How can I make Maple syrup at my home?
Check out: How to Make Maple Syrup at Home 10 Steps to Success
What makes Maine Sugarworks maple syrup different from others?
The process of making maple syrup is all about removing water from maple sap. Most producers use an evaporator with
a ‘raised flu’. This special pan design allows for quicker water evaporation from the sap. Generally the quicker the sap
is moved through the pans the lighter the finished syrup will be. The flavor of maple syrup is determined by four main
1. Freshness, our syrup is boiled the same day it is collected, during a good run this means staying up all night to
2. Cleanliness, our sap is stored in stainless steel tanks and boiled in stainless pans that are cleaned between runs,
this allows us to keep things as clean as possible.
3. The tree, the sap of each tree has it own sugar content and flavor. The pure mountain air and glacial soils of
rural Western Maine create an outstanding growing environment for the sugar maple tree!
4. The boiling process. A large part of the final flavor of maple syrup is formed through carmelization of sugars
when boiling. The longer the sap stays in the pan boiling, the darker and stronger the flavor will be. Our flat
pans allow the syrup to mature and intensify slowly, the traditional way. Maine Sugarworks has a dedicated
following of repeat customers who appreciate the stronger maple flavor produced in our saphouse.
Why doesn't Maine Sugarworks sell syrup year-round?
Making Maple syrup is hard work. If we were sugarmakers because we were motivated by the prospect of making
money, we would have shut the operation down years ago. There is the story of the old sugarmaker who won the lottery
and when a reporter asked him what he was going to do with his winnings he stated, “I’m going to keep making syrup
until the money is all gone!” Our family works long days in the spring making the syrup, but we also spend time in the fall
cutting firewood, preparing for holiday sales and working on the pipeline in the winter. Our family has deliberately
chosen to limit our growth by not enlarging our production operation and to only actively sell syrup online during the
holiday season. This is about as much as our family can manage without killing each other! Our goal is to produce and
market a high quality product without having the business take over our lives!
Why are shipping charges so expensive?
Pure maple syrup is heavy, really heavy. A gallon of gasoline weights around 6 pounds, a gallon of water weighs
around 8.3 pounds, but a gallon of maple syrup weighs 11 pounds! Because maple syrup is so heavy, it costs more to
ship. We are constantly looking for the most inexpensive carriers to ship our syrup. We generally use the U.S. postal
service because of price and low incidence of breakage.
How was the 2011 sap season?
According to the USDA, maple syrup production in the United States increased 38% this year!! I attribute this to 2 things
1. The weather was perfect for sap flow here in western Maine, cold nights and moderately warm days.
2. The University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center has developed a new pipeline tap. The tap is the piece
of the sap gathering system that is ‘tapped’ into the hole in each tree. This tap has a small BB sized plastic ball in it that
acts as a check-valve. The check-valve prevents sap from being pulled back into the tree at night, something that
happens naturally as the tree freezes. This is a BIG deal because proctor discovered that the bacteria that lives in the
tubing also gets pulled into the tree causing the hole to ‘close over’ faster at the end of the season. This shuts off the
run of sap sooner (weeks sooner) and ends the production season for the sugar maker. As major producers switch to
the new tap, they are finding large increases in production.
At Maine Sugarworks, we have switched to the new taps. We also added a sap vacuum system this year. This system
creates negative pressure in the entire pipeline system and allows sap to flow at temperatures as low as 33 degrees F.
On a gravity flow pipeline system (no vacuum) things would not generally begin flowing until the temps reached 36-38
degrees. This sounds like a small improvement but it translates to many hours of increased sap flow from our
sugarbush. Overall, it was a great year!
Does all Maine Sugarworks syrup come from the trees on your property?
No, we have several maple stands that we tap some are next to our home others are on different farms. We also
purchase some bulk Maine syrup to blend with ours. All syrup is blended. The sap from each individual tree is blended
with the sap of other trees, the sap from each sugarbush is blended together before it is boiled each night, and many
days' syrup production is blended together for bottling. Before bottling, we sample, discuss and choose the best blend
according to flavor. It is all about flavor; we pride ourselves on the delicious rich flavor of our maple syrup.
