Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?
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  1. #1
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    Default Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    This year I harvested 35 gallons of honey. This mostly came from 4 hives that made it through the winter, but 6 packages also contributed a little, as well.

    Extraction was done using the equipment of the local bee club. Uncapping is done by scratching, which is the only method allowed by the club. Meaning, there is a fair amount of wax debris in the honey that needs to be removed.

    I am now in the process of filtering the 35 gallons of honey. I am using white 5 gallon buckets and pouring the honey through a nylon mesh filter from one bucket to another. The filters are the standard nylon filters available in the paint department of the hardware store. Everything is scrupulously cleaned in hot soapy water before and after each use. This is all done in the house since I do not have a sanitary workplace elsewhere.

    The honey is allowed to stand for a few days so the wax debris floats to the top, where the bulk of the wax is then skimmed off by hand. Even so, the filtering is a slow and tedious job. Really really slow. As in it is taking a long long time. Whew! Pouring honey through a filter from one bucket to another was okay when I was dealing with 10 gallons of honey, but it is not practical for 35 gallons. A significant part of the problem is that the filters quickly clog despite the pre-skimming.

    As I get better at keeping bees, I expect my yearly harvest to increase to upwards of 50 gallons per year. Ms. shinbone will be throwing me out on the street if I start trying to filter 50 gallons of honey with just 5 gallon buckets.

    Anyone got any suggestions on the best way to filter 35 - 50 gallons of honey? I don't want to get too crazy on buying a bunch of expensive dedicated filtering equipment, but I am willing to do some capital investing.

    TIA

    Last edited by shinbone; 10-20-2016 at 08:37 AM.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    I don't know how fine a mesh your plastic filter might be but....I use stainless double strainers. Not as fine as some of the plastic ones...but it doesn't matter. They catch the larger stuff and the honey goes through pretty quickly. They're not terribly expensive..

    http://www.mannlakeltd.com/beekeepin...ct/HH-440.html
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    (first post edited to add info on the nylon filters)

    beemanda - I've tried the circular stainless steel filters shown in your link. For me, they clogged just as fast as the nylon ones.

    Maybe my issue is that I've got more fine wax debris in my honey than most and need to somehow get rid of it before passing through the nylon filters . . . ? Hmmmm . . .
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Shinbone,

    Of course warming the honey will be helpful, but not solve your basic problem.
    Join a different club with more relaxed rules. I think that there are at least three clubs in the Denver area. I used to belong to "Denver Bees".
    It seems to me like you are at a point where you can spend this year's honey income and buy your own extractor and uncapping equipment and be prepared for the future.

    I envy you and your 2016 harvest. I didn't have nearly that good a year.

    Steve

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    If you are having troubles with clogging you could have a couple of coarser meshed strainers to get most of the wax out. Just swap and clean out as they clog up. Cold water outside does the trick. Do you have a pail with a honey gate? Can be useful to control flow so you don't have to stand there. You can dribble it through.

    Are paint strainers food grade?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Part of the problem might be temperature. I've found that the honey doesn't flow well at all, no matter how large the strainer mesh, when it is at room temperature. So I put it in a closet warmed by a 100w light bulb to about 90-95F and it flows better.

    My method is to warm the honey in a closet heated to 90-95F with a 100w bulb, then pour the honey through a medium-coarse stainless strainer 1st, then down through a paint strainer bag, as you are using. I use 2 buckets, the top one sets on 1x2s and has the bottom cut out. The paint strainer is in the top bucket and the stainless strainer sets on top of that.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    In my experience most of the 'stuff' floats to the top of the honey. If you have one of those five gallon bottling buckets, you can pour it full....wait a few hours then tap the honey from the gate at the bottom. Just don't let it get low enough that the gunk comes out. As it gets low...refill...wait....and go again. You might discover that you don't need to filter at all.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    As beemandan suggests; using a bottling bucket to decant from the bottom of the liquid column, while leaving the debris undisturbed at the top, might be an easy solution. I'll try that next. Thx.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bear Creek Steve View Post
    Join a different club with more relaxed rules.


    I envy you and your 2016 harvest.
    Steve - Thanks for the kind words! I am not sure what I did to have such a good harvest. It is probably just luck.

    Yes, I think the bee club rules are too restrictive. My guess is that most members are dealing with much smaller amounts of honey, and so don't have to deal with the filtering bottle-neck problem. Us members have access to two 20-frame Maxant radial extractors, which makes the extraction part go really fast. That'll be hard to replace.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hops Brewster View Post
    My method is to warm the honey in a closet heated to 90-95F with a 100w bulb, then pour the honey through a medium-coarse stainless strainer 1st, then down through a paint strainer bag, as you are using. I use 2 buckets, the top one sets on 1x2s and has the bottom cut out. The paint strainer is in the top bucket and the stainless strainer sets on top of that.
    Thanks for the mental image. I may have to build such a set-up for next year.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    I don't really understand why you're only allowed to scratch the cappings...I use a hot knife to uncap into a large tupperware container (which is a PITA all on its own, I'm looking into an uncapping tank) and run it through one of those stainless double-mesh strainers straight out of the extractor. I got about 20 gallons this year and had to clean the filter maybe twice. I don't do any other filtering.

    Why do they care how you uncap?

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by shinbone View Post

    Extraction was done using the equipment of the local bee club. Uncapping is done by scratching, which is the only method allowed by the club. Meaning, there is a fair amount of wax debris in the honey that needs to be removed.
    Any clue what the rationale is for "scratching only"? Seems ridiculous to me. Even a cold knife would be a better option.

