In 2019, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make real maple syrup from a tree in my yard. I don’t own a farm or a large patch of trees–just a house in the suburbs with a maple tree in it. Well, actually, two maple trees–not the famous sugar maples, just ‘regular’ old maple trees (silver maple, to be more specific.
On my journey to figure this out, I did a lot of research and I’ve boiled a lot of sap. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
How much sap to make maple syrup?
The amount of sap needed to make maple syrup depends on the starting sugar concentration in the sap. To make maple syrup, sap is concentrated until it contains 66% sugar. Starting with sap that is ~2.5% sugar will yield 1 unit of syrup for every ~34 units of sap.
To calculate the ratio of how much sap you need to make maple syrup, you want to use the rule of 86…which essentially means you divide the number 86 by the sugar percentage of the sap.
In the example given above, sap that is 2.5% sugar will require ~34 units of sap to produce 1 unit of syrup (86/2.5 = 34.4).
|Sugar concentration in sap||Sap to make 1 unit of syrup|
Variability of sugar in sap
The sugar concentration in sap from the same tree will vary day-to-day 0within each season, and it will also vary from season to season. For a variety of reasons, the common wisdom is therefore simplified to an estimate that you need 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup.
The species of tree also has a significant impact on how much sap is needed to make maple syrup. Sugar and Black maple trees tend to produce the sap with the highest sugar content, while red maples and silver maples would be expected to produce more watery sap.
How much sap from one tree?
A single tree should yield enough sap in a harvesting season for you to make at least a small amount of maple syrup. In 2019, I harvested ~38 gallons of sap from 3 taps total in 2 trees. That’s a yield of approximately 1 gallon of syrup–which is a lot for a small family.
However, in 2021, my sap yield was dramatically lower due to very bad timing on my part–about 5 gallons of sap and 2 cups of syrup from 2 taps in the same tree. Which doesn’t feel like a lot, but it’s still a PINT of syrup!
Timing is EVERYTHING. Check out these other articles to learn from my mistakes:
What equipment do you need to make maple syrup?
You don’t need a lot of equipment to make maple syrup at home. You need a drill, a tap, a bucket (usually with a drop line), a boiling pot, and a thermometer.
There are great maple tap kits available online. See which tap kits I recommend here.