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Thread: Birch Tapping

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Uxbridge
    Posts
    44

    Default Birch Tapping

    Hello All,

    We are trying to make some birch syrup this year. With the disappointment in the Maple crop, we quickly turned our attention to some birch trees we have been eying for the last few years. There are several hundred right by the low areas around one of our pump house. We pulled all the maple taps, ran new laterals to the birch, and just like that we had a birch operation!

    We tapped using the strategy of using a few test trees and waiting until they started running to tap the rest. The first taps started flowing last Tuesday, and by Thursday we had all laterals run and trees tapped. The first couple days were slow running, but we collected a gallon per tap on Saturday, and Sunday was about 1.5 gallons per tap. We first boiled on Saturday - made some light coloured birch syrup, about 30L. Its a challenge running a 8 post RO and a 6x16 evaporator for several hundred taps! We are boiling a lot of water on the pans, using only 1 front pan for birch, but it goes very quick - 30 mins from concentrate to syrup on lowest heat.
    PCFarms - Producer of Maple Syrup and Distributor for H2O and DSD
    2019 - 30,300 taps
    2020 - 34,000 taps

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Catskill Mts, Ulster County NY
    Posts
    559

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    What are the rules about which trees to tap, diameter wise? Just wondering if it's the same as maple. I have several black birches, which do run like crazy about now if I clip a branch. I probably don't have access to enough birches to make it worthwhile though.
    Gary / Zena Crossroads / 42˚ 00' 24" N / Hobby in Early '70s, Addiction since 2014

    160+ taps on 3/16 (45 of which are on Lunchbox Vac/Releaser)
    12x34 timber framed sap house w/attached 10x14 shed roof for storage
    2 x 6 Smoky Lake hybrid pan on Corsair arch with AUF/steam hood/preheater/concentric exhaust
    7.0 KW Sun Power PV System, Smokey Lake Filter Press/Steam Bottler, NGMP 100 gph RO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Wakefield,New Hampshire
    Posts
    389

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    I've been wanting to give this a try for a few years but always seemed to be overwhelmed with maple clean up, work and all the other chores that come with spring. Planning to get it all figured out and ready for next season to tap 30 or 40 trees. I was under the impression you needed some type of double boiler pan system for boiling the last 25%ish of the birch sap to prevent scorching. Perhaps that only applies to wood fired evaporators as they are difficult to regulate heat in the firebox. Curious if there are any other members here who have done so with wood fired arches.
    6th season solo sugar maker in a young sugar bush of mostly red maples
    320 taps
    2x6 self built arch, Flat pans w/ dividers
    New 12x16 sugar house
    CDL hobby 250 RO

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Weston, CT
    Posts
    262

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PCFarms View Post
    Hello All,

    We are trying to make some birch syrup this year. With the disappointment in the Maple crop, we quickly turned our attention to some birch trees we have been eying for the last few years. There are several hundred right by the low areas around one of our pump house. We pulled all the maple taps, ran new laterals to the birch, and just like that we had a birch operation!

    We tapped using the strategy of using a few test trees and waiting until they started running to tap the rest. The first taps started flowing last Tuesday, and by Thursday we had all laterals run and trees tapped. The first couple days were slow running, but we collected a gallon per tap on Saturday, and Sunday was about 1.5 gallons per tap. We first boiled on Saturday - made some light coloured birch syrup, about 30L. Its a challenge running a 8 post RO and a 6x16 evaporator for several hundred taps! We are boiling a lot of water on the pans, using only 1 front pan for birch, but it goes very quick - 30 mins from concentrate to syrup on lowest heat.
    This sounds cool but the "KEY" information is left out. How does it taste? I have heard people say that they feel Birch syrup is unfit for human consumption.
    If you think it's easy to make good money in maple syrup .... then your obviously good at stealing somebody's Maple Syrup.

    Favorite Tree: Sugar Maple
    Most Hated Animal: Sap Sucker
    Most Loved Animal: Devon Rex Cat
    Favorite Kingpin: Bruce Bascom
    40 Sugar Maple Taps ... 23 in CT and 17 in NY .... 29 on gravity tubing and 11 on 5G buckets ... 2019 Totals 508 gallons of sap, 7 boils, 11.4 gallons of syrup.
    1 Girlfriend that gives away all my syrup to her friends.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Wakefield,New Hampshire
    Posts
    389

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar Bear View Post
    This sounds cool but the "KEY" information is left out. How does it taste? I have heard people say that they feel Birch syrup is unfit for human consumption.
    From what I've heard it should not be compared to maple syrup or any table syrup for that matter. It's mostly used to add flavor to sauces, marinades and such, not to be liberally poured on your pancakes or French toast.
    6th season solo sugar maker in a young sugar bush of mostly red maples
    320 taps
    2x6 self built arch, Flat pans w/ dividers
    New 12x16 sugar house
    CDL hobby 250 RO

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Center, Underhill Ctr, VT
    Posts
    5,579

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar Bear View Post
    I have heard people say that they feel Birch syrup is unfit for human consumption.
    Much like maple syrup, some birch syrup tastes good....some tastes bad. It largely depends upon how it is processed into syrup. The market is also quite different. Birch syrup is often used more as a flavor enhancement tool in dishes needing a kick, and less for table use. There is really no good way to compare it to maple syrup....it is a different product altogether. The commonalities are that it comes from a tree in the spring and is processed with similar equipment, but the comparison largely ends there.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    https://mapleresearch.org
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Bristol, VT
    Posts
    1,941

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by PCFarms View Post
    Hello All,

    We are trying to make some birch syrup this year. With the disappointment in the Maple crop, we quickly turned our attention to some birch trees we have been eying for the last few years. There are several hundred right by the low areas around one of our pump house. We pulled all the maple taps, ran new laterals to the birch, and just like that we had a birch operation!

