Best maple tree tap kit

Looking for the best maple tree tap kit to make maple syrup at home?

This article will review some of the most popular options, so you can choose the best one and get started making maple syrup from the trees in your own backyard.

Picking the best maple tree tap kit: considering the options

There are three main designs to consider when picking the best maple tree tap to get started with sugaring.

Each design tends to have a few options for you to customize your setup.

Let’s get started with the original.

Is this what you picture, when you think about collecting sap to make maple syrup?

maple syrup taps

 

Spile style maple tree tap kits

The option that probably comes to mind first is a spiles kit. The iconic image that comes to most is of metal buckets hanging from trees, like in the image just above.

Most of the spile tap kits come with metal spiles, like the one shown below:

old fashioned maple syrup spile

The spile is generally made from stainless steel–because it has to tough.

They are engineered to hold a hook in place against the trunk of the tree. The hook fits into a reinforced pail that is either made of aluminum or plastic.

Aluminum pail

Plastic pail

plastic pails for maple tapping

The aluminum pail kit comes with:

 

metal bucket starter maple tap kit

The plastic pail kit comes with:

 

maple syrup tapping kit for home with plastic bucketsPros

The iconic look and simplicity here will take you back to more gentle times. The design hasn’t changed for many, many years–because it works!

Cons

The design for these maple tapping kits hasn’t changed in a long, long time.  Because the design is a bit older and since the spile has to be able to hold the weight of a pail full of sap, this design has the largest diameter spiles (taps).

Large taps mean large holes in the tree. Larger holes mean larger wounds, which means more stress for the tree.

Tubing kit for tapping maple trees

The next maple tree tap kit option is called the tubing kit.

best maple tree tap kit

These kits come with a lower-profile, generally plastic tap that sends the sap down a plastic tube to the collection bucket.

Like this:

tap in maple tree at home

Your options

Number of Taps

The first and most obvious way all of these maple tapping kits differ is in the number of taps in each kit.

Length of drop line

The next thing you have to decide is how long you want the drop line to be–will you be connecting this tube to a series of tubes or will you be dropping it to a bucket at the base of the tree?

If you plan to drop the line to a bucket, you probably want a 3-foot drop line. If you plan to daisy-chain your trees, you can probably deal with the 2-foot drop line.

Other accessories
Drill bit

Some kits come with a drill bit, so you know you have exactly the right size for your taps (generally 5/16 inch).

drill bit

Maple syrup filters

Some kits come with filters so that you can remove particles from your sap (wood shavings, dirt, bugs, twigs).

maple syrup filter

Getting started guide

Most of the kits have a short pamphlet that describes the basics, to help you get started.

Pros

This kit has everything you need to start making maple syrup at home, except for the containers to collect all the sap you’re going to get.

The taps included in this kit are smaller in diameter than the old-school spiles, which means it will create a smaller wound in the tree–which is a good thing for the tree.

The drop lines attached to the tap make it nice and easy to collect the sap.

10 taps and drop lines should be enough to tap a bunch of trees.

Cons

Really, the only major con I can think of, for this kit, is that you have to supply your own buckets or containers to collect the sap in.

One minor con to consider is the price. Considering this kit is mostly plastic pieces, it can seem a bit pricey, but the cost is within the normal range of the kits available online.

Sap bags

The next maple tree tap kit option is called the sap bags kit. This is what it looks like on your tree:

beginner tapping kit with bags

This is more like what the kit looks like online:

sugarbush brand tapping kit for maple tree sap

Rather than running the sap into a bucket, these kits direct the sap into a bag.

There is the metal clamp option shown above, and a PVC-tube option shown below, here:

pvc model tapping kit

The concept is still quite similar. You drill a hole in the tree and insert your tap. Instead of hanging a bucket on the spile or putting a drop line into a bucket on the ground, the sap fills up in bags that hang down the side.

Pretty cool.

Pros

This kit is the ultimate in convenience. You don’t have to worry about sanitizing buckets, the sap fills up in those disposable bags.

