The USDA syrup grading system currently uses five different maple syrup grades. These include: Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and two darker syrups, Grade B maple syrup and Commercial Grade. These maple syrup grades have specific and important upper and lower limits for color and flavor. As the syrups get darker in color, they have a stronger maple flavor.
Grade A Light Amber has a delicate maple flavor. Medium Amber has a nice mild flavor. Grade A Dark Amber has a full-bodied maple flavor while Grade B (including Grade B organic maple syrup) has a hearty, robust flavor. We profile these grades in greater depth, including the most common uses of each flavor, further down this page.
*** Update: New Maple Syrup Grades ***
The creation of new maple syrup grades was recently approved by the Vermont legislature. Get breaking news and learn more about the new maple grades in our Maplesource Blog, on our Pure Maple Grades Are Changing map (click to enlarge image on the right), and on this page below.
Maple grade consistency is crucial to food manufacturers, chefs and private label marketers. This is why Bascom Family Farms maintains the strictest grading standards in the maple manufacturing industry.
While we grade maple by the basic five USDA grades, we also employ an even tougher blending and grading system. Bascom Family Farms' "seven-tier" grading standard produces 35 maple syrup grades that ensure each manufacturer gets the exact flavor profile they need. Our "seven-tiered" maple grading standard is stringent and steadfast. It segregates the maple syrup by flavor profile and color for optimal quality assurance and consumer satisfaction. We take this extra step because maple syrup (just like wine) varies slightly from grower to grower and from region to region every year. Our unique proprietary grading process allows us to formulate those subtleties out so manufacturers, private label marketers, the world's top chefs and leaders in the food service industry get a consistent product with the correct flavor profile every time.
There is no such thing as the “best” maple syrup. Maple syrup grades are dependent on the color, strength of flavor, and time of season during which it is produced. Here at Bascom Family Farms, we kick off the maple syrup process in late February or early March when the days get slightly longer and warmer. We never have a set day to tap the trees. Instead, we wait and watch for signs of “sugaring weather.” This is when the mild daytime temperatures thaw and melt the winter snow, and the evenings drop below freezing. Sugaring weather gets the sap flowing, so it’s the ideal time to tap our trees.
This seasonal timing also produces a slight difference in the sugar content in the different grades. Sucrose is the main sugar in maple syrup and is about 60% as sweet as sugar. Maple syrup from Bascom Family Farms consists of 62% sucrose. Sucrose is the only sugar in the Grade A Light Amber maple syrup but the darker varieties of our maple syrup grades contain a small and variable amount of fructose and glucose as well. Sucrose is sweeter than glucose, but not quite as sweet as fructose.
The maple syrup grading system is largely built on the measurement of translucence, which measures how much light is transmitted through the syrup. Lighter grades of maple syrup have the highest levels of light transmission, simply because the density of the syrup is less concentrated than in darker syrup varieties. The chart below outlines this more clearly.
|Maple syrup Grades in the United States and Canada
Designation based on the percent of light transmittance
|% Light Transmission||Canada & Quebec Federal||United States|
|Not less than 75% Tc||No. 1 Extra Light/ or AA||Grade A Light Amber|
|Between 60.5% & 74.9% Tc||No. 1 Light/ Grade A or A||Grade A Med. Amber|
|Between 44% & 60.9% Tc||No. 1 Med./ Grade A or B||Grade A Dark Amber|
|Between 27% & 43.9% Tc||No. 2 Amber/ or C||Grade B|
|Less than 27% Tc||No. 3 Dark/ or D|
As you formulate your products and recipes, you will likely have a specific grade of maple syrup that works best for your needs. Included below are some common uses for the five basic grades.
Grade A Light Amber Maple Syrup: This smooth flavor is one of the most delicate of all the maple syrup grades. Made earlier in the season during colder climates, this smooth maple flavor is ideal for maple cream and maple candies.
Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup: This syrup is slightly darker than the Light Amber and is known for its smooth maple flavor. This distinctive taste is produced mid-season when the temperatures start to warm. Its unique and subtle flavor is most often used for table syrup.
Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup: As the days become warmer and longer in sugaring season, we produce this full-bodied maple syrup grade. Both the color and the maple flavor are a bit stronger and more intense than the Medium Amber. This grade is popular for table syrups, and is also ideal for general sweetening purposes. Its strong maple flavor also lends itself to meat glazes, cooking recipes, and atop of waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal.
Grade B Maple Syrup: Grade B is made late in the season. The sugar content of the saps has dropped by now so it takes more gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, hence the darker color and stronger flavors. This versatile grade is great as a topping and for cooking. It’s hearty flavor is great for both.
Commercial Grade Maple Syrup: Used primarily as a commercial ingredient, this dark syrup presents a strong maple flavor. This maple syrup grade is very popular among food manufacturers. Produced last in the sugaring season, this maple syrup is exceptionally robust. Its intense maple flavor is perfect for baking, and many food brands and chefs rely on this specific grade for recipes.
Vermont lawmakers have approved new guidelines that will create one international standard for grading maple syrup, thereby eliminating the separate classification systems within the United States and Canada. The International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) believes these new maple grades will alleviate consumer confusion and provide continuity for export markets. All Vermont maple syrup producers can still customize their labels (i.e. “Made in Vermont”) for easy consumer identification, but will follow the new maple syrup grade changes now that they are approved. The new maple syrup grades are based on color and flavor profiles of pure maple syrup (as opposed to fake or imitation breakfast syrup), divided into two primary grades. In addition to our Maple Syrup Grades Map, the new maple syrup grades are outlined below:
1. Grade A (with four classifications):
This pure maple syrup grade is high quality, intended for human consumption, and sold in retail markets. Under this grade, there are four separate designations and flavor profiles:
2. Processing Grade:
This second grade of maple syrup is suitable as an ingredient in food products, but is not permitted for retail sale. While it doesn’t meet Grade A requirements, it does meet all other maple regulations and food quality/safety guidelines.
Now that they are approved, the maple syrup grade changes are planned to take effect at the consumer level in January 2014. Bascom Family Farms remains committed to providing exceptional pure maple syrup products that meet your exact flavor profile needs. We’ll be tracking the latest progress on the new maple syrup grades roll-out and posting regular updates on our blog, so be sure to check back often. Additionally, we’ll be providing extensive education on these new maple syrup grade changes, so our buyers, manufacturers, chefs, and retailers can seamlessly transition to these new guidelines while maintaining product taste, label continuity, and appropriate marketing outreach.
Our maple syrups have a shelf life of up to two years. In order to preserve the optimal flavor of our products, we recommend that you store your maple syrup products in a cool, dry place that is below room temperature. Please avoid any direct and intense light, and refrigerate your maple syrup immediately after opening.