Filtering Beeswax

Beeswax fresh from mold

Hello fellow makers! A while back, tackled a big project in the Honey House: filtering beeswax. This process takes a long time, and that’s not including the cleaning and freezing of the wax caps before we even started this project! For everyone here, it was a big learning experience. The unit we used to for processing beeswax gave us some trouble, and we made some mistakes that set us back. But now, we have a solid idea as to what we’ll have to do in our next round.

The first step in filtering beeswax

Do not delay rinsing and drying wax caps: it’s an important first step. If you don’t freeze wax caps soon after harvest, the combination of air and moisture will ruin your batch of wax. While we froze our wax caps, we didn’t rinse the caps well enough, which resulted in problems down the line.

You can store clean, dry wax caps in any freezer-safe container. We used gallon freezer bags for this: keeping the air out of the wax was a priority, and flattening the bags took care of this for us.

wax-caps-in-freezer

We take great pride in knowing that this is solely our beeswax: we don’t add in anything while we filter beeswax, so it is pure and clean. Filtering beeswax is mainly to ensure that there are no bee parts or plant debris in the finished product. This means that the wax can be used for any number of projects.

There are ways of processing beeswax that are acceptable and effective using at-home or DIY methods. For our purposes, though, we needed something that was a bit larger scale. That’s where our wax melter came into play.

raw-beeswax

Some bumps in the road

We used the Primo150 Beeswax Melter to filter and process our beeswax. While this theoretically should have made our lives easier, there were some obstacles for us. We’ve found adapting to this melter challenging, largely because this piece of equipment did not come with any instructional materials.

When we unpacked the melter, we were surprised to see that there were no instructions for use included. Our next step was to head to the internet. Here, we were completely disappointed at the complete lack of insight on this machine. Since then, maybe there is more information available online.

My guess is the company assumes that you know what you’re doing when you buy this commercial equipment from them. We did not, so we’re sharing our experiences to hopefully help others and maybe open up communication.

slumgum-image

A couple things to note about the Primo150 Beeswax Melter:

  • With this tank, you must fill the entire unit in order to process beeswax caps.
  • The result was a whole bunch of bee-parts and sludge or “slumgum”*  higher than the machine was designed to expel. (If you are reading this and have any insights, please drop us a line!)
  • It was our understanding from email conversations with the folks at waxmelters.com that you can put your caps in the Primo150 and like magic the wax would separate from the slumgum.  
  • The truth is- we should have washed our caps with very cold water to the best of our ability after harvest and before freezing the caps. We highly recommend that you do this if you are processing beeswax at any scale. This would have greatly reduced the slumgum in the tank.
  • After troubleshooting (and begging the folks at WaxMelters for help), we learned that water needed to be added to the tank to ease processing.
  • This process took several days of time to melt, filter, re-melt and re-filter the large quantity of  beeswax caps and that was only because the machine did not come with adequate instructions
  • It’s best to put a drop cloth down in the lab before filterign beeswax. This made a real mess.

*Slumgum: n. 1. A term used in beekeeping, slumgum is the impure residue, consisting of cocoons, propolis, etc. remaining after the wax is extracted from honeycombs.

What’s next?

Filtering beeswax is only one part of the equation in what we do. Processing honey, formulating products, and developing recipes make up the bulk of our work! Follow us on Instagram to keep up with our ventures, and subscribe to our mailing list to stay in-the-know on everything we do.

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About the Author

kara

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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