2021 Maple Syrup Season in Pennsylvania

two people tapping a maple tree using a drill

Hey there. Nice to meet you. I’m getting ready for the 2021 Maple Syrup Season and already have maple tree tapping fever. The weather has been strange and unpredictable this winter, which is making me a bit impatient.

I started learning about this hobby in January 2019, when I tapped the silver maple trees in my backyard. That year, I collected 38 gallons of sap, about enough to make an entire gallon of delicious maple syrup.

You can read more about my 2019 Maple Syrup season in Pennsylvania here. 

Later on that year, we had a severe storm. What they called straight-line winds ripped through my neighborhood and ripped 80% of the still green leaves off the trees and broke ~30% of the branches/canopy.

I gave the trees the year off to recover. But we are in the midst of the pandemic, so I’m cooped up AND we have been experiencing some mild temperatures here this winter so far. So I am itching to get out my drill bit and start tapping.

two people tapping a maple tree using a drill
Figuring out when the best time to tap the trees is maddening

The best time to tap a Maple Tree for sap

The ideal weather to tap a tree and start making Maple syrup is when it dips well below freezing overnight and then up into the 40s during the day.

When the temperature drops below freezing, the sap that is stored in the roots of the Maple trees also freezes up, causing crystals to form. If you’ve ever frozen a beverage in your freezer, you’ll know that frozen water takes up more space and expands.

Then, when the temperature warms up, the sap warms up too, thaws out, and then runs up the tree, which is why we call it a sap run.

All the traditional advice is that you want to wait for that weather pattern to tap your tree–and to expect sap to be collected for about 6-8 weeks after that. The part that has frustrated me, however, is that absent a crystal ball, there is no real way to predict what the weather holds and there are plenty of traps. For example, check out the local weather coming up.

Can you tap maple trees too early?

Yes, you can tap maple trees too early. Your entire season will be about 6-10 weeks long. The best time to tap them is when you expect the temperature to be in the 20s (Fahrenheit) at night and high-30s to mid-40s during the day. If you tap maple trees too early, you will end up with much less sap volume than if you tap at the right time. If you tap too late, your sap will be of lower quality and also potentially lower volume.

Picking the optimal time is challenging and also involves some luck.

In 2019, I started on January 19, when the temperature looked right on paper for 3 of 7 days. But two of those days were surrounded by bitter cold, and the sap didn’t really flow until the third week when the sap yield took off.

This is the weather report in my area over the next week. I’m starting this investigation two full weeks earlier than in 2019, but it is driving me crazy, because, from the looks of it, it is perfect Maple syrup making time, right now.

January 2, 2021- January 9, 2021

January 2 - 9 2021
I missed it, this would have been an amazing week for sap

On paper, this looks like a pretty good week for sap to run. In fact, it looks like a great week for sap to run. But what I’m worried about is what the weather looks like after this week.

Since winter has really just started here, we likely have weeks or months left of bitterly cold weather. If I did tap my tree, I would probably get some sap this week…but a cold snap could shut things down for 2-3 weeks or longer.

So, I’m going to wait. Let’s hope I’m right.

January 11, 2021- January 18, 2021

January 11, 2021 weather
This was the second week in a row for perfect maple syrup weather

Take a look at the weather for this upcoming week. Now I am starting to get that…maybe I’m waiting too long itch… it is so tough to know exactly when to tap maple trees.

The weather is looking perfect for collecting Maple Sap. It is getting cold at night (into the 20s many nights), below freezing and then it’s comfortably above freezing during the days.

These days look exactly like my prime sugaring days in 2019. That year, my best days were during swings from the coldest temperature of ~20-25 Fahrenheit to the warmest temperature of at least 39, upwards of 50 degrees.

Ugh! It is excruciating here, sitting on the sidelines.

The buds are also starting to form on the branches. There’s sap in that tree.

They are talking about a polar vortex here. I’m not really hoping for a cold snap other than banking on it so that I’m not too wrong for not starting first thing in January.

For now, I’m going to hold off at least another week. But if you’re thinking of tapping your trees now, let me know how it turns out.

In the meantime, I’ll get my gear ready. Do you have your gear ready? Check out this post for the best Maple tree tap kit.