How is maple syrup graded?
The State of Maine has four maple syrup grades: Light Amber, Medium Amber, Dark Amber and Extra Dark Amber.
These four grades are based exclusively on the lightness or darkness of the syrup. At Maine Sugarworks, we take great
pride in our signature dark amber color with a strong wood-fired, maple flavor.
How long can maple syrup be stored and used?
Maple Syrup is an all-natural product with no preservatives. Unopened containers of pure maple syrup can be stored in
a cool, dark place for over a year without refrigeration. Syrup will keep indefinitely if it is stored in the freezer as it
preserves the flavor but because of its high sugar content, it won’t freeze. After opening, the syrup should be
refrigerated. If mold forms on the surface of your maple syrup, simply skim it off and reheat on the stove or in the
microwave to just below boiling, then place it in a clean container and refrigerate. Glass is recommended as it preserves
the color and flavor longer than other containers.
When is the Maine maple syrup season?
In the western mountains of Maine, maple season usually starts in late February/early March. Townspeople get excited
when they spot the first sap buckets around town; it’s a sure sign that the days of winter are numbered and mud season
is just around the corner. Sugaring season usually lasts 4-6 weeks; everything depends on the weather. The sap
usually stops running around mid-April, when the nighttime temperatures remain above freezing and the tree buds
begin to swell in preparation for leafing-out.
What are the right weather conditions for sap flow?
The maple trees’ sap flow mechanism depends on temperatures which alternate back and forth past the freezing point
(32 °F). The best sap flows come when nighttime temperatures are in the low 20's and daytime temperatures are in the
40's. The longer it stays below freezing at night, the longer it will take for the sap to rise in the day. During the
day, as the tree warms up and the tree's internal pressure builds, the sap begins to flow. At this point, the sap will run
from a tap hole or even a broken twig or branch. For good sap production, maple producers must have the alternating
warm/cold temperatures. This is why it’s so impossible to predict the outcome of the maple syrup crop from year to
What does maple sap look and taste like?
Maple sap, as it drips from the tree, is a clear liquid containing about 2% dissolved sugar. It looks just like water, and
has a very slight sweet taste. The true maple flavor comes out as the water is removed in the boiling process.
Does tapping harm the maple trees?
Proper tapping does not harm the tree, and the amount of sap taken from the tree is a very small fraction of the
overall volume of sap in the tree. Trees must be about 10” in diameter before they can be tapped, and most trees
can have one or two taps per season. Larger trees may have more. Many of the big maple trees in New England have
been tapped yearly for well over 100 years. Last year we changed all of our pipeline traditional taps (spiles) to the new
“health spile” which requires a smaller hole that heals much quicker. Most maple producers (but not all) understand that
their maple trees are their ‘bread and butter’ and go to great lengths not to stress the trees by over tapping.
How much sap does it take to make a gallon of syrup?
Depending on the sweetness of the sap, it can take anywhere from 25-75 gallons of raw sap to make a gallon of
finished syrup. The usual amount is about 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup. Each tap in a tree will yield about 10
gallons of slightly sweet sap over the period of the 4-6 week sugaring season. These 10 gallons of sap, when boiled
down, will yield approximately one quart of finished maple syrup.
Is global warming effecting maple syrup production in Maine?
Old-timers, who have produced maple syrup for generations, remember when sap overflowed buckets many times
during a sap season. This rarely occurs today. Additionally, the annual tapping date, on average, has gotten
progressively earlier and the season shorter. As our climate changes/ warms, the 'maple belt' is shifting northward.
What can be done about global warming?
The old saying 'think globally, act locally' comes to mind. By reducing your personal energy consumption, you help to
reduce the overall impact on the environment and your budget. This is why we chose to build a superinsulated home
and drive more energy efficient 4-cylinder engine vehicles.
Can I make suggestions or comments?
Your comments are very important to us; we encourage you to provide feedback about our products, web page or any
aspect of Maine Sugarworks. Please take a moment and drop us a note-