Cons

You will have to buy and replace bags, as you go.

Best maple tree tap kit value

In my opinion, the best maple tree tap kit value is

this one

It has almost everything you need to get started making your own maple syrup at home. The only things missing are a few supplies you probably already have around the house (drill bit and plastic containers).

Best all-inclusive maple tree tap kit

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a kit that literally has everything you need, check out

this one

It costs a little bit more, but you will have everything you need AND you are going to look like a PRO.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment below if you have experience with any of the kits listed above.

2019 Maple Sap Summary

When is the best time to tap a maple tree in Southeastern Pennsylvania?

That was my number one question when I first decided to get started in this hobby. When do you put the tap in the tree?

Unfortunately, when I searched around, all I found about the topic was general advice.

General advice

Most of the advice I found stated that the ideal time to tap a maple tree is when the sap is flowing…

Sap flows when the nighttime temperatures dip below freezing, and the daytime temperatures get into the 40s.

This process of freezing and thawing causes water pressure in the tree that produces the sap flow we want.

Once the temperature gets too warm (if it doesn’t get below freezing at night), the sap flow stops, ending the season.

Well, that helped…a little…but it still didn’t answer my question. I found out there are also a few other considerations as well.

Other considerations

It depends on what type of trees you have, certain types of maple trees will produce buds sooner than others.

Once the buds emerge from the branches, it turns the flavor of the sap.

I found out that taps dry out about ~8-10 weeks after starting them.

When did I tap my trees?

I have 2 silver maple trees at my house, not sugar maples (which bud and end the season a bit earlier than sugar maples). My gut also told me that once April rolls around in the Philadelphia metro area, the nights don’t dip into the 20s all that often, so I decided to go as early as I could.

The first weather report that looked like it would give me a few days was the week of January 19-25–so I tapped my trees on January 19, 2019.

Was it the best time to tap a maple tree in Southeastern PA? Answering that question is what the purpose of the rest of this article is about.

The only way to determine when the best time to tap was, to take good notes and look back over the season. Here is my account of the season.

Week 1: January 19-25

This adventure started on January 19th. I had cabin fever, some extra free time on the weekend, and the weather forecast warmed up.

See for yourself:

From the looks of it, I thought there would be 3 good maple sap days: Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Here is how that sap collection really turned out. The tables in this report show how many ounces of sap were collected each week. I did not typically measure the ounces directly, I generally estimated.

Jan 19Jan 20Jan 21Jan 22Jan 23Jan 24Jan 25
Ounces of sap0018000104
Weekly total122
Season total122

As you can tell from the report, however, the sap wasn’t really flowing that well yet, although it did yield just under 1 gallon of sap for the week.

Week 2 January 26 – Feb 1

This week started out warm and then got bitterly cold towards the end of the week. In the news, they called it a polar vortex–a front of cold air that shot down from the North Pole.

It actually got even colder than this report shows–the temperature was below zero for a couple of the days. Here is what the sap collecting looked like:

Jan 26Jan 27Jan 28Jan 29Jan 30Jan 31Feb 1
Ounces of sap00096000
Weekly total96
Season total218

Weather conditions only held up for 1 collection day.

Week 3 Feb 2 – 8

At first glance, this weather looked P-E-R-F-E-C-T for collecting maple sap–and it was certainly pretty good.

As an important side note, too, since the weather looked like it was going to be perfect, I drilled a second hole in my very large maple tree. My thought process here is that it should help extend my season by about 2 weeks and double my production over many of the weeks in the middle.

Here is what that all translated into, in terms of sap collecting:

Feb 2Feb 3Feb 4Feb 5Feb 6Feb 7Feb 8
Ounces of sap038435280648064
Weekly total1024
Season total1364

The only day that was not productive was Saturday.

It looked like a good day, on paper, but it came off the bitterly-cold polar vortex temperatures and there just weren’t enough warm hours to thaw the ice.

But still, over 1000 ounces of sap in the week. This was an amazing amount of sap and certainly was a week I would not have wanted to miss.

