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pressing honey

 
tel jetson
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I pressed some honeycomb on Friday. I prefer to press honey for a number of reasons:

it's cheap: a friend and I went in on a cast iron sausage stuffer/lard press/fruit press together. we both keep bees and we both brew and ferment, so the thing gets used a fair amount. at $150, it's a whole lot cheaper than most honey extractors.

exposure to air is low: those of you who have been around a radial extractor know how great it smells. the only reason it smells so nice is that the more volatile substances in the honey are evaporating so they're lost. I don't want to smell the honey while I'm extracting it, I want to smell it and taste it while I'm eating or drinking it. in a radial extractor, thin filaments of honey flow out of the comb and then drip down the walls. in addition to losing volatiles, that also leads to a good amount of oxidation which, at least in my estimation, degrades the quality of the honey. it also hastens crystallization.

it's relatively clean and tidy: there's no uncapping and subsequent dripping on the way to the extractor. as opposed to the crush-and-strain method (which also suffers the drawback of excessive air exposure, though not nearly so bad as radial extractors), there's no need to squeeze or crush the comb by hand. there's certainly a bit of cleanup, but it's pretty minor.

wax is cycled out: when comb is reused indefinitely, it can accumulate a variety of toxins and pollutants that honey bees are unfortunately unable to avoid these days. after the comb is pressed, there's a nice cake of relatively dry wax left. because it hasn't been used over and over, the wax is still clean so it's much more useful than old wax.

frames aren't necessary: I don't have a high opinion of frame beekeeping. folks have rigged up baskets to use radial extractors without frames, but that's another step I'm not interested in. generally, radial extractors involve the use of frames.

cross comb doesn't matter: if I'm going to be breaking all the comb out anyway, it really doesn't matter if the bees build straight comb. I can skip a number of chores that would otherwise be necessary to encourage the bees to build straight, which is nice, because I'm lazy.



there are also some drawbacks, though. pressing comb means the bees have to rebuild it, which reduces honey production. breaking comb out is slower than removing a frame unless it's been glued in by the bees pretty well. my press, at least, is also slower than most radial extractors. it might be a toss up between my press and a two-frame extractor, though. someday I'll need to scale up to a larger press, at which point pressing may catch up to extraction in the speed department. there may be other drawbacks I'm overlooking.
 
Adam Klaus
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awesome! really like this idea, especially already owning a fruit press.

how do your setup your hives? seems like huge advantages in this regard as opposed to all the frames.
 
tel jetson
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Adam Klaus wrote:
how do your setup your hives? seems like huge advantages in this regard as opposed to all the frames.


I've got one Langstroth hive. the lower three boxes have frames in them, though not intentionally. they were left carelessly stacked, and a swarm moved in. when I noticed and opened it up to move them to another hive, I discovered that the frames were so cross-combed and braced and welded to each other and the box that there was no way I was getting them out. so I left them be and supered with top bars instead of frames.

my Warré hives also use only top bars. there are folks who use full or partial frames in Warré hives, but I have yet to see the wisdom in that for my purposes. I do use rescue frames when I do cutouts, but the bees are pretty clearly not that fond of them. the honey I pressed on Friday was the top box of a Warré hive.

my Perone hives are also top bar hives. haven't harvested anything from them to date, as they're new this year and they take a spell to really get going. at least one brave (or insane) soul has built a frame version of a Perone hive, but I can't imagine handling a comb 2 feet square would go well, particularly if it hasn't been fastidiously kept free of brace, burr, and cross comb.

