3 Ways to Siphon Your Beer



Siphoning beer, racking it, or transferring it. Whatever you want to call it, we’re talking about moving beer from one container to another after it’s been cooled and put into the fermentor. At this point we don’t want to add bugs or oxygen, so pouring  is not an option. So how do we do it? This video shows three different methods.

One thing is for sure – I have too much homebrewing equipment. Or can you never have enough? Either way, I dug into my stash to show how these three different siphoning tools work.

1. Hose and Racking Cane

This is the way most of us got started. The hose and racking canes are very common with starter homebrew kits. They are simple and last a long time, but getting the siphon started isn’t as easy as the other options. There are 3 main ways I know of to starting a siphon with the racking cane:

Homebrew Siphon Set Up

  1. Suck on the end of the hose. I don’t recommend this. Even if you gargle a bottle of vodka you risk contaminating your homebrew. Just keep that dirty mouth away from your precious beer.
  2. As I show in the video, fill the hose with water (or preferably sanitizer) and then drain it into a separate container. The liquid will pull the beer behind it, at which point you can plug the hose and move it to your bottling bucket or fermentor. This method works well, but definitely takes some practice to make a clean switch.
  3. I didn’t show this method, but some people use a turkey baster to start the siphon. Squeeze the baster, stick it in the end of the hose, release, and it will pull beer through. Just make sure the turkey baster is sanitized.

Pros:

  • Cheapest option
  • Durable

Cons:

  • More difficult to start the siphon than other options

You can buy the hose and racking cane at MoreBeer here.

2. Sterile Siphon Starter

A recent gadget to my arsenal, the sterile siphon starter is a mouthful to say but a handy piece of equipment. It works by fitting the orange cap over the neck of a carboy which forms an airtight seal. You then blow air for a few seconds through the sterile filter. The pressure inside the carboy forces the liquid out through the racking cane and voilà, your siphon is started.

Sterile Siphon Starter

Pros:

  • Easy to use and virtually dummy proof
  • You can adjust the racking cane to any level and it will stay in place without you holding it

Cons:

  • Not one size fits all. There is a size for a 5 and 6 gallon carboy, and another for a 6.5 gallon carboy. If you have multiple sizes, like I do, you will need two attachments.
  • Doesn’t work on buckets or kettles
  • Expensive

You can buy the sterile siphon starter at MoreBeer here.

3. Autosiphon

The autosiphon, aka The Easy Siphon, is my favorite way to transfer beer. As seen in the video, it only takes a quick pump or two to start the siphon. It is also easy to get started when there is not much liquid left in the fermentor.

Pros:

Auto Siphon

  • Easiest way to siphon
  • BONUS FEATURE: The outer container can be used by itself to take beer samples from a fermentor, similar to a wine thief.

Cons:

  • More parts, more to break
  • Expensive and doesn’t include tubing

You can buy the autosiphon at MoreBeer here.

How do you siphon your beer?

Transcript
Hey, it’s Billy Broas, from BillyBrew.com, and I’m going to go over how to transfer your beer, or rack your beer, as us homebrewers call it. You know, it’s really something that’s glanced over, you don’t talk a whole lot about how you do it. You just say that you did it, like “I racked my beer to the secondary,” or “I racked my beer to the carboy.” But there’s actually a few different ways to go about it. So I’m going to cover three of the main ones, and also three different pieces of equipment you can use to get the job done.

All right, so I have a six-gallon carboy here, a plastic carboy with iodophor. That’s so you can see the liquid better, and this is going to be my guinea pig for this demonstration. So the three pieces of equipment I mentioned. One I’m not really going to count. I’ll talk about it real quick, but it’s just a standard piece of vinyl tubing, and I hope you don’t use this, because it’s a real pain in the butt to use. It always curls up, and it’s hard to put it right above the sediment in the bottom of the carboy. So I hope you graduate past this.

This next one is probably the most common piece of equipment for siphoning. It’s just your standard racking cane and vinyl tube. Next, this one’s a bit more creative. This is called a sterile siphon starter. This one, another creative gadget, is called an auto-siphon.

