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Thread: Any Birch syrup makers on here?

  1. #1
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Default Any Birch syrup makers on here?

    I think if I have time this spring I may try my hand at making some Birch Syrup for my own uses.
    I was curious if there were any other syrup makers here?
    I have ordered just about everything I didn't already own and should be set up with everything I need.
    I made maple syrup when I was a teenager and it was a lot of fun.
    I know birch will be quite a bit different but also fun.
    If there are some other syrup makers here I may have a few questions that I get conflicting answers from using Google.
    Such as can I use a copper tub to evaporate my sap or is stainless the only way to go.
    And should I plug the holes with corks or not?
    The UAF brochure says the new standard is to leave them open and let the tree heal itself but other sources say it could be bad for the tree.
    Also I bought a refractometer for its simplicity in checking sugar content so I know when it is done. The refractometer also only requires a few drops of syrup vs a few ounces for the hydrometer. But some online searching seems to indicate a preference for the hydrometer for many people.
    I am going to be using plastic spiles and tubing to buckets on the ground as that's how I collected my maple sap before and it worked well for me then so why change?
    Anyway this could lead to some good discussion so lets talk Birch Syrup!
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

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    Member JR2's Avatar
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    I did it once, it was a ton of wot for a quart of ok syrup. Took hours of tending the reducing syrup. I had no idea what I was doing, you sound like you do. One thing that surprised me was the amount of sap that comes out of a birch tree. Gallon or two a day. Good luck.
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Yeah I've got a pretty good idea of how it all works.
    I know it's a lot of work for a little syrup especially at ratios of 100:1 or more.
    But it's something fun to do that I can make at home while enjoying more time in the great outdoors.

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    Member logman 49's Avatar
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    I made Birch syrup years ago as well as Maple and Boxelder syrup. It was a lot of work but the kids helped. If I remember correctly we tapped about 30 birch trees and would get maybe 30-40 gallons of sap on a good day. Your right about the ratios we figure somewhere between 80-100 to one, sure like the maple ratios better.
    Never used a refractometer or hydrometer, just cooked it down very slowly at the end.
    We just hung buckets on the taps, tubing between a few trees would be the way to go. Always left the hole in the tree to heal naturally, we would tap the same trees year after year without any problems with the trees health.
    I made all my evaporating equipment out of Stainless.
    Good luck with your sugar bush.

  5. #5
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Maple ratios definitely make it easier.
    I know birch is a lot more finicky than maple so I want to get it right and not ruin all my hard work.
    Many birch trees are forked or even tripled etc so I think the tubing will work well.
    That reminds me I need to order some tee's for it.
    My goal is at least a gallon of syrup.
    Of course I will split it with a friend who has agreed to help.
    Still have a few details to work out but I think I'll be ready when the sap runs if work doesn't get in the way.

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  6. #6

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    My wife and I have done it before. Look for trees with the biggest crowns with good southern exposure to get the highest yield. You can plug the holes with moss. I have heard it helps prevent an infection. I've just used plastic spickets before. Not sure about the stainless vs. copper. I've seen the refractometers before but have never used them. I just taste the syrup to see if it's done. Like others have said, it's a lot of work. I believe the birch syrup is a 100 to 1 ratio as opposed to the 50 to 1 ratio of maple syrup. So twice as much boiling is required. If you can burn it outside on a fire that will save you a lot of gas/fuel/energy etc. The sugar produced is actually fructose instead of sucrose so it's not as sweet as the maple syrup and it's not really the best topping for pancakes in my opinion. It does however make an excellent topping over ice cream. Also, you can drink the sap straight from the bucket and it makes an excellent tonic. Delicious to drink straight out of the tree. Also, my wife and I tried making birch beer from it once. It did work, but I think it was more work than it was worth. But, it was kinda cool. That's about all I know. Good luck. Oh, and make sure you start tapping trees BEFORE the leaves start to bud out. Once the leaf buds show up pull all your taps. The sap will start to get rotten once that happens. I believe we started tapping about mid April tip about the first of May. Somewhere around that time.

