Little Creek Maple Farm

Our adventures around the homestead.

Sugaring 2013 – The New Evaporator

I finally got around to unwrapping our new maple syrup evaporator that we will be using to make maple syrup in the upcoming 2013 sugaring season.

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 021

For those unfamiliar with maple syrup making (AKA Sugaring), you need an evaporator to make syrup.  We used a gas grill last year as our evpaproator.  Basically, you boil down the collected sap from the maple trees, which contains 1-3% sugar, and 97-99% water, and by boiling off , or evaporating, the majority of the water you concentrate the sugar in the sap making maple syrup.

Last year I used a couple of steam table pans on my propane grill to boil the sap down to make syrup, this took a LONG time with evaporation rates of a couple gallons and hour. Keep in mind that it takes upwards of 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  That means you spend a lot of time watching the sap boil.

This year we have decided to expand our operation by tapping 50 trees in lieu of the 12 we tapped last year.  Expanding to 50 trees means we should be collecting 500 or so gallons of sap during the season in lieu of the 100 gallons we collected last year.  By choosing to tap more trees we needed to find a more efficient way to boil the sap that would have a higher evaporation rate that our grill and consume a more economical fuel like wood.

After a lot of research on the internet, specifically on the Mapletrader forums, we determined that a hobby sized evaporator would be the perfect fit for us.  We looked at all the reviews on commercial and homemade style evaporators and I decided I would use an evaporator from WF Mason.  The model we chose was Bill Mason’s 2’ x 3’ Hobby Evaporator, with an evaporation rate of 7-9 gallons per hour, and rated for 1-50 taps, this seemed perfect for us, where we only have 50 tap-able maples on our land.

Bill Mason was great to work with and was very helpful, we corresponded by both email and phone, and he was very responsive. I got my order in early around November, and was surprised when I got the call that it was ready the first of December.  Bill met me with the evaporator here in New Hampshire and gave me the once over on the set up of the unit.  Everything was packed well with shrink wrap and brown paper to protect the pans.  The process was great and Bill was great.  Craftsmanship is top notch and I have been itching to get things opened and set-up all throughout the holidays.  I finally had time to unpack everything and here is a quick photo tour of our new unit!

The fire-box – basically a custom steel box that needs to be insulated and lined with fire brick.  This is where the wood fire will be below the stainless steel pan that holds the sap.

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 003

Front view – showing the stove door, and ash door, and the ash grate.

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Accessories – one photo showing the two valves.  One is a syrup valve and the other is for the sap pre-heater.  In the bag is also some pan gasket material that goes between the black fire box and the stainless steel pan to create a tight seal. I also added the syrup thermometer option when buying the evaporator.

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 008WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 031

The Syrup Pan – this is a stainless steel pan 24” x 36” divided into 3 section and is designed for continuous flow operation.  Essentially sap enters one section of the pan and eventually syrup is drawn off in another section.  I still need to see this to believe it, but apparently if your pan is level, as you boil sap in the pan, a gradient will develop due to the different density of sap to syrup so that as you boil, the syrup with a higher density than the sap will flow to one side of the pan.  There are actually openings in the dividers to allow the flow.  I can not wait to see this in action because it’s a process completely different than the batch process I did on my gas grill.  The syrup pan takes 7.5 gallons of sap to fill it to a 2” depth!

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 011WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 014

The Draw Off – I attach one of the valves to this spigot and this is where I draw off syrup when it reaches the correct temperature and sugar content.  The circular port to the left of the draw-off is where the thermometer is mounted.  The photo on the right shows one of the triangular ports where sap can flow through the divider and the rectangular port is where syrup is drawn off.

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 018WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 020

The Pre-heater – basically this is another stainless steel pan that sits on top of the syrup pan.  This is where cold sap is added and pre-heated before it is slowly released from a valve that attaches to the threaded connection in the bottom right of the pre-heater pan.  This ensures that I am adding hot sap to the continuously boiling syrup pan.  If you did not pre-heat the sap and added cold sap you could kill the boil in your syrup pan.  The pre-heater holds almost 5 gallons of sap if filled to the brim!

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The Unit – essentially this is how it will look when we start to boil.  There are still several steps that I need to do before the first boil.  The main task being insulating and bricking the evaporator with fire bricks.  That is a task for another day.

WF Mason Evaporator 2013-01-02 030

January 5, 2013 - Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. how did this evaporator work out for you? I am considering buying one

    Comment by jay | February 2, 2014 | Reply

    • The evaporator worked fine, much better than boiling with propane on a grill. Just used it for the first time last year so I really don’t have a lot of history with it, but it’s done everything I expected it to do.

