Sap & Syrup

  •  Sugarmaker Howard Boyden of Boyden Bros. Sugarhouse in Conway, Mass. shows a broken hydrometer, dropped too hard in the test cup and busting the tip, allowing syrup to flood the bulb.

  •  Sugarmaker Howard Boyden checks his density with a syrup hydrometer during a boil on Feb. 24. Sugarmakers are being encouraged to keep a keen eye on hydrometer accuracy, making sure they are tested and correct.

  •  Using a syrup hydrometer properly, and making sure the instrument is correct and true, is the best way to ensure proper syrup density.

  •  Sugarmaker Tom McCrumm checks the density of a hydrometer during a clinic last month. This one was off. McCrumm said a notable percentage of hydrometers he tests are incorrect, and should be discarded.

Sugarmakers encouraged to stay vigilant on proper hydrometers

Always have a spare on hand


CONWAY, Mass.—Keep an eye on those hydrometers.

Maple experts and government officials are encouraging sugarmakers to keep a keen eye on the hydrometer, making sure that proper density syrup is being made.

“Be careful, they break,” said Howard Boyden, of Boyden Bros. Sugar House in Conway, Mass. during a boil last week. Boyden said he dropped one hydrometer too hard in the testing cup and broke the end off, allowing for syrup to fill up the bulb.

“Make sure you always have a spare on hand,” he said with a laugh.

Sugarmakers across the Maple Belt have been encouraged to get hydrometers tested before going into the new maple season or to make sure they buy new ones that have been certified correct by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

Maple Hall of Famer Tom McCrumm of South Face Farm in Ahsfield, Mass. was on hand during the recent annual meeting of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, offering his an ongoing public service of testing hydrometers for sugarmakers.

 McCrumm said he found at least 10 percent of the hydrometers he tested were off, some by an entire Brix point. 

 “My absolute best advice is to have at least two hydrometers. If, or when, you drop and break your only hydrometer, you will immediately be without a way to accurately make maple syrup,” he said. 

“Or course this usually happens during the biggest run of the year.”  

McCrumm advises that to test hydrometers at home during the season, float your two hydrometers and see if they agree. 

“If they do, they are probably both accurate. If they don’t agree then one of them is not accurate.”