How To Tap A Maple Tree | Maple Sugaring For Beginners

Have you been wanting to make your own maple syrup, but don’t know how to tap a maple tree? Maple tapping is something we wanted to do for a very long time after we moved to Rosevine Cottage. Not just because we love maple syrup or have a bunch of mature maple trees- we genuinely thought it sounded like fun!


So when I unwrapped a maple tapping kit this Christmas I was ecstatic! I could not wait to try it, so- on to the computer, I hopped researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. I typed in “Maple tapping“, “How to tap your maple trees” and “When to tap your trees in Tennessee” in the search bar and did more reading until I was finally confident I wouldn’t mess things up and had a pretty good grasp of when, and how to do this and as soon as the weather was right we jumped in and tried for the first time. We’ve been doing it for years now and it’s a highlight of our winter!


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Maple tap, maple leaf and maple syrup | How To Tap Maple Trees For Beginners #rosevinecottagegirls

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How To Tap A Maple Tree


Doing maple tapping for the first time was both exciting and terrifying at the same time, but it’s really much easier than you think. It’s also a great family project to get the kids involved in!


Does It Hurt A Maple A Tree To Tap It?


Tapping a maple tree for syrup doesn’t hurt the tree unless it’s drilled 2 1/2 inches deep. In this case, you can drill into the heart of the tree causing damage. 


Can You Tap Any Maple Tree?


Yes! All types of maple trees can be tapped for syrup along with birch and Walnut trees and many other trees. 


The Beginner’s Guide To Tapping Maple Trees


Step 1: Identify Maple Trees For Tapping


We already knew which trees were maples so we skipped the identification stage when we tapped our maple trees for the first time. Over the years as we added trees and other plants we drew a map of where things were and what they were. Making the first step a breeze. Many types of maples can be tapped (not just sugar maples) the most common are silver, red and black maples. Maple trees that you intend to tap should be at least 12 inches around the trunk and healthy.


How To Tell A Maple Tree


It’s best to search your property for maple trees in the summer or fall when they are easily identified for taping later in the season. To tell a maple tree apart from other trees look at the leaves, the maple leaf has 5 lobes with very few large “teeth”, which are about 4″ wide. The division between the lobes is rounded. Maple leaves are also a bright green near the top and pale green down to the bottom. A maples leaves turn bright yellow, orange, or red in the fall.


Maple Tree Leaves


Step 2: What Do You Need To Tap A Maple Tree?


Here’s what you will need to tap a maple tree:

  • Spike
  • Tubing or hose
  • Hammer
  • Drill & drill bit
  • Bucket or bottles


Maple tapping kit

We already had a kit (you can find the one we bought here) so we stopped by our local home away from home (not to be confused with Hobby Lobby) that’s right Lowes and picked up 1-gallon food grade buckets and lids. (We realized later we could have used gallon water jugs for this). Our kit came with ten spiles (also called taps) so we bought 10 1-gallon buckets and a 5-gallon bucket to pour the syrup into while collecting it from the taps.


Maple tap or spile
Spike or Spile




What we used: 

Tapping Kit
10 1-Gallon Buckets
1 5-Gallon Bucket
5/16th Drill Bit
Electric Drill (cordless would be easiest but if you are impatient like me and don’t want to wait for the battery to charge you can use a corded one as we did)


You can purchase a tapping kit like we did our you can make or purchase individual pieces to tap your maple trees. The most important things you’ll need are a drill, hose, spike, and something to catch the sap to get you started on your how to tap a maple tree adventure.


drilling bucket for maple tapping


Our maple tapping kit came with 10 pre-cut hoses, so we drilled a hole just big enough for the tube to be inserted in the lid of each food grade bucket. The easiest way to get the hoses into the predrilled holes is to dip the ends in hot water for several seconds and then insert that way they are softer. It’s really important that it be a snug fit so it stays inside the lid and doesn’t slide out. 


Maple tap collection bucket


Our finished collecting buckets look like this, super easy to assemble and disassemble to store away at the end of the season. And light enough to haul around the farm without being cumbersome. 


Step 3 How To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup


Now that you’ve identified your maple trees, and collected what you need it’s time to learn how to tap maple trees. Don’t worry it’s not as hard as it sounds. Get your drill with a 5/16ths drill bit and drill into the tree at a slightly upward angle. It’s really important that you don’t go straight in, the angle helps funnel the sap into your tap for you to collect.



How Deep To Tap A Maple Tree


Drill in about an inch past the bark into the white wood (eye protection is recommended- I have a feeling Mr. Cottage would frown at my use of sunglasses for this job, but hey a girl’s got to use what she has). Sap should start to flow almost immediately if it doesn’t give it a bit, and check again. If it still isn’t flowing try drilling at a steeper angle. 


drilling a maple tree for the maple tap

Once your hole is drilled, insert the smooth end of the spile into the hole you just drilled and gently tap with a hammer (like you see in the picture below), loose is better than tight in this scenario because you are going to need to take it back out after the sap flow has slowed down. Ideally, your tap should be above a large root, or under a large branch, on the south side of the tree. 


Inserting spike into maple tree


If you haven’t done so already (ahem! We took our own root and attached them when we were preparing the buckets, connect the tubing to the spile (again hot water will help with this).  It’s important to secure the buckets to the tree especially if the ground isn’t flat. We simply tied our buckets with twine to our trees to stabilize them.


DIY Maple Tapping Set Up #rosvinecottagegirls

Check your buckets at least once a day, I like to check my buckets in the morning and at night since some of our trees are heavy producers. You’ll need to process the maple sap rather quickly if you don’t want to store it in the refrigerator or at 32 degrees F. Storing it someplace cold will give you about a week before it has to be boiled into syrup.


When To Tap A Maple Tree


Put your maple taps in when the weather is freezing at night, and warming above freezing during the day. The best days for collecting maple sap is when the high is between 50-60 degrees F. and the low between 20-30 degrees F. This causes the sap to rise to the top of the tree while it is warm, and return to the bottom when it is cold.  It will take around 6 gallons (yes you read that right) to make 1 quart of syrup, make sure you check out our article on how to boil maple sap.


How Much Syrup Can A Maple Tree Produce In One Day?


A maple tree will produce around 9.2 to 13.2 gallons of sap per season, and up to 3.2 gallons in one day. So the more maple trees you have on your property the better. 


When Should You Stop Collecting Maple Syrup?


When temperatures stay consistently above freezing or your maple trees have budded out it’s time to stop collecting sap. Remove your taps, clean, and store them away for next year. 


How Long Can You Leave A Tap In A Maple Tree?


You can leave a maple tap in a maple tree for about 4-5 weeks, after that the tap can often seal up and go dry. When that happens you can either remove the tap or wait for the season to end and then pull it.


Should You Plug Maple Tap Holes?


There is no need to plug the holes after you have finished collecting syrup, trees know how to heal their own wounds and will take care of it themselves. 


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