So the racking cane, like I said, probably the most common way that people siphon. There’s a few ways to get this started, the old-school way being the old “suck on it” method. You just suck on the end of this hose, and the beer comes siphoning out. I really don’t recommend this, because you have all kinds of nasty stuff in your mouth, bacteria and gunk, and stuff that can really get into your beer and contaminate it and ruin it. I know they say you could use Listerine or vodka and it’ll kill everything in your mouth. I don’t trust that, and I never recommend putting your mouth on the end of this hose. So I’ll show you a better way to use the racking cane.

So what I did was I filled this up with water, and it’s actually better to use a sanitizer, but I didn’t have any extra lying around. I put water in the hose, so what I’m going to do is empty the water out into a separate container, and that’s going to create suction which pulls the iodophor through. And then once all the water is out, I’m going to switch it over to my bottling bucket.

So that works, and I actually did use that method for a couple of years when I first started home brewing. But it’s definitely not perfect. I know I got some iodophor in that first pot, which in real life would be beer, and we don’t want to lose any beer. It definitely takes some ninja moves to do that transfer just right.

So I’m going to move on now, and talk about the next piece of equipment, the sterile siphon starter. We have the sterile siphon starter, and this is more of a recent gadget for me, but I’m really liking it. It’s just like the racking cane and tube, except it has this piece on it, and this is an orange rubber cap, and it has this white sanitary filter. I’ll give you a close-up of that.

The way it works is, you position on top of the neck of the carboy, or over the neck, and you’ll form an airtight seal. Then you can adjust the racking cane up or down to wherever you want it, so you can put it right above the sediment. Then you blow into the sanitary filter, and it’ll force sanitized air into the carboy, and that pressure will cause the liquid to come back out through the racking cane, and you can siphon your beer, like this.

This is going to be hard for me, since I don’t have a whole lot of liquid in here, but I’ll give it a good hard blow. And there we go.
So I really like this thing, I like how quick and easy it is. I also like how you can position this racking cane and not have to hold it in place. So you put it right where you want it and it’ll stay there.

The drawbacks of this: this only fits a five- and six-gallon carboy, so if I wanted one for my six and a half gallon glass carboys, I would need to buy a new orange cap. So that kind of sucks. Also, you can’t use this for a bucket, obviously. Besides that, I like this thing. If you have a carboy, I recommend one of these.

I’m a little bit skeptical about the sanitary filter, but that’s mainly because I’m an anal homebrewer. But so far, so good.
Last but not least, we have the auto-siphon. The way this works, it actually has three parts to it. It has the hose, which is attached to a racking cane, and it goes in this cylindrical portion here. There’s actually, on the bottom of this, a little guard. So it’ll prevent sediment from coming up into your racking cane.

The way it works is, you just put it into the carboy or the bucket or whatever you’re using, and you just give it a couple of good pumps, and I get it to start. So it’s really easy, I like that I can have the liquid level all the way down here, and still get it started really easily. So if you lose your siphon down here, it’s not hard to get it back.

Drawbacks, it’s just got a few more pieces to it. It’s just a lot more to fiddle with, and it’s got some more nooks and crannies, so you’ve really got to be good about sanitization. I’ve also heard that some of these parts like this gasket here wear out over time, but so far so good on mine. This is my favorite way to siphon.

All right, that’s it. We’ve got the racking cane, the sterile siphon starter, and the auto-siphon. So tell me what you use, tell me how you siphon or transfer your beer, and I will talk to you down in the comments. So, cheers!

About Billy Broas


He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

Comments

  1. Billy,

    Video is not working, but I use the Autosiphon myself and I love it!!….

    Jorge

  2. Billy Broas says:

    Sorry about that, got it working now. Thanks for the heads up Jorge, and I totally agree about the autosiphon!

  3. AUTOSIPHON!

  4. I also used the water in the siphon for a my first few batches but I found that the orange cap with the sterilizer works great.

    With a full batch one quick blow does it but when I do half batches to test recipes out, you have to work on it. I could see how that could introduce things you may not want into your brew.

    Great video again

  5. Billy Broas says:

    @Serge Thanks glad you liked it. If I would have filmed this video when I first started using the water in siphon method you would have cracked up. Nothing in the kitchen was dry afterward. Thank the lord for the improved siphons.

  6. I use the auto siphon. Generally just set it in the bottom and let the chips fall where they may. Chips being yeast & trub. Figure they will settle to the bottom of the bucket or bottle. They also have an attachment (I don’t have one, yet) where you can put it in the neck of the carboy, like the bung/stopper. Then you can have the auto siphon perched right above the yeast cake.