January 18- January 25, 2021

Here is what the weather looks like for the next week:

Weekly weather forecast starting January 18th
Several days this week would have produced nice sap yields

It is definitely a little cooler this week. For example, I’m not sure Wed, Sat, Sun will get warm enough to produce a temperature differential to squeeze a whole lot of the sap up the tree. But, as you can see, we really are still in the maple sap making zone here.

I still have not tapped my trees, but I am regretting that I did not start 3 weeks ago. Based on what I have observed here (from the sidelines), I wouldn’t be surprised if these three weeks, with this one upcoming as the worst of three.

Sounds counterintuitive, but I’m hoping for a cold blast to shut things down for 1-2 more weeks and a fresh/clear time to start right after.

January 24- January 31, 2021 Weather

Here is the 7-day weather forecast for Sunday to Sunday.

Jan 24 to 31st weather
A cold snap like this will shut down the maple sap run. Monday and Wednesday would have likely produced sap, but the other days were too cold. If we get a few weeks of this it could shut things down

You can see from the hourly forecast that Sunday night into Monday is still maple sap weather (looks like another textbook day, but then things get a bit cold. There is a chance on Wednesday, but other than that, the weather looks to be a bit too cold.

I’ll be on the high alert then, starting next weekend, to look for the right time to tap. If we have another cold week in-store, or a wishy-washy week, I’ll wait. If it warms right back up, I’m probably going to go for it. At this point, there were already 3 great weeks in January that I missed. But those are history now. The goal is to hit a 6-8 week streak of the best temperatures. Hoping my patience paid off a bit there and that I have an easy decision next week.

January 31 to February 7

That cold front did come through last week–it was not a great week for tapping maple trees. At this point, we are through January (almost). It is possible that Thursday, February 4th will start the Maple Syrup season for me here.

Check out the 7-day weather forecast:

is the weather ready to tap a maple tree?
Based on this weather forecast, Thursday-Saturday could be okay days for collecting sap. The other days are likely too cold

The temperature is too cold Sun- Wednesday, but Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all have great temperature ranges.

Given the fact that we are in the midst of a cold snap, progressing into February with what looks like some warmer temperatures at the end of the week, I’m going to try and watch the weather closely and may get out there on Thursday.

Fingers crossed.

Here is how the week turned out–we got a lot of snow–like two feet of snow. There were at least 2 decent days for maple tree tapping, but based on the weather forecast, I resisted the urge.

Rather than start warming up, we actually are experiencing a cold snap next week. Check it out.

February 9 – 16

As expected, it is cold. very cold. The forecast looked too cold this week to tap my tree.

But, as the week progressed, the weather outlook improved:

As of 2/14 (Happy Valentines Day), here is the 7-day forecast:

Based on that weather, it looks like Sunday might be an okay day–Tuesday, Friday, and the following Sunday should all be great. Looking ahead at a 10-day forecast, the following Monday and Tuesday look great too!

So I tapped my tree on February 14, 2021. Tuesday was a perfect day for collecting sap.

Textbook day and the yield proved it.

More than a gallon of sap in one day!

By the way, after boiling down the gallon of sap to a concentrated pint, the kitchen room was filled with humidity. This is the wall of my kitchen above the cabinets…literally dripping with evaporated water :).

That’s why everyone recommends you do the bulk of evaporation outside. But where’s the fun in that?

But then the weather turned colder. Neither Friday nor Sunday ended up being great days for sap.

February 21- 28

Here is the weather forecast for this coming week:

I really wish Sunday 21st was 2-3 degrees warmer…but from the looks of it, should get a stretch of good days ahead, as long as the nights get cold enough.

Maple syrup bucket: essential equipment

line of maple syrup buckets on trees

Making your own maple syrup is fun and easy to do, especially while you’re spending some time at home during a cold winter. The project (which might just become a hobby for you) all starts with the right supplies. So let’s tap into the world of making maple syrup and explore your maple syrup bucket options.