I tried a horizontal top bar hive a few years back. I wasn't equal to all the manipulations that horizontal hives need to keep comb straight and prevent honey binding or winter starvation. so I don't use horizontal hives anymore.


at first blush, frames seem like a graceful solution to some intractable problems: how can we reuse comb, and how can we have more knowledge of and control over what's going on in the hive. in practice, the problems only exists because the solution was invented. in addition to all manner of bad habits that they facilitate, frames (and foundation) add considerable expense to the endeavor of beekeeping.

there are frame beekeepers who I have a lot of respect for, but they're far outside the mainstream of beekeeping orthodoxy. and I have no interest in adopting their methods.


if using frames was the only option, I really doubt I would enjoy keeping bees. if I didn't enjoy keeping bees, I wouldn't do it. without frames, though, it's a hoot. the time I spend with the bees never feels like a chore, because there aren't any really regular or onerous tasks that I have to do. because of that, I find myself going out of my way to just sit watching them go about their business for a few minutes at a time, which I don't imagine I would do if I was sick and tired of interminable inspections.

Adam Klaus wrote:awesome! really like this idea, especially already owning a fruit press.


there you go. a single device doing double-duty is pretty excellent. I failed to mention that I use a nylon mesh bag as well. that prevents chunks of wax flowing out with the honey. some fruit presses include similar bags for containing fruit, but the mesh may be a bit too coarse. my friend made mine for me out of the same material she used to make a hop bag for her husband's brewing (the same fellow who owns half my press), but I've seen laundry bags for washing delicates that I bet would work just as well.

and thanks for the enthusiasm, Adam. I'm not one for smiley faces, but your post brightened my evening.
 
Burra Maluca
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This is what the local Portuguese cork-hive owners use to extract their honey.



Edit to add this link to a page with photos of a very similar press in action - pressing honey
 
Michael Cox
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Neat setup Tel.

I've been out of beekeeping for a number of years now, due to a developed allergy to stings. Last week i built my first Perone hive and am now waitingnon a swarm - we usually see one or two a year in the garden. I'm hoping that the low intervention approach means fewer stings.

We previously used fraes, foundation and a centrifuge (borrowed) - i don't think we broke even over the five years or so, once the cost of replacement frames,foundation, the occassional replacement queen etc... Were factored in. I'm now very much of the opinion that low intervention and lower overheads are the way forward.

I'm due a visit to the allergy specialist soon for a 'challenge test' where they inject me with bee venom and see if i die! If i pass i'll be getting going again full steam ahead. We have room for at least a dozen hives eventually. Keeping my fingers crossed that the perone style works out well for us here in the uk.

Regarding your fruit press - does your honey end up cloudy with wax etc... In it? Do you care if it does? Do you sell honey or is it for your own consumption?

Mike
 
R Scott
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I was about to buy a stainless crush and strain setup. This makes me take pause, as I really could use a sausage stuffer.

How hard do you press the wax?

That stainless fruit press is pretty sweet, too. I could use one of those, too. If I could wait until fall to press honey, I could press the honey then press cider w/o cleaning the press in-between.
 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:This is what the local Portuguese cork-hive owners use to extract their honey.


when the time comes, I imagine something like that is what I'll need to scale up to. that does provide a bit more air exposure than my closed press, but sometimes compromise is called for.
 
tel jetson
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Michael Cox wrote:
I've been out of beekeeping for a number of years now, due to a developed allergy to stings. Last week i built my first Perone hive and am now waitingnon a swarm - we usually see one or two a year in the garden. I'm hoping that the low intervention approach means fewer stings.


having been around a friends' frame hives, I can confidently say that my hives are a lot less defensive. I do get stung, but not much, and it's generally been when something exceptional is going on. most recently, a mating flight. wearing a veil would likely have prevented every sting I've gotten.

I'm not presently allergic, but I do swell quite a bit. I carry an epi-pen with me just in case.

Michael Cox wrote:We previously used fraes, foundation and a centrifuge (borrowed) - i don't think we broke even over the five years or so, once the cost of replacement frames,foundation, the occassional replacement queen etc... Were factored in. I'm now very much of the opinion that low intervention and lower overheads are the way forward.


more and more folks are seeing the light these days.

