DIY Maple Syrup 101: A Sugar Maker’s Glossary

March 28, 2020

You’ve started making your own maple syrup, but are still a bit stymied by some of the maple lingo out there. We offer a sugar maker’s glossary for your edification!

A “spile,”  pictured here, is a plastic or metal spout that channels the sap from the maple tree into a line or bucket. 

As you’ve started making your own maple syrup you’ve run into some terms that are unfamiliar to you. Enter the sugar maker’s glossary! If a term you’ve been wondering about is missing, email us. We’ll do the research and give you a definition!

arch – (noun) a structure that holds evaporator pans above a cookfire; the term probably originated before evaporators were developed, when people commonly boiled in pans or kettles over an open flame, but is now used  synonymously with “evaporator”

baffled pan – (noun) an evaporator pan with dividers that channel boiling sap around the pan, allowing for a continuous boil

boil – (verb) to cause maple sap to reach the temperature at which it bubbles and the water contained therein turns to vapor; (noun) the activity of turning maple sap into maple syrup, or an event featuring the turning of maple sap into maple syrup

finishing pan – (noun) a pan used to turn highly concentrated maple sap into maple syrup

fire box – (noun) the part of an evaporator that encloses the cookfire and supports the evaporator pan(s); the term is sometimes used synonymously with “arch”

flat pan – (noun) an evaporator pan that lacks baffles or flues; when used in conjunction with other evaporator pans, also known as “syrup pan” or “front pan”

flue pan – (noun) an evaporator pan with channels on the bottom designed to increase the surface area maple sap is exposed to the heat of the cookfire; when used in conjunction with other evaporator pans, also known as a “sap pan” or “back pan”

grade – (verb) the act of judging finished maple syrup by the quality standards of color, clarity, density and flavor; (noun) the color class of a particular volume of maple syrup: golden, amber, dark or very dark

hydrometer – (noun) an instrument used to measure the sugar content of maple sap (“sap hydrometer”) or maple syrup (“syrup hydrometer”) in units known as “brix”

nitre – (noun) a term used to describe water soluble minerals in maple sap that, as water is removed through evaporation, join together and adhere to each other in crystals (these crystals are also known as “sugar sand”); the term is also used to describe such minerals that, alone or in conjunction with sugar crystals, burns on to an evaporator pan during a “boil”

rig – (noun) slang for “evaporator,” also used synonymously with “arch,” and commonly referring to a self-made system of sap evaporation

run – (noun) the time at which sap flows in a maple tree; (verb) the movement of maple sap during early spring, particularly the movement that causes it to exit the tree through a “tap”

spile – a plastic or metal spout that channels the sap from the maple tree into a line or bucket

sugar bush – (noun) a group of sugar maple trees that are mature and healthy enough to be tapped, also known as “sugar stand”

sugar house – (noun) a structure that houses equipment used to make maple syrup from maple sap, also known as “sugar shack” in slang

sugar maker – (noun) any person who makes maple syrup from maple sap; originating from a time when maple sap was commonly boiled beyond syrup and down to sugar for easy storage before metal or glass containers were available or accessible

sugar sand – (noun) a term used to describe water soluble minerals in maple sap that, as water is removed through evaporation, join together and adhere to each other in crystals; such minerals are removed from syrup by filtering

sugar stand – (noun) a group of sugar maple trees that are mature and healthy enough to be tapped, also known as “sugar bush”

tap – (noun) the wound in a tree that allows maple sap to exit the tree; (verb) to make such a wound in a maple tree

warming pan – (noun) a pan used to increase the temperature of maple sap before it is introduced to the “boil”