Tap Maple Trees at Home
Maple sap can be used to make maple syrup, brewing tea, or cooking (use as a water substitute for a slightly sweet maple flavor). Follow these easy steps to collect maple sap in your back yard. While these instructions are focused on Maple Trees, other types of trees can be tapped, including Birch and Walnut.
Identify your Maple Trees
Sugar, Black, Red, and Silver Maples can all be tapped to collect sap.
The following equipment is needed:
- Spiles with hooks
- Buckets (with lids) or other container that can be used to collect the sap (food-grade containers)
- Drill with 7/16 inch drill bit
When To Tap Maple Trees
Tap your trees when the sap is flowing, generally mid-February through early April, depending upon geography and weather conditions. Sap flows when daytime temperatures rise above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit / 0 Celsius) and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing.
How to Tap Maple Trees
Clean your Equipment: With a mixture of 1 part unscented household bleach to 20 parts clean water, use a brush or cloth to scrub your spiles and sap collection containers. Triple rinse all with hot water.
Select Maple Tree to Tap: Tap only mature, healthy trees. Trees less than 12 inches in diameter should not be tapped. Trees over 20 inches in diameter can support 2 taps.
Tap the Tree: Using a 7/16 inch bit, drill a tap hole 2 to 2 ½ inches deep at a height of approximately 3 feet. Drill at a slight upward angle to facilitate downward flow of sap from the hole. Do not tap within 6 inches of a prior season tap hole. If more than one tap is placed in the same tree, distribute the tap holes around the tree. The shavings from the drilled tap hole should be light brown, indicating healthy sapwood. If the shavings are dark brown, drill another hole in a different location or select a different tree.
Insert the Spile: Insert the spile into the loop on the hook (hook facing outward), and then insert the spile into the tap hole. Gently tap the spile into the tree with a hammer (do not pound the spile into the tree, as this may cause the wood to split).
Attach Bucket / Collection Container: Using the hook, attach the bucket or other collection container (use only clean, food grade containers). Some containers, such as a plastic milk jug, may require a wire to secure it to the spile. Attach the lid to the spile. The lid prevents rain and snow from entering the bucket.
Storage & Use of Maple Sap
On a daily basis, transfer sap to a storage container (clean, food grade container). Pour the sap from the bucket into a storage container, using cheesecloth to filter out any foreign material. The sap should be stored at a temperature of 38 degrees F or colder and used within 7 days of collection.
End of Season
Once the temperature consistently remains above freezing and buds start to form on your maple trees, it is time to stop collecting sap. Remove spiles from the trees with pliers and clean all equipment.
Article courtesy of Tap My Trees, LLC.
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