Filtering maple sap and maple syrup can be performed at several stages in the maple syrup making process. First, filter the sap to remove the natural debris that can enter during its collection in the woods. Pour your freshly collected sap through the filter and into another food-grade container. Alternatively, pour the sap through a filter and directly into your evaporator pan. Rinse filter with hot water when finished and allow to air dry. Filters can be used a few times before discarding. Avoid twisting or wringing the filter to prevent damage.
The second step in the filtering process is to filter hot syrup immediately after boiling to remove the niter sediment or sugar sand from your syrup. Once the syrup reaches a Brix rating of at least 66 it is ready to be filtered. Overheating your syrup can result in excess sugar sand and will need more filtering. Place the filter in a sieve or strainer basket to hold it securely in place while pouring hot syrup through it. Extreme caution must be used to avoid burns when boiling, filtering or pouring hot liquids such as syrup. For best results, these pre-filters can be used in conjunction with an orlon or wool finishing filter for maximum clarity. Again, rinse the used filter with hot water when finished and allow to air dry. Each filter can be used several times before discarding.
Finally, after bottling your syrup into clean jars or bottles, allow the syrup to settle for several days. If any stubborn sediment remains, it will settle at the bottom of the jar. You can then carefully pour off your syrup into another jar, being careful not to allow the sediment to leave the very bottom of the first jar. This process is similar to pouring or decanting wine, taking care to leave the sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Sugar sand in syrup varies from region to region, season to season, and even between different parts of the same property. This is due to natural variation in the mineral content of the land where the trees are located.
Filter Care: Remember, never use soap of any kind to clean your filters. Store unused filters in the bag and away from cooking areas, fragrances or where they can absorb any odor. Any odor they absorb over time can be imparted into your syrup and ruin the syrup’s delicate natural flavor.
Maple syrup is one of nature’s best kept secrets. Most people don’t really think about where maple syrup comes from, even though it is commonly used in baking and universally enjoyed on breakfast foods like waffles and pancakes. If you’re here reading about how maple syrup is made, then maybe you’re not like most people. You’re the curious type; the type to ask important questions about the natural world like, “How can I make my own maple syrup” and, “Does maple syrup come right out of the tree that way?”
Those are great questions, so let’s shed some light on the maple sugaring process. Simply put, maple syrup is made from boiling the maple sap that’s collected from the maple tree. It’s then filtered and bottled. That’s it. Nothing is added – it is a 100% natural product.
Boiling the maple sap simply evaporates some of the water content from the sap until it reduces down to liquid sugar. You can make syrup from red maple, silver maple, sugar maple and others. Walnut and birch trees can make delicious uniquely flavored syrups too! The only difference between each type is slight variation in flavor and the amount of sugar naturally found in the sap.
Sugar maple trees are arguably the best for making syrup because the sap contains a higher percentage of sugars. This means you’ll need less sap to make syrup, compared to other types of sap from other species of maples. For professional syrup producers, where the economics of syrup production are important to their bottom line, sugar maple trees are the most efficient to make syrup from due to the higher sugar content. That means less costly to evaporate, and lower quantities of sap required to make syrup. However, for the back yard enthusiast syrup maker, any maple tree available to you is your best resource!
Sugar Making Equipment
To get started making your own maple syrup, you’ll first need tree taps or spouts (sometimes called spiles) to insert into your trees. A small 5/16” hole is drilled into the tree, and the spout is lightly tapped in. Next, a food grade drop line will connect to the spout and lead to a food grade sap collection container. We recommend 5-gallon food grade buckets with lids to collect sap as they’re sturdy and allow for several gallons to collect over a 12 hour period on days where sap flows really well. You can also use an empty spring water jug to collect sap with, though the buckets withstand winds and weather much better.