    As others have said, warm the honey. The 600 micron bucket filters (see most bee houses) should easily handle a 5 gallon pail that has been skimmed of wax, unless the honey has started to crystallize.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by bsharp View Post
    Why do they care how you uncap?
    Not sure the rationale, but that is the stated rule. I could get involved in bee club politics to try to change the rule, but there will be less personal brain damage by choosing instead to solve the filtering problem . . .

    I watched a buddy use an uncapping plane. It was fast! Made a clean cut and produced almost no wax fragments. You still had to separate the cappings and honey, though. Not sure how hard that would be. But, the plane was much faster than scratching.

    And, I do feel lucky to have access to the two 20-frame extractors without having to buy them nor store them for the other 364 days.





    .
    Last edited by shinbone; 10-20-2016 at 10:55 AM.
    --shinbone
    (1975-1980, and now since 2011; maintain about 10 hives; Zone 5b; 15" rain; 5500')

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Depending on how fast the honey comes off the extractor, you might want to do some filtering right there.

    I also use this filter set http://www.mannlakeltd.com/beekeepin...ct/HH-444.html sometimes in combination with the metal one. Fits on top of the bucket and is roughly 3" deep. I use a spatula to push debris to one end.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    For "pre-filtering" I set up a 5-gallon bucket with a bunch of holes drilled in the bottom and a paint strainer inside. That sits on another 5-gallon bucket, the lid of which has had the center removed and simply supports the filter bucket above it. Pour in a 5 gallon bucket and walk away. I use it for capping too. A micro-fine layer of wax will come to the top but it doesn't matter. Once this is in a bottling tank (or simply another bucket with a honey gate), the fine wax stays on top or clings to the sides and doesn't end up in bottled product.

    After we're done with the filtering, we wash capping and wax with 4 or 5 gallons of water to remove most of the honey (that gets turned into mead so no waste...).

  17. #16

    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    The basic idea of what chuckReburn outlined works for me. The only changes I do is. I start filtering at the extractor with a kitchen sink strainer. The wide one with a couple arms that come out. It catches all the big stuff and will fit over a bucket. The other thing I do is clamp the paint stainer to the bucket. From there it is pour into a container that has a bottom valve on it. To settle out the micro wax. From there you can bottle or put into 5 gallon buckets.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    As stated, warmth helps. I prefer this to the double sieves and nylon sieves:



    https://www.kelleybees.com/Shop/18/H...cking-Strainer

    And I use this as the filter cloth:

    http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=29845946&cid=CAPLA:B:Shopping_-_Catch_All&bingpla=bingpla_955551&k_clickid=69535c ed-a213-4c2a-b3ba-ccb8725e3fbf



    I extract into a bottling bucket, let it sit overnight, skim it, lift it up onto a table, and pour through these combined filters into another bottling bucket. This strainer allow more downward pressure and does not clog easily. If the sock is left dripping for a few days most of the honey drains out of the wax in the sock. I have multiple bottling buckets and three of the #236 strainers. My '80s oldest one had legs shorter than the strainer, I specified longer legs when I ordered the new ones so that I can fill the buckets full without the strainer hanging down onto the bucket.




  19. #18
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    A couple of comments; I suspect no electric knives because of fire hazard/personal injury from burns. It could be an insurance issue if you are on someone elses premises. Although people call it a scratcher I don't scratch, I fork. I skim the fork under the caps and lift. The frame is held vertically over the capping tub and most caps fall into the tub.

    I filter with 400 and 100 micron filters stacked as the honey comes out of the extracter. If the filter backs up then switch in another pail with another set of filters. Once the filter drains pull the 400 and clean it with cold water and replace. I also have to estimate if the honey in the filter will exceed the space available in the pail, or it overflows.

    Doesn't help you now but might be helpful for next year.
    Regards Peter
    Ottawa. ON

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by shinbone View Post
    (first post edited to add info on the nylon filters)

    beemanda - I've tried the circular stainless steel filters shown in your link. For me, they clogged just as fast as the nylon ones.

    Maybe my issue is that I've got more fine wax debris in my honey than most and need to somehow get rid of it before passing through the nylon filters . . . ? Hmmmm . . .
    You need to learn how to use a cappings scratcher. There should be very little wax in your extracted honey and almost no fine particles at all.

    You do not scratch with a scratcher. What you do is run the prongs on the scratcher just below the cappings with the back of the scratcher touching the cleared comb. When you have a big gob of cappings on the prongs you wipe those cappings off in a plastic filter in a five gallon bucket and let them drain. I drain mine in a heated box at 90 deg F. For every 100 pounds of honey from the extractor there is maybe six pounds of honey drained from the cappings. From 100 pounds of extracted honey I get a little dab of wax and particles that would fill maybe a quarter cup or less. And, next to none of it is fine at all.

    Once you get the hang of using a scratcher it is about half as fast as a hot knife and leaves a lot less honey in the cappings than a hot knife leaves.

    Dick

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Best way to filter 35 -50 gallons of honey?

    very nice harvest shinbone!
    i could understand if they said NO scratching so bits of wax dont get into the equipment. but scratching ONLY baffles me.
    those frames you are holding are perfect candidates for a heat gun since the caps are not wet. just wave the heat over and the cap will melt and re-solidify on the edges of the cells. very fast, no cappings to deal with, bees can easily reuse wax.
    after that, line each bucket with paint strainer and you can remove the strainer at your leisure or move the strainer to the next bucket when the first is full. the sieves are a waste of time. odfranks similar method would work well too.
    i dont understand why they would want to restrict people from using a knife or similar...

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