Little girl getting maple from tree
Little girl tapping a maple tree
How to Tap a Maple Tree
Tips on selecting your tree, gathering supplies, and making delicious syrup
By Scott Bish
Nothing completes a homemade pancake breakfast quite like delicious, smooth maple syrup. Maple trees grow throughout the U.S., and in various parts of the country, mid-February through mid-March is when their sap starts to flow, making it the perfect time to tap.
Tapping maple trees is relatively straightforward, and it’s an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Maple trees that have been tapped in the snow
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Maple syrup on a wooden spoon on a wooden log
Gear Up. You'll Need:
Clean 5-gallon milk jugs or food-grade buckets
Did you know?
40 Gallons of Sap equals 1 Gallon of Finished Syrup
Choose Your Tree
More than 100 species of maple trees can produce sap, but 3 species have the highest sugar content (2% to 5%):
Sugar Maple tree
Sugar maple
Black Maple tree
black maple
Red Maple tree
Red maple
Measure for Maturity
Select trees with diameters that are 12 inches or larger at chest height.
Tap the Trunk
Mark a spot
at least 3 feet above the ground, above a large root or below a large branch
Drill a hole
2½ inches deep at an upward angle
The larger the tree’s diameter, the more taps you can make:

12 to 20 inches: 1 tap
21 to 27 inches: 2 taps
28 inches or bigger: 3 taps
Insert the spile
into the tap hole and gently hammer it in
Hang the bucket
on the spile and watch sap start to flow
Place the lid
over the bucket and spile to keep snow, rain, and leaves out
Pour sap
into milk jugs or buckets
Store sap at 38 degrees
Fahrenheit for up to 7 days until you’re ready to make syrup
How to Make Syrup
Step
1
Set a large pan on an outdoor stove over medium heat or over a fire. Fill pan with sap, leaving 1 inch of head space for sap to roll and foam.
Step
2
Bring sap to a boil. Keep adding more sap so there’s always at least 1 inch of sap in the bottom of the pan. Watch closely to avoid burning the sap and keep boiling until sap reaches the consistency of syrup.
Clean Your Supplies
Mix 1 part bleach with 20 parts clean water in a large utility bucket. Scrub supplies with a brush, then triple rinse with hot water.
How to Make Syrup
Step
1
Set a large pan on an outdoor stove over medium heat or over a fire. Fill pan with sap, leaving 1 inch of head space for sap to roll and foam.
Step
2
Bring sap to a boil. Keep adding more sap so there’s always at least 1 inch of sap in the bottom of the pan. Watch closely to avoid burning the sap and keep boiling until sap reaches the consistency of syrup.
Clean Your Supplies
Mix 1 part bleach with 20 parts clean water in a large utility bucket. Scrub supplies with a brush, then triple rinse with hot water.
Learn more about tapping maple trees and making syrup by visiting Penn State Extension’s website.
About the Writer
Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.

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