      Comment by billcarpenter4 | February 2, 2014 | Reply

  2. Bill, I’d like to run an evaporator outside as well. Did you actually disassemble your MASON 2X3 after the 2013 season?
    If so, did the bricks came out easily?
    Did thy reinstall easily for the 2014 season?

    Comment by John | March 24, 2014 | Reply

    • I bricked my Mason Evaporator last year in the garage before the season started, all the bricks were and still are dry-fit (not mortared in). So when I was ready to move it outside, I took all the bricks out of the unit and laid them on the garage floor in a pattern so I would know how I took them out. At the end of last season I left the evaporator outside with the bricks still in it, took all the stainless pans off and the smokestack down. I put a sheet of plywood and set it on top of the pan gasket and wrapped the whole thing with a brown tarp. It sat outside until this season and when I set it up with no issues. I may need to do a new pan gasket next season though, we will see. The bricks are still dry fit, becuase I intend to move this thing one more time into a sugar shack at some point. Also, with the Mason’s sloping sides there is almost no reason the cement them in that I can see.

      Comment by billcarpenter4 | March 30, 2014 | Reply

      • Thank you very much for your response. I’ve ordered a Mason 2X3 and will be referencing your detailed explanation when I do the bricking. I’m planning on doing the brickwork the first 2 weeks of August.

        Comment by John | April 1, 2014

  3. […] Related article (in depth explanation of current sugaring technology): Sugaring 2013 – The New Evaporator […]

    Pingback by Maple Sugaring – Rite of Spring | Eliza Waters | April 1, 2014 | Reply

    • Another question for you Bill. Did the arch board/brick combination keep the outside of the arch cool enough to be safe to touch?

      Comment by John | April 6, 2014 | Reply

      • Sorry for the delayed response, it’s been hectic here with work and everything we have going on for Spring. I wouldn’t say it was cool to the touch. You could not touch it an leave your hand there, but you could be close to the arch without worrying about burning yourself if you accidentally bumped into it. I was insulating for two reasons. One, I wanted to keep the heat in the arch where I was boiling outside, and two, with my little ones if they were to get close to the arch I did not want it to be glowing hot steel. Not sure if that helps but let me know if you have other questions.

        Comment by billcarpenter4 | April 13, 2014

  4. It does help. Sounds perfect. Thank you.

    John

    Comment by John | April 13, 2014 | Reply

  5. Enjoyed your blog and especially the sugaring notes! I’m actually boiling this season with a two-burner propane burner outside and its horribly inefficient. I’ve been looking at used and homemade evaporator but the Mason 2×3 hobby unit is only a few hundred more so I’ve all but decided to go for it! Were the fire bricks included in the price or extra? I’m taking your advice and purchasing the add-on blower too!
    How is your sugar house coming along? I have an old shed (horse run-in) that I am converting to a sugar house this summer. Thanks again and good luck! Tony form Maple Ridge Farm in Guilford, VT

    Comment by Anthony fernando | April 2, 2015 | Reply

    • Tony,
      Glad you are reading along. I have a new website http://www.littlecreekmaplefarm.com where you can follow along on are sugaring adventures this year. We added a home made vacuum pump that is cranking out the sap!

      To answer your first question. We bought the fire bricks separately from our local tractor supply for like$2 a brick for splits. We bought the arch board from Bascom’s in alstead, nh.

      No sugar house yet and typing this as I try and catch up outside boiling. It’s in the upper 50,s here tonight.

      Hope you are catching some of this run, we are thinking the end is this weekend for us!

      Bill C.

      Comment by Bill C. | April 2, 2015 | Reply

  6. I am thinking about purchasing a mason hobby evaporator as well, how do you like the unit so far? Approximately how many fire bricks did you use to insulate the arch?

    Comment by Levi | April 3, 2015 | Reply

    • Love the evaporator. Would buy the blower attachment.

      It’s been a few years since I bricked the arch but in part 3 of the bricking pots I mention 56 bricks, so maybe get 60 and return what you don’t use. Keep in mind I used arch board beneath my bricks so if you don’t use it you may need a few more bricks…

      Follow along on our 2015 season at http://www.little creekmaplefarm.com. Our new website. I have been slammed this week with sap so hopefully I can catch up enough this weekend to post an update or two. Feel free to ask Bill Mason any questions you may have. I found him super helpful before I purchased my unit from him!

      Bill C.

      Comment by Bill C. | April 3, 2015 | Reply


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