Maple syruping for beginners

glass bottles and jars for syrup

Glass bottles and jars for syrup

Like many hobbies, maple syruping can be done very simply and inexpensively, or you can have equipment lust. There are plenty of tempting syrup accessories out there, from felts and filters to stainless evaporators. We have upscaled with a handmade evaporator replacing the lobster pot, and felts replacing the cheesecloth, but backyard syruping is easy and not expensive, and bridges that ambiguous time between winter and spring. I have waxed poetic about the experience of tapping trees and boiling syrup many times, and have been asked to give a more how-to description.

This post is going to cover equipment, and what you need to do to get ready to tap. Part two, coming in the next few days, will cover the process.

Maple Syruping 101


Cordless drill. With 5/16” bit

Collecting jugs. We use 2.5 gallon water bottles, picked up from the recycle center. They are square and easy to rest on the ground next to the tree, and the spout is perfect for inserting the drip tube. This jug eliminates the need for covers to keep out rain and flying insects.

Taps. We use black plastic #2 taps, with ¼” tips. We used to use metal ones, or handmade wooden ones, with tips of ½ inch or more, but the narrower tip allows the tree to heal in a year.

Plastic tubing. ¼” interior diameter, cut into 6” lengths. If your jug needs to be farther away from the tree than right at the base, say there is a slope or root to be avoided, then a longer length will be required.

Tools for syruping: Drill with  5/16" bit. hammer, taps, tubing

Tools for syruping: Drill with 5/16″ bit. hammer, taps, tubing

Hammer. To tap the taps in, but a rock will do.

Collecting buckets and liners. We use mud buckets with handles, and plastic bags with drawstring closures.

Wood. To keep that fire burning.

Evaporating pan. A lobster pot will work just fine, but the more surface area over the fire the better. A cover is helpful in case it rains or snows, but foil can be used as well.

A stand to hold your pot over the fire. A few cinder blocks with an old grill grate is perfect.

A candy thermometer if you wish to be precise, but we don’t use one.

A slotted spoon, or spoon with a mesh strainer to scoop off foam

Colander lined with cheese cloth or linen can serve as a filter

Colander lined with cheese cloth or linen can serve as a filter

A colander lined with cheesecloth, or an old clean linen towel. Or a felt filter and liners.

Stainless steel pot for final reduction

Stovetop for final reduction

Clean glass jars and caps


Felt filter and liners available at Kinney's  Maple Supplies

Felt filter and liners available at Kinney’s Maple Supplies

If you wish to buy any of the equipment mentioned, Kinney’s Maple Supplies has everything you need, and is high on a beautiful hill down a long drive flanked by, of course, giant sugar maples.

Questions? Please email, I’ll be happy to answer.

For more about the people behind commercial maple syruping, small and large, see

Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.