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Siphoning the Beer

The trick to getting beer from one vessel to another without mixing air into it is by siphoning it. There are many techniques for starting a siphon, but we prefer to avoid making contact with the tube with our mouth, as this could contaminate our beer. Below is one easy method to starting a siphon without sucking on the end of the siphon hose or using any "siphon starter" gadgets.

STEP 1: SANITIZE & FILL THE SIPHON TUBE

Before anything else, the siphon tubing should be at least 4' in length, and it should be attached to a rigid tube, or a racking cane, with an inverted tip on one end. A curve at the top is also useful, to prevent the flow from stopping due to a collapsed flexible siphon hose. A tubing clamp, the kind that is threaded onto the outside of the tubing and pinches the tubing closed, is also useful.

In a bucket or similar container that can fit all of the tubing and at least 1/2 of the racking tube (if only 1/2 will fit the racking tube will have to be sanitized in 2 stages), sanitize the siphon assembly.

Once the siphon assembly is sanitized, shake off the excess sanitizing solution, being careful to hold the racking cane at the top curved part so the bottom will not be contaminated when you put it into your beer.

Fill the flexible tube (but not the racking cane) with sanitizing solution or sterile water. If you use a bleach or other chlorine based sanitizing solution, DO NOT USE THIS TO FILL YOUR SIPHON TUBE! Use sterile water instead, or an iodine based sanitizing solution.

2. SET UP YOUR SIPHON

For the siphon to be successful, the container you are siphoning from needs to be higher than the container you are siphoning into. A good rule of thumb is that the bottom of the full container should be level or higher than the top of the empty container. Also make sure your siphon tube is long enough to reach the bottom of the empty container, so that there is very little splashing. You will also need a small container (a cup or larger) on hand to catch the first few ounces of the flow.

Lift the siphon tube that is full of fluid carefully, holding it level so the water does not exit either end of the tubing, as pictured on the left. Holding it level, place the racking cane into the beer as shown. At this stage you need to be very careful that you do not spill any of the liquid from the tube into your fermenter, especially if that liquid is sanitizing solution.

3. START THE SIPHON

Now that your racking cane is resting in your fermenter and your siphon tube is full of liquid, starting the siphon is a simple matter of dropping the end of the siphon tube down to below the fermenter. The weight of the liquid in the siphon tube will draw the beer up from your fermenter and through the tube. If you filled the tubing with sanitizing solution, drain this into a small container and then stop the siphon by pinching the tube or with a tubing clamp.

HINT: If an air bubble gets trapped near the highest point of the siphon assembly, it will slow the siphon rate considerably, and may even stop it. To force the air bubbles out of the siphon, squeeze the siphon tubing at the location of the bubble several times quickly. If this does not work, the union between the racking cane and plastic tubing might not be tight enough. Fix this by pushing the plastic tubing higher up the racking cane or by putting a small plastic hose clamp over the union.

4: SIPHON YOUR BEER!

Now you are ready to transfer your beer from one container to the next, or to bottle it.

To transfer to another container, move the end of the siphon tubing into the container so it reaches as close to the bottom as possible. Release the flow by unclamping the tubing. The siphon will be successful if your first container is higher than the second container and your siphon assembly is leak free.

To bottle your beer, attach a bottle filling wand to the end of your siphon tubing and insert the wand into your first bottle. Fill to the top. Repeat. Fill to the top...etc.

HINT: One of the best pieces of advice we give in our classes about siphoning is this: don't wait until you are faced with your first 5 gallons of beer to transfer to get the hang of siphoning. Practice with water first! After a few practice runs, siphoning is no longer a daunting task, but another enjoyable aspect of your home brewing hobby.

Now Let's Bottle That Beer!

 

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