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.
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
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
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
Now Let's Bottle That Beer!
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