Week 4 Saturday, Feb 9-15

The weather for this week looked too cold for the first half, but excellent for the second half.

Check out the sap collection for this week:

Feb 9Feb 10Feb 11Feb 12Feb 13Feb 14Feb 15
Ounces of sap00640363264250.8
Weekly total941.8
Season total2305.8

Saturday, Feb 9, Sunday, Feb 10 and Tuesday, Feb 12, turned out to be too cold to collect any appreciable sap.

While the temperature technically got above freezing each day, it didn’t stay above freezing long enough for the sap to run appreciably

Monday was an okay day, not great. I recorded 64 ounces of sap, but in truth, that is a bit low, because much of the sap was frozen solid when I collected it.

Since the pure water freezes first, it actually concentrates the sugar and other dissolved nutrients in the remaining sap. So while the volume was low (~64 ounces), the sugar content was higher than usual.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday turned out to be very good days, with approximately 2- 3 gallons collected each night.

Week 5 Saturday, Feb 16 -22

Week 5 looked like a bumper week, from the beginning. The forecast had lots of nights below freezing and days in or very close to the 40s. This  is how it turned out:

Feb 16Feb 17Feb 18Feb 19Feb 20Feb 21Feb 22
Ounces of sap080308990363250.8
Weekly total1100
Season total3406

The pattern was still sporadic, with 3 really good days and two small days. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much to show for Saturday.

Not exactly sure why. It technically wasn’t a zero, but there was so little in the buckets that I didn’t bother to collect it, I just waited until Sunday and collected that small amount then.

Turned out that Monday and Thursday were the big days I had hoped (but not the biggest of the year), and Friday wasn’t too shabby either.

Wednesday started frozen and ended frozen, so I didn’t even bother.

All in all, however, Week 5 was the highest producing week so far, bringing in approximately 1100 ounces, or just about 8.33 gallons of sap for the week, and nearly 26 gallons for the season.

Week 6: February 23- Mar 1

Here is the weather looked like for week 6:

On the surface, the ranges look relatively suited to collecting sap, but the reality of the hourly weather, the temperature changes just didn’t hit the right pattern for the sap pressure to build up and release.

Here is what the week produced:

Feb 23Feb 24Feb 25Feb 26Feb 27Feb 28Mar 1
Ounces of sap0128128
Weekly total256
Season total3620

Week 7: March 2-8

Week 7 here looked pretty bad. A cold snap flattened out my weather and kept it below or too close to freezing for most of the week. The vast majority of sap was harvested on Sunday, March 2nd, which was the largest harvest of the year. Monday was decent, but then I got skunked for 4 days in a row after that.

Mar 2Mar 3Mar 4Mar 5Mar 6Mar 7Mar 8
Ounces of sap41616096
Weekly total672
Season total4292

Friday wasn’t a perfect day, but it did yield some sap.

Week 8: March 9 – 15

Watching the weather here is fascinating. It might sound repetitive at this point, but what is needed to produce large amounts of sap is a strong temperature differential dipping below freezing (by enough to form ice crystals in the tree–probably like the 20s) and then thawing out into the 40s. Last week, it was cold and didn’t get warm enough. This week’s weather produced a few days that seemed to be a textbook day in terms of temperature differential and a few that were actually too warm…UGH.

Mar 9Mar 10Mar 11Mar 12Mar 13Mar 14Mar 15
Ounces of sap0140.819280140.8
Weekly total554
Season total4845

and the actual sap yield appeared to be declining.

Week 9: March 16-22

At the start of this week, the weather (on paper) looked picture-perfect, but it turned out NOT to be that way. The temperature stayed above freezing for most of the week.

Monday looked like it was going to be textbook perfect, but it yielded no sap.

Take a look:

I checked Tuesday, and Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday. The lines were dry. No sap flowing. My season is over.

No sap flowed at all.

Taps were dry, on textbook perfect days (temperature wise).

