Tap Maple Trees at Home – Collect Sap & Make Syrup

Depending upon the weather conditions, sap will start to flow immediately after tapping the tree. It drips from the spile into the bucket or sap bag. Maple sap is a clear fluid and resembles water. The collection amount may vary. Some days you will collect only a small amount and other days your buckets or sap bags will overflow if not emptied.

Transfer sap from buckets sap bags to storage containers

Use only food grade containers to store your collected sap. You can food grade quality 5 gallon buckets, 5 gallon jugs or smaller poly tanks. Be sure all containers are thoroughly cleaned using a mixture of one part unscented household bleach (such as Clorox® Regular-Bleach) to 20 parts clean water. Scrub the containers and triple rinse with hot water.

When sap is flowing, collect the sap daily. Pour the sap from the bucket or sap bag into a storage container, using a sap filter bag to filter out any foreign material. If a portion of the sap is frozen, let it thaw and then run through the filter.

Storing your sap

The sap should be stored for no more than a day or two at a temperature of 38° F or colder, in containers on the north side of buildings to keep out of the sun. You should boil the sap as quickly as you can to eliminate any possible bacteria growth. Remember that sap is like milk, it will spoil quickly if not kept cold. The old sugar maker’s always used to say, “If it’ not boiling it’s spoiling!”

Process sap into maple syrup and other uses

Treat sap like any other nutrient taken directly from nature to include in your diet. When you pick berries in a field, they can be eaten directly from the bush; however, it is generally a good idea to wash them first. Many drink sap straight from the collection bucket, but it is highly recommended you boil your sap prior to any use to kill bacteria that may be present. To effectively kill bacteria, bring the sap to a rolling boil and then let it boil one additional minute.

Maple Sap: Many believe that drinking maple sap is a way to energize the body after a long winter. In South Korea, the drinking of sap is linked to a wide range of health benefits. Here is an interesting NY Times article about the use of maple sap in South Korea. Maple sap can also be used to make coffee / tea, brew beer, and in just about any recipe calling for water (to add a subtle sweet, maple flavor).

Maple Syrup: The most common use of maple sap is to process it into maple syrup. To make maple syrup, the excess water is boiled from the sap. It takes 40 parts maple sap to make 1 part maple syrup (10 gallons sap to make 1 quart syrup). Because of the large quantity of steam generated by boiling sap, it is not recommended to boil indoors. If you do decide to boil the sap indoors, make only small batches and ensure good ventilation (and keep an eye that your wallpaper does not peel off the walls). If you boil outdoors, make certain you are in compliance with any local regulations. Fire safety must be your highest priority, especially when young children are present. Below is one method for boiling your sap.

Heat source:

You will need a syrup pan and some type of fire box, which we call an arch. If wood is readily available to you, a Classic Wod Evaporator would be perfect for you. It will take several hours to boil your sap into syrup, so a sufficient amount of cut and split dry firewood supply is required.

Other options, such as a Beginner Boiling Kit that uses propane as the heat source will also work well. If boiling indoors, keep in mind that this process will generate a lot of steam.



Boiling the sap:

Fill your flat syrup pan with about 2″ to 3″ of sap. Place the syrup pan onto the heat source. As the sap starts to boil down, add more sap slowly trying to maintain the boil. Be sure to watch very closely so you never have any of you pan bottom exposed, as this will scorch your pan and ruin your batch of syrup. Always try and maintain at least 2″ of liquid in your pan at all times, even when you get near the “syrup” stage. If your pan does become scorched even a little bit, you will need to clean the pan with Pan Cleaner before starting your next batch. If the sap is boiling over the edges of the syrup pan, you can put a little Defoamer in the sap and that will reduce the chance of your pan boiling over.



Transfer to smaller pot:

The boiling sap will take on a golden color. Once the sap has “mostly” boiled down, but still has a very fluid texture, it is time to transfer the sap into a smaller pan where you can control the heat better. The best way to check the consistency of the syrup is to use a Syrup Hydrometer and Hydrometer Cup. use a ladle or large spoon to fill the hydrometer cup and slowly put your syrup hydrometer into the hydrometer cup. Be very careful not to drop your hydrometer in the cup as it may drop the the bottom and break your hydrometer. When the reading on your syrup hydrometer is between 30 and 31 on the hot scale of your hydrometer it is ready to transfer to a finishing unit.


16x16 beginner kit-750

Complete the boiling:

Once transferred to the smaller pan, such as the beginner boiling kit where the heat can be controlled, the final boiling can be completed indoors. Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup. Now it is very important test the consistency often. Again, the best way to check the consistency of the syrup is to use a syrup hydrometer and hydrometer cup. use a ladle or large spoon to fill the hydrometer cup and slowly put your syrup hydrometer into the hydrometer cup. Be very careful not to drop your hydrometer in the cup as it may drop the the bottom and break your hydrometer. When the reading on your syrup hydrometer is 31.5 on the hot scale of your hydrometer it is ready to filter. You can also use a Candy Thermometer, finish the boil when the temperature is 7 degrees F above the boiling point of water. Note that the boiling point of water differs based on your elevation.



Filtering the syrup:

A small amount of sediment will more than likely be present in your syrup. This can be filtered out of your syrup by using an Orlon Felt Bag and a Cone Pre Filter. You can use a Syrup Filter Tank, which the orlon bag and cone pre filter fit inside very nicely, take your hot syrup and pour it into the filters. Your crystal clean syrup will filter into the syrup filter tank. You can fill your bottles or jugs right from the tank. You should always filter your syrup when it’s hot, somewhere between 180° and 200°. You will need to clean your Orlon Bag when it gets full of sediment. It is very important that you just use hot water and do not squeeze the bag, just let it dry naturally. If you squeeze the bag it will bread down the fibers and it will become useless. As far as the pre filters, they are disposable and can just be thrown away as they become full of the sediment.



Bottle your syrup

Sterilize your bottles or jugs and Caps in boiling water. Pour your hot syrup into the Bottles or Jugs, screw the covers on and lay them on their side for about 15 seconds. This will ensure they seal properly and you will see if you have any leakers. By filling your bottles and jugs with hot syrup, you can store them on the shelf for several years. If you don’t fill the bottles and jugs with hot syrup, they will not seal and you will need to store them in the refrigerator and they will keep for a couple of months.

Syrup can also be frozen (in a freezer safe container) to extend shelf life.


When to stop collecting sap

When the temperature remains above freezing or buds start to form on the tree, it is time to stop collecting sap. The sap can have an unpleasant odor and have an off flavored taste, and may also have a stringy appearance. This sap will not make good flavored syrup and you will be very disappointed.