How Many Taps per Maple Tree?

Ah yes, the age old question of how many taps per maple tree is upon us once more. At this point in your maple sugaring adventure you have your maple tapping kit ready to go, and you’re looking at the best trees on your property to tap. You wonder, “exactly how many spouts can I put into my big sugar maple out back – and how many in the small tree next to it?”

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Tree diameter determines the number of spouts

Older, large diameter trees can support more spouts than younger, smaller diameter trees. While most trees will be fine with just one spout, sometimes you may want to put in two spouts to maximize your sap production from a very large tree. Generally speaking I would not recommend installing more than two spouts in even the largest trees. As stewards of the land, sustainability and tree health must be our priority.

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Measuring a tree’s circumference and calculating the diameter

You’ll need a measuring tape and piece of string to measure the circumference of the tree.

  1. First, wrap the string around the the trunk at breast height – about 4.5 feet high and mark the string with a pen.
  2. Lay out the string and measure it’s length to determine the tree’s circumference.
  3. Divide the circumference number by 3.14 to calculate the diameter.

Let’s say, for example, the tree’s circumference is 38 inches around. Divide that number by 3.14 to get the actual diameter. In this case, 38 / 3.14 = 12.10 inch diameter. We can put only one spout in this sized tree.

Trees at least 12” in Diameter

Trees should have a diameter of at least 12” to be tapped. Some guides allow for 9-10 inch diameter trees to be tapped, but it is best if you leave those younger trees with more time to grow.

Trees from 18” to 24” in Diameter

Trees with a diameter from 18” to 24” should receive no more than two spouts or taps. While it may be tempting to add a third spout to these giants, don’t. Future generations of sugar makers will thank you!

Need more tree tapping information? Curious about how deep to drill maple taps? See our FAQ here for a comprehensive list of most frequently asked tree tapping questions.

Shop our maple tree tapping kits and equipment here.

 

 

How Deep to Drill a Maple Tree Tap Hole?

Tapping your maple, birch or walnut trees is one of the most simple and enjoyable Spring activities for the outdoor enthusiast. While this activity is quite simple in theory, knowing the small details can help bring you a successful season of tree tapping. One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is, “How deep do I drill a tap hole in the tree?”

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How Deep to Drill a Tree Tap Hole

Generally speaking, we drill one inch or 1” past the bark of the tree. The thickness of each tree’s bark is the variable; which is dependent upon both the species and the age of the tree. Older trees generally have thicker bark than younger ones, so a tap hole’s total depth may be deeper than on a younger tree. You may also find that species such as the red maple may have thicker, chunkier bark – especially if the tree is large and very old.

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Measuring the Drill Bit Depth

We recommend measuring out 1” to 2” on your drill bit with a measuring tape or ruler. You can mark the bit using a small piece of painters tape wrapped around the bit to serve as a depth-guide for drilling the trees. The correct size bit is 5/16”. We have medium aged trees with average bark thickness, so we marked out a depth of 1.5” on our bit. This allows for approximately 1/2” thick bark and an additional one-inch drilling-depth past the bark.

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Drilling your Tap Hole

Carefully drill your tree at a very slight upward angle on the side of the tree where the sun is shining on it. If the sun shines on that side for the majority of the day, it tends to produce more sap flow. If you tap on the shaded or dark side of the tree, it tends to produce less sap flow. Allow the bit to remove the wood shavings, and never blow out the hole with your mouth. Blowing into the hole can contaminate the tree with your saliva. That will cause the tree’s internal healing process to go into overdrive and close up the hole faster, resulting in less sap flow and a shorter season.

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Inserting the Spout into the Tree

Carefully tap the spout into the tree, gently, and not too hard. We are not putting nails into a deck – there is no need to pound the spout in hard. You should be able to twist and pull the spout out of the tree with a little effort without damaging the tree or the spout. If you destroy the spout upon removal, it’s likely because you drove the spout in too hard and too far into the tree. A few light taps so it is snug, nothing more. As you can see in the photo below, ice-cold sap immediately begins to drip from the spout.

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Connecting the Tubing

Slip your 5/16” food grade tubing onto the barbed end of the maple spout or spile. This can be difficult in colder weather, so you may want to warm the tubing in hot water first. Hold the end of the tubing in hot water for 10-15 seconds and then connect to the spout.

