3 Ways to Siphon Your Beer

by Billy Broas



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?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Jorge October 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

Billy,

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

Jorge

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Billy Broas October 8, 2010 at 11:49 am

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

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Big Tex October 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

AUTOSIPHON!

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Serge G. October 11, 2010 at 1:47 am

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

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Billy Broas October 11, 2010 at 4:36 pm

@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.

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Thile October 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm

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.

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Billy Broas October 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

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

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Scott October 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

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.

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Billy Broas October 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm

@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!

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Thile October 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm

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).

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Jason October 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

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.

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Billy Broas October 31, 2010 at 4:49 pm

@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.

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Ted O'Neill November 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm

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?

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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.

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mk November 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

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.

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Billy Broas November 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm

@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.

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Ted O'Neill November 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

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

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mk November 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

@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.

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Paula February 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

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.

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Erik March 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

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

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Billy Broas March 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Hey Erik, here’s the link to the filter: http://morebeer.com/view_product/16797/beerwinecoffee/Sanitary_Filter

Thanks for visiting the blog.

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Maine Dude December 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

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!

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Billy Broas December 26, 2012 at 9:58 am

Very cool! Thanks for sharing the technique and that’s great that it even got published.

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Phatrat April 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

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.

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hal July 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

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.

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Kevin December 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm

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!

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Billy Broas December 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Definitely clean it right after use by soaking it in OxiClean or PBW. If you’re worried that stuff is permanently on there then I would get a new one. It’s worth risking contaminating your beer and they are pretty cheap. Also give this a read: http://billybrew.com/best-homebrew-cleaners. Cheers!

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Mark March 3, 2014 at 11:00 pm

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.

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