I had a comment come in recently that refers to a universal problem that many sugarmakers have. With heavy flood runs coming in the next couple days and an increased chance for heavy niter buildup here are a few tips that might help with the problem.
This producer asked:
Dose anybody have any advice on how to get this pasty mud like stuff to filter better I have been battling this for three years now and don’t know why, any advice would be greatly appreciated!
This was my answer to his question;
You have a problem that hundreds of producers have every year. So you are not alone in your question of how to deal with this problem.
Niter is caused by the mineral precipitating out of the sap as boils. Every woods if different in the amount produced.All depends on the mineral content of the soil. When we boil sap it is very similar to lime forming on a pan after you boil hard water several times.The only difference that we are keeping the niter in solution and filtering it out. That is the key to removing niter.
You have to keep it in solution when you run it through your filter. You need to keep your syrup very hot and filter it immediately.If the filters cool for a long period of time the sugar crystallizes on the filter and blocks the flow. If you are using a felt or orlon filter always use a pre-filter.In fact try to stack up several filters in layers and when the filter flow slows down just pull off the top layer and continue to filter the syrup.
If you use a filter press make sure you use enough filter aid to initially charge the filter. Even though filter presses have filter papers in between the metal plates it is the filter aid the does the filtering. Make sure use enough but do not over do it. Mix the filter aid and the syrup completely before running tne press. Keep the syrup hot and try to run larger batches. If you run small batches the filter press cools and you will not be able to run as much syrup through before you change filters. Watch your pressure and change filters when the pressure starts to build excessively. This should prevent blowouts and having to refilter.
Normally we filter with a conventional filter tank with a stack of 5 to 10 pre-filters on the tank and 1 orlon filter. I try to put enough pre-filters on for the better part of the day. After we filter we transfer to a 20 gallon heating tank. Heat to the syrup to 185 and then run it through a pressure filter into 15 gallon drums. I try to never bring syrup back to boil or more niter will precipitate out .
Hope this will help and good sugaring.
Now that the syrup season is in full swing here are a few tips to keep your evaportator running smoothly. When running your evaporator the goal is keep a steady boil across the entire rig with the hardest boil occurring in the flue pan. As I stated in a previous post (Managing your Flue Pan) 80% of the water is removed in the flue pan. This requires that you get the maximum amount of performance out of this section of the evaporator. When foam builds up in the back pan, the evaporation rate decreases and the liquid level drops. Once the foam level drops (use of defoamer) the float senses that there is not enough sap in the rig and reacts by sending a large slug of raw sap into the flue pan. This immediately slows the boil. This reaction is eventually transmitted across the entire evaporator in the form of a large batch of syrup that comes off all at once, instead of small batches coming off at regular intervals.In most cases large batches can be traced back to inconsistent foam management.
Let’s look at the practice of defoaming an evaporator. First the products used in this process. Today commercial defoamer which is made of a natural food grade product is most commonly used. It comes in a liquid or a powder form. Several methods are to put defoamer in the evaporator. One is to simply put it in by hand. If this method is used, the defoamer should be put into the evaporators somewhere near the flue pan inlet. Other methods would be the use of defoamer cup in the corners of the pan and injection devices that administer a precise number of drops over a period of time. The cups work well on larger rigs where the boil in the flue pan is very aggressive. I have found on smaller rigs especially if no pre-heater is used the boil never gets close to the cups and the defoaming is inconsistent. The most consistent results can be obtained with the by hand method of placing a precise number of drop into the flue pan every 5 to 10 minutes or every time you fire the rig. A timer works well to remind you to keep this process going. The biggest problem I have is remembering to place the defoamer in the flue pan because we are not using wood and not firing on regular intervals.
The number of drops used varies anywhere from 3 drops for small rigs up to 10 drops on larger rigs. The width of the evaporator determines the number of drops and this increase by 1 drop for every 6 inches of evaporator width, (3 drops in a 2 foot wide rig, 4- 5 in 3 foot rig, up to 10 drops on a 6 ft rig). There are only two places to put defoamer, in the inlet corner of the flue pan and only if needed at the draw off point. One of the biggest mistakes is to put defoamer randomly across the middle of the pans, especially the syrup pan. Doing this kills the boil, and promotes intermingling of syrup of different densities. The result will be the dreaded big batch. Incidentally if your syrup taste a little oily, and I sincerely hope not, you are probably using too much defoamer. If you are organic, use organic Canola Oil in place of commercial defoamer.
Managing foam looks simple and it is, but if you forget the penalty is a bunch of reactions that can ultimately end up in inconsistent syrup draw off and improper density of the syrup that you are drawing off. You end up constantly trying to compensate in the syrup pan for a problem that should have been handled in the flue pan. If it gets too far out of control and you end up taking too much syrup off your front pan at one time the result could be a scorched pan. When evaporators do not run smoothly bad things happen. Been there done that and believe me it is no fun. One of the things I am trying for the first time is the Foam Fighter manufactured by Nick Wendell in New York. It is an electronic device the precisely place defoamer into the evaporator inlet over a precise number of minutes. We are hoping it will take care of our inconsistent auto draw off issues. I will take notes and report later.
Additional Comment March 24, 2015:
We used the Wendell Maple Foam Fighter for the first time on Sunday. We were boiling fast and hard and the foam was starting to really build. I kicked on the new device and within 15 minutes the foam in the flue pan settled down. When it came time for the first drawoff of the day we expect the usual bigger than normal batch. That did not happen. The first drawoff was average size and the rest were the same and evenly spaced over time we were boiling. If this any indication what this device will do it was money well spent and many problems will be solved. Let you know at the end of the season what the final verdict is.