Maple syruping for beginners, Part 2: Tapping

After you get all your equipment together, it’s time to tap.

(for equipment:

Choose your trees

Sugar maples have a higher sugar content than other maples, which means you get more syrup per gallon of sap. We have a few sugar maples, but use mostly red maples. The flavor is as deep and maply as you could wish for. Our homemade syrups are equivalent to the crudest of grades professional syrupers use. There is a place for the more delicate and refined maple syrup, Grade A Light Amber, but we love our robust, slightly smoky, red gold. You can also use Norway, black and silver maple.

Trees should be at least 8“ in diameter. For large trees, you can place one tap for every eight inches of diameter. If possible, tap on the sunny side of the tree.

Attach hose to taps, if you have not already done so.


1. Set your 2.5-gallon jug on ground, with about 2” of hose in jug. Visually mark the spot where the tap touches.

2. Drill into the tree, practically straight in. A tiny bit of angle up is ok, but don’t hold drill so that as it enters tree in is heading towards the ground. Drill in 2-3

3. If the drill has left a lot of visible sawdust in hole and at opening, wipe away, and use a twig to lightly clean out tap hole. Watch– you may see the sap begin to gather at the opening and start to drip.

Drilling a tap hole

Drilling a tap hole

4. Push tap with 6” of hose attached into the opening, and tap it very gently with the hammer.

5. Nestle jug at base of tree, put hose into jug opening. If windy, you may wish to tie jugs to tree or put rocks against it to keep it from blowing around.

The sap will probably start to drip into the jug right away. When the jugs get full, pout them into your 5” gallon collecting jugs, lined with trash bags. (You don’t need to use liners if you jugs are immaculate, and you don’t mind cleaning then later.)

Collecting jug in place

Collecting jug in place

See the first drips:

Keep on collecting until you have enough to boil, and that really depends on you, how much syrup you want, and how much time you want to spend. Yield is about a half gallon of syrup from 21 gallons of sap.

Questions? Please email, I’ll be happy to answer.

Next: Boiling and Bottling

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.