Tapping Maple Trees for Maple Syrup Making

Just in time for maple sugaring season, we have the third video in our Beginner Maple Syrup Maker series. In this video, you will learn about the proper tools for tapping trees. You will also learn about the appropriate size of trees to tap as well as the number of taps you can put in a tree for a sustainable sugarbush. We will demonstrate how to correctly drill a hole and place spouts into the tree. Finally, we discuss the sap collection process and the frequency of collection from your taps.

Having the right tools, in good condition, are important for a successful tapping season. A sharp drill bit is key to creating clean tap holes that will seal around the spout of better collection of sap.

When selecting the trees for tapping, it is important that you select healthy maple trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter at chest height so that you do not harm the trees and reduce the sustainability of your sugarbush. Every time you drill a hole in your tree, it creates a long wound around that hole that will not conduct sap for several years. It is important that you have trees that are large enough to be able to place your taps around the tree over the years to reduce harm the tree and to insure that you can tap into healthy wood to get sap.

After selecting the trees and location on the tree to tap, you should drill the hole with your drill at its slowest setting. You want to drill at a slightly upward angle with a smooth consistent speed and motion. A depth mark or guide on your bit will insure that you drill to the proper depth of 1.5 to 2 inches. If you must clean, wood chips out of the hole use a clean metal wire. It its important that you do not use your breath to blow out the hole because that can introduce bacteria into the tap whose growth can clog the hole.

As you seat your spout into the hole, it is important that you tap in the spout with gentle hammering. If you hammer too hard or try to force the spout in too far, you risk damaging your spout and cracking the tree that will allow sap to leak around the spout. When the spout is fully seated in the hole, you should hear a change in the sound of your hammering.

When sap is flowing, it is important to regularly collect and process the sap to avoid spoilage. As the season progresses and the days warm, the chance of spoilage is increased. If you cannot process your sap immediately and need to store it, store it in a cool shady location. If your sap is cloudy and has an “off” aroma at the tap, it is an indication that the trees are budding out and the sugaring season is over.

If you missed the first two videos in this series, “Maple Identification Guide for Maple Syrup Makers” and “A Guide to Taps and Containers used in Maple Syrup Making”, check out our Maple Syrup Video Library. Stay tuned for the final video in this series for a complete view of maple syrup making. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Extension Iron County Agriculture Educator, Darrin Kimbler at 715-561-2695 or darrin.kimbler@wisc.edu.

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