posts
    20

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    Ther are many good sites on making maple,try your favorite search engine. The only thing I would caution a beginner on is the threat of fire-if the syrup does boil over, or the pan runs dry you could have one heck of a situation on your hands. So you should be right there watching your pans if the setup is indoors(garage,barn or other outbuilding, but never in your home)If you have any specific questions PM me and I will gladly answer your questions. Or ask away on the forum and we can share the ideas.Have a ball and remember hard cider is very refreshing when you are boiling.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Troupsburg, NY
    Posts
    4,074

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    Take a stroll over to mapletrader.com. It's a site just like this one, but it's for syrup. I too have made syurp for many years, and I have never used the freeze-thaw meothed. Everything written on the subject says it only gets about 70% of the sugar out. Just my two cents.

    peggjam
    "I reject your reality, and substitute my own." Adam Savage

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Posts
    1,649

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    Finally, the sap is beginning to flow here in Fort Ann, New York. It's been warmer in Anchorage (40's) than here in New York.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Clifton Park, NY, USA
    Posts
    133

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    I'm in saratoga, NY. About half of my trees are running good today. Should be some good runs this weekend gonna be close to 40.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Anchorage, Alaska
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    1,649

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    Here's a good reference on maple products:

    http://ohioline.osu.edu/b856/

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Grand Blanc, MI
    Posts
    169

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    Won't the foil type pans melt under a very hot fire? Just wondering.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Clifton Park, NY, USA
    Posts
    133

    Post

    no foil pans won't melt as long as you don't let them dry out. The sap keeps the pans cool no matter how hot the fire is.

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