Tapping trees and collecting sap for syrup-making

At the risk of over-simplifying the process here, there are really three steps to making maple syrup:

  1. Tapping the tree – which involves drilling a hole and inserting a tap that directs the flow out of the tree
  2. Collecting the sap – which is why you need a maple syrup bucket
  3. Concentrating the sap (evaporating) to make syrup

There are plenty of nuances within each step that can help ensure greater success, but those are the basics. As you can see, ensuring you have the right bucket or way of collecting the sap is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked.

line of maple syrup buckets on trees

A review of maple syrup bucket options

We have established that you need a bucket, or some sort of container to collect your sap. That may seem like a relatively simple task, and it is, but believe it or not, there are a lot of maple syrup bucket options you can choose, depending on your desired look, approach, and budget.

Hanging buckets (suspended from a hook attached to the spile, right at the tap/spile)

Your first set of options are the most common and popular. The end result is that classic/iconic look you probably are thinking of, with respect to tapping maple trees to make maple syrup.

Maple syrup bucket

But what you will find is that you have your choice of metal (aluminum) or food-grade plastic.

Aluminum buckets

The aluminum buckets look like this:

and don’t forget the lid:

Check out prices online for metal maple syrup buckets and lids.

Plastic maple syrup buckets

Plastic buckets tend to come in blue and green, like this

or this:

Check out prices online for maple syrup buckets made from durable food-grade plastic

Pros

  • They look great, you look like a pro. Just look at it. So cool.
  • Buckets are off the ground and out of the reach of inquisitive animals
  • Plastic is lighter and less expensive than aluminum

Cons

  • Plastic is less durable than the aluminum metal buckets
  • This type of set up is a bit more expensive as an initial investment if you already have a bucket

Buckets on the ground

Another option is to simply direct the sap into a bucket or pail on the ground, as in the picture below. That lid looks terrible, you would never want to look at that lid if you had a small yard, but, it’s totally functional and doable.

This is a pretty low-tech setup, which has some advantages, if you’re just getting started, don’t have a lot of money, and/or want to try something out before you go all-in to get the best gear.

You’ll need drop lines, like these:

 

Check out prices online for taps, drop lines, and plastic pails.

Pros

  • Lowest cost of entry option
  • Gets the job done

Cons

  • Doesn’t look that great
  • The bucket is on the ground and needs to be weighed down with heavy rock to keep it in place on windy days

Alternative containers to buckets

Now, I don’t want to stir up a controversy with you on a page purportedly about maple syrup buckets, but there are also alternatives to the traditional bucket. You could go with a maple sap bag instead.

These are also food-grade but made from lightweight, thin-film plastic. They are compact, disposable (no cleaning required), and easy to store, carry, and install.

There are two different mounting options, that each operates essentially the same way:

Option 1: PVC mounted

A small section of PVC pipe, with a carefully drilled notch, rest over the tap and help to hold the bag in place.

Learn more about this maple syrup bucket alternative

Option 2: Metal clasp mounted

In this model, a more professional looking metal clasp mounts onto the tap and helps hold the collection bags in place.

The bags are also marked to help you estimate the volume and know when to collect.

Learn more here

Pros

  • Very little clean up, low risk of contamination from your gear
  • Lightweight
  • Small footprint, easy to store your gear when not in use

Cons

  • Different aesthetic from buckets
  • Constant cost to replace bags
aluminum bucket for collecting sap to make maple syrup
This is the most popular style of maple syrup bucket

Conclusions

Are you surprised by the number of options of maple syrup buckets available for purchase? I know I was when I first started out. Hopefully, this guide helped you sort through the options and pick the right maple syrup buckets for your own personal situation.

What to read next

There are three other articles that I strongly recommend you read. Check out:

  1. My summary of the 2019 season, to learn about the ups and downs, to help plan out your maple syrup season
  2. Collecting sap in buckets is only a small part of the whole project–check out this article to learn how to make maple syrup from sap
  3. The article you just read focused on Maple syrup buckets, but there is other gear you need. Your best bet might be to get an all-in-one kit. Check out these best maple tree tap kits

Learning How to Tap a Maple Tree: Day 1 of a New Hobby

Today, I embarked on a new adventure: learning how to make maple syrup at home by tapping my maple trees. This is the story of how I got started with this fun new hobby, all with the purpose of making my own maple syrup.

