How to Siphon Beer

Posted on March 4, 2010 by

Siphoning Wort Into a Fermenter

Siphoning wort into a fermenter can be a really difficult task for people new to brewing beer. Transferring beer or wort is a delicate process because you are now in a temperature zone that you really want to protect from outside bacteria. That means that every time you open your beer up to the air or stick something into the beer you put it at risk of being infected. So one way to minimize this risk is to siphon your beer quickly from one vessel to the next. There are a few different options and some are better than others.

By Hand

When I first started brewing beer I siphoned by hand. I’m very tight with my money and I didn’t want to add an expense to something if I could do it myself. There is a lot of steps to starting a siphon when compared to other methods.

How To Start A Siphon By Hand

  1. Fill the siphon hosing with sanitized solution making sure to get all of the air out of it.
  2. Plug both ends of the siphon hose and proceed to your containers.
  3. Place your “from” container (the container you want to move liquid from) up higher than the “to” container (the container you are siphoning the beer to). The liquid will stay in the tube as long as you keep your finger on the other end.
  4. Once that siphon end is in place, unplug the other end of the siphon tube, drain off the clear liquid sanitizer into a cup or something, then plug the siphon hose again.
  5. Put the end into the container you would like to siphon your wort into and unplug the end.
  6. Congratulations! You have started a siphon.

How To Start A Siphon

I have found this way to be a huge pain in the ass though. If you lose the siphon, and believe me it can happen, you have to pull the siphon hose out and start from scratch again. All the while your beer is exposed and you are creating an opportunity for infection by taking your hose in and out of your beer.

How to Start a Siphon Using a Carboy Cap

This is a pretty cool invention that, in theory works really well. I used these same procedure a couple of times before moving onto something else.

Basically all you have to do is stick your racking cane in the end that your airlock was in. After you get theCarboy Cap cane in place you take the white cap off the end and blow into it very lightly. The carbon dioxide layer that sits at the top of the fermenter allows you to easily push your beer out. I was not a big fan of the Carboy Cap.

There are drawbacks though. The first is if you lose your siphon, it is nearly impossible to start a siphon again without having to blow harder than you have ever blown before. Not only does it really not work, but you are now blowing your mouth bacteria into your brew. Another draw back is that these caps don’t fit all fermenters. They only fit carboys and only certain tops, so it isn’t guaranteed it will work. Last but not least, if you forget to use that as your top when you pitch your yeast and put your carboy a way for 2 weeks, you are stuck without this option and forced to manually do it.

How to Start a Siphon with an Auto Siphon

Starting a Siphon with an Auto Siphon is Auto Siphonextremely easy to do and has become my favorite piece of equipment. They are cheap, don’t get me wrong, it could easily break if not taken care of, but they are cheap as well. So replacement isn’t going to break the bank. As you can see in the video, you basically sanitize, pull the end up half way, place it in the wort, and pump. It is that easy. If you lose your siphon, you just adjust and pump again. Your siphon is started that easily.

I highly recommend starting your siphons with an Auto Siphon. It will save you time and minimize the amount of time your beer is exposed to organic yeasts and bacteria.

Do you use one of these methods and find it to work better than the other? I’d love to hear your methods. I know there are more than just these 3, but these are the most straight forward and the most common. So what is your method?

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  • gil

    if you are simply transferring liquid from one container to another, why can't you just pour it?

  • mike

    Well its really because you are not “simply” transferring the beer. You are taking the beer off of the “trub” all the little pieces of protein, grain and dead yeast, plus sleeping yeast, and putting it into another vessel to finish off its fermentation and to clear the beer up more. Like Lemonheadzzz said, you will also aerate the beer and potentially oxide the hop molecules, which can give you an off flavor in your brew.

    Thanks for the comment. If you want to know more, feel free to ask. I could hook you up with some more information if you would like to get started making some brews for yourself.

  • lemonheadzzz

    You don't want to pour it in because that will create oxygen and potentially ruin the beer

  • thatguy314

    I don't like using the auto-siphone post-ferementation because I always find air bubbling into my beer.

    I use the carboy cap method pumped by CO2 from my kegging system at 5psi directly into the beer-out (long dip tube) on my kegs.

  • mikebiewer

    Having a kegging system with the CO2 would make that carboy cap a great option. Unfortunately I don't have the space to do something like that so I'm forced to use simpler measures. I've also found that those carboy caps don't fit every kind of carboy that I have. That was kind of a disappointment.

    I did notice a little bit of bubbling in my auto siphon, but I think it came from a leak in a hose, not the siphon itself.

    Do you have any pictures of your system? I'd love to see them!

    Thanks for the comment!

    Mike

  • thatguy314

    I could take some pictures sure. Might be a couple days before I do.

    Both 5 and 6 gallon carboys have one size carboy cap that fits pretty well (i've only tried it on 6 gallons), where as 6.5 gallon carboys function better with a different size carboy cap. I've never had a problem as long as I use the right cap.

  • mikebiewer

    The cap I have fits my 6.5 but not my six I think. Kind of disappointing. Another person was telling me that instead of blowing on the one side that I could use two caps, one on each carboy, and suck on the one that I want to siphon to. Have you ever tired or seen that being done?

    I may give that idea a shot until I get into a CO2 situation like you've got. Kegging seems to be the way to go, can drink it faster, but I just don't have the space.

    Thanks again!

  • thatguy314
  • mikebiewer

    Sweet. Thanks.

    When I purchased mine I thought it was going to work on both.

    Oh well.

  • http://alestolagers.blogspot.com Ales to Lagers

    Great post about the different ways…just had a post about a auto-siphon so I am going to link them here.

  • Redwings0102

    From the video the tube is not in the second carboy but flowing like a faucet into the second carboy. Why is that? Wouldn’t it be easier to put the tube directly into the second. Does it serve a purpose?

  • Anonymous

    It is directly in the secondary. Unfortunately, my tube wasn’t long enough to reach the bottom of the carboy. Usually, when I siphon, I have the end of the tube right up against the wall of the secondary to prevent any an unwanted aeration. In this video though, I couldn’t hold the tube and the camera at the same time.

    So, if you have long enough tube, put it at the bottom, but be aware that as the levels begin to even out, you’ll lose your pressure, so you’ll always need to keep the end of the tube near the top of the level of fluid in the secondary.

    Hope that helps!

    mike

  • Anonymous

    It’s extremely difficult to pour from one 5/6.5 gallon carboy to another without spilling. Wort is extremely stick to clean up as well.

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