Ask MAKE: Siphon for homebrewing beer

Alex asks:

I’ve brewed beer at home three times, but one thing has always proved to be a problem: How do I get a siphon going well for moving my cooled wort into my primary fermenting bucket, and then for bottling? When I put my mouth on the tube to start the flow, it de-sanitizes the equipment I went to great length to clean, and the flow often stops, making me have to repeat this process. It’s very frustrating! I’m sure there’s a better way.

I’ve also brewed beer a few times at home, and this part was tricky at first. You really shouldn’t put your mouth on the tube, as it introduces bacteria to the cooled wort, which could spoil the whole batch. I found a video (above, from which illustrates an effective way of starting a siphon that works remarkably well. Basically you start the siphon with water from the sink, with the racking cane in a vessel of sanitizing solution. Hold the tubing up to the running faucet water until water starts flowing into the sanitizing solution vessel, then stop the flow with your thumb over the end of the tubing. Then start the siphon by holding the end of the tube low in the sink (lower than the sanitizing solution vessel) and letting go with your thumb. Liquid will flow from the vessel into the sink, and once it starts going well, cap the tubing with your thumb once again. At this point it’s safe to lift the racking cane and tubing assembly out of the vessel (keep your thumb over the end of the tubing, and the suction will prevent liquid from exiting the bottom of the racking cane), moving it over to your wort container. With the end of the racking cane in the wort and the end of the tubing lower than the wort vessel, release your thumb, siphoning the water into a waste container (or in the grass if you’re in your backyard) until the wort starts coming through, at which point you can move the siphon tubing to drain into your fermenter or bottle. This is a long convoluted explanation of the easily demonstrated method shown in the video, so be sure to watch that too. Happy brewing!

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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