Advances in Maple Syrup Production

Maple syrup is made by much the same process today as it has been for generations. When the end of winter brings warm days and cold nights, sugar maples are tapped to collect sap, which is then boiled to remove water. Since the 1970s, technological advances have helped make this process less labor intensive and more energy efficient. These include reverse osmosis filters, vacuum pumps, sap preheaters, and tubing lines that carry sap straight from tree to sugar house.

Reverse Osmosis Systems

Reverse osmosis (RO) filtering systems remove 75% or more of the water from maple sap before it reaches the evaporator. Sap is pumped through a series of membranes to filter out water, leaving behind a concentrate. This cuts boiling time by 50–75% and fuel consumption by up to 66%. Already common among big producers in Vermont, RO systems are now an increasingly cost-effective choice for smaller sugar makers, too.

  • Cut boiling time by 50–75%, reduce labor and fuel expenses, increase production
  • Remove more than 75% of the water content from sap before it reaches the evaporator
  • Can be cost-effective for small producers

Sap Preheating and Evaporator Efficiency

Sugar makers have other ways to reduce their fuel usage. Sap preheaters and steam-enhanced units recycle evaporator steam to preheat sap before it enters the pan. Steam-aways also speed up evaporation, by injecting air into the sap and making it foam. As for evaporators, efficiency opportunities can be found in both new units and retrofits. Making a wood-fueled firebox tight, for example, cuts cordwood usage by up to 30%.

  • Recapture steam to lower energy demand on evaporators
  • Reduce fuel usage by up to 40% with steam-enhanced units
  • Cut cordwood usage by up to 30% by making your firebox airtight

Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Controllers

Maple sap vacuum pump variable frequency drive (VFD) controllers vary the pump’s speed to deliver only what’s needed in the moment. They allow a vacuum pump to ramp down, for instance, when sap stops flowing because temperatures have dropped below freezing. As a result, VFDs reduce electricity use and lengthen the life of both pump and motor. They also maintain optimal vacuum pressure, making it obvious when there’s a break in a line.

  • Minimize electricity used by maple sap vacuum pumps
  • Pump and motor experience less wear and tear, longer life span
  • Be alerted when there’s a break in a tubing line