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How to Tap a Maple Tree for Maple Syrup

Tapping a maple tree and collecting sap to make maple syrup is a fairly simple process that dates back to the pre-columbian era in America. It does require time, patience and some essential tools, but anyone who loves maple syrup knows how expensive pure maple syrup costs at the grocery store. So making it yourself can save a lot of money and be a lot of fun too!

Step 1: Identify Your Treesmaple syrup tap

All maple varieties will provide sap and are suitable for tapping. Sugar maple and black varieties typically produce the most sap. Look for trees 12 inches in diameter at a minimum. You can use one tap on trees 12-20 inches in diameter. Two taps on trees 21-27 inches and up to three taps on trees over 28 inches in diameter. Look for healthy trees that receive direct sunlight.

Step 2: Start with the Right Equipment

To collect sap, you'll need buckets with lids, spiles with hooks, and a proper sized drill bit. Tap your trees starting in late winter when nighttime temperatures are in the twenties and daytime temps reach the 40s and always tap on the sunny side of the tree about 3 feet up. Drill your hole about 2 and half inches into the tree at a slight upward angle so the sap can glide out. The spile is the simple tapping device that you "tap" into the tree with a mallet. They need to have a hook so you can hang a bucket. Another option is to use a simple spout with a Sap Sak holder and bag. Bucket covers are important so rainwater or snowmelt doesn't dilute the sap collected. You'll need to check your buckets daily.

Step 3: Turning Sap into Syrup

Store your collected sap in a large food grade container until you're ready to turn it into syrup. Make sure you keep it in an area that remains below 40-45 degrees to avoid spoilage. As your transferring your sap from your collection buckets to your storage containers you can use a funnel with a strainer as well as cheesecloth to filter out foreign materials. You can also use a skimmer ladle to skim off and remove material.maple syrup starter kit

When you're ready to start the boiling process which turns the sap into syrup, you'll need a hydrometer (a specialized and fragile instrument used to measure the density of your syrup) and a hydrometer testing cup. Sap becomes syrup at 7 degrees above the boiling point, when boiling sap you need to be very attentive. For small batches of syrup, using a candy thermometer is often preferred over the hydrometer testing method. When your syrup reaches the desired consistency you can put it into syrup bottles. Filter it one more time through maple syrup filters to remove sediment.

For more details, a step-by-step guide book is available. Plus a complete starter kit is also available with all the basic supplies you'll need to get your maple sugaring hobby going!

Click here for a full list of maple sugaring supplies