Introduction: Tapping a Tree for Sap / Syrup Without Proper Spiles (taps)
The goal of this ible is to show you how to tap a tree (maple in this case) to get sap, without specialized equipment.
Step 1: Material
For this project, you will need:
- bit (5/8)(more likely to have a spade this size, I had an auger)
- taps (industrial spiles or1/2 inch insert coupler for last minute DIY like me! you need twice as many couplers as you will make taps, more on this later)
- 1/2 inch vinyl tube(depends how far your buckets are and how many taps you use; it should have a 5/8 O.D which means outer diameter)
- food grade buckets (as is needed / convenient depending how close or far the trees are; you want at least a spare if you aren't collecting much so that you can stockpile until you are ready to boil; I got food grade ones)
How many taps?
For each tree, you want to go roughly by these numbers. Based on the diameter (width of the tree)
- 12 inches : 1 tap
- 18 inches : 2 taps
- 24+ inches 3 taps
- bigger tree : not recommended to go above 3 taps, but old standards used to recommend no more than 4 taps for threes 3 feet in diameter
If you can get regular spiles, go for it, but they can be expensive, and I don`t like leaving the weight on there and it also means more emptying. I will be using plumbing equipment instead.
Step 2: Sterilize Everyhing
Use a 20 parts hot water 1 part bleach solution to clean everything, and then rinse multiple times with hot water.
When you do this, you can make sure your vinyl tube is very hot and then unwind it. Just hot tap water for 30 seconds will allow it to lose most of it's coil. This will help a lot later, because out in the cold, the vinyl will kink instead of bending, so if it's all out of shape, you are going to have a rough time.
Step 3: Drill Drill Drill!
Drill your hole about 2-2-1/2 inches deep. Drill at a slight angle so that the sap runs down more easily.
Drill slowly and don't push too fast. You don't want to damage the tree.
Step 4: Insert the Spile
Insert the coupler and use a mallet to tap it in gently, but snugly.
If you over tighten, or drive it in too hard, you can split the tree. It only needs to hold, no need to drive it as deep as you can. However, it does have to be snug enough that it won't fall out as the wood expands and contracts. If you aren't sure, better safe than sorry; go easy.
Step 5: Assemble the Tap and Collect Your Sap
Connect the tube to the tap and run it down to your bucket. Since I used the same 5/8 drill to make the hole, the couplers fit nicely in the holes. The barbs prevent the hose from recoiling out, and I can not use extra hose / have it dump properly into the bucket. Make sure it does not pool in the tube. To drill in plastic, you want to drill with the bit going as fast as possible, put as little pressure as you can. Sheet plastic will shear and the bit will just travel in it without making your hole; you want the heat to melt the plastic. If you have a bit with barbs on the sides, it will help as they will cut a circle around where you are drilling (spades, forsner, and some auger bits will do this)
You will want to cover the sides of the bucket with snow.
Keep an eye on your bucket daily. As you are collecting the sap, store it in a cool environment. In my case, keeping it in the bucket is enough, if I can get enough, the full bucket will just go in the garage because I am not collecting enough to do multiple batches. Do note that it can spoil. Over here, I can keep it in the snow until there is less than a week left to the collection season (when the night is below freezing and the days are warm) because snow acts as insulation. This means that even though the days are warm, the sap stays cool. If there is not enough snow, a garage or refrigerator may be necessary if you don't have enough trees going to boil every few days.
As soon as buds appear, that's the end of it, remove your spiles.
When the collection is done (since I only have very limited collection and will only process one batch at the end of the season), I will add a new ible on processing sap! :)
You will need about 40x the volume of sap to get that much syrup; but this does depend on the type of tree you tapped.
Step 6: Updates As We Wait for the Big Boiling Day....
March 31st update:
Well what started off as another bad season in the region did a full 180! record amounts of sap are just pouring out of the trees. I have collected over 1L of sap per day since the beginning of the week (having collected about 1L for the entire week before!!!)
Best news yet, they forecast at least another week like this!