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Choosing a Sap Collection Container

The best collection container is a clean, food grade container such as a five gallon bucket with lid, or gallon size spring water jugs. We don’t recommend used gallon milk jugs, as the flavor of milk is very difficult to clean out. Tree sap is very delicate and can pick up flavors from the collection container very easily. For best results, use spring water jugs to collect sap. Be sure to check the container twice a day – morning and night – as sap flow varies throughout the season. You may find some trees produce more sap than others, and that is totally normal and to be expected.

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Further Reading

Do you have more questions about tree tapping and making syrup? Check out our FAQ page here, or connect with us directly on Facebook and Instagram. We’re happy to answer any of your sugaring questions, no matter how small!

 

Tap My Trees

One of the most rewarding outdoor activities during the spring season is to tap maple trees and get outside with nature! I tap my trees each year in early spring, which here in Connecticut is usually in February. Though unusual, sometimes the sugaring season comes early like it did in 2016 – where I tapped in January.

I love being outside during this time of year; the forest is calm as the sun begins to warm the earth. The smell of crisp spring air fills my lungs as I hike through the woods to collect ice cold maple sap. Snow melts from the daily thaw cycle, and the sound of spring birds singing and water dripping is all you can hear. Wether we’re here or not to observe its rhythm, mother nature carries on.

There is something enchanting about being out there in the sugar bush observing its beauty. To think that Native American tribes collected and processed maple and birch sap hundreds of years before us is amazing. Though the methods and technology have changed, we still collect sap for the same reasons people always have. We enjoy drinking maple sap, using sap to brew coffee, and boiling it down into maple syrup.

The best way to get started making maple syrup is to pick up one of our super affordable maple tree tapping kits. Each kit includes food grade drop lines, 5/16” tree spouts and a quick start guide explaining how to tap a tree. This is the same equipment used by professional sugaring operations all around the country today! Kits can be easily cleaned at the end of the sugaring season and reused year after year. It’s also a great way to teach kids about nature in both a school and at home setting.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and reconnect with the natural beauty that surrounds us!

Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram to join the discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Tapping Maple Trees

We hear a lot of questions about how to tap trees, collect maple sap and make maple syrup. Today we will talk about some of the most frequently asked questions we see and answer them below. If you have a question you’d like us to answer, ask us in the comments below or connect with us over on Facebook!

What is the smallest tree I can tap?

The smallest tree you would want to tap would have a diameter of 10” or ten inches. Trees smaller than that should not be tapped.

Can I install more than one tap or spout in my maple tree?

Trees with a diameter of 10”to 17” can support one tap. Trees with a diameter of at least 18” can support two taps.

How much sap will I get from each maple tree?

Each tree should produce around ten to twenty gallons of sap each season. This varies depending upon the maple season and the health of the individual tree. For example, two identical trees located right next to each other can produce very different levels of sap.

How deep should I drill into the tree?

Drill into the tree approximately 1.5” past the bark and into the white wood. Total depth is approximately 2.5”.

Does maple tapping hurt or damage the tree?

Tapping does not hurt or damage the tree. Following proper care when tapping will avoid any damage to the tree. Only drill one tap hole with one spout for small trees to reduce stress on the tree. The maple is the only species that is self-healing, and the tap hole will heal and close up during the year.

When I’m done collecting sap, should I put anything into the tap hole to stop the flow of sap?

No. The maple tree will heal and close up the tap hole on its own. Never put any foreign objects or plugs into the maple tree.

What is in maple sap?

Maple sap is a complex natural blend of water, sugar, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

Is it safe to drink sap straight from the tree?

Generally speaking, sap is sterile before it leaves the maple tree. However, bacteria can enter the sap once it leaves the tree and is exposed to the environment or your collection container. It is similar to consuming raw cow’s milk; there are both risks and benefits to consuming raw vs. pasteurized beverages. To be safe, boil your maple sap first before drinking it.

How much sap does it take to make a gallon of finished maple syrup?

Sugar maples have the highest concentration of sugar in their sap, so they work best for making syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap boiled down to make one gallon of finished syrup.

Where can I buy a maple tree tapping kit and supplies?

Buy a complete tree tapping kit complete with guide sheet and instructions here on Amazon.

How do I tap a maple tree?

Watch our video guide on how to make maple syrup here!

How do I identify what kind of maple trees I have?

See our complete guide on identifying maple trees here.