How to Tap a Maple Tree

How to Tap a Maple Tree

You’ll need a…

• Metal spout • Hand drill (with a 7/16 inch bit) • Hammer • Thermometer • Bucket • And… your parents’ permission!


1. Find a sugar maple! Here’s what to look for:

Look for a big root on the sunny south side of the tree and then find a spot above the root about waist-high off the ground. Maple tapping time is early spring, when snow is on the ground and temps are below 32oF at night, but above freezing during the day. Any kind of maple tree can be tapped, but the best sap comes from sugar maples, tapped in spring.

Make sure the tree is on your property! 2. Drill a hole about 1.5 inches into the tree – slightly uphill – so the sap will run down. 3. Tap in the spout good and snug – but not too far – with the hook on the bottom.

After a few seconds, the sap should begin to run out of the spout.

4. Hang your bucket on the hook and slide the cover over it.

5. To make syrup from sap, you need to evaporate the water from the sap. After collecting the sap, bring it to boil it in a large pot. Be patient, this will take a while. You’ll know it’s ready when the syrup thickens and “aprons” (or sheets) off your kitchen spoon. Once it thickens, keep a close eye on it, and be careful not to overcook it. If you do, you’ll end up with thick taffy- like substance. Remember, it takes 40 oz of sap to get 1 oz of syrup. If your pot is not large enough to accommodate all your collected sap, simply add additional sap to your pot as you boil it down.

6. Place your syrup in a fresh, clean container and refrigerate overnight. Then… 7. Go and have some pancakes! And remember to appreciate the farmers who do this work day-in and day-out every spring.

Frequently Asked Questions:…

How do you know when its time to tap?

If the temperature rises to between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and sinks to below freezing at night, you can bet the sap is flowing! The combination of freezing temperatures at night and mild temperatures during the day helps to push the sap from the roots of the tree up into the trunk and branches, where it freezes. The next day, when the sun comes up and temperatures rise, the sap will start to flow — right out of your spout!

Why is the sap not running from the tree?

Check the outside temperature. If it’s below freezing the sap can’t flow – it’s frozen. Also, make sure the spout isn’t inserted at too upward an angle. You want to allow gravity to aid the sap in running into the bucket. Also, be aware that trees in the shade drip sap more slowly than trees that are warmed by direct sunlight.

Please visit the Coombs website for more tapping tips and information.

Photo courtesy Bascom Family.