How to Tap and Make Maple Syrup
What Trees Can be Tapped
Maple syrup can be made from any species of maple tree. Trees that can be tapped include: sugar,
black, red and silver maple and box elder trees. Of all the maples, the highest concentration of sugar is
found in the sap of the sugar maple. Generally the ratio of sap to syrup for the sugar maple is 40 to 1 (40
gallons of sap yields one gallon of syrup). Other species of maple have lower concentrations of sugar in
their sap. For example; it may require 60 gallons of box elder sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
What Tools are Needed
The tools required for a small maple syrup operation are found in most homes or can be easily obtained.
• Drill (brace) with 7/16" or 3/8" drill bit
• Collection containers - plastic buckets, milk jugs, and coffee cans work well
• Large boiling pan (preferably low and broad)
• Candy thermometer
• Wool felt or cheesecloth filter material
• Spiles or tapping spouts - Spiles can be purchased or made from 1/2 " wooden dowels cut to 3 "
lengths. Drill a 1/8 " hole through the center of each dowel and taper at one end so the spile will
fit snugly into the tree tap hole. A notch should be made on the top of the wide end of the spile
to support the sap collection container
When to Tap Trees
Alternating freeze and thaw temperatures are necessary to create the pressure which causes the sap to
flow when the tree is tapped. Sap runs best when temperatures drop below freezing at night and rise
into the 40s during the day. In Minnesota these conditions typically occur during the month of March.
However, because weather conditions vary somewhat from year to year, and from one location to
another, trees can sometimes be tapped as early as mid- February or as late as April. Once temperatures
stay above freezing and leaf buds appear, the maple syrup season is over.
How to Tap Trees
Drill a hole in a tree, 2 - 4 feet above the ground. The hole should be drilled at a slight upward angle to a
depth of about 3 inches. Use a hammer to lightly tap the spile into the hole. Do not hammer the spile
too far into the hole as it may cause the wood around the hole to split - resulting in lost sap flow. Hang a
sap container from the spile. It is best to use containers that have a cover on them to keep out rain,
snow and other forest debris. Empty sap containers once a day and process sap immediately or store in
a cool place out of direct sunlight until you are ready. It is recommended that you have at least ten
gallons of sap before you start the evaporating process.