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Maple Research Guide

A maple research guide, in partnership between the University of Vermont and AgNIC

Maple Syrup Grades

The characteristic flavor of maple syrup includes sweetness from the sugars, a slight tartness from the acids, and a range of aroma notes, including vanilla, coffee and chocolate, and various products of sugar caramelization and browning reactions between the sugars and amino acids. The longer and hotter the syrup is boiled, the darker the color and the heavier the taste.

All states must use the international color standards to grade - or classify - maple syrup based on color, flavor and sugar content. According to current USDA standards (2015), all consumer maple syrup is considered Grade A, meaning it is clear, uniform in color, and free from any off flavors. Within Grade A, syrup is then classified by color, light transmittance, and taste.

Lighter classes are the more delicately flavored, sometimes less concentrated syrups that are poured directly onto food, while darker classes are progressively stronger in caramel flavor and often used for cooking. Maple syrup grading kits are widely available to help maple producers with quality control in their classification.

Vermont maple syrup has four grades: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor, Amber Color with Rich Flavor, Dark Color with Robust Flavor, and Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor.

Golden Color with Delicate Flavor Amber Color with Rich Flavor Dark Color with Robust Flavor Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor

Golden Color
with Delicate Flavor

Amber Color
with Rich Flavor

Dark Color
with Robust Flavor

Very Dark Color
with Strong Flavor

Light amber color, delicate maple bouquet; mild maple flavor; excellent on ice cream or on foods which permit its subtle flavor.

(Formerly Vermont Fancy or
Grade A Light Amber)

Medium amber color, pronounced maple bouquet; characteristic maple flavor; popular for table and all-around use.

(Formerly Vermont Grade A Medium Amber or Vermont Grade A Dark Amber)

Dark amber color, robust maple bouquet; heartier maple flavor; very popular for table and all-around use.

(Formerly Vermont Grade A Dark Amber or Vermont Grade B)

Strongest and darkest table grade maple syrup; its strong maple flavor makes it the best grade for cooking.

(Formerly Grade C or
Commercial Grade)


Images from Vermont Maple Sugar Makers.


Store maple syrup in your freezer to retain flavor and quality over an indefinite period of time. The syrup will not freeze solid and will require only about one hour at room temperature to bring it to pouring consistency. The amount required can be removed from the container, and the remainder may be returned to the freezer.

If, after extended storage, mold should form on the surface of the syrup, the original quality can be restored. Remove the mold, heat the syrup to boiling, skim the surface, sterilize the container, and refill it with the syrup.

Maple Recipes

The Center for Digital Initiatives Maple Recipe Collection offers a unique glimpse at the variety in maple sugar and maple syrup use over the last half-century.

We have also created the Community Maple Cookbook, a virtual collection of maple recipes - from the sweet to the savory - submitted by chefs, restaurants, and community members. You can view the recipes, or submit one of your own.

Nutritional Value

Maple syrup contains 68% carbohydrates, whereas most other syrups contain 100%. While it has virtually the same calorie content as white cane sugar (50 calories per tablespoon), maple syrup contains significant amounts of calcium (20 mg per tablespoon) and potassium (35 mg per tablespoon), small amounts of iron and phosphorous, and trace amounts of B vitamins. Its sodium content is low (2 mg per tablespoon).