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How to Tap Trees at Home

Learn how to tap a maple tree at home with just a few basic supplies for a delicious sweet treat!

Often when we think of home sugaring we think of sugar maples. However, any maple variety (and a few other trees as well) can also be tapped for syrup making right in the average backyard.

A tree with spile dripping sap into a metal bucket with text overlay stating: how to tap a maple tree.

When to Tap

The sugar begins to run in trees when the weather begins to warm up in late winter.

Ideally the temperatures should be dropping below freezing at night and up above 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

The trees will definitely drip faster and heavier when this happens. The flow will stop if it freezes all day but begin again when the temperatures warm.

Tapping Supplies Needed:

Spiles / Taps: I’ve seen people use drinking straws and all kinds of various tubing.  I’m all for DIY and frugality, but I have to say real spiles / taps make it so much easier and give you a way to hang your sap collection container.

Containers: You can buy traditional maple sap buckets or use regular old buckets you have around.  Even cleaned out vinegar or milk bottles will work. 

Tap trees at home for delicious, natural, and frugal homegrown syrup. It goes beyond standard maple and requires only a minimum of equipment to get started.

Tools: A drill bit – most spiles are in the 3/8″ range.  A small hammer to get the taps into place securely.  We tried using a rubber mallet but found that it didn’t work as well as we’d like.  A small, lightweight ball peen hammer works best in our experience.  

Making Syrup from the Sap:

Another collection bucket:  I use a 5-gallon bucket and walk around to my trees, pouring the collected sap into the bucket.   It’s easier for me to do it that way and just re-hang the bottles for sap collecting, rather than unhook, carry the bottles into the house, go back outside, rehang, etc…

Cheesecloth: I always end up with a few flies in the collected sap.  I pour the sap through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into big stock pots before boiling. 

Stock Pots: We’re a small operation, we don’t have big fancy maple syrup boilers.  We do everything on our home kitchen stove, underneath a hood to let all that evaporation escape.

Tap trees at home for delicious, natural, and frugal homegrown syrup. It goes beyond standard maple and requires only a minimum of equipment to get started.

A good candy thermometer: Maple sap becomes syrup when the temperature reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point.  You need a good thermometer for this (and be sure of what the boiling point is for your elevation) because you can’t possibly figure it out any other way in my experience. 

Too hot and it becomes crystallized maple sugar, not bad but probably not what most of us want. 

Too cool and you’ll have mold issues later on.  I use a digital thermometer after I broke about 3 of the old-fashioned kind, but any good, accurate candy thermometer will do.

Storage Containers / Jars: Once your sap is boiled down into syrup you obviously need to store it.  I just use regular canning jars but I’m sure you could buy fancier containers should you desire.

Using Homegrown Syrup

Use it on pancakes, waffles, and French Toast, of course. However, remember that syrup can be so much more than that. Use the syrup to sweeten baked goods, as the sweetener in homemade apple butter, to sweeten drinks, and simply anywhere a little sugar is needed. 

Tap trees at home for delicious, natural, and frugal homegrown syrup. It goes beyond standard maple and requires only a minimum of equipment to get started.

It seems like there should be so much more to it, but home sugaring is a relatively easy process.  How much product completely depends on the type of trees on your homestead and good old mother nature. 

For us, it’s always been worth it and while it can be time-consuming to boil down the sap, much of the time is very hands-off only needing your attention as it gets close to the end to prevent it from overheating.

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Dirk shaw

Sunday 23rd of October 2022

I started tapping my trees two years ago. Last year was my best yield. Finished syrup, I ended up with 15 liters. I have 10 trees I tap, 3 of them are very old and I can get 3 taps into them. I love doing this❤️ I built a evaporator from a steel barrel, it works great. I’m always looking for a better, more efficient way. Thanks for sharing. 😁


Sunday 29th of January 2017

Do you remove the spigot and drill a new hole each year or leave it in the tree? Can you only put one hole in and get the syrup once per year? I guess I have lots to learn, but we have two maples. Thanks for your post.

Homespun Seasonal Living

Monday 30th of January 2017

I do remove the tap and drill a new hole on the opposite side of the tree each year. Here's another post about that - the sap will eventually stop flowing and that's when I pull the taps.

The number of taps in each tree depends on the size of the tree. A tree 10-17 inches in diameter should only have 1 tap. 18-24 inches in diameter can have 2 taps. Over 25 inches can have 3 taps.


Sunday 9th of February 2014

This would be a great project to do with kids! We love maple syrup as a natural sugar in a lot of our foods. Thanks for linking up with Tuesday Greens.


Wednesday 5th of February 2014

Thanks for linking up to Green Thumb Thursday and we hop you'll come back this week! I'm reading a book on home sugaring right now and I will never, ever grumble about paying for high quality maple syrup again! I'm so glad to be learning more about all the hard work that goes into it.


Thursday 30th of January 2014

I'm so glad I came across this post on the Creative Homeacre Hop! I've been researching tapping our Maples here in WA. We have two big Red Maples (I think) and a Birch. One year a limb broke from our birch in a storm and we couldn't believe the amount of sap that poured from it for days. I might try making syrup from that too! Do you have any experience with that?


Thursday 30th of January 2014

Thanks so much for stopping by. I don't birches to tap but the process is mostly the same according to the reading I've done, though the sap boils down more than maple. It'll get less syrup for your sap but still it'll be fun and tasty. Good luck!