Transferring beer around between the different vessels can be a difficult task. It is not as easy as pouring the primary fermenter into the secondary. That is just begging for an infection. The best way to accomplish this task is through the use of an auto siphon, which is also sometimes referred to as a racking cane. It is sometimes called a racking cane due to the process of transferring the beer between vessels is known as racking beer.
What is an Auto Siphon?
An auto siphon is a long L-shaped tube typically made of plastic or glass. The “L shaped” end of the tube has a hand pump that creates the siphon and is attached to tubing for the beer to travel through. The other side of the racking cane usually has a special designed tip or attachment to filter out any unwanted yeast and hop particles from getting in the beer. Another benefit of using a racking cane is the reduced exposure of oxygen to the beer, resulting in a better final product. I recommend the FermTech Auto Siphon kit as it has everything you’ll need. This deluxe siphoning kit comes with an auto siphon, 6.5 feet of tubing, a clamp, and a bottle filler. Most setups usually require 5 feet of tubing and this one comes with an extra 1.5 feet, and the included clamp allows you to clip to siphon to the vessel making it easier for one person to handle.
Sanitizing an Auto Siphon
Just like for the brewing process sanitizing the equipment is crucial, otherwise you may end up with an infection. The first step you’ll want to do is to wet the tube before using. Once wet, place the center tube inside the outer racking cane and attach the tubing. Then sanitize it by sticking it in a bucket of sanitizer and pumping it a couple of times. Let sanitizer flow all throughout the tubing to guarantee it is sanitized.
Using an Auto Siphon to Transfer Beer
Using the auto siphon is a fairly simple process and only will take a few minutes. First, make sure the vessel that currently is holding the beer is on an elevated surface and the empty vessel is below it. That way, once the siphon is started, gravity will do the rest of the work. Next, place the one end of the racking cane into the vessel with the beer. You want to go past the top layer of dead yeast but not all the way to the bottom where other debris has settled, hold it so it is somewhere in the middle. Then start pumping the cane a couple times and beer should start flowing up the tube. Once enough beer goes through the tube, the auto siphon should have started and you no longer need to pump. Hold the racking cane in place and once the level starts lower in the fermenter, lower the cane as well until all the beer has been transferred to the secondary fermenter. If the flow of beer slows down or stops, just give the racking cane another couple pumps to get it flowing again.
Watch it in Action
For the visual learners, here is a video from Northern Brewer demonstrating how to sanitize, operate, and clean a racking cane.
Using an Auto Siphon With a Bottling Wand
An auto siphon can also be used in conjunction with an bottling wand to assist with the bottle filling process. Depending on your equipment some bottling buckets feature a spigot where you can attach tubing and a bottling wand. For those who don’t have a bottling bucket, do not worry, you can still bottle your beer with ease. Similar to the transferring instructions, you first want to sanitize your equipment. Next, attach a bottling wand to the end of the tubing. Pump the auto siphon a couple of times to get the beer flowing, then it is time to start bottling. Place the bottling wand in the bottom of a sanitized beer bottle and push down on the tip. Bottling wands have a spring loaded valve, so once the tip is pushed down the beer will start to fill the bottle. Once the beer is at the top lift up the wand and remove it from the bottle. Bottling wands are designed to leave just enough head space in the bottle to prevent any over pressurization from the carbonation that occurs once the bottle is capped.
Cleaning an Auto Siphon
Once you are finished using your auto siphon, the clean up is very easy. Stick the auto siphon in a bucket of hot soapy water and run some through the racking cane. Then rinse it with water and leave it out to dry. Same goes for the bottling wand, just have it attached to the end of the tubing and run some soapy water through it and rinse once done.
Tips for Using an Auto Siphon
- When placing the racking cane in the vessel, do so slowly to prevent disturbing the debris that has settled on the bottom. Keeping it on the bottom and not floating around in will prevent it from getting into the next vessel and will result in a clearer beer.
- Make sure the racking cane stays below the liquid level at all times, otherwise oxygen will be introduced into your beer and may have some unwanted side effects.
- Finally, always clean your auto siphon immediately after use. This allows for the easiest cleaning and prolongs the life of the equipment. If you ever notice a crack or stains you should buy a new racking cane. It is not worth the risk of losing or ruining the beer by using damaged equipment.
An auto siphon is a very useful tool that every homebrewer should own. It greatly simplifies the racking and bottling processes. It is also much more sanitary starting an auto siphon instead of the old fashioned way of sucking on the end of the tubing. The equipment is fairly inexpensive too, making the decision to purchase one a no-brainer!