Mar 16Mar 17Mar 18Mar 19Mar 20Mar 21Mar 22
Ounces of sap0000000
Weekly total0
Season total4845

Buds were on the branches. Not sure if this had something to do with it, too:

The season is over, for me. I pulled the taps on Sunday, March 23.

Week 10: March 23 -29

Here was the weather for the following week:

Monday-Wednesday might have been sap-producing days, based on the temperature differentials from morning until afternoon if the holes hadn’t dried up.

The rest of the week was definitely too warm.

Week 11: March 30- Apr 6

Here was the weather for the following week:

Even though it says the temperature is going down to 27 degrees on Monday, the hourly forecast showed it just barely creeping down below freezing. On paper, this week would have produced ZERO sap, unless Sunday-Monday truly did dip below freezing.

Summary

I tapped my trees on January 19 and then added 1 more tap to the largest tree on February 2. During the entire season, it is estimated that my two trees produced nearly 38 gallons of sap!!

Summary of sap collection in 2019 season by week in Southeaster PA

You can see that my taps yield sap for a total of 8 weeks (maybe it was ~6 weeks, recognizing that I started a second tap 2-weeks in).

So, when was the best time to tap a silver maple tree in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2019?

From the looks of it, February 2nd, 2019. My season ran from the week of 1/19 to 3/9, but those first two weeks of the season were cold and yielded a little, whereas the March weeks had much better temperatures.

Looking back in hindsight, I wonder if one of the two taps in the larger tree had started to dry up in those first two weeks of March (after 6 weeks of producing), which is why the yields went down, even though the weather was decent.

So, all-in-all, I feel pretty good about when I started the season. 1/19 was a bit early, but it was pretty close. If I had a crystal ball and could start over again, starting 2 weeks later (2/2) may have extended the harvest a bit–but I’m not sure. Since I’d only be risking ~200 ounces of sap from those first 2 weeks, it’s worth the risk.

I certainly didn’t miss the season too badly, however, because the season was certainly over, temperature wise, by mid-week 3/23.

Conclusion

Deciding when the best time to tap a maple tree is really just a guess. It’s highly dependent on the weather. In 2019, I tapped my trees on 1/19 and got 38 gallons of sap! I think I could have improved that harvest a bit (maybe by another ~2-4 gallons MAX–and that’s being optimistic) if i started 2 weeks later. I have no way of knowing, it’s just a guess. If I had to pick a single, best date to start, I would say it was probably February 2nd, 2019, this year.

I hope that helps. Did you tap maple trees this year? If so, where do you live and when did you start? Any advice you would share here?

Today I made maple syrup at home (and a giant mess)

Well, it’s official. Today, I made maple syrup at home.

Take a look:

It tasted delicious.

But I did make a huge mess and a few mistakes. I’ll share the full adventure with you here, so you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Making maple syrup at home from maple sap

There are two silver maple trees in my yard. I bought a maple tapping kit online from Amazon.com this year and started collecting sap, with the hopes of making delicious maple syrup at home.

Today is the day I turned that natural nectar into the sweet and sticky syrup.

Boiling, boiling and more boiling (to concentrate the sap)

I have been collecting sap for the past 3 weeks now.  Since sap is somewhere in the neighborhood of ~2% sugar, it can and will spoil.

Since it needs to be concentrated to around ~66-67% sugar to become maple syrup, I spent some time getting ready by concentrating down the sap in small batches.

Each of the last few nights, I boiled the sap down to concentrate the liquid, stopping short of making sap on any one given night.

In the first three weeks of tapping my trees, I collected a little over 9-gallons of sap.

Over those weeks, I boiled it down to 1 gallon of honey-colored liquid.

This way, I was able to keep it in the refrigerator and boiling it helped ensure there weren’t any viable microbes there to spoil it.

Today, I boiled a little less than 1 gallon down into about 40 ounces of syrup (or almost syrup). I’ll explain in a minute.

Step 1: Getting the glassware ready

The first step in making maple syrup is to get the glass jars sterilized for storage.

