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Thread: A Different Type of "Cloudy" - HELP

  1. #1
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    Default A Different Type of "Cloudy" - HELP

    So I have been waiting to make this post because I wanted to see what happened over the course of a month or two, and finally got around to taking some pictures of what I am dealing with today (I apologize they aren't great but I will try and be specific in my explanation). I would love as much feedback as possible, but I also don't need the typical "it's just niter or sugar sand" comments, I promise I know what that is and the 50 million ways I/we can get that in the syrup after filtering.

    This is different, and I have discussed with several larger producers here in WV and for the most part, I can't seem to find an answer... so here it goes...

    After my 2019 season I was tired of hand filtering and bought a used Siro Filter with a brand new diaphragm pump, o-rings, and tubing. I don't do a ton so I thought it would be a great fit. I read a lot on here, especially one awesome post about different ways of using the Siro, and went at it. It took me the first several bottles to get it down, but it seemed the best way to use it for me was to decant the syrup for a few days, dump into a pot, bring to boil, add about 1 cup of filter aid then run through the system. I would then filter for a few minutes, then transfer to a separate pot over very light heat and bring back to about 185ish and bottle. I was very careful not to bring back too fast, or too high. My glass was stored outside, so there were days that it was pretty cold when I bottled, but I felt positive the temp was still good, as I had to wear welding gloves or I couldn't stand to hold it while I bottled. After figuring out the process that worked for me the best, I ended up with awesome, clear, amazing syrup (at least for a while...) It was the most clear syrup I have ever made, way better than hand filtering for me since I have such fine niter from mostly red maples that is so bad it makes me covet sugar maple stands ha-ha!

    Fast forward to about 6 weeks after I bottled my first batches, I started to notice some stuff "appearing" in the syrup that definitely had not been there before. It wasn't the typical niter that is hard to see but then accumulates on the bottom over time. This stuff was "light" and "cloud-like", hovering and suspending in the syrup, unlike anything I had ever seen before in my short 5 years of syrup making. I have made some niter-laced syrup. I have bottled thin syrup. I have done a lot of things that are less-than-ideal when starting out my sugar-making days, but for the life of me I cannot figure out, nor have I been able to talk to anyone that has any idea what is occurring. Taste is good, no off flavor that I notice. If you shake the bottle it pretty much disappears, some stays gone for a while, some will come right back...

    There is no consistency to the appearing, other than I bottled a lot of 250 ml gallones this year and NONE of them have turned; not one. All the other glass I did have had some turn, and some not. All batches have some that has turned, and some that haven't. It is not limited to a certain "color" or "flavor", but mixed through it all in different variables.

    Please, I would love enlightened. I cannot sell this stuff this way, so I am planning to re-filter by bringing it all back to boil, gravity filter everything through flat filters and use a buddy's steam pan system to bottle. This will be a chore, but well worth getting the stuff back to where it needs to be to sell to customers without the fear of it "turning" on their shelf...

    If it were just me and my consumption, I probably wouldn't care as much (being a perfectionist I probably would, who am I kidding), but I HATE the idea of someone buying a gift, setting on their shelf for a Christmas present, and it being "cloudy" when it is ready to be given away.

    Please, any and all thoughts welcome, but I know this is not your typical "cloudy" syrup post. This is something different, stemming from something that obviously was happening in some aspect of my finishing process, and took time to manifest by some unknown catalyst. Thanks all, looking forward to the help I know you can give!!!

    Kody

    20200528_123748.jpg20200528_123420.jpg20200528_123355.jpg20200528_123818.jpg

  2. #2
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    I had your EXACT situation happen to me once. My previous experience was identical to yours in that I'd had some haze show up from time to time over the years, but then one time little puffs of cotton or snowflakes appeared in some glass jars. I hadn't seen it before and I haven't seen it since. There's good news and bad news.

    The good news is it is not mold, so cross all that troubleshooting off your list. The bad news (although much easier to fix) is it is 100% temperature related. It's niter.

    Based on your story, there are two places where you likely exceeded 190 degrees. If you are bottling over an open flame, that is not a steam bottler, you are scorching the syrup where the heat strikes the pan. That's the hissing sound you hear as it's warming up. Even if you heat slowly, this will happen. Barring buying a steam bottler, the best fix is to gently stir the syrup the whole time it is heating up. It's labor and time intensive, but it's free. It works, but I got so sick of it, I bought a steam pan bottler.

    The other place it sounds like you went north of 190 is with the glass itself. I'm guessing you preheated the bottles when you brought them in from the cold. If you pour 185 degree syrup into a 200 degree glass bottle, you are going to form niter. If you need welder's gloves to hold the glass, it's too hot. I wear thin gloves myself and that's all you should ever need. Mostly it just helps with the sores I get from twisting caps on. If you are trying to warm cold glass, just bring the glass in the night before to bring it to room temp or put it on a radiator if you are in a hurry.
    Woodville Maples
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanD View Post
    I had your EXACT situation happen to me once. My previous experience was identical to yours in that I'd had some haze show up from time to time over the years, but then one time little puffs of cotton or snowflakes appeared in some glass jars. I hadn't seen it before and I haven't seen it since. There's good news and bad news.