Day 1 of a new hobby

Not sure yet if this is good logic or bad logic, but I tapped the two maple trees today, January 19, 2019, with one tap each, facing South. Here is the weather forecast for today: 

weather the day I got started

My thought process was that, while today might not be a good day, tomorrow might be.  I’m not sure if reversing the pattern to be warm in the evening will cause flow the same way warm temperatures during the sunlight does.

Um…guess I should have Google’d that first.

But what I do know is that there’s a cold snap that is about to hit, and Wednesday, Thursday look like good ‘sugaring’ days…I think…

There were three factors that made me decide to learn how to tap a maple tree today.

First, my schedule was relatively un-booked, and with the MLK holiday on Monday,  it was a long weekend…score!

If the trees produce any sap, I will be around to cook it right away (mmm…instant gratification)

Finally, since I have silver maple trees, not sugar maples, I know my season ends early because the tree creates buds earlier than silver maples and therefore the late-season sap will be more bitter.

We will see if this works or if it is a bust.

If you have experience tapping trees, I’d love it if you could comment below and let me (and anyone reading this) know whether this logic is any good.

Equipment

I bought this maple tapping kit from Amazon:

 maple tree tapping kit

This kit came with the following:

  • 5 maple tap spiles  (5/16 inch OD) with 3-food drop lines (attached
  • 1 x 5/16 inch drill bit
  • Instruction manual

For collection, I’m going to use some clean aquarium salt buckets. I cleaned them out with a dilute bleach/water solution and rinsed them heavily.

learned how to tap a maple tree right here

If you don’t have food grade buckets at home, you can use gallon water jugs or buy buckets like mine at Home Depot or Lowes.

I did have to use a bigger bit I had at home to drill into the top of the bucket. I didn’t have the exact size for the outer diameter of the drop line, so I just wiggled the bit around to extend the hole until it was large enough. 

Glad to note that here to see if that causes any problems with seepage or bugs later on since it won’t be a snug fit. My thought is that I don’t want a perfectly snug fit, because I want the air pressure to release as the bucket fills.

Drilling the holes for the maple taps was easy. 

I measured 1.5 inches and marked it on the drill bit with a Sharpie marker.

I have read online that you should drill at a slightly upward angle and also at a straight angle. 

Since my SPILE is a 90-degree angle sort of thing, I just drilled straight. I Will see if that causes any complications

close up image of maple tree tap

The SPILE went in really easily. By hand, the SPILE in tree #1 (closest to the house) went in about 25% of the way easily before needing to be tapped in with a rubber mallet. 

I had to hit it pretty hard to get it to go in—not like it caused a lot of exertion, but it was certainly a deliberate hit.

Tree # 2, the SPILE went in about 3/4 of the way before needing to be tapped. This one just needed to be tapped gently to get it to go in. 

Where to tap a maple tree

I tapped both trees on the south-facing part of the tree. The exact location was determined by some loose estimation of where there was a nice flat spot in the bark, at a location facing mostly Southward, where the 3-foot line would reach my bucket at a relatively flat spot. 

I had read somewhere that the Southside would receive the best sun and therefore the sap would run the best…not sure if it’s true…but I figured it’s a decent place to start. Not that it really matters, after a few years, I’m going to have to encircle the tree anyway…

maple tree tapped across backyard

I also read that it’s best to put it under a big branch or over a big root.

This makes a lot of sense to me.

The sap should be running from the root to the branches…a big root likely stores more sap and a big branch probably consume more sap than a small branch.

However, I only remembered that little tidbit after I drilled the hole in Tree # 1…so that location was picked without regard to branches.

What happens after you tap the maple tree

I sort of hoped that something would happen as soon as I tapped the tree. I wanted to see the tree dripping…it wasn’t…which I am pretty sure is confirmation that I tapped too early in the season. We will see.

About 30 minutes after tapping, at 33 degrees Fahrenheit, there was only the slightest bit of moisture at the very top of the line. Nothing to write home (or online…) about.

Okay, well I did write online about it, but I’m telling you, it was no big deal.

It also confirms that I’m impatient.

For more information

For more information about how to tap a maple tree, check out this YouTube video:

Want to read more? Check out the next post in the series, here.

 

How do you tap a maple tree for syrup?

how to tap a maple tree

In this article, I will show you, step-by-step, how to tap a maple tree for syrup.

