This article will review three different methods of filtering and the pros and cons of each.
Method 1: Cone Filters
Cone Filters are a “bags” made out of food grade filtering fabric. To use a cone filter, the filter is hung over a large pot or inside of a Cone Filter Tank. Then the hot syrup is poured into the bag and allowed to filter through. (For more details, see our article “How to use a Cone Filter”)
Best Benefits: Very economical. Reusable. For very small amounts of syrup the end result is pretty good. Cone Filters do have an important place in hobby syrup production.
Considerations: Cone filters can be a struggle to work with because when the sediment clogs the bottom of a cone prefilter, it is very messy to remove that prefilter and get the flow going again. The fabric can also absorb a lot of maple syrup which will then be rinsed away when you clean the filter.
Cone Filters work great with the Smoky Lake Cone Filter Tank.
Method 2: Flat Filters
With Flat Filters, we start by laying down one layer of thick Orlon main filter material in a filter tray. Then we lay down up to six thin prefilter sheets on top of the Orlon. When we start flowing syrup through this stack of filters, it flows through every one of them. As sediment begins to clog the top prefilter, the flow of syrup will slow down. To fix this, we simply shimmy the top prefilter from the stack, and the syrup then flows freely through the rest of the filters which remain in place. As the next layer of prefilter in the set clogs, we shimmy that filter out off of the top of the set. And so on, as the prefilters clog we pull them off, the dirt and sediment staying with that prefilter, the syrup continuing through the rest of the filters in place. Afterwards, when we’re done filtering, all of the prefilters and the main filter are rinsed out and dried to be used again and again.
Best Benefits: The filters are reusable and economical. Overall this system is much easier to use and less messy than cone filters. The Smoky Lake Complete Steam Bottler will collect your clean, filtered syrup and keep it warm for immediate bottling so the entire process is very streamline and efficient.
Considerations: You will need to make a one-time investment in a piece of equipment that will hold the flat filters and collect the syrup. We recommend the Filter/Finisher/Bottler unit or the Complete Steam Bottler which are designed specifically for flat filtering. However you may also be able to add a Filter Tray to your existing equipment. Filter Trays can be added onto to a Water Jacketed Bottler or even a Feed Pan.
Method 3: Filter Press
A Smoky Lake Stainless Steel Filter Press renders your syrup absolutely crystal clear and the thin paper filters absorb very little syrup, making the filter press the least wasteful method of filtering. It seems that as a maple syrup producer expands their operation, they inevitably purchase a Filter Press at some point, and they always say they wish they had purchased one sooner.
That being said, when a customer is on a budget and asks our opinion regarding which filtering equipment to purchase — either a Complete Steam Bottler with Flat Filters OR a Filter Press — your bottling method may influence your decision. For example, if your existing bottler is not maintaining an even temperature or if it is creating sugar sand when heating syrup, our Complete Steam Bottler would solve those problems in addition to giving you a great filtering method. However, if you are happy with your current bottling system and you are simply seeking the absolute best filtering system, the Filter Press is the ultimate.