    The good news is it is not mold, so cross all that troubleshooting off your list. The bad news (although much easier to fix) is it is 100% temperature related. It's niter.

    Based on your story, there are two places where you likely exceeded 190 degrees. If you are bottling over an open flame, that is not a steam bottler, you are scorching the syrup where the heat strikes the pan. That's the hissing sound you hear as it's warming up. Even if you heat slowly, this will happen. Barring buying a steam bottler, the best fix is to gently stir the syrup the whole time it is heating up. It's labor and time intensive, but it's free. It works, but I got so sick of it, I bought a steam pan bottler.

    The other place it sounds like you went north of 190 is with the glass itself. I'm guessing you preheated the bottles when you brought them in from the cold. If you pour 185 degree syrup into a 200 degree glass bottle, you are going to form niter. If you need welder's gloves to hold the glass, it's too hot. I wear thin gloves myself and that's all you should ever need. Mostly it just helps with the sores I get from twisting caps on. If you are trying to warm cold glass, just bring the glass in the night before to bring it to room temp or put it on a radiator if you are in a hurry.
    Sean,

    I am glad someone else has actually experienced this! I know all of the niter issues I have ever had were nothing like this... I would love to hear someone with a scientific or more experienced background explain why it doesn't show up immediately and then can suspend in almost a "coagulated" state without settling. I did not preheat the bottles, that was the point of my statement, I bottled them while they were a bit cooler than I probably should have, but the fact I had to wear gloves (probably didn't have to be welders that is just what I had around) to handle them made me feel like I was getting the bottle hot enough and it wasn't reducing syrup temp more than it should. Yes, that is totally an assumption, but I have bottled cold glass before and could tell it wasn't reaching temp while it was going in; the bottle just wasn't hot enough.

    I would say you are right on the hot spots, that makes a lot of sense, I just really didn't think this was a niter issue due to the way this stuff appeared and how it progressed slowly, and doesn't want to settle. It just seemed "not like niter" to me, but again, I am still early in my years ha-ha! The fact that there is not an off flavor at all makes me feel comfortable it isn't mold or anything foreign/harmful.

    I will plan on re-bottling with my buddy's steam pan in the next couple weeks with what I have left on the shelf, and most likely will be buying one of some sort before next season (already my plan, as I did stir and take constant temp readings prior to bottling, but obviously it wasn't good enough!)

    Please, any others with similar experiences or the explanation/science behind how it happens over time and in a different state, I would love to hear!

    Kody

  4. #4
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    I am in SeanD's camp. I had this happen too and all he said is pretty spot on. My wife and I bottle from a stainless pot and we stir constantly. All our glass is room temperature. we bottle at 185 and I have checked the bottles soon after they are filled and they drop to 175 +/- 5 degrees. This is still high enough under canning standards to be sterile. I have never had a problem with mold or syrup changing since. I have had the nitre form before. I filter all mine right off the evaporator at 217+ though a prefilter and double filter off the finisher at 219+. I haven't had this happen since I started all these steps. I have seen a couple years where there seems to be a different kind of Nitre that is really tough to get out and it does just like your describing. The only option to get it is, filter it again. I have had to refilter in those years and it sucks.
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  5. #5
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    These types of issues can be notoriously difficult to diagnose and to eliminate. You already know the two most likely culprits - niter or biological. As Sean (Woodville) suggests, it very likely could be niter. To rectify that problem, you need to be sure to never get overheating (localized) when you warm the syrup as it will form new niter. Secondly, make sure you recirculate the syrup back through the Sirofilter for a while until it is totally clear. The very fine niter/DE will look hazy in the syrup and can take a very long time to settle out. It is unlikely, but could also be biological, in which case you should consider preheating your glass. Glass will cool the syrup tremendously and result in insufficient kill of mold/fungus spores. Lastly, on rare occasions even with a filter press there is sometimes a very fine haze in the syrup that no amount of recirculating will rectify.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
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  6. #6
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    The peculiar thing is that it does not apprear to be consistent. Some bottles have it, some don't.
    Can you say for sure when the bottles that got cloudy were done? Like at the end of the batch?

    So if you where adding more heat to maintain temp, more niter could have formed. OR (this is the new part) you concentrated the syrup a bit more via evaporation that what you are seeing is the beginning of crystallization.
    I have had that happen when I did small batch bottling. Weeks after bottling, the cloud formed, 6 months later I had rock candy on the bottom of the bottles.