Place the glass jars in a single layer in the bottom of the stock pot.

Fill the pot with water so that there is at least an inch of water over the top of the lids.

Boil the jars for about 10 minutes to sterilize them.

Record the temperature that water boils at

One of the ways you are supposed to be able to tell when the maple sap has been transformed into syrup is when the temperature reaches 7 degrees Fahrenheit above boiling.

Water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level, but that temperature at which water boils increases if you live in a higher elevation.

Plus, your thermometer may not be perfectly calibrated.

So, in order to figure out when the sap is done, a good next step is to boil some water and record the temperature.

My hand got pretty hot there. I recommend you wear an oven mitten when measuring your own temperature.

If I was smart, I would have just taken the temperature of the boiling water in the sterilization pot…but I didn’t.

Step 3: Boiling the sap

Even though I had already reduced the volume of the sap significantly over the past few days, by boiling a few gallons each night, there was still a fair amount of evaporating needed to convert the sap into syrup.

The color of the sap became darker and more amber colored as it cooked.

Step 4: Watch the boiling pot closely

Ever hear the phrase “a watched pot doesn’t boil”? Well, here’s a new one. A pot full of sap  boils…over…if you don’t watch it.

The boiling sap was fairly unpredictable. The rolling boil was under control most of the time, but periodically, it would foam up and ‘try’ to boil over.

If watched carefully, you can remove the pot from the heat and the bubbles settle back down to normal.

Miss it…and the pot boils over and you have a big, sticky, smelly, smoky mess on your cooktop.

More about that, in a bit.

Step 5: At 7 degrees above boiling

At 7 degrees above boiling, things got a bit tricky.

For starters, the sap foamed up a lot more. I’d take it off the heat, but it would bubble right back up, as soon as I returned it to the heat.

The liquid still looked a bit runny, but it did have a bit more surface tension than the sap did previously.

Step 6: Pour the syrup into the jars

The sixth and final step was to pour the syrup into the jars.

Before:

I filled them up, pretty close to the top and then slipped the lid on, tightening the ring so that it was finger tight.

After:

Step 7: Try to make some candy and make a big mess instead

My kids asked me to make some maple candy from the sap, too. So I reserved some syrup to make candy.

To make candy from maple syrup, you are supposed to heat the syrup up to about 235 degrees F (or even higher, according to some info I found online).

Then you let it cool for 5-10 minutes (without disturbing it) and then stir it for 5 minutes until it gets creamy.

Well, I never got that far, because my pot boiled over and made a major, major mess.

The volume of syrup in the pot, at this point, was about 40% of what it was a few moments earlier (because I had portioned out the first 60% into the syrup jars) and it still boiled over in the blink of an eye.

The syrup started burning immediately, filling the room with smoke. I don’t have a good picture of that, because I was too busy dealing with the mess.

The outside of the pot was now covered in sticky, dried syrup (thicker than the syrup I canned).

This picture doesn’t do the mess justice. The burner in the front right of the picture was covered in syrup which turned black, almost instantly and started to burn and smoke.

Syrup went everywhere and covered the other burners and the pot.

I had no options left but to hope the syrup had reached the proper temperature.

So I waited

Then stirred

But the syrup never got creamy. It just looked like syrup.

So I canned that too.

Lessons learned

While I’m a bit bummed that I wasn’t able to make maple candies from the syrup, that experience (and mess) did teach me something valuable and important about making maple syrup.

I pulled the syrup and started bottling as soon as it reached the temperature I thought was the ‘right’ temperature and it started foaming more often (acting differently).

But after trying and failing to make the candies, I realized that the viscosity of the syrup left behind from the batched candy operation looks and feels a lot more like the proper syrup viscosity.

The stuff I jarred first looks a bit runny, in comparison. I knew it was runny when I bottled it, but I assumed it would ‘thicken up’ once it cooled.

It did. But perhaps not enough.