If you have never tried this before, it might seem a bit intimidating—but don’t worry, the process is pretty easy. It all starts with having the right gear and then following these 4 easy steps.

Equipment you will need to succeed once you learn how to tap a maple tree and make syrup

Here is the equipment that will help you tap the tree:

How to tap a maple tree
Learning how to tap a maple tree is fun and easy
  • Maple tree tap, either with a  drop line attached (shown above) or with a hook and bucket (shown below). Find the best tap kit here.
  • Cordless drill
  • Maple tap drill bit (to drill a hole for your tap)
    • Not a lot of mystery here–you want to match the right size drill bit to the type of tap you have, there are a few different size taps on the market
  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie marker
  • Rubber mallet 

maple tree tap with hook and bucket hung below

How to tap a maple tree step 1: Finding the right tree to tap for syrup

Find a maple tree on your property. Hopefully, you took notice before winter. Maples are the trees with iconic leaves like the ones shown here:

red leaves from maple tree
There won’t be any leaves on the tree when it is time to tap, so it is best to explore and confirm during Autumn

That won’t help you much, when it’s tree-tapping time, because there shouldn’t be any leaves on that tree.

Once you’re sure you have a maple tree, you want to be certain that the diameter of the trunk is at least 10 inches (across). If your tree or trees are smaller than that, you should wait until they are larger.

If you aren’t sure how to measure the diameter, you could measure the ‘waist’ of the tree by wrapping a measuring tape around the trunk and divide by 3.14 (or just confirm the tree is more than 31.4 inches around.

About sap

The tree depends on the sap for nutrition. When the tree is larger, it has more leaves and therefore is able to create and store more sugar. While you should be able to tap a maple tree safely year after year, the yield will be much smaller from a smaller tree and the risk of injury to the tree is much larger, which is why it is not recommended.

Step 2: Drilling the tap hole

The step in how to tap a maple tree is literally to drill a hole into the trunk that is between 1.5-2 inches deep. So that you don’t have to make an ‘eyeball judgment’, take the tape measure and measure 1.5 inches from the tip of the maple tap drill bit and mark that point with a line, using your Sharpie marker.

My maple tree tap is a 5/16 inch diameter tap—so I have a maple syrup tap drill bit that will make a 5/16 inch diameter hole in the tree.

To drill the hole, try to look for a spot on the trunk of the tree where there the bark will allow you to set the bit cleanly so that you can make a smooth, straight hole.

Level the drill, place the bit up against the bark, and start drilling at full speed, if possible. You will have to lean into the drill to get it to ‘bite’. Once it catches, the drill should do the rest of the work.

Drilling a maple tree before inserting the tap
A quick tip here is to mark the drill bit before you start drilling so you know when to stop

Gently and smoothly, push the bit into the tree until you can’t see your mark anymore. 

Should you hold your drill at an angle when you tap a maple tree for syrup?

A lot of the info I found online recommended that you hold your drill at a slight upward angle to facilitate the dripping of the sap.

I drilled my trees at a 90-degree angle (not tilted upward) and it appears to have worked. I think the angle matters more if you are using the old-school spiles. 

Old-school spiles are just spouts where the sap drips out into an open bucket. As such, I can see how the slight angle would assist the gravity flow of the sap.

I was using a smaller diameter maple tree tap that sits at a 90-degree angle, so I tried my best to drill a flat hole.

Step 3: Inserting the tap/spile/spigot

Now that you’ve made your hole in the tree, it’s time to tap it. Take your maple tree tap and push it into the hole with your hands as far as it will go.

Maple tree tap and drop line inserted in a new tap hole
The maple tree tap should fit snugly in the newly drilled hole. Tap it in with your mallet. The blue line is a drop tube that runs the sap into your collection bucket

Hopefully, you made a nice clean hole. If so, the spile/tap should fit snugly in and likely won’t go in all the way without a little help. 

It won’t take long for you to get a sense of why it’s call tapping…

Take a rubber mallet and smack the broadest part of your maple tree tap in until it sits snugly inside the hole.

