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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cheapest option
- 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.
- 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
- 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
You can buy the sterile siphon starter at MoreBeer here.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
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!
Latest posts by Billy Broas (see all)
- The Wine Book Every Beer Drinker Should Read (or…Sniff) - December 6, 2015
- My Journey from Home Brewer to Home Distiller (and how you can do it too) - November 16, 2015
- Craft Beer Lovers Split Over the Influence of Big Beer - October 16, 2015