Maple tree tapping glossary: Letters A to G
Arch – The heat source (traditionally fueled with firewood) that the evaporator sits on when the sap is boiled, concentrated, and converted into maple syrup
Boil – As a noun, “the boil” is a term that describes the pot or pan of sap that is being concentrated into syrup during the maple syrup-making process. As a verb, “to boil” refers to the most popular method by which sap is converted into syrup.
Brix – A term used to describe the sugar content of sap or syrup. It technically means % solids by weight. Sugar maple sap around 3 Brix, and maple syrup is officially at least 66 Brix. 1 Brix is equivalent to 1%. Since sugar is the most common solid you will find in sap and concentrated sap, Brix and % sugar are often used interchangeably.
Bucket – Sometimes sap is collected in a pail that is made of food-grade plastic resting directly on the ground. This container is often called a bucket and sap is directed into it via a dropline.
Buddy – A term used to describe the flavor of undesirable syrup made from late-season sap. The term alludes to the presence of swelling buds on the branches and is associated with the off-flavors.
Canning – the process of packing the hot syrup in bottles for storage, sharing, or selling.
Dropline – Tubing that extends from the outer end of the spile down to a bucket held below (often on the ground). The sap is gravity fed down through the drop line to the bucket
Evaporator – A pan placed on an arch, or another heat source that is used to drive out excess water from the sap. Sugar and minerals are concentrated in the remaining liquid that eventually becomes maple syrup.
Finishing pan – Part of the evaporator equipment (typically a long, flat-bottom metal pan) that is used to hold a quantity of sap for evaporation and finishing during the process of making maple syrup. Since the pan has a long, flat bottom, this maximizes surface area for heating on the bottom and evaporation on top.
Grades of maple syrup – A system used to explain the quality and desirability of the finished maple syrup product: Grade A light amber, Grade A medium amber, Grade A dark amber, Grade A very dark (formerly Grade B), and commercial.
Maple tree tapping glossary: Letters H to N
Hydrometer – a device used to estimate the sugar content of the sap as it turns into syrup.
Maple candy – A confection made by concentrating maple sap past both the syrup and cream stages, generally placed into molds, allowed to cool, and eaten as a treat. Learn more about how to make it here.
Maple cream – A deliciously sweet concoction made from sap that has been concentrated past (longer) the syrup stage that gets cooled and stirred.
Maple syrup – a delicious, sweet, and natural sugary viscous liquid made from the concentrated sap of a maple tree. Learn more about how to make it here.
Maple taffy – a special type of maple candy made by heating up maple syrup and then rapidly cooling it on a bed of fresh snow
Niter – A technical term for Sugarsand, described below
Maple tree tapping glossary: Letters O to S
Origin of maple syrup – First made by the indigenous people of North America.
Pail – A bucket used to collect sap before processing, generally made from aluminum or plastic
Reverse osmosis – a method of purifying liquids. In the context of making maple syrup, reverse osmosis is an alternative to evaporation.
Run – A term used to describe the time when maple sap is flowing
Sap – A sugary liquid, made by maple trees, that is stored in the roots until spring when it runs up the tree. This liquid is collected and concentrated by maple syrup makers to create the namesake syrup
Sap run – This is a term used to describe the total amount of sap that was collected in a single day.
Silver maple – A species of Maple tree that can be tapped to make maple syrup. The sap from this tree has less sugar than a Sugar Maple tree, but the sap can still be used effectively to make the syrup or sugar.
Spile – A small tubular piece of metal or plastic that is tightly fit into a taphole to allow maple sap to flow outside the tree, directed into the collection bucket or bag
Sugarbush – A grove of maple trees used for making maple syrup
Sugarmaker – A new title you can use to impress friends, family, or new co-workers during ice-breaking workshops. It technically refers to the person who makes maple syrup from sap.
Sugar maple – A species of maple tree commonly used for making maple syrup, selected because of the high sugar content of the sap
Sugarsand – gritty mineral deposits that are created as the sap is concentrated during the process of making maple syrup. Most people will filter this out, rather than eat it, although a few enthusiasts do swear by it.
Maple tree tapping glossary: Letters T – Z
Tapping – The name given to the process of drilling a small hole in a maple tree and inserting a small piece, called a tap, to draw the sap out
Taphole – A small hole drilled into the side of a maple tree for making maple syrup
Tree tapping kit – A starter set of equipment designed to help you start making maple syrup at home. The simplest tree tapping kits contain spiles or spigots and tubing. Deluxe or complete tree tap kits generally have everything you need, including spiles, buckets, and a drill bit
Tubing – Hollow plastic tubes or tubing are often used to direct the flow of sap directly from the spile to the desired location
Yellow sap – While this might sound like a local neighborhood kid is playing a trick on you, yellow sap is kind of a thing. Yellow sap is what happens when rainwater runs down the bark of your maple tree and down you spout (and drop-line if you have one) into your collection bucket. Along that journey, the rainwater picks up dirt and/or sort of becomes maple bark tea, discoloring the sap as the water mixes.
As long as the yellow sap is clear and smells fine, it is probably okay to use. It will add a darker color to your syrup, so don’t use it if you’re planning to make a high-grade syrup. Since it is rainwater mixed with sap, it will also need to be boiled longer. Don’t use cloudy or foul-smelling sap. That’s spoiled or contaminated, not the ‘yellow sap’ described here. When it doubt, throw it out.
Zinc – One of the minerals in maple sap that gets concentrated during the creation of maple syrup. Other important minerals are calcium, manganese, and iron, all essential to good health.