Step 4: Setting up the collection bucket

Hang your bucket over the spile, if you’re using an old-school tap.

maple tree tap and bucket
You can tell from the design of this spile the bucket fits on a hook just below the tap

Or insert your drop line into your collection bucket.

plastic bucket with hole drilled in lid with a blue drop line coming from the maple tree tap
I used the same drill bit to drill a hole that my drop line would fit in. It wasn’t a perfect fit, so I had to wiggle the bit around to widen the hole a little bit

And that is how to tap a maple tree. 

Seriously. That’s it. All you have to do now is wait for the temperature to be right and for the sap to run. The tree will do the rest.

You can watch this video to see for yourself:

Of course, the next step is to turn that maple tree sap into syrup.

Learn how to make maple syrup from tree sap here.

Quick tips on how to tap a maple tree

  1. Always tap a tree that is at least 31 inches around the trunk (or 10 inches in diameter)
  2. Mark your drill bit between 1.5-2 inches, so you know when to stop
  3. Pick a day when you expect the weather to be bouncing back and forth between 20 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Empty buckets will blow around. Make sure they are tightly attached to the hook or weigh them down if sitting on the ground.

FAQ

Here are answers to a few questions asked about how to tap a maple tree for syrup.

How deep to drill a maple tap hole?

If you are just learning how to tap a maple tree, you want to be sure to carefully measure and create the right size drill hole. You want to drill a maple tap hole about 1.5-2 inches (38 – 50 mm) deep into the trunk of the tree. My advice is to measure and mark your drill bit in advance, to eliminate any guesswork.

1.5 to 2 inches is how deep you want to tap the tree
you only want to drill a hole that goes into the trunk 1.5-2 inches

Can you tap maple trees too early?

Yes, you can tap maple trees too early. If you tap too early, you may end up with less sap over the season because those days that are too cold will yield little to no sap. At the same time, the tap hole will only be productive for ~6-8 weeks (~ish. That’s just a generality), so the risk is that you use the precious sap-producing window up on cold, non-producing days. You can read more about building a plan to tap your maple tree, here.

ice on tree branches because it is very cold
If you tap too early in the season, it may be too cold to produce sap on many of the days

When to tap maple trees?

Figuring out the right time to tap is one of the hardest aspects of learning how to tap a maple tree because it involves prediction and luck. The best time to tap maple trees is when you would expect the temperature to be (largely) in the 20s at night and 40s during the day (Fahrenheit). Learn more about when to tap maple trees here.

What to read next

Learning how to tap a maple tree is just the beginning of this fun new hobby for you to explore. But learning how to tap a maple tree for syrup is just the first part of the journey. You need to know the right time when to tap, you need to collect the sap and then concentrate it into the delicious syrup.

Check out these next articles to learn what you need to learn:

Conclusions about how to tap a maple tree

Did you enjoy this guide on how to tap a maple tree in order to make your own syrup? I hope so. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Maple tree tapping supplies

Are you in Lockdown right now, stuck with a bit of cabin fever and looking for a new hobby to add to your quarantine bucket list? If you’re tired of making banana bread and sourdough bread, I have the perfect cure for the winter blues.

You need to make maple syrup at home. It’s easier than you may think. You just need a Maple tree, and the right maple tree tapping supplies.

The Maple Tree

At the risk of stating the obvious, the first thing you need is a maple tree.

iconic green maple tree leaved

For the purposes of making your own maple syrup at home, literally any species of maple will work.  Check out this list of trees you can tap.

The only restriction here is that the tree should have a trunk that is at least 31.4 inches in circumference.  This brings us to the first of many maple tree tapping supplies on our list:

Measuring tape

You want to measure your tree, to be sure it’s old enough to tolerate your tapping it and “borrowing” some sap. Works best if you have the flexible style tape a TV show tailor would use to measure an inseam.

measuring tape: first maple syrup supplies
You want to be sure the tree you’re tapping is at least 10 inches across in diameter, or ~31.4 inches ‘around the waist’

You can just wrap that around the tree to get a perfect measurement.

As an alternative, you can hold a less flexible model across the trunk. In that case, you’re looking for 10+ inches across (an estimate of the diameter.

Cordless drill

The fastest and easiest way I know of, to start maple tree tapping is with a cordless drill.

close up of a drill
This drill will help you tap fast and straight…if you hold the drill straight.

You want to drill a clean hole, fast, and that’s the tool for the job.

