The beginner to maple syrup production will only need a few inexpensive items to get started. Taps, tubing, buckets or bags, boiling pan, thermometer and possibly a hydrometer/refractometer and some jars.
I’ve been making maple syrup from my backyard trees for many years and have tried several different methods. I’ll give you my recommendations for the bare bones just getting started method and then a few more items that you might like to get if you decide this is a hobby you’d stick with.
Tapping Trees and Collecting Sap
The easiest way to get started is by using plastic taps with tubing. You can run to tubing into clear one-gallon jugs or food-grade plastic buckets with a hole drilled in the lid. This kit from Amazon.com comes with the taps, tubing and the correct size drill bit.
I also like to use metal spiles (taps) with galvanized sap bag holders. If you’ve seen any of my maple syrup making videos you’ll see these hanging from my trees. Here’s a complete kit from Amazon.com that has ten sets of spiles, holders and bags. It’s a little bit more expensive but I like using this system.
If you like the nostalgic look of the galvanized pails hanging from your trees, then this kit from Amazon.com has everything you need to get started. This kit only has three buckets, but if you’re only going to tap one or two trees to get started this setup will be great.
You may need some containers to store your sap if you collect it all week to boil down on the weekends. I use food-grade buckets that I got pretty cheap at my local health food store. They buy bulk honey to re-bottle so they occasionally have empty buckets for sale. If you can’t find any locally, then check out these food-grade buckets on Amazon.com.
The last item you may need need if you don’t already have one is a cordless drill. I use my Bosch 18 Volt drill all the time for many different projects and I absolutely love it. It has so much power and the battery lasts for weeks of occasional use. If you are looking to upgrade to a great drill/driver combo set for a reasonable price check out this Bosch Combo set on Amazon.com.
The Evaporation Process
The bulk of the evaporation process really should be done outdoors because all the excess water in the sap is turned into water vapor. The cheapest way to do this is over a wood fire in some sort of makeshift evaporator. I make mine from leftover concrete blocks and a piece of scrap metal grating. A disposable aluminum roasting pan makes for easy clean-up.
My dream is to make wood burning stove from an old fuel oil drum with a nice stainless steel evaporator pan on top. Something like this Stainless Steel Pan on Amazon.com.
In one of my videos I show how to make maple syrup in a turkey fryer over a propane burner. Using propane is not very cost effective, but it works great for a first time syrup maker. My turkey fryer is aluminum and about 25 years old, but it worked pretty well. I think a stainless steel pot like the one in this kit on Amazon.com will clean up easier.
When my syrup looks like it’s close to finished I bring it in on the stove top so I can keep a closer watch on it. To determine when it’s finished you’ll need a thermometer, hydrometer or refractometer. I have used either a thermometer or hydrometer but I plan on getting a refractometer for this season coming up.
Any accurate thermometer that reads up to 230 degrees will work just fine. I use a digital one very similar to this highly rated one on Amazon.com.
Refractometers vary greatly in price and they could have different measurement scales. I plan to try using one but until I do I don’t have any recommendations.
Before I pour it in the finishing pan I also like to filter it. These maple syrup filters and this filter stand work great together to get nice clean and clear maple syrup. Both can be found on Amazon.com
If you have leftover canning jars they can be used for bottling your syrup. Just be sure to sterilize them and use a new lid. If you want to present your syrup in a traditional looking bottle try either of these from Amazon.com:
You can finish off you homemade syrup with custom made labels. I made the label below at Sticker Mule. If you use this link they will give you $10 towards your first order. It’s real nice finishing touch especially if you plan to give some away to family and friends.