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:
- Tapping the tree – which involves drilling a hole and inserting a tap that directs the flow out of the tree
- Collecting the sap – which is why you need a maple syrup bucket
- 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.
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.
But what you will find is that you have your choice of metal (aluminum) or food-grade plastic.
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
Check out prices online for maple syrup buckets made from durable food-grade plastic
- 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
- 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.
- Lowest cost of entry option
- Gets the job done
- 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.
- Very little clean up, low risk of contamination from your gear
- Small footprint, easy to store your gear when not in use
- Different aesthetic from buckets
- Constant cost to replace bags
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 four other articles that I strongly recommend you read. Check out:
- My summary of the 2019 season, to learn about the ups and downs, to help plan out your maple syrup season
- 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
- 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
- Stay up-to-date with the 2022 season here. The sap started running in January in a big way!