  7. #7
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    I ordered some leader brand 5/16 tree saver taps.
    I also got some tubing and tees of the same brand.
    A friend owns a laundromat and I'm sure he's got some buckets for me at a reasonable price.
    All they had in them was laundry detergent so wash and go on those.
    I have a campfire brand double propane burner I'm going to use.
    I considered wood but am thinking that's alot more work for this first year.
    But I could change my mind before all this happens.
    If I was a drinker I would definitely try making some Mead. But I don't drink.
    I'm definitely going to try it in my Chaga tea.
    We will find plenty of uses for it I am sure.


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    Member 0321Tony's Avatar
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    I wonder how a distilled liquor from birch sap would taste? I have had birch wine and it was pretty good, like a white wine with a syrup aftertaste.

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0321Tony View Post
    I wonder how a distilled liquor from birch sap would taste? I have had birch wine and it was pretty good, like a white wine with a syrup aftertaste.

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    Watching YouTube videos on birch and maple taping I found one where a gal makes Mead out of maple sap.
    If I was a drinker I would try making it.
    I'm not sure how a distilled liquor would turn out.
    I guess there's always experimentation.
    I could loan you a couple taps to do some testing.lol
    Do you ever use a refractometer to test your homebrew? Or are you a hydrometer kind of person?
    Will be interesting to see how the syrup develops by checking every few hours rather than guessing.
    I'm developing a more serious interest in making more things at home from what nature provides.
    I harvest Chaga,morels and all manner of berries.
    I took a class this winter on making lotions and salves from wild medicinal plants.
    This should fit right in with that stuff.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

    "Fishing and Hunting are only an addiction if you're trying to quit"

  10. #10
    Member 0321Tony's Avatar
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    I definitely need to learn more of what is around to eat rather than just the basics.
    I use a hydrometer to check my home brew and I've had birch wine before ND it was pretty good I might have to try tapping a few trees this spring and see how it goes. Birch brandy might be good.

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    Member trochilids's Avatar
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    I've been thinking about this, too. Lots of birch on our property. I'm a bit concerned about the time involved (have a ton of other projects -- firewood, garden, fences (for garden!), orchard, etc. But I'd like to try tapping a few birch trees and see what I get. I've read that the birch sap itself is actually rather refreshing (even sold on Amazon), so I'm probably going to start with that without boiling it down for syrup. Guess you can freeze it for consumption later and it will keep a while longer than in the fridge???
    Palmer, Alaska
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  12. #12

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    I use a refractometer when deciding the optimum time to harvest grapes for wine. I've tested mine against my hydrometer and it seems to agree with it. It should be an easy quick guide of how much starting sugar you have.

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  13. #13
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trochilids View Post
    I've been thinking about this, too. Lots of birch on our property. I'm a bit concerned about the time involved (have a ton of other projects -- firewood, garden, fences (for garden!), orchard, etc. But I'd like to try tapping a few birch trees and see what I get. I've read that the birch sap itself is actually rather refreshing (even sold on Amazon), so I'm probably going to start with that without boiling it down for syrup. Guess you can freeze it for consumption later and it will keep a while longer than in the fridge???
    Yes you can freeze it.
    Another thing sometimes done is to let it partially freeze and remove the ice chunks. That ice is nearly pure water and will help raise your sugar content in your sap.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

    "Fishing and Hunting are only an addiction if you're trying to quit"

  14. #14
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by springer View Post
    I use a refractometer when deciding the optimum time to harvest grapes for wine. I've tested mine against my hydrometer and it seems to agree with it. It should be an easy quick guide of how much starting sugar you have.

