Maple Syrup Tips
By Scott Ervin, Lehman’s Hardware

While there is an abundance of information on how to tap trees and make maple syrup, learn from my rookie mistakes with these 10 maple syrup tips.

How To Make Maple Syrup guides are readily available online and in books. I picked up a great book at Lehman’s that was very helpful. I recommend that anyone interested in making maple syrup for the first time study this readily available information carefully before embarking on your quest for delicious homemade syrup.

However, while the book and websites gave me enough info to get the job done, there were still a few things I had to learn the hard way. It is my hope that the following maple syrup tips will help you to avoid the pit-falls that I stepped into during my rookie season.

maple sugaring starter kit

Our maple sugaring starter kit has everything you need to collect sap from 3 mature maple trees (sugar maples are best, but you can also tap black, big leaf or red maples). Available at

10 Maple Syrup Tips for Rookies

Mark Maple Trees in the Summer

Mark the trees you wish to tap in the summer when they still have leaves. Trying to determine which trees are maples from the bark or from memory will almost certainly lead to tapping non-maples, which will produce a small fraction of the sap the maples will provide.

Tap the South Side of the Maple Tree

You want to tap the south face of the tree, however, be willing to vary from due south. Tapping beneath a large branch or above a large root will typically provide the best flow.

Re-Tap Slow Flowing Taps

If you have a tap that is producing less sap than other taps, re-tap it right away. Don’t leave the slow producing tap, hoping that it will improve its flow; it won’t. Tap a new hole, no closer than 6” from other holes, then you are likely to improve your results.

bucket spile

Simple to use, drill a 7/16″ hole 1-1/2″ to 1-3/4″ into the tree at a slight upward angle, about as high as your waist, insert spout firmly in the hole and hang a bucket from the S-hook.

Use Large Sap Buckets

I recommend using large buckets that sit on the ground and have a sealed lid for collecting the sap. I found that during peak flow times, smaller buckets filled faster than I had time to collect the sap, resulting in wasted sap. Also, when I didn’t use a sealed lid, curious or hungry critters knocked over the buckets and ants got in the buckets.

Seal Your Bucket for Clean Sap

When using a bucket that sets on the ground you should connect a rubber hose from the spile to the bucket. Make sure to drill a hole in the top of the bucket that is not too large, allowing the hose to fit snugly; otherwise ants will get in through the hole.

Bottled Maple Syrup

Have a Way to Store Sap

I was amazed how long it takes to boil off the water. It was hard for me to find the time to boil it down before the sap had a chance to spoil. Luckily I piled snow on the north face of my house where it is out of the sun this time of year. I stored the sap in the snow bank until I had time to boil it down. I suppose you could use coolers with ice, a refrigerator if you have them available, or your Homestead Cold Room.

Have Plenty of Fuel on Hand

As noted above, it takes a lot of time to boil off the water, probably more than you are anticipating. This in turn means it takes a lot of fuel. Whether you are using wood, propane, natural gas or other, make sure you have plenty on hand. I ran out of propane twice which delayed the process and the trees were producing faster than I could keep up.


10 Tips for Making Maple Syrup