Filtering Honey not to mention the dreaded cappings

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Poly Hive

Queen Bee
Dec 4, 2008
Reaction score
Scottish Borders
Hive Type
Number of Hives
12 and 18 Nucs
There are two major problems that face the small scale honey extracting set up and that is how to filter to a high standard the honey, and how to get the honey out of the cappings.

I strongly suspect that the advocates of the hot air gun method of removing cappings was invented for this very reason, it virtually disappeared the problem.

However, that in it's self is not the best situation to be in by reason of giving bees wax work to do keeps the repletes out of mischief namely running out of queen substance and thinking of swarming, and it cuts off one of the crafts main income streams, wax. And at that the very best of wax.

If we accept that cutting off the cappings to some depth is how extracting is progressed, then we have a quantity of waxy honey to process. It will not filter, or if it does over quite some time it will be not very clean.

I will now digress a little and give a wee bit of history.

Extracting heather honey is not easy which is why sections and cut comb are the preferred systems. Heather Honey is effectively a jelly and can only be turned into a liquid by means of agitation or pressure.

Pressing honey is a hot and very sticky process at best and a complete nightmare at worst.

Agitating it is possible using a hand bank of needles but not very effective, though a proper machine to do it exists and at a price to boot. (I may be open to a rental offer for mine, PM me.)

Then someone had a bit of a brain wave. What they thought if the combs were cut out of the frame, chopped up and put into a spin drier?

Answer was with in limits it worked well, at times if the bag wasn't tied off too well it worked far too well..... a honey decorated kitchen tends not to please the spouse.....

From that idea came using the spinner to filter with.

Now on here elsewhere much has been made of food grade materials. I have never encouraged anyone to do anything to damage honey. I feel that given the time involved for the honey to have contact with the spinner wall and flow down into the well and out the spout is so short, the risk of contamination is slow as to be at best none existent and at worst minimal.

My spinner has a metal casing and the only bit of plastic is the spout. It is so soaked in honey over the years I doubt a swab would say it was plastic at all.

How to do it.

Warm the material to be filtered. If you are doing honey then warm it until there are NO crystals left. If doing cappings warm it to just below, note well, BELOW the temperature at which wax melts, 62-64 Degrees C.

My spinner has not lid on it and the circuit has been modded so that the spinner runs constantly. Therefore yes there is a safety risk here but one that I am highly aware of and if you try this you should be too.

There is a liner of coarse mesh 400 micron that goes inside the casing, and in the drum is a bag of 100 micron mesh. I set a honey tank fitted with a valve above the spinner and adjust the honey gate to give a constant trickle of honey into the drum. Obviously I put a bucked under the spout to catch the pristine honey.

As the bag in the drum gets dirty a filter cake builds up and it gets more and more effective, however there comes a point at which it needs cleaning and this is easily achieved with COLD water. I have three of them so one in use, one drying and one in reserve.

Cappings I put in a draw string bag and that in turn goes in side the drum bag. I then use a dimmer switch to increase the power to the spinner so as to allow the cappings and wax to find a balance point.

For those unfamiliar with spinners they are at times difficult to persuade to find the sweet spot. Once though that is achieved by starting and stopping a few times they run up to full speed in no time at all and the cappings will come out of the bag as dry as is achievable at this sort of investment level.

I dare say it sounds a bit Heath Robinson but it works and works very very well, and I have cleaned many tons with this system.

Using double strainers is urged on the beginner and yes they work, to a point, not a very good point though.

One essential tool that I found invaluable when working this system as honey is constantly being added to the honey tank is a bucket holder, Thornes call it a bucket aid. Also a spatula is very useful for getting the last suppies out of the buckets.

That is how I filtered my honey and it was not unsuccessful on the show bench.

Thank you PH, interesting and informative.

I have no experience of this, but will a cappings drier as sold by Th****s to fit into their extractors do a similar job? (£92.13 + vat)

Of course it will be no use for filtering honey.
If you give it some thought the answer is no.

My method runs at 2800rpm, an extractor runs at? 20 or so.

Be like watching paint dry.

Thanks, PH. Can you advise where we might get the 100 micron bags from and can you draw how tha bag sits in the casing to start the filtration process?
Another idea for cappings

I heard of a beekeeper who drenches cappings in vodka for a few weeks. It blends with the honey but not the wax apparently, leaving behind a very acceptable schnaps-style drink. I might just try it.
. . . will a cappings drier as sold by Th****s to fit into their extractors do a similar job? (£92.13 + vat).

The price alone tells me that by comparison the drier mentioned probably isn't a good investment, when a spinner could be bought for approximately the same outlay.

Very good description PH. Everyone out making filter bags now and creating a run on gravity drained spinners. :)
On the commercial market (i.e. bee farmer prices) you can now get continuous cappings presses which also work for heather honey. At least a couple of companies make them.

They work by having a screw which runs inside a perforated tube, the depth and pitch of the screw reduces towards the end and thus the cappings are progressively squeezed and virtually dry wax falls out of the end with the honey being squeezed out through the perforations in the side of the tube.

They can also be used for heather honey providing you are prepared to sacrifice the comb - just cut the comb out of the frames and drop into the press.

The honey will still have small bits of wax in it and the best thing I've seen for removing them is a separator which spins the honey fairly slowly in a big drum and the wax if forced out to the sides and the clean honey pumped out from the centre.
Mine are nylon and are stitched with "just" thread, and they are still in good condition some *cough* years later. ;)

If anyone has enough cappings to justify a journey, I'm sure we could negotiate a fair deal (e.g. I keep a % or simply buy outright).
(I have a cappings melter and a cappings spinner so doesn't matter if crystallized).
But it would need to wait until new year as I'm still not finished my own.

P.M. if interested.

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