Your Basic Guide to Tapping Maple Trees

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Feb. 7 2023, Published 4:44 p.m. ET

Maple Tree
Source: Getty Images

If you live along the East Coast or in the Midwest, chances are you have a few maple trees growing in your backyard (unless, of course, you live in a big city). That said, maple trees are known for producing one of our absolute favorite condiments — maple syrup — and although it might sound difficult, tapping your maple tree isn't as difficult as it sounds. Why not invest yourself in a fun new outdoor project, while getting yourself a tasty brunch topping, free of charge?

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Keep reading for a beginner's guide on what tapping involves, how to do it, when to do it, and more. Before you know it, you'll be running your own farmers market stand as a result of this incredible new hobby.

Tree Tap
Source: Getty Images
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What does it mean to tap a tree?

When people say they are "tapping a maple tree," it means they're taking the required steps to extract the tree's sap, to ultimately make maple syrup.

According to Snowshoe Mag, maple syrup production and maple tree tapping has been a common cultural practice across North America for several centuries.

All you'll need are a disease-free maple tree (sugar maples are prime!) and it should be at least 12 inches in diameter for one tap. The larger the tree, however, the better.

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. A single tree generates up to three gallons a day, so it won't take too long.

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Maple Syrup
Source: Getty Images

How do I tap a maple tree?

While learning to tap a maple tree sounds tricky, it isn't too difficult.

According to Almanac, you'll drill a hole slanting upward, going up to 3 inches deep into the tree. The hole should be up to 5/8 inches in diameter, and about three feet up from the ground. You'll push a metal sap spigot (which you can find at most hardware stores) into the hole, not quite pushing it all the way into the hole.

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Hang a bucket on the spigot, and once you've collected enough sap, you'll boil it. The water content will start to evaporate, and eventually, it will start to look and taste like maple syrup, once its sugar content is at around 60 percent.

Maple Tree
Source: Getty Images
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When is the best time to tap a maple tree?

Even though many of us tend to associate maple syrup with autumn, you'll actually most likely get started with tapping your trees in the middle of February or even in mid-March. According to Tap My Trees, it depends on where you live (because it's ultimately contingent on outdoor temperatures) but you'll want daytime temperatures to be above freezing, and nighttime temperatures to be below freezing.

The temperature changes will cause the sap to flow, ultimately delivering the sweet gooey good-good into your bucket.

Fill up some cool glass bottles from your local antique store (after sanitizing them, of course), or use some classic Bell jars. Regardless, you're bound to impress any and all your friends with fresh syrup as a gift, or simply as an accompaniment to any homemade brunch.

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