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Main Content
maple syrup

How to Make Maple Syrup 

Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac

During the maple sugaring season (late February to early April), learn how to make maple syrup at home in your kitchen.

What Is Maple Syrup?

Maple syrup is the concentrated form of sap (liquid sugar) that can be found in maple trees (most commonly sugar maple and red maple trees).

Why Make Maple Syrup?

Maple syrup is a delicious alternative to cane sugar, having the added benefit of being completely unrefined. Use it to sweeten coffee, tea, and smoothies or as a substitute for sugar when baking.

How Many Gallons of Sap Make a Gallon of Syrup?

While the sugar content of sap changes throughout the sugaring season, the general rule of thumb is that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

The Process of Making Maple Syrup

You Will Need . . .

drill and 5/16-inch bit

stainless steel bucket spout (5/16-inch width)


aluminum sap bucket (with lid)

candy thermometer

3-gallon stainless steel pot


Identify a Maple Tree

During the time of year when trees have leaves, sugar maples are easy to identify—their leaves look like the leaf on the Canadian flag (a red maple leaf), but with five points instead of three. The easiest way to find a sugar maple is to identify it by its leaves in the spring, summer, or fall and then mark it with a brightly colored piece of fabric tied around a branch—then you’ll spot your tree in the winter without difficulty.

If you are identifying a tree in the winter, all you have is the bark and buds to go by. The bark of a young sugar maple is slightly coarse, gray, and uniform; the bark of an old sugar maple is thick, very rough, and craggy. The buds are conical but with rounded tips, looking somewhat like match heads. In the winter, red maples are similar to sugar maples in every way except the buds—red maples have extremely pointy buds.  

Tap the Tree

At roughly chest height, drill a 1-1/2-inch-deep hole in the trunk of the sugar maple tree. Avoid drilling any deeper than 1-1/2 inches or you might hurt the tree. Insert the spout with the hook facing up and gently tap it into place. Hang the bucket on the spout and cover it with the lid. Sap will begin to drip into the bucket shortly.

Harvest the Sap

Over a few days to a week or two, the bucket will fill with clear, cold sap. Ideal conditions for sap to run occur when the days are sunny (but not too warm) and the nights are cold. Check the bucket once a day until you have about 2-1/2 gallons of sap. Once you do, you’re ready to make syrup!

Boil the Sap

Place the stainless steel pot onto the stove and pour the 2-1/2 gallons of sap into it. Set the stove to high heat. (Gas stoves are best for this, but electric will work as well.) The sap will take a while to begin to boil, but once it does, you want to keep it at a steady, rolling boil. Over several hours, much of the water in the sap will evaporate, leaving behind sugar and minerals. The liquid slowly will become darker and darker, until it is between light gold and dark amber in color. When it reads 219°F on the candy thermometer, it’s done! You’ve made maple syrup. Remove the pot from heat.    

Bottle the Syrup

After boiling down the sap, you will be left with about a half-pint of syrup. Pour the syrup into a half-pint mason jar or other small sealable container. Store your maple syrup in the fridge for up to a year.

Yield: Makes about a half-pint (1 cup) of maple syrup.


old farmer's almanac