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Thread: How Long Does Raw Sap Keep?

  1. #1
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    Default How Long Does Raw Sap Keep?

    I'm looking for information on how long raw sap can be stored at what temperature.

    It seems fairly widely accepted that it can go one week at 37 degrees F. But the great outdoors is not always 37 degrees F. Is there a chart for how long at what temperature? How long at 50F, how long at 60F, etc?

    I found that "snowbanking" was only practical, well, when there was snow, which there wasn't always!

    Andy

  2. #2
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    I have always been told to treat it like milk. How long would you leave milk out before you had to throw it away?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogisland42 View Post
    I have always been told to treat it like milk. How long would you leave milk out before you had to throw it away?
    Haha, well, then I repeat my question for milk! I keep milk in the fridge for about a week, but I have no more clue about other temps than I do for sap. Though it might be easier to find a chart I suppose.......

    Anyone know? Has anyone experimented? Anyone left your sap hanging on the trees for 3 days in 50F and had it still taste good?

  4. #4
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    Too many variables. The biggest being temperature, followed closely by the sanitation practices. If in bucket collection, with good clean buckets 1 day is safe at 50F but barely. The best way to judge it is clarity, if the sap is still clear it's good,
    However cloudy sap will still make good syrup, just not as much as when it was clear. Once it gets cloudy , that is caused by micro-organisms which are feeding on the sugar in the sap.
    To keep sap fresh the longest you need to keep it cool.
    I will not even attempt to make a chart for the progression of sap degradation, but Proctor may have one.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Retired from collecting and boiling in 2021. Mostly because of a bad hip.
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

  5. #5
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    I typically boil once a week, because it's a two hour drive from my home to my sugarbush/evaporator, and I work full time. If it's going to be crazy hot, or for other reasons, I may take a day off some weeks, but I typically boil weekends. So the sap is always in buckets until I come get it and boil it. Sometimes I have to dump a bucket of sap, but rarely. This year the only sap I dumped was at the end of season from some taps that were basically shut down, and had a half inch of mostly moths in the bottom.

    Here are the days I boiled, and how warm it got in between
    - 2/21 to 2/25 there were three days over 50, including one over 60. It also was in the 20s at night. Sap was fine.
    - 2/25 to 3/9 (two weeks!) six days over 40, two days over 50, and one over 60. But many nights in the single digits, and most of this time was frozen solid. Sap was fine
    - 3/9 to 3/13 three days over 40, two days over 50. Sap was fine. In fact, this was the first batch where I wasn't tossing ice from the buckets as I collected sap.
    - 3/13 to 3/19 six days over 50, one day hit 70. Sap was fine. Some buckets getting a trace of cloudiness
    - 3/19 to 3/26 most days were in the 50s. Sap was fine, though getting cloudy
    - 3/26 to 4/2 four days in the 50s or 60s. Nearly all sap was at least a little cloudy. Many trees shut down. Had to toss one or two out of 25 buckets because sap was no good, but those buckets had at most an inch or so of sap in them.

    Remember - if there's ice in your bucket, no matter how warm the air is, the liquid in the bucket is no way going to get over thirty-something degrees.

    Hope that helps.

    GO
    2016: Homemade arch from old wood stove; 2 steam tray pans; 6 taps; 1.1 gal
    2017: Same setup. 15 taps; 4.5 gal
    2018: Same setup. Limited time. 12 taps and short season; 2.2 gal
    2019: Very limited time. 7 taps and a short season; 1.8 gal
    2020: New Mason 2x3 XL halfway through season; 9 taps 2 gal
    2021: Same 2x3, 18 taps, 4.5 gal
    2022: 23 taps, 5.9 gal
    2023: 25 taps?
    All taps on buckets

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by maple flats View Post
    Too many variables.
    That's the best answer. It is dependent upon time, temperature, storage conditions (tank cleanliness and type and aeration), and type(s) of microbes present. There are several reasons for the lack of clarity.

