Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Easy Siphon Technique

Back in the day when I was fermenting in glass carboys and bottling my beer, I always came up against my feelings of intimidation when it was time to start a siphon, racking from one vessel to the next. My worries came from an exaggerated fear of contamination as I stumbled to get the flow started and fought with hoses as I lost it completely and attempted to start it over again. But after a short time I quickly became proficient at it and now it comes as second nature. These days, even though I use fermenters with valves for easy transfer, there is still the occasion when it's necessary for me to siphon and I also teach the technique in my brewing classes. The following steps illustrate what I have found to be the easiest and most effective way to siphon for the least cost in materials.

Granted, there are some brewing devices on the market like Morebeers'
sterile siphon starter and Northern Brewers' auto siphon, but this post is to show the beginner how easy and inexpensive it can be to start a siphon with the basics.

To begin with I am assuming that at the time you're ready to rack that there is a bucket or keg full of sanitizer for the purpose of transfers.

The key to this process is holding and moving the hose and cane with one hand to prevent the liquid from escaping.

  1. Submerge transfer hose into sanitizing solution insuring that the entire length of hose fills with the solution. It is important that the hose fills with the sanitizer, it is ineffective to coil or bunch up the hose and push the whole wad down at once. The way I make sure the hose fills is by starting one end of the hose down in the liquid and threading the hose down evenly coiling down into the bucket as I go.

  2. Place racking cane in the sanitizer.

  3. After a couple minutes of soaking it's time to remove the hose.

  4. While submerged, grab both ends of the filled hose and place evenly in one hand. Lift the hose out of the solution.
  5. Lift one end of the hose slightly higher then the other end to cause some liquid to come out, leaving a couple inches of empty space at each end of the hose. Again, place both ends of hose evenly in one hand.
  6. Take racking cane out of solution with free hand and shake off excess liquid. You will do this while still holding the hose evenly with the other hand.

  7. Stab the racking cane into one end of the hose. Now you should be holding both ends of hose along with the cane in one hand.

  8. Still with one hand, carefully lift and lower the cane into the vessel to be siphoned.

  9. Now simply drop the free end of hose to start the siphon.

  10. Pinch the hose where it connects to the cane to eliminate trapped air bubble.

  11. Run sanitizer from hose onto the ground or a bucket and then divert beer flow to receiving vessel.

It seems complicated reading all the above instructions but doing the procedure once and it will all make complete sense. Again, the secret to this success is having the assembled hose/cane in one hand.


BF said...

Mark, this method drops a tube's length of sanitizing solution into your fermenter/bottle. No big deal, perhaps? Are there many purists out there who might not agree? \bill

Beer Diary... said...

I guess I should have elaborated on that part. I will drop the hose and start the flow on the ground or in a bucket until the beer is flowing, then divert to receiving vessel.

Chemgeek said...

Good advice. I usually do something similar, but I have been guilty of starting a siphon by mouth. *hangs head in shame* I did spray it down with some Everclear before letting the siphon go.

Beer Diary... said...

Hi Chemgeek,
thanks for the comment. I have in the past started the siphon using the 'mouth' method but what I would do is use the plastic part of a turkey baster shoved into the end of the hose and when the flow started, pull the baster out quickly so as not to contaminate the end of the hose. Crude but effective.

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