Michael Cox wrote:I'm due a visit to the allergy specialist soon for a 'challenge test' where they inject me with bee venom and see if i die! If i pass i'll be getting going again full steam ahead. We have room for at least a dozen hives eventually. Keeping my fingers crossed that the perone style works out well for us here in the uk.


my uncle was allergic to bees. got some sort of shot every two weeks for years and I'm told he was cured.

my Perone hives are doing really well. the climate here is similar to at least some parts of the UK, so I think your odds of success are decent.

Michael Cox wrote:Regarding your fruit press - does your honey end up cloudy with wax etc... In it? Do you care if it does? Do you sell honey or is it for your own consumption?


it's relatively clear. very little wax seems to make it through the press bag, which is a pretty fine mesh. pollen certainly does, though, and I'm glad of that. it certainly isn't crystal clear like cooked and filtered honey would be, but I've no desire to emulate that.

thus far, I've mostly kept it for my family and given it away as gifts. I do plan to sell more in the future, as I'm up to eleven hives this year with plans for more. there's quite a demand around here for unprocessed products, and this honey certainly fits the bill.
 
tel jetson
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R Scott wrote:
How hard do you press the wax?


pretty hard. I need to bolt the press down to something next time, as it has become clear over the last couple of pressings that trying to hold it still while cranking is a recipe for making a mess.

there is an aftermarket part for this model that gears down the crank, which allows a lot more force. I've considered that, though I'm not sure how much force the cast iron cog teeth could handle. and that one part would cost more than we paid for the complete press.

R Scott wrote:That stainless fruit press is pretty sweet, too. I could use one of those, too. If I could wait until fall to press honey, I could press the honey then press cider w/o cleaning the press in-between.


tough call. sounds like you would get good use out of either press. I'm guessing the stainless press would be rather more expensive than my cast iron model, but it probably has a larger capacity, too. there are larger versions of what I've got, too.

one thing to consider: if you're pressing outside during the day, bees will find you. if you're pressing inside during the day and leave a door or window open, bees will find you. pressing in the winter while they're dormant or at night while they aren't flying both solve this problem, though they do come with their own challenges.
 
R Scott
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Thanks, tel.

That stainless fruit press would be a horrendous mess to clean!!! That is why for my small bounty it would be really handy to press something, like cider, that ends up with honey in it anyway. But I hadn't thought about uninvited guests.

It is sounding like a good sausage stuffer setting next to the woodstove in the wintertime is a better answer.
 
Burra Maluca
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My other half is of the firm opinion that rinsing out the honey-extracting equipment with water was the way mead was invented.
 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:My other half is of the firm opinion that rinsing out the honey-extracting equipment with water was the way mead was invented.


sounds plausible to me.
 
tel jetson
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R Scott wrote:
That stainless fruit press would be a horrendous mess to clean!!! That is why for my small bounty it would be really handy to press something, like cider, that ends up with honey in it anyway. But I hadn't thought about uninvited guests.


I put my equipment outside to let bees salvage most of the remaining honey before I bother really cleaning anything up. makes things a lot easier. don't do this near any hives, though, as it can trigger robbing.
 
Martin Miljkovic
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Hi, couldnt read it all.
Just to add something here: some of the stuff that we treat bees with may not be safe or when you buy a new wax foundation there is a high chance that they were once treated with something harmful. That stuff stays within the wax and poisons it. That being said here is what you need to do: eliminate all chance of any wax falling in your honey. I can not see if you had any but had to tell you. Eliminating is done usually by adding strainer. YOu add it on the jar that you your honey comes in.
 
Burra Maluca
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Martin Miljkovic wrote:: some of the stuff that we treat bees with may not be safe or when you buy a new wax foundation there is a high chance that they were once treated with something harmful.


Well the aim within permaculture is to never use anything that wouldn't be safe, though it's quite right to be suspicious of bought-in wax foundation. I think that people that press honey are likely to allow their bees to make their own comb from scratch though.
 
David Livingston
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Burra
You mentioned Cork Hives
I thought Cork would be a great material for making hives !
After all naturally Bees make hives in trees and Cork is just modified bark .
Have you any other information on this

David
 
Martin Miljkovic
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cork expands as I recall due to the moisture?
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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