DIY Maple Sugaring: Tool and Tree Logistics

Woman holding a bit and brace drill by a maple tree

DIY Maple Sugaring: Tool and Tree Logistics

It is that time in winter when the days are finally getting longer, the snow is melting and the ground is thawing. All signs point to maple sugaring time! With a little know how, anyone can tap and collect sap from maple trees to make their very own syrup. Maple sugaring season in Cincinnati is from early February through mid March.

The equipment needed is fairly basic:

  • Cordless drill or a bit and brace style hand drill
  • 5/16th sized drill bit designed for trees
  • Tape measure
  • Mallet
  • Water jug or food grade buckets (Gallon sized water jugs are inexpensive but do not use those that held juice or milk since tree sap readily absorbs the flavors of other things.)
  • Tree spile or spout

Any maple species will make sap that can be converted syrup. Sugar Maples are preferred since they provide more sugar than other maples. When selecting a maple tree, make sure the circumference meets the minimum to prevent issues with tapping a young or slow growing tree. Ten inches in diameter or thirty-three inches in circumference is the smallest width suggested. When tapping, you want to be at least two feet up from the ground. The height of the tapping plus freezing nights followed by warm days allows pressure to build and sap to flow. When drilling, you want to choose the south side of the tree (sun warms this side first), drill at a slight angle upwards about two inches into the tree. Putting a piece of masking tape on your drill bit will guide you when two inches is reached. You want to reach the xylem tissue where the sap is flowing.

Once harvested, filter your sap to get any leaves, twigs and insects out. Treat tree sap like milk. It can and will spoil if kept warm. A cold garage in a water cooler is a great storage tank until you have enough to boil/evaporate. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.

If you like the taste of real maple syrup but backyard maple sugaring seems like too much work, join us for Maple in Mt. Airy on Saturday, March 2 from 9am- 12pm. After a pancake breakfast, participants visit four different educational stations to explore historic and present day processing methods and taste a variety of maple products! Program Fee: $8 per person (Ages 3 and under are FREE).

Click here to reserve your breakfast seating before March 1.