Are you a new beekeeper with a hive or two? Now, you are left struggling to figure out how to get the honey out of the combs and whether you should buy an extractor or not. But, fear no longer, as you are about to find out that you can extract honey without an extractor and so much more!
A honey extractor is not necessary. An extractor is an expensive beekeeping tool and can usually only be used once a year. If you do not have loads of honey to sell, you certainly do not need an extractor. However, if you expand your hives, you will know when the time is right to invest in one.
Even without owning a big honey extractor, there are several things you can do in the meantime to prepare your delicious honey for your family and friends!
Extracting Honey Without An Extractor
As a small-scale beekeeper, you have already made a sizable investment in equipment to be used throughout the growing seasons. However, when it comes to harvesting your honey, extracting honey from the comb is an expensive activity. Honey extractors are usually used only once per year, and if you do not yet know where your level of passion is, it wouldn’t be a good idea to buy one.
There are numerous other ways to enjoying the fruits of your and your bees’ labor without adding extra costs. However, it is good to note that using an extractor is the cleanest and most efficient method for extracting honey.
Before we go on about exactly how you will extract honey without using an extractor, we will first discuss the different types of honey products you can produce simply by not using a honey extractor.
Your first option is to harvest your honey and make unextracted or cut comb honey. Comb honey was popular around the turn of the century (1900) before commercial honey extraction equipment became more widely available globally.
With these new, unfamiliar machines, consumers were worries that extracted honey would have been diluted with some other sugary syrup to maximize profits. Comb honey was an accurate way to ensure consumers that it has come directly from the source.
Cut comb honey is the least labor-intensive way of enjoying honey, hands down. All you need is a knife to cut the comb when you want to consume it. However, it is important to keep in mind that comb honey can only be produced with wax foundation or foundationless frames. Comb honey can not be done with plastic foundations.
Generally, beeswax foundations have wires embedded in the base, and if you follow those lines when cutting your comb honey, things will come out neatly, and you will be able to enjoy it to the fullest!
The second option is for those of you who really want to produce liquid honey but are still unsure whether you’d like to purchase an extractor or not. Luckily, there is another way to extract liquid honey! It is called crushing and draining.
Crushing and draining the comb is remarkably effective, and it results in clean and pure raw honey extracted with minimal equipment.
Your third option is ross round honey. Ross round honey is getting more and more popular because of how easy it can be produced. Ross round honey is easy to package and sell. Ross round supers are specially designed frames that will create disc-shaped combs. This means that they are already individual and ready to be packaged.
Ross rounds are easy to assemble and are even reusable! All you have to do is put these round-shaped discs in the hive, and the bees will produce the comb and fill it with honey. Then, when the bees are complete, the beekeeper only has to remove the comb from the frame and package it.
Your last option is chunk honey. Chunk honey is a combination of extracted honey, as well as comb honey. Essentially, you take a piece of cut comb, place it in a jar and then fill the remaining space with strained honey. It is an attractive way to display honey for selling or gifting.
Of course, there are downsides to extract your honey without a proper honey extractor, even when you produce cut comb and crush and strain. While an extractor will allow you just to uncap the cells and save the comb for the bees to reuse, the crush and strain method completely destroys the comb.
This means that you will have to clean your frames and install a new foundation after extraction. The cost of this is minimal. However, when you compare it to the purchase cost of an extractor and the storage space, an extractor will ultimately be your best choice in the long term.
Extracting Methods Without Using An Extractor
The night before you plan to extract your honey, go to your hives and pull out the frames. Store the frames in a sheltered and dry place, like your garage, where your bees will not be able to reach them. Bees have an extraordinary talent for finding their own honey and returning it.
How to extract your honey, you might ask. You will see all four different methods with instructions in the lists below and what you will need to extract them.
Method 1: Cut Comb Honey
You will need:
- A kitchen knife
- A baker’s cooling rack
- A baking sheet or baking tray
- Place the cooling rack on top of the baking sheet or tray.
- Lay the frame of honey on top of your cooling rack.
- Cut the honeycomb out of the frame and then remove the frame. Keep the comb on the cooling rack.
- Using the knife, cut the comb into 4-inch squares. Make sure to wipe your knife after each cut to keep the comb clean.
- Move the cut pieces apart and let them drain overnight.
- Once drained, you can wrap the wax combs for later use.
It is important to note that you need to freeze the comb at some point during this process.
Method 2: Crush And Strain
You will need:
- A suitable sized bowl or pan
- A baking sheet or tray
- A bucket
- Cheesecloth or any other type of strainer/filter
- Potato masher or wooden spoon
- Cut the comb out of the frame and place it in a bowl or pan. If you have a plastic foundation, you will have to scrape the comb off on each side and then place it in the bowl.
- Crush the comb with the potato masher or wooden spoon until there are no lumps left. You will need to crush every cell. If you do not have a wooden spoon or potato masher, you can use your hands. Just make sure your hands are clean!
- Place the cheesecloth in a mesh kitchen strainer for support and begin to strain the honey. The strainer should be over the bucket. Remember to cover everything to keep any dust away.
- Let it sit overnight in a warm place.
- Once all is completely drained, you can wrap the wax combs for later.
Method 3: Ross Round Honey
You will need:
- Ross round frame
- Suitable packaging
- Place the ross round frame in your hive.
- Once the ross round frames have been filled with honey, you can remove the frame from the hive and wrap it up in plastic.
- Place the wrapped frame in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
- Unwrap the frame after it has thawed.
- Gently separate the frames and remove the round honeycombs.
- Package the combs in your packaging.
Method 4: Chunk Honey
You will need:
- Wide-mouth mason jar or any other suitable glass jar.
- Strained honey
- Estimate the size of the combs you will need and ensure that they will comfortably fit in your jars.
- Hold sections on the cut side to prevent any damage to the caps.
- Put the comb in the jar. To keep the comb from floating up to the surface of the jar, stick the comb to the bottom of the jar with melted wax.
- Add extracted honey slowly to reduce air bubbles inside the jar.
- Freeze the jars after filling them for at least 24 hours to remove any impurities.
Although honey extractors ultimately are efficient tools to remove honey and preserve the comb, they are expensive equipment that takes up a lot of storage space. Beekeepers who do beekeeping as a hobby tend only to have a handful of frames, and therefore, do not need to use an extractor.
As stated above, there are various methods that beekeepers can use to extract their honey from the comb with items that can be found in and around their house. However, some of these methods do require a bit of patience since you will need to wait for 8 to 24 hours to allow the honey to drain from the combs fully.
It is also good to note that since you cannot preserve the combs if you do not use a honey extractor, you can use the wax for your future projects. For example, many beekeepers often choose to make candles or lip balm with wax. There are many uses for beeswax, and it should not be wasted!
Honey is the whole point of beekeeping, right? If you are a new beekeeper, your first ever honey harvest is a mix between angst and excitement! Figuring out the equipment and the process can be a bit overwhelming, but resilient beekeepers usually enjoy a challenge!
Now that you know about all the creative and efficient ways that you will be able to extract your honey without having to buy an expensive honey extractor, you can begin to experiment! However, it would be good to keep in mind that harvesting honey can be a lengthy process, especially if it is your first time.
After harvesting your honey, you will most certainly enjoy tasting your and your bees’ hard work over the year. Of course, you can share your honey with others too, or you could even look into selling at local markets or fairs if you have a surplus!