I currently have about 30 honey producing hives, hoping to eventually hold steady at about 80. I'm gradually getting my act together on honey extraction equipment and I now have an extractor, uncapper/wax melter, and steam generator.
I'm hung up on what to do for a heater/strainer/bottler that will work best for the amount of honey that I will produce. Some of the equipment in the catalogs seems confusing (at least to me)and I'm not sure how to narrow it down. What do some of you use to get the job of straining and bottling done? I'd kind of like to do it all with one piece of equipment and be able to heat too, just enough to get it through the stainer. Thanks much.
I'm in much the same position you are. I had 20+ hives last year and 30+ production hives this year. Last year I used my old hobby sized plastic uncapping tank and two of those double strainers. It was a slow tedious job. The uncapping tank was full just after several supers, meaning I only could extract for an hour or two before I had to stop and let the tank drain overnight. But then that really didn't matter because the 2 double strainers were slow, and you couldn't really strain more than a 5 gallong bucket before the nylon cloth needed changed or it slowed to almost nothing.
I made some big changes this year though (for me at least). First, I bought the large 8' long uncapping tank from walter t kelly. 1/3 of the tank was enought to hold 20 uncapped frames, So I could uncap while the extracter was running and I put a working surface on the other end to hold a super and the knife, etc. You will have to make a stand for it yourself. You can get a lid for it. It's not listed in the catelogue, but you can ask for one (and get it made as two pieces, it's easier to handle and you can cover just part of the tank then.)
Second, I used a course strainer on the honey coming out of the 20-frame extractor. It was just a simple one found at walmart, but it removes the large pieces of wax that tend to plug up the strainer cloth. I found that just scraping the debris from it between extracter runs worked just fine. The extracter simply runs though this course strainer into a 5 gallon bucket, which I carry to the next stage (straining). Perhaps I'll add a sump and a honey pump in the future, but It simply wasn't in the budget this year.
I take the 5 gallon bucket from the extractor and pour it into a 15 gallon double boiler (also new this year). You can use the double boiler to maintain the temperature of the honey so it strains faster. I'll also use the double boiler to bottle the honey thoughout the year.
The double boiler empties into the tank basket strainer which is in a 100 gallon tank. (both also new). The strainer basket is about 20 inches long and 6" in diameter and is fitted with nylon strainer cloth. I think you can buy one already made, but it's easy to make your own. 2 yards of nylon strainer cloth easily makes 3 socks for the strainer. I found you can easily strain 100 gallons before you may want to change the sock. Much more efficent than the double strain, both in time, and in amount of material needed per gallon. Since the strainer hangs about halfway down in the 100gallon tank, and it works best when completely exposed, I typically filled buckets from the tank to keep the level below the strainer.
Only difficulty with this system is that the double boiler has to sit pretty high so it's above the 100 gallon tank that's on a stand high enough that 5 gallon buckets can be filled from it. This means you have to lift the honey from the extractor to the double boiler. It worked pretty well this year, but if I get much more honey, I'd consider a sump under the extractor and a honey pump into the double boiler. I might then consider a larger double boiler to allow a larger quantity of unstrained honey to be stored and strained overnight or during breaks. I think it will work well with the 60+ production hives I expect to run next year.
Hopefully this wasn't too confusing and gives you a few ideas.
>>What do some of you use to get the job of straining and bottling done? I'd kind of like to do it all with one piece of equipment and be able to heat too, just enough to get it through the stainer.
All really you need is a settling tank. At the end of your honey pump line into your tank, clamp on some nylon. It will take out any the wax the sump doesn't remove. Fill the tank up and let stand for a day or so, warmed is better and the honey will clear itself. Bottle straight into your pails. I don't like to strain too much becasue it takes alot of the natural taste from the honey. But I am real careful about keeping dust and stuff out of the supers while removing from the hives and extracting.
My tank is a cheap SS milk tank, but I can't heat it becasuse the cooler lines inside are corroded. I don't heat my sump becasue the water jacket leaks also. All works just the same with the honey house at 32 degrees C.
My advice, don't get caught up with all this expensive new equipment, especially a sideliner of your size. Old equipment is better suited for you price wise and will do the job just the same. I would recomend buying a SS holding tank though, galvanized for the rest makes no difference. I sell the whitest honey a beekeeper can produce through an old 36 frame Jones galvanized extractor...
Thanks Ian and tarheit. I'm not yet at the stage of getting a sump and honey pump, and I was considering a double boiler type thing. I've aquired a used Kelley 33-frame extractor for $800 and a Cowen uncapper and wax melter and a steam generator for $1100. Everything is in great working condition, so I think I'm doing pretty well. I think tarheit's honey processing sounds more like what I'm doing, as far as dumping 5 gallon buckets. I just need to get a piece of equipment to to the straining and bottling. This year's honey crop is not to fabulous, so I don't think I would need a holding/settling tank this year, but when I do, an old square milk tank is what I would be able to get. The only thing is a place to put all this stuff! Thanks again!
What temperature do you run your double boiler at?
"an old square milk tank"
That's what I did! Only mine is round.
Got it for a steal. The dairy farm down
the road had a fire and their insurance
company replaced all of the equipment in the palor. I got a 150 gallon tank, less the compressor for $50 US. Someday I hope to hook
up a water heater/circulator and pump warm water through
the coils. The only problem I had was with the outlet value. Strange threads! I went and bought a rubber coupler/reducer to go from the 1 1/2" outlet to a 1" valve.
The double boiler was set at about 110, though the honey never really got that hot though since it really wasn't in the tank long enough to warm up to full temperature, and I was adding a new bucket everytime the level in the tank dropped enough. I kept the room temperature around 85-90 degrees which may have done just as well.