    One reason is that different microbes have certain doubling times that vary. Growth (replication) in microbes is not linear -- it is logarithmic. Say for example it takes one cell 30 minutes to becomes 2. In the next 30 minutes they'll become 4. 30 minutes later you have 8, then 16, then 32, then 64.... So in a very short span of time growth becomes explosive under the right conditions. We're talking in the MILLIONS of microbes very quickly. Once populations build, that million becomes 2 million, then 4 million, then 8 million very quickly. Huge effect on the invert level in the sap (or concentrate) and the quality of the sap (and syrup).

    Researchers (UVM Proctor, Cornell, Centre Acer) have done work looking at this on several occasions, but I think we're all a bit wary of giving any real estimates in writing because of the wide range of variables involved. We don't want people saying...."researchers said I had 5 days, but my sap was spoiled after 3."

    Lastly, some microbes may cause sap to make dark (but good) tasting syrup, others will make horrible tasting syrup in the same time frame, and others yet will turn the sap ropey and unable to be processed. This, of course, depends upon time, temperature, collection conditions and storage conditions.

    If you can tell me which microbe(s) you have, what the sap temperature has been from the time it left the tree to the time you processed it, and how long it's been since the sap exited the tree until boiling started, I can probably provide you a general answer.

    So the best advice is ...treat sap as if it were milk, keep it cold, filter well, process quickly.
    Last edited by DrTimPerkins; 06-09-2022 at 02:07 PM.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by berkshires View Post
    I typically boil once a week, because it's a two hour drive from my home to my sugarbush/evaporator, and I work full time. If it's going to be crazy hot, or for other reasons, I may take a day off some weeks, but I typically boil weekends. So the sap is always in buckets until I come get it and boil it. Sometimes I have to dump a bucket of sap, but rarely. This year the only sap I dumped was at the end of season from some taps that were basically shut down, and had a half inch of mostly moths in the bottom.

    Here are the days I boiled, and how warm it got in between
    - 2/21 to 2/25 there were three days over 50, including one over 60. It also was in the 20s at night. Sap was fine.
    - 2/25 to 3/9 (two weeks!) six days over 40, two days over 50, and one over 60. But many nights in the single digits, and most of this time was frozen solid. Sap was fine
    - 3/9 to 3/13 three days over 40, two days over 50. Sap was fine. In fact, this was the first batch where I wasn't tossing ice from the buckets as I collected sap.
    - 3/13 to 3/19 six days over 50, one day hit 70. Sap was fine. Some buckets getting a trace of cloudiness
    - 3/19 to 3/26 most days were in the 50s. Sap was fine, though getting cloudy
    - 3/26 to 4/2 four days in the 50s or 60s. Nearly all sap was at least a little cloudy. Many trees shut down. Had to toss one or two out of 25 buckets because sap was no good, but those buckets had at most an inch or so of sap in them.

    Remember - if there's ice in your bucket, no matter how warm the air is, the liquid in the bucket is no way going to get over thirty-something degrees.

    Hope that helps.

    GO
    TONS of people do it just like this.

  8. #8
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    Believe it or not, these responses are actually pretty helpful!

    Berkshires: That's amazing! I am not remotely considering pushing things to those limits, so that makes me feel better if you're getting good results in those conditions. I have one question: Do your buckets hang on the trees or sit on the ground? I have a theory that buckets on the ground stay a bit cooler. One comment: you could find frozen sap on Friday afternoon that spent Monday through Thursday at 60F, but I get your point about ice being a good sign!

    Dr.Tim: That makes sense! I would think, though, that a study could be published with all sorts of caveats saying "well, here is what happened when we did x,y,z; variables include but are not limited to G through T" (most maple studies I've read are pretty much like this anyway, and understandably so), as opposed to "you can expect X when Y". Maybe a study is even out there; I haven't searched too exhaustively yet.

