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 is 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:


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.


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