How to Tap a Maple Tree: Tips for Beginners

Learn how to tap a maple tree and which collection system is best for you.

| July 2, 2013

Maple on Tap

Find everything you need to know about backyard sugaring and making your own maple syrup in “Maple on Tap.”

Cover Courtesy Acres U.S.A.

Reap the sweet rewards of making your own maple syrup from the trees in your backyard. With the practical advice and step-by-step instructions in Maple on Tap (Acres USA, 2013), you will master sugaring while saving valuable time and money. Author and experienced syrup-producer Rich Finzer shares how to tap a maple tree using his easy and successful collection system in this excerpt from chapter six, “Tapping and Sap Collection.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Maple on Tap.

When tree-tapping time finally rolls around in your area, every amateur maple syrup maker has four challenges to combat: wind, inclement weather, insects and a big-time commitment dedicated to sap collecting. As I now begin my 22nd season of sugaring, I’m struck by how many mistakes I made when I first got started tapping maple trees, as well as how many time- and money-saving techniques I have now learned from these many years of experience. So here are a few important points to keep in mind when you’ve decided to take the plunge and “sugar off” for yourself.

How to Tap a Maple Tree: Sap Collection Systems

Every sap-collection system shares two common elements: tapping maple trees and collecting the sap. Everyone must tap his or her maples to release the sap, and there must be some kind of container to collect the sap as it drips out. But as a backyard or small-scale producer, you won’t be running a tubing network attached to a vacuum pump. Instead, you need to think about your sap collection on a small scale, with the emphasis on economy, simplicity and practicality. Your goal is to minimize or eliminate having to transfer sap from one container to another, and to accumulate enough to boil. So I am going to share four basic methods you might pursue, along with the costs, pitfalls and benefits associated with each. I’ll use our 24-tap operation as the measuring stick with which to compare all of the different collection systems.


Traditional sap collection is done using either metal spiles and 9-quart galvanized metal buckets or plastic taps and 3-gallon translucent plastic buckets. Both of these types require lids. For each tree tap, the metal buckets, lids and spiles will cost about $26 plus tax. For us, this was multiplied 24 times for an expense of about $650.

2/11/2015 7:48:05 PM

The taps with the tubing cost me less than $3 each. I use blue water jugs $1 each ($1.37 full of reverse osmosis water). I drill a hole on the cap using the same size drill bit for the tap, force the tubing in the hole and zero insects or debris. I hang the jug with a large rock under it to hold the weight. I go back with a empty jug, screw it into the cap of the one that's full that has the hole. Sure, less convenient, but a whole lot less money. The first time, I didn't have a rock under the jug and it fell due to the weight but since the hole is so small it didn't spill at all. Maybe some day I'll be able to afford all that equipment. Use a large pot that I use for canning and wood that drops from my large oak for evaporating it.

7/9/2013 12:43:29 PM

Thank you for the great information. lots of help !!!!!!

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