  7. Billy Broas says:

    @Thile Ah I didn’t know about that attachment. Thanks for the heads up, now I can take my siphoning to the next level.

  8. Great video Billy, wish I would’ve found your site earlier (before I finished my 1st batch of Pale Ale) but can see your site is a great resource! I also use the auto siphon and would recommend it. The only negative was having to hold it so none of the trub would transfer over.

  9. Billy Broas says:

    @Scott Hey thanks for the commenting. Sorry I couldn’t help with your pale ale but hopefully you’ll find some useful stuff in the future. You’re right about holding the siphon, but check out what Thile said about an attachment. I’m going to look into that. Cheers!

  10. I saw it at a LHBS in Houston Texas. I forgot to look on AHS this morning. I wouldn’t think it would be hard for the DIY crowd – just cut out the middle part of a stopper so that the auto siphon will be where you want it. Basically can do other things rather than holding the siphon (or not worry about a wee bit o’ trub from the bottom if you are particularly lazy, aka Thile).

  11. I really enjoyed the video. Your website has been extremely helpful. I am still anxiously waiting for my equipment to arrive so i have been trying to read and watch as many video’s on homebrewing as i can. Keep up the good work man its greatly appreciated.

  12. Billy Broas says:

    @Jason Happy to help and congrats on taking the plunge into homebrewing. If there are any other things you would like to see a video for, leave a comment or shoot me an email. You’re gonna love this hobby.

  13. Ted O'Neill says:

    It looks like the carboy in your video is one of those Better Bottles, which I have 2 of. So if my assumption is correct, first I like the whole safety aspect of the Better Bottle, but I do have one concern. I have tried using pressure and soaking to clean off the dried krausen / dried hop pellet gunk on the inside incline of the bottle. I wrote them and they suggested stuffing a wash cloth in and swishing/swirling upside down to get the junk off, but it doesn’t really clean it well. I’ll soak it and most does come off, but there is still enough left for me to cave in and stick a nylon carboy brush in there to finish the job. Of course I know that I will end up with scratches eventually, so is there any technique you use, again if my assumption is correct that you use a Better Bottle to ferment in?

  14. @Ted When you soak, do you use PBW or Oxyclean? I had the same issue as you with my better bottles, but I found that those options (I use Oxyclean Free) did the job, without having to resort to scrubbing.

  15. I have the sterile siphon starter setup (came with the equipment kit I got from MoreBeer), and it works like a charm.

    Kinda off topic, but still related to siphoning…

    One thing I’ve been debating lately is that lots of people advocate whirlpooling and siphoning wort into the fermenter postboil, to leave most of the trub behind. Can’t do that with the SSS as far as I know…though if I’m wrong, I’d love to know it. Currently I’m just dumping it all in. Anyone think it’s worth it to pick up the autosiphon for this purpose? If it’s purely cosmetic for clarity, I probably won’t bother, but if anyone had thoughts on the issue I’d love to hear them.

  16. Billy Broas says:

    @mk I have used the whirpool and siphon method a few times in the past when doing extract brews on the stove top. I don’t do it with all-grain since my keggle has a spigot on the bottom.

    People do it both ways – some dump it all in and some siphon to leave the hops and cold break behind. I’m a fan of the latter, but have had mixed results with whirlpooling in my stove top pot. It works better in the keggle since there is a little pit on the bottom for everything to drop into. If things are working fine for you with the SSS then I wouldn’t buy the autosiphon just for whirlpooling. If you get one in the future though for another reason, then give it a shot. You’re right, the SSS won’t work with the pot, but you can use it as a normal siphon too.

  17. Ted O'Neill says:

    mk November 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm
    @Ted When you soak, do you use PBW or Oxyclean? I had the same issue as you with my better bottles, but I found that those options (I use Oxyclean Free) did the job, without having to resort to scrubbing.

    mk – Below I may have meant to reply to your comment above and replied to Billy instead. I have no idea how this stuff works, but per Billy’s suggestion, I copied the email info. Billy has a good suggestion about plugging the opening and turning upside down for soaking to conserve water & Oxy.

    However, I see you use Oxyclean Free, where I bought a big box at Sam’s Club and it has blue specks in it. Is that something that may not be good, if different from Oxy Free?

