How to Build a Maple Syrup Evaporator From a Drum

Written by megan shoop
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Making backyard maple syrup, or sugaring, is a long but easy process, especially if you have easily tapped maple trees nearby. Large sugaring businesses often purchase syrup-making systems that include industrial taps, hoses, thermometers and evaporators. Amateur syrup makers or small business owners, however, don't need a lot of professional equipment to make good-quality maple syrup. Plastic buckets, homemade spouts and cooking thermometers work just fine for sugaring, along with a large metal drum for an evaporator. Metal drums are large, cylindrical steel barrels used to transport water, alcholic beverages, oil, chemicals and sometimes foodstuffs. They can hold from about 10 to 100 gallons of liquid. They look similar to industrial-sized dustbins. The evaporator holds maple sap over a fire until it comes to a boil. Impurities and excess fluid boil off and the sap becomes dark, strong and sweet. Start with a small drum for your first try and graduate to a large one when you perfect the process.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 10- to 20-gallon drum
  • Wire brush
  • Large flat stones or bricks
  • Step ladder
  • Maple sap
  • Stirring paddle
  • Shovel
  • Wood
  • Matches
  • Lighter fluid
  • Candy thermometer

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  1. 1

    Dig a hole about two feet deep and three feet wide. Clear away all flammable objects from around the hole and line it with large stones or bricks. Stack wood in the centre of the hole for a fire. Pile more stones or bricks in a shallow wall on three sides of the hole.

  2. 2

    Clean and sterilise your drum with boiling water, a wire brush and rags. Use a drum that has held only non-toxic items like water, other food or beer. Rinse the drum several times with more boiling water and set it on top the fire pit wall so the bottom is exposed to the flames.

  3. 3

    Wait about an hour for the drum to heat and fill it with fresh maple sap. Stir the sap thoroughly about every half hour with a stirring paddle. The sap will boil down and become darker. Add more fresh sap until you have the desired volume. Your maple syrup is ready when it reaches seven degrees above boiling. For instance, if the boiling point at your altitude is 100 degrees Celsius, your syrup is done at 219 degrees.

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