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Thread: When do crystals form?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
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    eastern Ontario
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    Default When do crystals form?

    I opened a bottle recently of this years product and lo and behold, the dreaded crystals had formed, not in all bottles but at least one so far. This is our 1st year of production and although I have been lurking on this site for years, it is obvious I have much to learn.

    We have a waterloo small evaporator with a front finishing pan with three dividers and the drawoff located at the very front. As others have stated, I note that the divider closest to the flue (lets call it the flue divider) pan runs the hottest and I did have trouble establishing a gradient on the evaporator - seemed I was batch boiling, with long periods of boiling with no draws. At times, when we did have a draw, the temp would escalate quickly, well above 120+ notably when the syrup from the flue divider rolled around.

    We have a steam bottler and try to regulate the temperature as we bottle at 185 degrees.

    My question is this: Knowing that bottling above 185 degrees can cause crystals, did overheating in the finishing pan take precedence and cause the crystals? A 2nd thought is that the steam bottler should have been stirred? Perhaps the bottom overheated?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    Paul Rodman

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Northern Michigan
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    Paul,
    What method are you using to filter. It could be that the crystals you are seeing got past the filter. Your bottling temperature should not have caused the crystals, because you should be able to have the temperature as high as 195 degrees without having a problem.
    Gary
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
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    MA
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    Default

    Just to clarify, are the crystals in question sugar crystals forming at the bottom of a container, or is it niter suspended in the syrup? If they are sugar crystals, then it's likely that your bottling method is not the problem. Syrup that is too dense causes those crystals and using a hydrometer to measure the density of finished syrup is what you need to do. If your syrup is over dense coming off the evaporator, you can follow it immediately with under density syrup from the evaporator, or add water later just before bottling.
    60ish taps on buckets
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Location
    eastern Ontario
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    Default

    Thanks for the responses.
    Our filter method is gravity, through prefilters and two layers of orlon cone filters, waiting about 10 minutes after the draw to filter. Towards end of season we stepped it up to one more pass through the orlon for glass bottling. Should be noted no evidence of crystals in those.
    The crystals are on the sides of the plastic bottles, not only at the bottom.

    Ecolbeck, I think your suggestion of density might be the issue - although we used a murphy cup, that last draw from the flue divider sometimes boiled up like I was making candy! No time to take a reading to confirm correct density and to be honest, not sure if we checked it all again prior to bottling.

    I will check the density and I am definitely going to reconfigure the plumbing on the finishing pan for next season.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    Location
    Cayuga Ontario Canada
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    I try to finish a little over density in the evaporator and it sounds like that is what you have done. i leave a little space in the steam bottler so i can add water. I float the hydrometer in the bottler and add the water necessary to at least get back to 68 brix. Don't forget to adjust for temperature using a chart. If you cannot get your evaporator to stop batching you may have to start the pour a little lower temp. The first year with our current set up we had similar problems but we did not use a hydrometer. Now we have eliminated the sugar crystals.
    THOR 20x68"
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Default

    Sugar crystals are definitely because you drew the syrup off too thick and didn't adjust back down with distilled water. When you batch boil (which happens more at the end of the season) this is much worse than earlier in the year when you get more frequent, smaller draw-offs. What BSHC said is what most people do - check the syrup in the bottler or in our case one side of the double sided tank we draw off into and adjust to just below 67 Brix. We'll sometimes need to add a Litre or more of distilled water to a batch to bring the density back down before filtering. Not only does that help make a consistent product but you're not giving away sugar crystals that most people see as undesirable.

    We check every batch before filtering, no matter how small. Some days we're bang on for density all day, some days we chase it and have to continually adjust our auto-runoff temperature.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
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    Cayuga Ontario Canada
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    I swear I read somewhere that crystals will form in 69 brix syrup and above. I am not certain on that but I know that we adjust so we are always between 67-68. Trying to offer a premium product without crystals forming. Been a couple years and no issues with this method.
    THOR 20x68"
    2021 305 Buckets and 95 on 3/16 gravity 423L Syrup
    2020 350 Buckets 375L Syrup
    2019 250 Buckets 270L Syrup

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Wakefield,New Hampshire
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    I have had the same issue for several years before. I always draw off over brix and dilute it down with distilled water once i bottle(usually in 5 gal batches) This chart has made the process much easier for me Syrup density.jpg
    6th season solo sugar maker in a young sugar bush of mostly red maples
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  9. #9
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    Jan 2006
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    Oneida NY
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    Default

    When you bottle, is you water jacketed bottler in a cold environment? I've had times in the past, when bottling, that I get lots of condensation on the under side of the bottler cover. It's possible that could bring the density up too high. What I do to counter act that is about every 45-60 minutes I lift the cover and get the condensation to fall back into the syrup, then I stir to blend it. If I'm packing all larger contaqiners this is seldom an issue, but smaller containers take more time to empty the bottler and it can happen.
    On the flip side, don't dump too much back in when your syrup level is low or you could end up with under density syrup and get spoilage.
    My bottler holds 16 gal, it can take me 2 hrs to empty it if filling qts, pints and smaller doing it alone, which is 98% of the time. I do my last dump back in at about 1/3 full, stir and proceed, never when lower in the bottler tank.
    If your bottling area is heated that's not likely to be much of an issue. I don't get much condensation when I bottle with the air temps above 75.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Location
    eastern Ontario
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    Default

    Thanks again to all responses.

    I checked a few bottles with the murphy cup and some were dead on but two were over density.... no crystals...yet.
    Dave, yes we bottle in a cool environment but use a filter below the lid so no condensation that I can see but definitely a consideration.
    Thanks for the chart NhShaun, as advised, drawing off over density is the way to go and was what I was aware of. What I will be doing is being more diligent in testing during the bottling process.
    As I did not keep accurate notes as we bottled (my bad), appears we may have to repack. Luckily not a onerous amount - approx 70 litres.

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