So I know now that you want to look for these three things before pulling your syrup off the heat:

  1. Reaching at least 7 degrees above boiling point–and it seems like you could even go a bit higher without too many problems–I think I will aim higher next time
  2. The syrup will make a lot more foam that it did just seconds earlier
  3. The viscosity, even if hot, will change and be thicker

About filtration

I filtered my sap through a reusable coffee filter, when it was liquid sap, removing all the particulates.

When the syrup is boiling, it looks perfectly clear, but as it cooled in the jar, some particles settled out of solution.

Take a look:

Those are sugar crystals and minerals.

If you don’t want those in your syrup, you will have to filter the syrup as well.

One final tip/observation about making maple syrup or maple candy:

Don’t take your eyes off the syrup once it’s that close. I went to the fridge to get some butter because the recipes I found online generally called for a couple of drops of butter or oil, to ease the surface tension (and ironically, prevent boiling over).

The pot boiled over when I looked away and grabbed the butter from the fridge. So…have your supplies ready.

 

Two good days in a row

In my second big day in a row.

Weather has been great. Check this out:

In less than 24 hours, I collected 2.75 more gallons of sap, almost all from Tree #2. There was a small amount (3 cups?) from Tree #1 and the rest from tree #2.

I ran out of room in the fridge so I boiled down today’s ‘haul’, to save some room.

That’s nearly 6 gallons of sap collected in 2 days!

Woo-hoo

Big days for sap collection

The weather has been amazing for collecting sap.

Sunday, the temperature went from the 20s to the 40s. Like the obsessed psychopath that I am, I checked the taps every few hours to look for sap dripping.

When I first tapped the tree, I could literally see the sap dripping.

On Monday, the temperature got into the 50s.  I got home from work and checked the taps again, and was crestfallen to see that the sap wasn’t dripping out of the tap.

However, when I checked the buckets, they had sap!!!

Tree #1 just had a really small amount. I didn’t bother to measure it, but it was probably 1-2 cups.

Tree # 2, on the other hand, produced 3 gallons of sap!!!

Check this out!

 

Sweet, sweet victory.

Week of January 28th update

It was bitterly cold for most of this past week:

Sap ran early in the week and then the temperature got too cold.

Tuesday delivered 3/4 gallon of sap again, for a grand total of 1.5 gallons of sap.

I boiled it down on Saturday, to save some room in the fridge, to about 4.5 cups of fluid (about 1/10 strength).

Here is the weather today:

The most frustrating part of this hobby, watching the winter freezes and thaws, is that it seems to take a full day of temperature in the 40s for the sap to run.

I checked all day today, on the way up from 39 to 48 and then back again on the way down to the lower 40s and there was no sap :(.

Hoping for a real sap day tomorrow.

I recall that from an earlier cold snap that it takes a bit for the ice crystals within the tree to thaw out and create the necessary pressure differential to cause the sap to run.

But most of the days in the 8-day forecast look pretty good at the moment.

Because of this, I tapped my large tree a second time on Saturday. The tree has a very large diameter and is the larger producing of the two trees. Hoping this kicks up my collection volumes a notch to allow me to make a couple of legit batches of syrup, as well as extends the season by 2 weeks if I started the season too early.

As a season-extending hedge…I was probably a bit too impatient there, as well, but looking at the forecast this week, I didn’t want to miss the run.

 

The sap is flowing

January 24th, it’s the second day in a row that the temperature was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and I can officially report…the sap is flowing.

Tree # 1 started flowing – I collected 1.75 cups, which is pretty close to the 2.25 cups I collected on day 1 of the other tree

Tree # 2 was flowing like a river. I collected 11.5 cups.

For a grand total of 13.25 cups. Incidentally, the sap was really very dirty. There were a lot of particulates. Gross.

Anyhoo, that volume should yield me between 2 and 3 ounces of delicious syrup.

Woohoo.

Here is the upcoming weather report:

January 24th forecast

I don’t expect to get much of anything on Fri-Sat, but Sunday, Monday, Tuesday looks like they could be alright?