    Hey Ted,

    The OxiClean should work well for you. Another trick I use is plugging the carboy and turning it upside down so that the liquid is always in contact with that gunk at the top. You can do the same thing by filling it all the way with water, but I try to save on water when I can.

    BTW this email actually came from another reader commenting on the post and asking you a question. Would you mind pasting your response in reply to them on the blog when you get a chance?

    Thanks!

    Billy

    On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 7:49 AM, Ted ONeill wrote:

    I had tried a more diluted mix of B-Brite (similar to PBW as far as I know). This weekend I did pick up a big box of Oxyclean at Sams Club, so I’ll try that. Otherwise you are right I do like Better Bottles, I had a herniated disk in my back last year (not while brewing fortunately). Since I have to walk down 5 concrete steps to move my carboys to the basement from the patio after filling, the last thing I need is to have my back go out and then fall on the broken carboy. I definately don’t want a very enjoyable hobby to kill me.

    Thanks Billy!

    Ted O’Neill

  18. @Billy: Cool, thanks. Yeah, I’ll probably just stick with the full pour for now since, as you guessed, I’m doing extract for now and it’s probably not making a crazy difference anyway. Thanks!

    @Ted: I think that might be regular Oxyclean vs. the Free version. I believe the specks might be little fragrance things, so you might just want to make sure you rinse really well. I used that at first though, and with careful rinsing never had any problems with soapy flavors or anything. And yeah, the upside-down stopper situation usually does the trick, since the tough spot is typically the dried ring of krausen up top.

  19. I use an autosiphon for my batches of beer. For my one-gallon glass jugs of wine, I have a little siphon kit similar to the orange carboy, but it uses a rubber stopper that has two holes in it so they are airtight. You can blow into that really well and there is no outside air, and the siphon works great. I got the one-gallon siphon kit at E.C. Kraus website.

  20. curious, I’ve looked and can’t find it, is the sterile part sold separately? I’ve got the cane and the cap, just need the sterile air filter part. I can’t seem to find anyplace that just has that small part

  21. Maine Dude says:

    Billy,
    Great video! I started brewing in the mid 80’s, and hated the idea of “sucking on the hose…”. So I rigged up a contraption like your #2, sterile siphon starter, but since I didn’t have the filter, I used a short section of non-flex clear tube put down through the orange caps second hole, and a 1 hole stopper on the end. I would take a gallon size water jug that I had bathed in sanitizer, and put the mouth of the jug over the stopper, and simply squeeze the jug. It would cause positive pressure in the carboy, and push the liquid up the cane. I know it’s a sanitized filter, but I’m still not 100% sold it would filter out all bugs you blow into it, especially if you are then allowing it to continue to suck air through it. Maybe if you removed the filter after pushing it, so that no more air would be going through it, but that’s just me.
    My contraption got printed up in Brewing Technique magazine way back when.

    Hoppy Brewing!

  22. Phatrat says:

    Not sure if someone already mentioned this cause I didn’t ready the whole thread..but I use C02 instead of air. Just make sure to set the regulator to zero…then slowly bring it up. Works great…I even walk away from it while siphoning….and come back once its almost finished.
    Basically just use the C02 instead of blowing into the carboy. Could be dangerous though if you used to much pressure.

  23. I’ve been using autosiphon, but have broken one, and getting tired of the rigamarole getting it clean and sanitized. And getting a stainless cane, easy to clean well, last the rest of my life and may even be part of the estate, is pretty attractive. Thanks Billy.

  24. After using the siphon, what method do you use for cleaning the equipment? Do you cleanse immediately after use? I am afraid I may have some debris build up within my siphon that may be harmful to my beer. Currently, I have been washing with unscented soap after use then cleansing and sanitizing right before my next use. Thanks!

  25. Don’t forget ported carboys. People seem opposed to them, but when it comes down to it, it’s actually the cheapest, longest lasting, and easily sanitized method. Keeping a cane sanitized while racking 10 gallons is always a challenge for me… need a third hand.

    However, I think the coolest is a repeat of what Phatrat wrote about “pumping” with CO2. I use a chest freezer with temp gauge to control my fermentations, and cold crash when done. But, always leaves me lifting it straight up, straining my back, and disturbing the nicely compacted yeast and trub. If I could rack that without moving my fermenters, I’d be a happy camper. Going to get that going soon I think.

  26. How long would it take to autosiphone 5 gal? Are there any faster alternatives like a pump? Or is a pump even worth it?

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