Posts Tagged ‘reverse osmosis’

OK.. so when we left off, the sap at Sweet Brook Farm which is used to make our gourmet maple syrup has just finished its long journey from the trees, under the ground, and into the sugar house.  Remember that one of the key factors of the grade of the syrup is minimizing its exposure to sunlight and the warm temperatures.  That is why our state-of the-art sap collection system ensure that our maple syrup is the best tasting around.  In the maple syrup world less sunlight  equals better taste!

Now that we’ve seen how the sap is collected, let’s take a look at where it goes and what happens to it.  In this first photo, you see the black main sap lines dumping into the 1,700-gallon, cone-bottom sap collection tank.  The white PVC pipes are for the vacuum lines and vacuum pump exhaust

1,700 gallon sap collection tank

This is the vacuum pump system used to create vacuum in the sap lines which better facilitates sap flow and helps with those low-lying areas that need to “boost” the sap up hill.  The large black tub of water is used to cool the pump.

The vacuum pump system and cooling tub

After the sap starts to collect in the main collection tank, it gets pumped to the reverse-osmosis (RO) unit.  Here, the sap gets pushed through the membrane columns, pushing through some of the water in the sap and holding back sugar-concentrated sap.  The sugar content in raw maple sap is about 2%.  The RO unit will bring the sugar content of the sap up to about 10%, removing about 80% of the water, which in turn saves about 80% of the fuel otherwise needed to evaporate sap to syrup.

Reverse osmosis system

From the RO unit, the concentrated sap, or concentrate, is pumped to the concentrate tank where it will dump into the evaporator.  We built a special platform to hold this 150-gallon tank above the evaporator, so it can feed by gravity.  Once this tank fills up, the oil-fired arch is turned on, and evaporation begins!

The concentrate tank - Let the evaporation begin!

Our evaporator is designed to boil off 160 gallons of water per hour, making approximately 20 gallons of syrup per hour if fed 10% concentrate.  The steam hood over the evaporator pans preheats the concentrate before it enters the pan, further saving fuel.  An automatic take-off valve controls the flow of syrup into a 100-gallon finishing pan where a final adjustment can be made before it is finished and packaged.  The final syrup is 66% sugar.

Sap goes into the evaporator, and maple syrup comes out

The evaporator pans collect niter, or maple sand, that must be cleaned routinely to prevent damage to the pans and off-tasting syrup.  We have installed rope pulls to lift the steam hood off the rear evaporator pan.

Heavy-duty rails and additional rope pulls are used to lift and remove the rear pan and to slide it out the door of the sugar house for periodic cleaning.

Evaporator pans are set up with rope pulls for periodic cleaning to ensure consistent taste

A gear pump forces the finished syrup through this filter press to remove foreign debris and niter.  From here, the syrup is packaged in 5-gallon containers or transferred to our bottling unit for packaging.

This is the point at which we grade the syrup using USDA standards of Grade A Light Amber, Medium Amber, Dark Amber, or Grade B Commercial.

Once the syrup travels through the filter press, it is time to give it a USDA Grade

Each day, the tanks and RO membrane are rinsed out using a garden hose and fresh water.

Daily cleaning keeps us busy and your syrup tasting great

Our new mezzanine will store the finished syrup, some in the 5-gallon blue containers shown in this photo.  This is also where we will store our bottling supplies and other seasonal farm equipment.

Our brand new mezzanine where we store the finished product until it is shipped out or bottled

Stay tuned for our next post where we talk about the pump house, which at the time of writing this post, is not quite finished.  We are hoping for some warmer temperatures so we can finish the work that needs to be done in there.

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