Reverse Osmosis and Maple Syrup Production
The advantages and disadvantages of Reverse Osmosis in Maple Syrup Production have been hotly contested in Ontario over the past number of years. Many can swear that there is a significant difference in flavor and colour of Maple Syrup that spends a quarter of the time on the boiler and are worried about what will become of the quality of Maple Syrup. Rightly so – if RO fundamentally changes the flavor and characteristics of Maple Syrup – what then do we become, Corn syrup producers? Horrors!
In a nutshell, RO is a process where water is pushed through a filter that is so fine, the sugar molecules cannot pass through. While maintaining flow, a highly concentrated solution with high sugar content remains to be further concentrated through boiling. Small producers can concentrate sap from 2% sugar, as it comes out of the tree, to 6%, reducing boiling time by 60%! On larger more efficient operations, the benefits are clearer – 22% sugar contents are regularly attained, reducing boiling upwards of 90%! There are even high-brix RO systems capable of bringing the sugar content to 35 and 40 brix! One wonders – when will we be making pure maple syrup without ever lighting a fire? The energy and time savings cannot be ignored.
Impact on Flavour
Is it impacted by this “non-traditional” method of production? The science says no – research out of the University of Vermont has found no perceptible change in flavor. Tasters were given 3 samples, 2 that had been processed with RO and one that had not and were asked to identify the odd one out. Never mind identifying the one that had been boiled longer! With no consistency were they able to identify the 3rd different syrup. If there is a difference in taste or in colour, it is not one perceptible to the human senses.
In the end, the advantages and efficiencies simply cannot be ignored for whatever minute differences and nuances there may be in the flavor.