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How to Use an Auto-Siphon

One of the most essential pieces of equipment in a homebrewer's arsenal is an auto-siphon. Besting the alternative methods, like sucking on a rubber tube, the auto-siphon allows you to transfer your homebrew from one vessel to another with limited oxygen exposure. In this article we cover how to use an auto-siphon, and how to maintain it.

Auto-Siphon Components

There are 4 components to most auto-siphons, which are all removable from each other to allow for easy cleaning and sanitizing. Tube: This is the large tube which contains the smaller racking cane. On the end of this tube is a fork with a valve attached to the bottom. This valve is more or less a one way valve, which helps create the vacuum needed to start the siphoning process. It can leak when holding fluid without the racking cane attached. Sediment Blocking Tip: This is the small black cap that attaches to the bottom of the tube, its job is to aid in preventing sediment flow during the racking process. Although the sediment blocking tip does perform its job well it does not assure that all sediment will be blocked especially if it is submerged in the trub at the bottom of your fermentor. Racking Cane: This is the smaller tube made of hard plastic that has a 90 degree bend on one end, and a plunger on the other. The straight end with the plunger goes into the tube, and provides a seal to block air flow which in return creates a vacuum inside the auto-siphon. Siphon Tubing: This is flexible tubing that attaches to the bent end of the racking cane. Your home brew will flow up the racking cane and down the tubing into your new fermentor, or bottles. Siphon tubing isn't typically included in the purchase of an auto-siphon, but can be bought separately at most hardware stores. Having 5-7 feet of this tubing is optimal.   

Auto Siphon Care

Taking the auto-siphon apart and including it in your cleaning / sanitizing regiment is extremely important, and cleaning the auto-siphon directly after each use is suggested. While the plastic on the racking cane is durable, precaution should still be taken because if excessive force is used it will break. Also to keep in mind, siphon tubing should be replaced when it starts to become stained or dirty. Tubing is inexpensive and will help avoid infections when replaced in a timely manner.

Using Your Auto-Siphon

  • Make sure that the elevation of your fermentor is greater than that of the container you plan on racking into. Gravity is the causing force that allows you to have a continuous flow from your fermentor, and if the fermentor you are racking from is higher than the container you are racking into gravity can't do its job.
  • After sanitizing all parts, place the tube into your homebrew and have the flexible tubing running down into your new container. Try to avoid disturbing any of the sediment on the bottom of your fermentor to keep it from moving to the next vessel.
  • While submerging the tube into your homebrew lift the racking can up completely, then slowly but firmly press the racking cane back down into the tube. This will draw your homebrew into the auto-siphon, and then by forcing it back down suction is created to allow the flow of your beer.
  • If these steps were done correctly there should be a constant and consistent flow from your auto-siphon. If the flow does manage to slow down, or worse stop, you can simply give the racking can a few quick successive pumps to restart the transfer.

Managing Flow

  • If you see a blip of space where the racking cane meets the siphon tubing pump again to reduce oxygen exposure.
  • Keep the end of the siphon tubing below the liquid level as soon as you can to avoid any splashing (oxygenation).
  • If you are bottling directly from the end of the siphon tubing a bottling wand is a great thing to have as it will allow you to stop the flow without losing the flow from the siphon.
  • If the vessel you're racking into is too small and an overflow is imminent, lift the tube completely out to end the flow. Some oxygen will get sucked up until the siphon ends, but it shouldn’t end up in your batch. This is also handy if you are bottling from the tubing without a wand and didn’t have enough bottles lined up.

Auto-siphons are a great tool to have and will substantially increase your beer quality by reducing excessive oxygenation after fermentation.