Maple sugaring season ranges from January to April depending on where you live in the country. Up north, Vermont and New Hampshire will see their sugaring season run well into April; while states further south like Connecticut and Rhode Island may see the season end by late March. You’ll know the season is over once the buds sprout on the maple tree. Once the buds sprout open, the sap will get an unpleasant leafy flavor to it and you’ll have to stop sap collection.
The Right Weatherfor Maple Sap Flow
Maple sap flows when temperatures are at or below freezing at night, and above freezing during the day. The weather is the single most important factor in making maple syrup. Temperatures control the biological processes of the trees, including sap production and their transport of sap throughout the tree. Weather patterns vary by region and year, so the season will change each year. Some years January will be extra cold, so sap will not flow until February and March. In other years, a milder January and faster warm up in March can lead to an early start to the season, and an early end too.
Generally speaking, you want to see temperatures in the 20’s at night and around 40 during the day. That is really the sweet spot – pun intended. Sometimes temperatures will show this exact pattern for 4-5 days in a row, and you will know it’s going to be excellent for sap collection. You may get several very cold days at which point sap yield will drop, but the pattern of 20’s at night and 40 during the day will start again. Monitoring weather conditions will become second nature to you as you get more experience checking your containers for sap.
In my opinion, this is a really beautiful way to be present and connect with nature. You’ll be witnessing firsthand the tree’s processes and response to weather as it gears up its sap resources to prepare for a season of new growth.
Collecting and Boiling Maple Tree Sap
Maple tree sap must be kept cold and refrigerated to keep it from spoiling. It is recommended that you boil the sap collected within 24hrs. This means you’ll be collecting sap and boiling consistently throughout the weeks of the season.
For large quantities of sap, an outdoor evaporator is a good idea. Homemade or enthusiast grade evaporators can range from inexpensive (think: under $100) to upwards of $1,000 or more. Wood fired evaporators are most cost effective compared to propane units. You will go through a lot of propane tanks trying to boil sap down this way. For small quantities of syrup, you can boil at your kitchen stove from start to finish. For medium quantities of syrup, it’s a good idea to invest in an outdoor boil, and you can then finish boiling indoors on your kitchen stove. Figuring out what balance is right for you depends on how many trees you have tapped and what quantities you are boiling. This will fall into place quickly after just a few days of experience.
Filtering the Sap and Syrup
Part of the process of making maple syrup involves filtering out natural sugar sand called niter. This is natural mineral sediment that occurs in the syrup after boiling down the sap. Our tree tapping kits include filters which can be used for filtering freshly collected sap and also double as a great way to reduce the sugar sand by filtering hot syrup. For a completely clear syrup, you’ll need to also run the syrup through an additional orlon or synthetic filter element.
This past Summer we have updated our classic instruction guide on How to Tap a Maple Tree. We’re always looking to improve the product and information to make it as easy as possible to use. With that in mind, we have added some new information to our classic guide originally published in 2013.
The Kaito Ridge Tree Tapping Instruction Quick Guide (Updated August, 2020)
How to Tap a Maple Tree
After properly identifying your maple trees, you are ready to begin tapping!
Gather the tools for the job: drill (cordless preferred), hammer, food grade collection container, and a 5/16” drill bit.
Locate the tree’s southern exposure. The side facing south tends to produce sap earlier than other sides of the trees.
Measure the height of the tap hole carefully before drilling. The tap height is based on the total height of your collection container and the length of tubing. Be careful not to drill too high up, or your tube will not reach your container.
Drill into the tree approximately 1” past the bark, into the white wood, at a very slight upward angle. Total depth will be approximately 1.5 to 2”. Remember to use caution and wear eye protection while drilling. Do not blow into the tap hole to clear debris. Doing so can introduce bacteria into the tree which can reduce sap yield.
Insert the smooth end of the spout into the tree. while the barbed end inserts into your blue tubing. (Pro Tip: place the end of the tubing into hot water for 10 seconds to soften the tube and ease the attachment of the tube to the spout!).