I’m not sure what to think, exactly. The weather pattern the last few days showed that the first day after the freeze wasn’t good, but the second day was.

Since Sunday is forecasted to be 41, Monday 37, then Tuesday 42, I’m not sure if that will be 0, 1, 2, or 3 good days.

I’ll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, indulge me in taking a gander at my ‘big haul’ of that sweet nectar:

first big batch of sap

Does maple sap flow immediately after a hard freeze?

It was C-O-L-D the last two days. The temperature was in the single digits. On Monday, it went down to 6 degrees. On Tuesday, the high was 30. Today, the temperature got up to 44 at 9 pm with the temperature still rising.

My hope was that today would be a great day for sap.

weather in the 40s

I thought that with the freezing temperatures overnight and the temperature in the 40s today that we had the perfect conditions for sap.

Turns out, I was wrong. Got home from work, checked my lines. No running sap. No sap in the buckets.

Boo.

When I decided to get started this past weekend, I was counting on today to be a good day.

Update 2/2/2019

Just thought I’d add to this thread, about 10 days later. We had a serious cold-snap here. They were calling it an arctic vortex, which pushed really cold air down from…the artic…I suppose.

Temperatures got down to negative digits, which is rare where I live.

However, the forecast looks great, from today forward. The temperature got up to 32 yesterday and is currently 39 degrees at noon–the temperature rose about 20 degrees in 3 hours.

So factor that into your own predictions.

Does sap flow immediately after a hard freeze?

The sap is supposed to flow best after a light freeze when the temperature reaches the low 40s.

This temperature differential creates pressure that causes the sap to run.

However, after a hard freeze, like today, the sap was not flowing, even though the temperature was in the 40s.

Conclusion

Seems like the sap is still frozen, either literally, or figuratively.

The temperature will continue to rise throughout the night and until tomorrow at around 1 pm before it starts to tail off into the evening.

The other big question I was trying to answer this year is–when is the best time to tap a maple tree in Southeastern PA?

Answer: not yet.

Hoping to see a better outcome tomorrow.

Maple Syrup When to Tap the Tree

Interested in making your own maple syrup but aren’t sure when to tap?

Let me share with you what I’ve learned about maple syrup when to tap.

When is maple tapping season?

Maple tapping season varies slightly based on local climates and weather, but it generally said to run from mid-to-late winter through early spring. 

When the temperature dips below freezing at night and warms up into the 40s during the day, the sap should run from the roots up to the limbs of the tree.

maple syrup when to tap trees-temperature-is-important

Does the flavor profile of the sap/syrup change over time?

The sap from early in the year will be the clearest, mildest, highest quality sap. The sap starts to ‘wake the tree up’ and stimulates the development of the buds.

Once the buds develop, the sap will continue to run, but the flavor profile of the sap will change. Bitter and ‘off’ flavors start to develop in the sap, which will also concentrate into your syrup.

Maple syrup is graded based on the cold and flavor profiles from A to B.

Can you tap maple trees in the fall?

Technically, any time you get that temperature differential—freezing cold temperatures followed by temperatures in the 40s followed by freezing temperatures—you have the environmental conditions ideally suited to running maple tree sap. 

maple tree in autumn

The question about whether or not to tap maple trees in the fall, to me, is less of a question of could you and more of a question of should you? 

Remember, the goal is to get the maximum amount of sap for your efforts while causing the minimum amount of damage to the tree. 

If you tap the tree in the fall—are you also planning to tap the tree in the spring too?

Learn how to tap a maple tree here.

How long will the sap run?

When you drill a hole and tap a maple tree, the hole will produce sap, on the days the sap is running, for about 4-6 weeks before it will dry out. 

To make maple syrup: when to tap depends on how you will plan to maximize your yield, based on all of those factors. 

Start too early, and your tap will dry out before the big (or final) runs

Start too late, and you miss the early runs which will yield the highest quality sap.

For that reason, the optimal time to tap your tree to make maple syrup depends…and will probably change each season.