    We tapped using the strategy of using a few test trees and waiting until they started running to tap the rest. The first taps started flowing last Tuesday, and by Thursday we had all laterals run and trees tapped. The first couple days were slow running, but we collected a gallon per tap on Saturday, and Sunday was about 1.5 gallons per tap. We first boiled on Saturday - made some light coloured birch syrup, about 30L. Its a challenge running a 8 post RO and a 6x16 evaporator for several hundred taps! We are boiling a lot of water on the pans, using only 1 front pan for birch, but it goes very quick - 30 mins from concentrate to syrup on lowest heat.
    I'm curious to hear more specifics of how you are processing. I'm considering getting into birch and am trying to wrap my head around how I may process with my equipment.

    -What brix are you bringing the birch sap to with the RO?
    -You're boiling the concentrate right to syrup on your evaporator?
    -What brix are you shooting for with the finished syrup?
    -What are the color and flavor of the syrup like?
    About 750 taps on High Vac.
    2.5 x 8 Intens-O-Fire
    Airtech 3 hp LR Pump
    Springtech Elite 500 RO
    14 x 24 Timber Frame SugarHouse
    16 x 22 Sap Shed w/ 1500 gal. + 700 gal. tanks
    www.littlehogbackfarm.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Uxbridge
    Posts
    44

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    One interesting difference is that once the trees start to flow, they don't stop - they just decide to start one day and then continue until the sap goes bad - we are about 1.5 weeks in, and the flow is very consistent at about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons per tap per day, everyday. I figure we have about 1000 taps going, TBC once we pull them and count the spiles. Sugar started low around 0.6 and has come up to 0.9. We have made about .05 gallons of syrup per tap, I am not sure what the target is, but Alaska Birch company gets around 0.1 gallons per tap (based on their blog). I have heard 0.25 is possible, but I cant see it based on what are are getting. If the season lasts another 3 weeks (for a total of 4.5 weeks), maybe, but I hear a 2-3 week season is typical.

    Specifically, to answer your questions:

    -What brix are you bringing the birch sap to with the RO?
    We take the birch to 16 brix. Any higher and the concentrate flow is so slow that we risk gumming up the membranes. Because of the super low sugar content, it doesn't work as well as maple, where we can take it to 20 brix one pass and still get a decent flow of concentrate. We have start to re-circulate to keep concentrate flow up, but them the total volume drops too much relative to our RO size to be able to manage. We have been boiling every 2-3 days with about 4,000 gallons of raw sap per boil. This makes about 20-25 gallons of syrup (Basically 200 to 1!)

    -You're boiling the concentrate right to syrup on your evaporator?
    Yes, and it works - we do a batch process where we fill the front pans with concentrate and the back pan with water. We tried a water-jacketed bottling unit, but that burnt the syrup. I think it is both time and temperature dependent, either too much time or too much heat can burn it. I have found using defoamer to keep the foam down and to dissipate the heat quickly, and boiling for as short a duration as possible are key to not burning the syrup. Without defoamer, we were burning the syrup at 55 brix, even though the syrup wasn't jumping out of the pan.

    -What brix are you shooting for with the finished syrup?
    66.7. I know you are allowed to go as low as 60, but at that consistency, the taste is compromised. I dislike the taste of Birch sweet from the pans, but the syrup is delicious. The flavour is really improved as you go from 60 to 67

    -What are the color and flavor of the syrup like?
    We have only made early season syrup, it has an amazing taste - a mix between raspberry, caramel and herbs (like a Unicum or Jagermeister). I know it goes bad quickly because the sap temperature is so high coming from the tree. We have a ultra filtration machine for our maple operations, so we UF the sap everyday we don't boil to prevent it from spoiling. I suppose chilling concentrate would also be acceptable. The first couple days had a amber colour and the last few days have had a dark colour.

    I was wondering if anyone else out there has some thoughts/experience? What is a typical yield?
    Last edited by PCFarms; 04-16-2021 at 11:55 AM.
    PCFarms - Producer of Maple Syrup and Distributor for H2O and DSD
    2019 - 30,300 taps
    2020 - 34,000 taps

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Weston, CT
    Posts
    262

    Default

    Is there any difference in the quality of syrup made from different birch species? I have noticed that Black Birch and Yellow Birch have a very sweet smell when you break a twig VS a White Birch as not so much.

    I have quite a few Black Birch and have thought about a tap or two in them.
    If you think it's easy to make good money in maple syrup .... then your obviously good at stealing somebody's Maple Syrup.

    Favorite Tree: Sugar Maple
    Most Hated Animal: Sap Sucker
    Most Loved Animal: Devon Rex Cat
    Favorite Kingpin: Bruce Bascom
    40 Sugar Maple Taps ... 23 in CT and 17 in NY .... 29 on gravity tubing and 11 on 5G buckets ... 2019 Totals 508 gallons of sap, 7 boils, 11.4 gallons of syrup.
    1 Girlfriend that gives away all my syrup to her friends.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Uxbridge
    Posts
    44

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sugar Bear View Post
    Is there any difference in the quality of syrup made from different birch species? I have noticed that Black Birch and Yellow Birch have a very sweet smell when you break a twig VS a White Birch as not so much.

    I have quite a few Black Birch and have thought about a tap or two in them.
    I don't know if anyone has an answer to this questions - its equivalent to what is the difference between red maple and sugar maple syrup, you can make syrup from all birch as I understand. We have a mix of half and half between yellow and white birch - no black birch in our climate region.
    PCFarms - Producer of Maple Syrup and Distributor for H2O and DSD
    2019 - 30,300 taps
    2020 - 34,000 taps

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