    That's my 2 cents. If you temp was high enough and you have good sealing lids, its not mold. If you let the bottles sit, and the cloud settles to a film or sediment layer, its niter.
    Or it will crystalize, and you have sugar.
    Jeff Emerson
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff E View Post
    The peculiar thing is that it does not apprear to be consistent. Some bottles have it, some don't.
    Can you say for sure when the bottles that got cloudy were done? Like at the end of the batch?

    So if you where adding more heat to maintain temp, more niter could have formed. OR (this is the new part) you concentrated the syrup a bit more via evaporation that what you are seeing is the beginning of crystallization.
    I have had that happen when I did small batch bottling. Weeks after bottling, the cloud formed, 6 months later I had rock candy on the bottom of the bottles.

    That's my 2 cents. If you temp was high enough and you have good sealing lids, its not mold. If you let the bottles sit, and the cloud settles to a film or sediment layer, its niter.
    Or it will crystalize, and you have sugar.

    Jeff, thanks for the reply!

    The easy one -> I really do not think it is crystallization, as the consistency of the material in question is very "light" and suspended in the syrup solution. Also, the reason I wasn't sure it was niter is because it doesn't settle; at all... It is "puffy" and "cloud-like" and is usually on the edges or, as stated before and seen in the pics, suspended in the middle of the glass. I have had crystallization occur several times from bringing syrup too far and I have never seen this be the way it starts. Maybe it is, and someone else that knows more than me may be able to shed light there as well. The only problem with that theory is I use a refractometer, and it is spot on 67 +- a few tenths either way, almost every single bottle I have checked...

    The harder one -> I cannot pinpoint that exact detail. It could be that as the heat stayed on longer and as I stirred less as I got busy bottling, the super fine niter began to form and the later bottles in the batches were the ones that seem to be "appearing" over time. I do not number my bottles individually, only batch total information. This will change next year though, just in case something like this happens again, or something else, I will be able to answer that question.

    Thanks again!

    Kody
    Last edited by kboone1; 05-29-2020 at 09:46 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrTimPerkins View Post
    These types of issues can be notoriously difficult to diagnose and to eliminate. You already know the two most likely culprits - niter or biological. As Sean (Woodville) suggests, it very likely could be niter. To rectify that problem, you need to be sure to never get overheating (localized) when you warm the syrup as it will form new niter. Secondly, make sure you recirculate the syrup back through the Sirofilter for a while until it is totally clear. The very fine niter/DE will look hazy in the syrup and can take a very long time to settle out. It is unlikely, but could also be biological, in which case you should consider preheating your glass. Glass will cool the syrup tremendously and result in insufficient kill of mold/fungus spores. Lastly, on rare occasions even with a filter press there is sometimes a very fine haze in the syrup that no amount of recirculating will rectify.
    Dr. Tim,

    Thanks for chiming in! I was hoping you may be able to enlighten me and others on the different characteristics of this (most likely) niter, and why it wasn't able to be seen with the eye after bottling, but over time seems to just appear. I figured since niter is a solid (or at least I thought it always was), it should have been able to be seen immediately, or some settling would occur from the extremely fine particles that were hard to see. Neither of those things are happening, and that is why I chose to post. I am assuming there are different characteristics to the material than maybe I originally thought, and that would shed light on the rapid but delayed visibility. This has me frustrated but intrigued to say the least!

    Thanks again!

    Kody

  9. #9
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    kboone1, you made one statement that makes me think the density is possibly too thick. You say it is spot on 67 but then say +/- a few tenths. A few tenths could be an issue. First of all, how do you use your hydrometer? do you have either an Accu Cup which tells the exact temp of the syrup being tested, or a Murphy cup? The first tells you the exact temp then you need to use a chart for the desired reading, the newer version is the Murphy cup, which does the same essentially but it takes the chart out of the equation, instead the Murphy cup is a thermometer with the temperature face replaced with the corresponding hydrometer reading needed face.
    I wonder if your syrup being tested is not exactly 211F (the temp for the hot line reading). A degree or two either way can give you a false reading, especially if it is cooler a little. Another thing is the cup itself, those using the 1" diameter version have a much harder time getting an accurate reading, is your cup 2" diameter and do you run hot syrup 2-3 times and dump it back into the pot before getting a reading?
    A cheap fix for the cup if you need a bigger volume cup, make one out of 2" PVC. It will heat better and insulate the syrup enough to get your accurate reading. Just don't keep hot syrup in it for too long or the PVC will distort. One heating, dump then fill and take your reading.
    The most accurate will be to use a Murphy cup and an accurate hydrometer.
    Last edited by maple flats; 05-29-2020 at 10:37 AM.
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  10. #10
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    Kody,
    Thanks for posting the pictures, in my 22 years of making and bottling many gallons of syrup I have never seen that before, if it is niter as others have suggested I guess I've been lucky this has not happen to me, I completely understand why you feel it is not niter, I would never called it niter if it would of showed up in my glass bottles, I've had seasons where I get layering of syrup, completely different problem. Layering looks bad in glass, you don't have layering.
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