Are you in Lockdown right now, stuck with a bit of cabin fever and looking for a new hobby to add to your quarantine bucket list? If you’re tired of making banana bread and sourdough bread, I have the perfect cure for the winter blues.
You need to make maple syrup at home. It’s easier than you may think. You just need a Maple tree, and the right maple tree tapping supplies.
The Maple Tree
At the risk of stating the obvious, the first thing you need is a maple tree.
For the purposes of making your own maple syrup at home, literally any species of maple will work. Check out this list of trees you can tap.
The only restriction here is that the tree should have a trunk that is at least 31.4 inches in circumference. This brings us to the first of many maple tree tapping supplies on our list:
You want to measure your tree, to be sure it’s old enough to tolerate your tapping it and “borrowing” some sap. Works best if you have the flexible style tape a TV show tailor would use to measure an inseam.
You can just wrap that around the tree to get a perfect measurement.
As an alternative, you can hold a less flexible model across the trunk. In that case, you’re looking for 10+ inches across (an estimate of the diameter.
The fastest and easiest way I know of, to start maple tree tapping is with a cordless drill.
You want to drill a clean hole, fast, and that’s the tool for the job.
Taps, Spiles or Spigots
The next supplies you need are taps (also called spigots or spiles). These are specially engineered plastic or metal bits that fit in the hole you drilled and direct the drip into your collection bucket. You want to have 1 tap per tree with a circumference between 31- 62 inches (like measuring the waist of the tree) and can add one more for larger trees.
For this job, smaller is better. The smaller the taps, the smaller the wound.
When the conditions were perfect, my most productive tree would produce ~400 ounces of sap in a day. The supplies you need to collect that sap are buckets.
Sometimes the bucket is suspended immediately below the tap–other times, the buckets are placed on the ground. To get the sap from the tap to the bucket, you need the next supply on this list.
Drop lines are designed to let gravity do the work to get the sap from the tap to your bucket, without exposing it to the air or insects.
Empty (for now) gallon jugs and a refrigerator
These are for storing and refrigerating your sap until you plan to cook it down and concentrate it.
You’ll need this to boil your sap. Maple syrup is made when you concentrate the sugar in the sap ~40-times. That takes a lot of boiling.
That large pot assumes you’re going to be evaporating in your kitchen–which isn’t always recommended. If you want the maple syrup supplies the professionals use, it’s called an evaporator:
Sugar isn’t the only thing in sap besides water. There are also minerals, which will get concentrated, too. Unless you filter them out.
No real harm here other than making your otherwise smooth syrup gritty. Using a canvas filter helps remove those particles and yield a super-smooth syrup.
Jars for your syrup
This is for the final product. Will you be using up all your sweet liquor at home or sharing it with friends? Presentation matters here. Make sure your jars properly showcase all your hard work.
Maple syrup starter kit: the all-in-one maple tree tapping supplies
The easiest way to get all the maple tree tapping supplies you need is to pick up a maple syrup starter kit.
Ordering a maple syrup starter kit helps take the guesswork out of gathering all the right maple tree tapping supplies.
There are three basic categories of maple syrup starter kits
Basic starter kits
Basic starter kits typically contain just taps and drop lines with instructions, or perhaps even a paper filter.
You need to provide your own buckets, but so what? Buckets are cheap. These maple syrup starter kits offer a great option to start making your own maple syrup at the lowest entry price.
See them on Amazon (affiliate link)
Middle of the road starter kits
These maple syrup starter kits generally have an inexpensive mechanism for collecting in plastic bags, like this model. You get a moderate kit at a moderate price.
or this one:
These middle of the road kits are great for the budget minded shopper who prioritizes functionality and performance over aesthetics.
Deluxe starter kits
Finally, the best deluxe maple syrup starter kits generally have everything you need, from drill bits to taps, filters, food-grade buckets with lids and instructions.
If you’re just starting out, these are the way to go.
Check out this kit on Amazon (affiliate link)
Learning how to make your own maple syrup at home can be more than just a fun project during quarantine–it can turn into a hobby and passion, like mine.
It doesn’t matter whether you piece together your own maple tree tapping supplies or buy a pre-packaged maple syrup starter kit.
The sap will be just as sweet, either way.