One thing I found frustrating when I was asking this very same question before I tapped my trees this year…was that I couldn’t find anyone who really shared when they started tapping their own trees.

What I hoped to see was a few people who shared their own decisions and experiences with tapping their trees. 

It’s clearly difficult to give advice to someone about when the perfect time would be. It’s also clear that picking the date that works for you is based on trade-offs and guesstimates…but still…what guesses were people making?

What I can share with you here is that I tapped my trees on January 19, 2019. Here was the weather report I was looking at when I did it:

maple syrup when to tap? this is when I started

You can read more about Day 1 here.

For more information

If you want to get some more helpful information about making maple syrup when to tap the tree, check out this video:

Conclusion

Did I pick the optimal date? Probably not, but I was eager to get started and didn’t want to miss the early runs.

When did you tap your maple trees? Please leave a comment and share what you did below.

 

First sweet taste

Report on day 3. You can find Day 1 and Day 2 here.

Well, the temperature dropped quickly yesterday. It was 38 degrees Fahrenheit at 11 am and was 24 by 4:30 pm.

That stopped the sap from running in tree # 2 (tree # 1 never got started).

So I collected the sap to see what I got.

Turned out to be a little more than 2 cups of sap. Taking a closer look at the weather, it looks like I’m not going to have any sap for a few more days.

Looking forward to my first taste of sweet of the season, I decided to make some syrup.

I figured it would be good to get some experience boiling the sap to see what happens and learn on a small batch first, in case I ruined it.

Here is what I did:

Measured the volume of the sap I collected (just so that I would know). It was a little more than 2 cups.

Filtered the sap, using a coffee filter.

filter sap

Good thing, too, because there were a lot of particulates in a relatively small volume of sap.

Boiled the sap, in the house, on the range in the kitchen. It was only two cups of water in total volume, so I knew it wouldn’t cause too much moisture in the house.

How long did it take?

Approximately 18 ounces of sap boiled down to syrup in a bit less than 30-minutes.

 

 

What happened?

As the concentration of the sugar in the sap went up, the color of the sap changed from clear to cloudy.

As it got really close to converting to syrup, it really started to foam up like crazy.

Then, when I pulled it off the burner, it seemed to make a taffy-like substance on the inside of the pot as it cooled.

I ‘harvested the smallest amount of sap, right before it turned to syrup.

It looks a bit more like corn syrup than maple syrup. I’ll either just drink this ( muahahaha!) or add it to my next boil.

I then scraped out the inside of the pot with a spatula and ate what tasted like a creamy maple syrup taffy.

I scraped out some of the ‘taffy’ on a spoon for each of the kids and my wife.

Then I added some water back to the pot, re-melted the sugar, then tilted the pot to concentrate it better (so that it wasn’t all spread out on the inside of the pot.

That made about a 1/2 teaspoon of sweet brown, slightly burnt maple sugar water…which tasted delish.

Not exactly the biggest haul…but certainly some relatively instant gratification and fun for a winter day that turned bitterly cold.

Thinking back to day 1, where I was trying to figure out if this was the right time to tap my trees or not…I  am glad I did.

Year to date sap tally = 18 ounces.

Notes:

There are a few things I noted here, making my first micro batch of syrup.

  1. There were a lot of particulates in my sap. Filtering was essential. My coffee filter setup worked, but I can’t help but think I’m going to be adding notes of coffee flavor to my syrup. Time to buy some dedicated equipment.
  2. The color of the ‘syrup’ didn’t look right, but I did get the right color when I ‘cleaned the pot’ by reconstituting the sugar–there must be some caramelization that happens as the transformation completes–will see if that proves true on future batches
  3. Most of the ‘yield’ was spread out in a very thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Probably better harvesting the concentrated liquor before it finishes until I have a reasonable quantity
  4. Tasted delicious. Sweet with hints of maple. Yum.
  5. Given the really cold weather in the forecast, I’m starting to second-guess starting this soon. I certainly had fun this weekend (and had the time to have fun this weekend). It all depends on what happens on Wed-Thur, I guess