    One guy I asked who never deviated from buckets on spiles and other mid-20th-century methods from childhood until now says "3 days as long as its not like 70F". That's not very scientific, but I've got that bit of data in the mix as well.

    I do plan to boil as quickly as possible, but also thinking next year I'm not going to spend much time snow banking. It turned out to be somewhat time consuming and I'm thinking that time might be better spent bringing sap to a boil, even if I don't have time to finish it. Boiling has got to kill a lot of microbes and increase shelf life by a lot, as would higher sugar content.

    So, my question and your answers are helping me think through how I might size things according to how long and how often I think I can (and how often I think I must) boil down sap.
    I've love to hear more sap shelf life experiences if anyone's got any.
    (P.S., I've heard that bringing up to a boil more than once darkens the syrup. I'm becoming increasingly skeptical of this theory in batch processing. However, I do think, in batch processing, adding low concentration to high concentration sap during boiling does darken things considerably, and I see this done a lot)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy VT View Post
    Dr.Tim: That makes sense! I would think, though, that a study could be published with all sorts of caveats saying "well, here is what happened when we did x,y,z; variables include but are not limited to G through T" (most maple studies I've read are pretty much like this anyway, and understandably so), as opposed to "you can expect X when Y". Maybe a study is even out there; I haven't searched too exhaustively yet.
    Too many people either don't read or ignore the caveats or don't really know the conditions (temperature, exposure, microbes) to make it really useful.

    As for research...yup, several places have done these types of studies. Not a lot published on it due to the reasons I explained earlier. However you might glean some info by watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nnan...index=21&t=19s
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy VT View Post
    Believe it or not, these responses are actually pretty helpful!

    Berkshires: That's amazing! I am not remotely considering pushing things to those limits, so that makes me feel better if you're getting good results in those conditions. I have one question: Do your buckets hang on the trees or sit on the ground? I have a theory that buckets on the ground stay a bit cooler. One comment: you could find frozen sap on Friday afternoon that spent Monday through Thursday at 60F, but I get your point about ice being a good sign!
    I'm not sure I understand your point about Friday afternoon the day having ice in it.

    Once there is more than a little sap in a bucket, there is a long lag time between air temp and sap temp. So if the average temp for a couple of days is more than a little below freezing, you are going to have a solid block of ice in your bucket. Once the temp warms up the sap will start to flow from the tree, but it's going into a bucket with a huge block of ice in it. Even on warm days, it will take days for that block to melt, and in the meantime it will keep the sap cold. And usually at night it freezes up again, at least partially. So the milk analogy is a little oversimplified. Often times the question is more like: how long will milk last if it has a ten pound block of ice in it. That is a very different issue.

    Regarding hanging buckets versus ground buckets, certainly if there's ice or snow on the ground, you are right it may help keep them cold longer. I certainly pack the ground buckets in snow when it's available. But a much bigger factor in my opinion is that hanging buckets are open to the air. That means more contamination from the air and from bugs, and it also means more air circulation to warm up the sap faster on warm days. I've had many more hanging buckets go bad. The ones on the ground are loosely closed. The only thing that gets in is sap.

    The other factor is sun. Buckets with sun on them can go bad very fast. Most of my trees are in the woods, where they don't see a lot of sun, but some southern facing buckets do.

    Also, like Dr Tim says, good sanitation makes a difference. Given the doubling rate he mentioned, it pays to start out with a low number of microbes to start with.

    Cheers,

    GO
    2016: Homemade arch from old wood stove; 2 steam tray pans; 6 taps; 1.1 gal
    2017: Same setup. 15 taps; 4.5 gal
    2018: Same setup. Limited time. 12 taps and short season; 2.2 gal
    2019: Very limited time. 7 taps and a short season; 1.8 gal
    2020: New Mason 2x3 XL halfway through season; 9 taps 2 gal
    2021: Same 2x3, 18 taps, 4.5 gal
    2022: 23 taps, 5.9 gal
    2023: 25 taps?
    All taps on buckets

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