Here’s a quick recap of the lessons I learned during our first year of maple tree tapping and maple syrup production. It’s my to-do list for next January.
- Be prepared. I need to make sure I have everything I’ll need lined up ahead of time, cleaned, sanitized, and ready to go early. I’m pretty sure we missed a week, possibly two, of the sap run this year. Better to be ready in January.
- I need to have two or three dedicated maple sap buckets, with airtight lids and at least 1/2 gallon markings, to hold at least a couple days worth of sap.
- A hydrometer is a must. Trying to accurately measure the temperature of a small quantity of maple syrup is hard. The temperatures also seem to be a terrible way to estimate sugar content. I bought a hydrometer this year, and for next year I’ll have a testing cup on hand as well.
- For the sap, a refractometer would be helpful to know the sugar content so I know what to expect when boiling it. Not essential, but they’re cheap so I’ll probably buy one.
- Have plenty of propane; make sure there are at least two full tanks on hand.
- Have bottles and labels on hand for the finished product.
- More spiles and bags, unless I switch to plastic drip lines and containers on the ground (which would probably be better anyway).
- A boiling pan with more surface area would be better. I’ve got a year to explore better evaporating options. I don’t want to go overboard, but maybe there’s a better option.
- I may set up a small RO system. It would cost some to set up, but would greatly reduce the boiling time and save on propane. I’ve got time to investigate and decide whether I want to set one up. Next year I’ll have at least 6 taps going in 6 trees — four here, two at a rental house we own.