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    I ended up ordering two refractometers. A 0-10% for measuring the sap and 0-80% to measure when I have reached the finished goal of 60+ brix so it will be sweet enough and shelf stable.
    The 0-10% will be more easily read for the low percentage that the sap will have.
    I ordered the cheapest ones and I hope that doesn't bite me in the end.
    Still waiting on some of my supplies to arrive in the mail.
    I ordered from two different maple tap vendors for the taps tubing and tees and such to see which one I like better as the prices were the same at both of them. That and I forgot some stuff so needed to order some more stuff.
    One company only had tubing in 500' rolls but the other had it in 100' sections.
    I am going to use taps and then tube the sap into buckets on the ground so only need a few short sections.
    Hopefully I have time this spring as work is asking me to work more than I already am and I don't have much free time as it is.
    They had me on a schedule that would have worked out then decided to change it again and make me work a 6+ week hitch.
    Hopefully I can get that changed.
    Good luck to all with the tapping and sap collecting.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

    "Fishing and Hunting are only an addiction if you're trying to quit"

  15. #15
    Member ergoman's Avatar
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    We tapped in Michigan just around the yard with the same 15 cast aluminum taps we've had for years and would get 3-4 quarts a year just for us to use. We brought the taps up and found them last winter so my kid got all fired up to make some more syrup like she did when she was little. We got several free/cheap frosting buckets and lids from Walmart to store sap. We've always just cut an upside down V in the top shoulder of a clean gallon milk/water jug and push it over the stop on the tap that a bucket wire would catch on. Works fine for us for the small amount we do. Boil it hard in a turkey fryer and finish off on the stove. We like birch syrup much lighter than our sugar/silver maple syrup. We've always cut a green plug from a limb on the same tree and whittled it to a light press fit, just how I was taught and it seems to work fine.

  16. #16
    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    When I did Maple syrup growing up the we made our own taps from some copper flex tubing. Ran plastic tubing to 5 gallon pails that I got for free from my aunt's restaurant.
    It worked out well because if the temp stayed below 40* I could leave the buckets out till they were full then bring them in.
    Made for less work that way and worked out well.
    This time around I ordered some plastic spiles that are supposed to be easier on the trees.
    They were only 59 cents each anyway including shipping. Can't beat that price for what few I needed.
    I also got some tees so some trees I may just tube two spiles together to one bucket for some of the trees with two trunks from the one stump.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    Yes you can freeze it.
    Another thing sometimes done is to let it partially freeze and remove the ice chunks. That ice is nearly pure water and will help raise your sugar content in your sap.
    It's interesting you mentioned this because its the traditional way to transform hard cider into apple jack.

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  18. #18
    Member trochilids's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    Yes you can freeze it.
    Another thing sometimes done is to let it partially freeze and remove the ice chunks. That ice is nearly pure water and will help raise your sugar content in your sap.
    That makes a lot of sense. Worth trying.
    Palmer, Alaska
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  19. #19
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    I tried out the birch sap to syrup from three trees in my tiny anchorage yard. I used to do quite a bit of maple syrup making when I was a young lad; I asked for a new plastic garbage can for my 12th birthday so I could store my sap in it, lol.
    I used the metal taps with the slight edge on top to hold on the container. I cut an upside down capital T towards the top of the milk or water 1 gallon plastic jug and stuck it on, left the cap on to keep out bugs. They rarely fell off the tap. My uncle used the plastic lines from tree to tree down a slight hill to his boiling shack.
    In anchorage I wanted to give birch a whirl even though I am not set up properly, I tapered down some 3/8" pex tubing and stuck it into the tree with a couple feet lenght over onto my deck railing near my front porch with a coffee cup under it to get a cup of "spring tonic" sap whenever I walked by. As far as boiling, i used a large stainless mixing bowl and heated it with my weed burner, not cost effective but just trying it out mostly. I believe I heated too fast or too long or both as the syrup was dark and had a burnt taste. I would use a more even, slower method, erring on the light side if doing it again.
    I would be apprehensive to use detergent or any non food related buckets as I don't trust that all the bad chemicals would ever be out of the plastic. I haven't heard of anyone using copper instead of stainless but I would guess that the only reason is that its more rare and expensive to have copper containers rather than stainless. (Also, Copper has more bacteria killing tendencies than stainless)
    ALSO!!! Don't Leave the boiling unattended because if you drop the level too far and evaporate all the water out, the container will never be the same!!! (School of hard knocks on that one)

    The next thing I want to make is "birch oil" , interesting stuff....

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