Question: Why Is My Maple Syrup Cloudy?

I have a question for you: have you ever wondered why maple syrup sometimes goes cloudy? Well, that’s what we’re looking at today as we answer the question: why is my maple syrup cloudy?

open jars of freshly tapped maple syrup
open jars of freshly tapped maple syrup

There are a few reasons that your maple syrup could be cloudy. One reason would be inadequate filtration; another could be boiling the syrup after it was initially filtered.

Syrup is made by boiling the sap from a maple tree and evaporating the water off of it. While this is happening, it forms sediment called nitre (sugar sand).

This sediment isn’t harmful, but it does change the texture slightly; making it rougher. It also sweetens the taste a little.

Inadequate Filtration

The sap of a maple tree is collected between late winter and early spring and then boiled to raise the sugar level and evaporate any water off of the sap to produce the syrup. As the sap boils, a type of sediment (called nitre or sugar sand) forms.

This sediment is usually filtered out to provide a clear appearance. When this sediment isn’t properly filtered out, it gives your syrup a cloudy appearance.

This sediment is not harmful to you so I suppose filtering it out would be considered optional – provided you’re not selling the syrup at flea markets where the cloudy appearance may be unappealing to customers.

You can filter the sediment out using a piece of cheesecloth or, if you have access to one, a filter press.

Another way to filter out the sediment is to use egg whites.

Boiling after Filtration

Once the syrup has been made, it’s graded and packaged while it’s still hot. The usual packing temperature is around 182 degrees Fahrenheit (83 Celsius).

This brings us to another possible cause for cloudy syrup: boiling after filtering.

After you’ve filtered the mixture, you should have clear, amber-colored syrup. Some syrup makers will boil the mixture again before packing it but this creates more sugar sand and creates that cloudy appearance again.

You’ll have to filter the sediment out of the mixture again if you want clear syrup after boiling the mixture for the second time.

Can Buddy Sap make Cloudy Syrup?

While researching this article, I came across a forum post that mentioned ‘buddy sap’ – the implication being that the sap was what caused the cloudy appearance. So, what is buddy sap, and can it make your syrup cloudy?

Buddy sap is, well, the sap you get from a tree that’s starting to bud. As far as whether or not it can make your syrup cloudy, I don’t think so. As far as I could find, the worst that buddy sap will do is give your syrup an off taste.

Safety Concerns

Here’s a fun fact: sap can pick up flavors in the containers in which it is stored. This means that if you store sap in a bottle that held pickles at some stage, the sap will pick up the pickle taste / flavor.

For this reason, you should NEVER use detergents or high chlorine / soap cleaners to sanitize your equipment; they may contaminate the sap and, by extension, your syrup. The only thing you use when sanitizing your equipment is hot water and a lot of effort.

Something I found while researching this article was a note on boiling the syrup on the stove in your kitchen. This produces a lot of steam, as you’d expect, and the note mentioned that the steam could have ‘consequences’ if it builds up in your house.

Now, it didn’t say what those consequences were so I had to do some more digging. The closest I could find was that it can burn you – I’ve heard enough horror stories about steam-related burns to know that it happens.

Apart from that, the only other possible consequence that I could think of that the steam would cause would be a build-up of dangerous fumes, but that’s purely speculation on my part.

To avoid these problems it’s recommended that you use a properly ventilated room or, better yet, just make your syrup outside. Make sure you have everything you need for fire safety and that you comply with local laws.

Another quick note on evaporation: don’t assume anything. The boiling point may vary depending on where you’re making the syrup.

The usual temperature, as far as I could find, is around 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), and once it climbs higher (215+), things will escalate very quickly so that’s something to keep in mind.

Now, let’s talk about the sap itself. Once you’ve harvested the sap, it should be stored at room temperature, and used within seven days of collection. Before you use it, make sure that it’s boiled to kill off any bacteria in the sap.

Now, this brings us to an important point: spoiled sap. When harvested, good sap is clear (like water) but it can start to spoil after a few days – especially in warmer weather. When sap spoils, it will usually take on a yellowish color and become cloudy.

Finally, the syrup; does it go bad? Technically no, it doesn’t expire in the typical sense of the term in relation to food. It can, however, become moldy.

The good news is that you can remove the mold, and boil the remaining syrup to kill off the remaining spores; this makes it possible to eat the syrup again.

Cloudy Maple Syrup Is Fine

So, to recap:

  • Maple syrup can be cloudy due to the formation of sugar sand which, while not harmful and perfectly edible, can give your syrup a rougher texture and sweeter taste. This sediment forms during the boiling of the sap to produce syrup and is usually filtered out to give a clear appearance. When inadequately filtered or boiled after filtration, sugar sand may be left behind, or form for a second time in the container to produce a cloudy appearance.
  • Soap/chlorine detergents can, if used to sanitize equipment, contaminate your sap. This can lead to contaminated syrup. Be careful around the steam and, if working outdoors, make sure you have all the necessary fire hazard equipment on hand.
  • Maple syrup won’t expire, but it can become moldy. Simply skimming the mold off of the syrup and boiling it should make it safe for consumption again.

5 thoughts on “Question: Why Is My Maple Syrup Cloudy?”

  1. Can I take the sealed maple syrup out of the jars, filter it again and recan it. The first batch is clear and second batch is cloudy. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Shirley, sorry for the late reply but I’d say: yes, re-filtering and canning the cloudy syrup should work out just fine.

  2. Hi Greg, this is first time tapping my maple in my backyard. how do I know how long to boil my sap before I decide to “finish it” at the higher temperature?
    Thanks for any info you can offer.

    – Kim

    1. As you boil the sap and the water evaporates, the sugar content becomes more concentrated and the temperature rises naturally without increasing the heat. When you get closer to 219 degrees you need to start watching the boil more carefully and get ready to remove it. As Greg pointed out, boiling or finishing in the house comes with its own set of problems. All that steam also carries some sugar and can create a sticky messy on surfaces including walls and vent hoods/pipes. I’ve heard of people who had mould develop, after they neglected to properly clean these sugar-coated surfaces.

  3. I have a smokey looking coagulate in the bottom of each bottle of syrup. It is black but doesn’t affect the taste, Did extra filtering with Maple syrup filters. Any ideas?

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