Maple Sugaring in Vermont

Sugarmaking in Vermont tradition is a deeply rooted tradition, with Vermont leading in the U.S. for number of trees tapped every year since 1916 (USDA, 2023). In 2023, the state produced over two million gallons of syrup, more than any other state in the country.

Read on to learn how maple syrup is made, the factors that influence its taste and color, and how the practice has evolved since the early days of collecting sap from buckets by hand or with a horse-drawn sleigh.


The old Wood Family sugarhouse was built in 1970 on the southeast side of Kirby Mountain in Kirby, Vermont. This sugarbush was one of the first in the area to be piped with plastic tubing, which ran downhill from the tapped trees to the sugarhouse's holding tanks. 

Before European settlers colonized the area, Native Americans in the northeast processed maple sap by collecting the sugary liquid in bark vessels, leaving it out to freeze, and removing the ice to concentrate the sugar. The sap was also boiled by adding hot stones to the wooden vessels. When European settlers arrived with iron kettles, they began producing syrup by boiling sap over open fires. 

Today, sap is often still gathered the old-fashioned way by tapping trees with a metal spout from which a bucket is hung. More modern sugarmaking operations use plastic tubing to connect taps to a network of pipes that transport sap to holding tanks in the sugarhouse. From there, the sap flows into a heated evaporating pan where it is boiled until the sugar is concentrated to a perfect density and the syrup can be poured off for filtering and canning.

40 gallons 

The volume of maple sap that must be boiled down to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

10-20 gallons

The amount of sap one tap will typically produce in a year. Trees will produce sap year after year.

2% sugar

The approximate sugar content of maple sap, which must be concentrated to produce syrup.

Today, our sugarhouse is equipped with new technology that increases the efficiency and yield of syrup production.

New technology has advanced the way maple syrup is produced in the past few decades. Vacuum systems connected to sugarbush tubing provide a more efficient and sanitary method of sap collection in vacuum-sealed pipes. Reverse osmosis helps speed up the boiling process by removing water content from the sap before it enters the boiling pans. Similarly, "pre-evaporator" pans further reduce the water content and produces a concentrated sap that flows into the flue pan for the final boiling step. Flue pans have a series of channels that the sap flows through, becoming progressively more concentrated. Finally, the syrup reaches the perfect density and is drawn off. The final steps involve filtering, either with simple cloth filters or more advanced filter press systems with diatomaceous earth, and canning in sterilized jugs. 


A grading kit is used to determine the color grade of maple syrup by visual comparison with standard samples. Image from The University of Maine Maple Syrup Grading School.

Vermont maple syrup is graded for taste and color using a system that was established in 2015 to align with international color standards. The lightest class of syrup, which used to be known as "fancy" grade, has a delicate, mild maple flavor and light golden color and is delicious on ice cream and pancakes. Amber syrup with rich flavor has a more pronounced maple flavor, great for all-around table use. The darker grades (dark amber with robust taste and very dark with strong taste) are best for cooking and baking due to the stronger maple flavor.  Syrup color is determined by the percent of light transmission through the liquid.

Many factors influence syrup grade - the pH of the sap, sugar content, types of sugar, boiling time, temperature, microbial activity, and more. The golden delicate syrup Kirby Mountain Maple is known for is a product of low microbial activity due to sanitary handling, frigid nights in our sugarbush, and our granite-based soils.

-Kirby Mountain Maple, LLC. -

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