Taps, Spiles or Spigots

The next supplies you need are taps (also called spigots or spiles). These are specially engineered plastic or metal bits that fit in the hole you drilled and direct the drip into your collection bucket. You want to have 1 tap per tree with a circumference between 31- 62 inches (like measuring the waist of the tree) and can add one more for larger trees.

For this job, smaller is better. The smaller the taps, the smaller the wound.

taps are vital maple syrup tapping supplies
Taps, spiles, spigots all will work and are essential maple syrup tapping supplies

Buckets

When the conditions were perfect, my most productive tree would produce ~400 ounces of sap in a day. The supplies you need to collect that sap are buckets.

metal bucket
you could go with this high-end stainless steel bucket or simply food-grade plastic depending on the look and expense level you’re looking for

Sometimes the bucket is suspended immediately below the tap–other times, the buckets are placed on the ground. To get the sap from the tap to the bucket, you need the next supply on this list.

Drop lines

Drop lines are designed to let gravity do the work to get the sap from the tap to your bucket, without exposing it to the air or insects.

drop lines and taps
drop lines safely move the sap down (or downhill) to your bucket using a gravity flow.

Empty (for now) gallon jugs and a refrigerator

These are for storing and refrigerating your sap until you plan to cook it down and concentrate it.

empty glass jugs
these glass jugs can be used for holding sap or homebrewing after 🙂

Large pot

You’ll need this to boil your sap. Maple syrup is made when you concentrate the sugar in the sap ~40-times. That takes a lot of boiling.

stainless steel crock pot
One of the supplies needed for making maple syrup

That large pot assumes you’re going to be evaporating in your kitchen–which isn’t always recommended. If you want the maple syrup supplies the professionals use, it’s called an evaporator:

evaporator is a professional maple syrup supply
Professional maple syrup supplies

Filters

Sugar isn’t the only thing in sap besides water. There are also minerals, which will get concentrated, too. Unless you filter them out.

maple syrup filter
The filter should be heavy-duty because your syrup will be hot and heavy

No real harm here other than making your otherwise smooth syrup gritty. Using a canvas filter helps remove those particles and yield a super-smooth syrup.

Jars for your syrup

This is for the final product. Will you be using up all your sweet liquor at home or sharing it with friends? Presentation matters here. Make sure your jars properly showcase all your hard work.

maple syrup jars
Jars complete the project

Maple syrup starter kit: the all-in-one maple tree tapping supplies

The easiest way to get all the maple tree tapping supplies you need is to pick up a maple syrup starter kit.

maple tree tapping supplies
All in one maple tree tapping kit

Ordering a maple syrup starter kit helps take the guesswork out of gathering all the right maple tree tapping supplies.

There are three basic categories of maple syrup starter kits

Basic starter kits

Basic starter kits typically contain just taps and drop lines with instructions, or perhaps even a paper filter.

basic starter kit for tapping maple trees

You need to provide your own buckets, but so what? Buckets are cheap. These maple syrup starter kits offer a great option to start making your own maple syrup at the lowest entry price.

See them on Amazon (affiliate link)

Middle of the road starter kits

These maple syrup starter kits generally have an inexpensive mechanism for collecting in plastic bags, like this model. You get a moderate kit at a moderate price.

maple tree tapping kit that uses bags
Bags are used as one of the more important Maple tree tapping supplies with this kit

See the price for this kit (affiliate link)

or this one:

This kit uses PVC vs. metal (affiliate link)

These middle of the road kits are great for the budget minded shopper who prioritizes functionality and performance over aesthetics.

Deluxe starter kits

Finally, the best deluxe maple syrup starter kits generally have everything you need, from drill bits to taps, filters, food-grade buckets with lids and instructions.

If you’re just starting out, these are the way to go.

Deluxe maple tree tapping kit

Check out this kit on Amazon (affiliate link)

Conclusions

Learning how to make your own maple syrup at home can be more than just a fun project during quarantine–it can turn into a hobby and passion, like mine.

maple tree tapping supplies

It doesn’t matter whether you piece together your own maple tree tapping supplies or buy a pre-packaged maple syrup starter kit.

The sap will be just as sweet, either way.

Before you go, check out how I’m approaching the 2021 maple syrup making season, or compare models to find the Best maple tree tap kit