Making Your Own Maple Syrup Just Got A Little Easier

[ctstarkdesigns] had fond memories of collecting maple syrup as a child. At the same time, he also remembered the work involved: from lugging buckets around on an unstable snow mobile to accidentally burning the mixture and making all the effort for naught. So he set out to make things a little easier this time around by building his own evaporator.

The build starts as many do, with a surplus 44-gallon drum. With an off-the-shelf kit, and some cutting and welding, it’s readily repurposed into a stove capable of burning wood in a roaring fire. From there, it’s a simple matter of making a few further incisions to install warming trays, used to hold the takings from the maple trees. There, the mixture can be boiled down into the tasty, delicious substance that goes so perfectly on pancakes.

The build has the dual benefits of both easing the boiling process and keeping the user warm while doing so. Already, the rig has proven itself as an adept heater, and we’re sure it will only prove more popular once it’s producing sweet maple syrup en mass. If that’s not enough, consider building an entirely automated system in your back yard!

23 thoughts on “Making Your Own Maple Syrup Just Got A Little Easier

  1. I wonder if you could regulate the temperature passively by using a Bain-marie arrangement with an oil or other liquid selected in place of water. By choosing a liquid with a boiling point close to the desired temperature, it would then keep the syrup at or below that temperature and the outer tank could be sealed and connected to a condenser (e.g. an old car radiator, since contamination isn’t an issue) to prevent loss of the coolant.

  2. A former girlfriend’s family ran a sugar bush operation. I helped out sometimes. What impressed me most was the unbelievable quantity of wood needed to boil down commercial quantities of maple maple syrup.

    That was 40 years ago. These days, pretty much every non-trivial operation uses reverse osmosis to get he first factor-of-ten reduction in water, and then uses oil- or gas-fired boilers to evaporate the remainder and to get the caramelization that lends the colour and flavour. I’ll bet it would be easy to do this at home-kitchen-scale now too.

      1. That’s much harder than it sounds. Freezing only separates a fraction of the sugar out: much remains in the ice. You have to go through several freeze-thaw cycles to separate most of the sugar out, akin to distillation requiring multiple stages to get pure product. Pretty iffy and time-consuming proposition if you’re depending on mother nature to do the freezing for you (especially during spring run-off), and energetically expensive if you do it mechanically. More reliable and no more expensive to just boil it (especially if your wood is cheap), but much cheaper to do membrane-based RO.

    1. If you think making syrup takes a lot of wood, try making your own charcoal for BBQing. I often joke to friends about how inefficient a process it is, and they laugh until they see it. Then they laugh until they try some of the charcoal. Once you have made your own it is hard to go back to stuff in a bag.

      I have fond childhood memories of boiling sap outside. That is something I would like to perhaps revisit again sometime. We did not have a lot of trees so we use the old system with the wooden taps hammered into holes in the trees and catch buckets hanging from them. We would collect a few big buckets full and start cooking it down. Fond times hanging out outside with my old man in front of the fire.

    2. Do I want my syrup to taste like gas or oil? I think you will lose the flavour of wood when you use RO. Im old school and perfer the outdoors and the woody taste! Keeps me in shape (mostly rounded) during the end of winter!

      John, Ontario

          1. No, I’m not.
            If you are making a smoky fire in an evaporator, you’re incompetent.
            If you think a rocket stove can provide ten times the amount of heat for a given amount of wood, you’re just plain delusional.

          2. Granted, I haven’t come across any figures for using rocket stove tech in an *evaporator*, so ‘ten times’ is probably a little optimistic, but six or seven times or above should be entirely doable. …and yes, rocket stove mass heaters *DO* use eight to ten times less wood to keep folks’ homes heated. That has been repeatedly proven by the homeowners themselves. Please do some research before throwing out insults; you are damaging your reputation.

          3. I’ve been burning wood to heat my home partly or entirely for more than forty years. Everything from barrels, double barrels, pot stoves, kitchen wood stoves, open and enclosed fireplaces, all the way to a dedicated fluidized-bed forced-air furnace. For a long while I cut, dragged, chopped and stacked that wood myself — trust me, that’s powerful incentive to understand and improve the efficiency of your heating appliance.

            To compare a rocket-type camp stove to an open fire then, sure, I can see how an incompetent twit can easily burn ten times as much wood to make their coffee on an open fire.

            But there’s no way any kind of rocket-type stove is going to be even “six or seven times or above” efficient as any other decent enclosed burner, no matter how much religious fervor is applied. Thermodynamics just isn’t that accommodating.

            Research (such as it is): states: “In field tests in India, rocket stoves used 18 to 35 percent less fuel compared to the traditional stoves and reduced fuel used 39-47 percent compared to the simple traditional open three-stone fire.”

            Yes, I’ll admit you can find lots of anecdotal reports of people saying rocket stoves burn much less fuel. Tough to find a real certified test claiming same.

          4. Hmmm… I see part of the problem. When I initially said ‘rocket *stove* setup’, I should have been more precise and said ‘rocket *mass heater* setup’, which *does* have the well-established eight to ten times heating efficiency when compared to conventional wood stoves. My apologies.

            As for *certified* testing, I highly doubt that anyone will both; they just build their heaters and tell anyone who is interested how well they work. Here is a post about their experiences by a couple who have been building them for *years*: Pay close attention to the combustion, recombustiion, and exhaust temps: 1500F & 1800F+ vs 100F+. That 1700F+ of heat is retained within the building to heat it.
            (Compare that with conventional woodstoves that *require by law* that the exhaust temperature be at least 250F to prevent creosote buildup. That isn’t a problem with a rocket stove/mass heater, as even the *smoke* is completely burned up–once the recombustion chamber gets up to temp in 5-8 minutes.) Usually, they are only fired up for an hour or two once a day to keep everyone toasty for the next day or so.

            In short, those who use them *KNOW* how much more efficient rocket stove tech is at turning fuel into usable heat energy. (Also check out ‘masonry stoves’, which have used the same technology for *centuries*.)

  3. Isn’t a bit early for maple syrup? Quebec has long been a big source of maple syrup, and it’s still winter here. You need warmer days and cool nights for the sap to run.

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