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Getting Started with Syrup


Making Maple Syrup

Maple season is a great excuse to get friends and family together and enjoy the fresh air. We are sure you will find the process of making maple syrup both fun and rewarding.

Start by gathering the tools you will need using the checklist below. Most of the tools you need can probably already be found in your home!


For Tapping

  • Maple trees (See below for helpful tree ID tips)
  • Drill with a drill bit that matches your size of Spouts
  • Hammer
  • Smoky Lake Beginner Tapping Kit (Includes reusable Stainless Steel Spouts, Wind Resistant Bag Holders, and Sap Collection Bags)

For Collecting Sap

  • Large, clean buckets for sap storage (TIP: Bakeries and cheese factories often get their ingredients in large, food grade buckets. Give them a call. They  might let you have a container when they are finished with it.)
  • Strainer (For filtering out debris)

For Boiling

  • Maple evaporator pan OR large lobster pot OR turkey fryer
  • Hydrometer and Test Cup (For testing your syrup’s sugar density)
  • Propane Burner and Stand OR Campfire with cooking grate
  • Canola oil OR butter (TIP: This is NOT an ingredient of pure maple syrup. If your sap suddenly foams up and threatens to overflow the pot while you are boiling, add ONE DROP to bring it back under control. Remember, just ONE little drop is all it takes.)

For Filtering

For Bottling

For Cleaning

  • 50/50 solution of vinegar and water
  • Clean rags

When is Maple Season?

Sap flows during the freeze & thaw cycle of Spring. Temperatures should be above freezing during the day and below freezing during the night. In Northern states, this typically happens in March. To the south, it can occur months earlier.

NO, your trees do NOT need to be Sugar Maple specifically. That is an unfortunate misconception. The most common maple tree in North America is Red Maple and it makes wonderful syrup. Out West, they tap Big Leaf Maple, etc. There are many varieties of trees in the Acer family which can be tapped for maple syrup. 

How to identify a Maple Tree?

  • Usually no branches on the bottom 2/3 of the tree
  • Twigs grow directly opposite each other on a branch (Not alternating position)
  • Bark often has lichen growing on it
  • Bark is made up of vertical strips
  • Bark is a greyish brown
  • Granted, the maple trees won’t have too many leaves on them this time of year, but a maple leaf’s main vein start at the leaf stem. One main vein divides each lobe.



Gather the sap from each tree. Use a strainer to remove any debris that may have fallen into the sap. Also, remove any large ice chunks. You can store the sap up to 7 days as long as you keep it cold.

About the photo: Merna from Stonebriar Farm in Ontario uses nostaligic, metal buckets to collect sap from each tap. Now she is combining the sap from the metal buckets into a few food safe, plastic containers to transport it back to the house for boiling. The metal buckets will stay at the tree so that they can continue collecting more sap for boiling on a different day.




Bottle the maple syrup at about 180º – 190º F. Do NOT overheat the syrup or you will create sugar sand in the syrup and you will have to start over with filtering again. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot syrup. Fill the canning jar—leaving a little air at the top—and tighten the lid. Lay the jar on its side. The hot syrup will neutralize bacteria inside the lid and bottle. Refrigerate your maple syrup after opening. This will discourage mold from growing on the surface of your syrup. Try topping ice cream with your new maple syrup! Use it as a marinade or mix it into baked beans!


Get it in print

Print Versions Of This Guide Are Available Upon Request.