Lightly tap the spout into the tree, and be careful not to hammer the spout in too far or it will be difficult to remove. It is better to have the spout slightly loose than to have it stuck in the tree.
Connect your tubing to a food grade collection container. We suggest using a large white 5 gallon food grade bucket with lid. An empty 1 gallon spring water jug can also be used. Be sure to check the collection container daily, up to twice a day (morning and night) as the flow of sap varies by tree and temperature. Two trees on the same property right next to each other may produce different amounts of sap. This is normal.
When you’re finished collection, the equipment can be cleaned and reused next year! (Pro Tip: to ease disassembly of the tube and spout, place in hot water again for 10 seconds to soften the tube.) Do not insert anything into the tree’s tap hole when your season is finished, Maple trees are self-healing and will repair the hole themselves.
For more information on how to boil down your collected sap, identify the different types of maple and birch trees or to learn more about sugaring, visit us online at http://www.kaitoridge.com
Tapping sugar maple trees and collecting tree sap in the early Spring weather is one of life’s great joys for any outdoors enthusiast, so long as they’re adequately protected from the elements. New Englanders know that maple sugaring season is synonymous with navigating the sporadic, fast-moving Spring snow storms and surprise Nor’easters that make this harvest season unique.
Sugarmakers around the country face the challenge of staying warm and dry while installing their tree taps, drop lines and tubing for sap collection. Tubing installations must be monitored daily in all weather conditions, and sap is collected each day under all weather conditions. With this in mind, we’re proud to announce the Sugarmaker’s Watch Cap™.
Our watch cap is designed for the Sugarmaker and made to last. Each cap is handcrafted in New York, USA from 100% Wool sourced from US Woolen Mills. Wool is a natural fiber that’s naturally water resistant without the use of synthetics or chemicals. Our caps are built to US military spec standards and are the same caps issued to the US Navy. Trusted to perform at Sea and at home.
With performance and construction requirements established, we had to make sure that our caps were also aesthetically on point. The hats are based on classic US Navy or Fisherman’s watch cap styling. This classic design never goes out of style, made famous by icons such as actor Steve McQueen and explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau.
With sustainability as a priority, our packaging is minimal and our product tags are made from 100% recycled cotton t-shirts. No trees were harmed to produce paper for our packaging, protecting trees for future generations of sugarmakers!
Two colorways are now available, black and orange. Black is classic and matches any outdoor gear or casual wear for a sleek look. Orange provides additional safety and high visibility while working out in the sugarbush.
So you want to tap your maple trees for the first time? Maybe you’re thinking of upgrading your current supplies? Well, you’ve found the right place! Kaito Ridge maple tree tapping kits include 5/16” blue food-grade tubing that blocks the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays to prevent bacteria growth in the tubing all season long.
The drop line tubing is specially formulated for sap collection, and is the same tubing used by professional maple sugaring operations around the country. The blue color also helps provide visibility in the woods, so you can see exactly where you’ve placed taps for fresh sap collection. This added benefit is always welcome after an early Spring snow storm!
You’ll also receive 5/16” tree saver spouts that are so sturdy, they’re practically indestructible. This diameter spout is the industry standard in sap collection; it allows sufficient sap flow for collection while allowing the tree tap hole to heal within the same year. Other suppliers may provide larger spouts that can be damaging to the overall health of the tree. We only provide 5/16” tree saver spouts as preservation of nature and long-term sustainability are our core values.
Each tree tapping kit includes a maple sap filter which can be used both as a pre-filter for raw sap straight from the tree and as a hot maple syrup filter after your sap boil. Filtering syrup after boiling down your sap helps reduce the amount of natural sugar sand that’s often present in your final syrup product. The filters can be rinsed and reused.
As always, each kit includes a complete tree tapping instruction quick guide and our top-rated customer support for all of your maple sugaring needs and questions. For further reading and frequently asked questions, see some of our recent posts below: