In the process of teaching myself how to brew hooch at home one of the most unexpected difficulties was the process of siphoning.

Now I had started siphons before, I knew the basic concept, but when you attempt to do it in a controlled and precise manner it becomes much more difficult.  When siphoning in regards to brewing the biggest issue is that you cant simply drain all the liquid out of the vessel.  When racking your booze you want to leave the yeast sediment at the bottom while removing as much of the liquid as possible.

I started siphoning, way back when, with nothing more then a vinyl tube I bought at the hardware store.  I’d start it by mouth and then let it drain out.  It was crude, ineffective, and admittedly unsanitary.   The next step I took was to buy an autosiphon, which turned out to be a massive waste of money that worked poorly and eventually ended up breaking.

While the autosiphon broke, I did ,however, keep the inside bit which is nothing more then a long rigid plastic tube with a 90 degree bend on the end, very similar to a racking cane.  This became the first half the system I use now.

The next step was to shorten the amount of tubing I was using to make it much less unwieldy and finally attach a valve to one end to make filling multiple bottles much much easier.

This is my current setup that works very well

ignore the dribble, I had just finished washing the rig

You can see the racking can, the tube, and the on/off valve.  The tubing is quite short, and almost a little to short, but the tube length is relative to the difference hegiht from where your starting vessel and ending vessels are.  I siphon from a low counter to the floor so I dont  a very long length of tube, but if your counter is higher you’ll need yours to be a bit longer.

Bear in mind when picking your tubing, in order for the siphon to work the bottom of your first vessel must be above the top of your second vessel.

Here’s a close up of the valve on the end.  Its a simple butterfly valve you can buy at any hardware store held on with hose clamps.  The valve makes transferring five gallons from the fermenter to the one gallon racking jugs much simpler as you can cut the flow of the siphon off, keeping the tube full, and simply move to the next jug and open the valve and keep going.

The valve also helps when starting the siphon because once the tube is full of tap water you can simply close the valve and let it be while you situate the racking cane and get your racking vessels into place.

The next addition I’d like to make in the future is some kind of jig that will hold the fermenter at a 45 degree angle.  The angle becomes necessary as you get close to the end of the siphoning process since it increases the depth of the liquid in one spot, making it easier to siphon the last little bit while avoiding the spent yeast and other solids that are sitting on the bottom.

Here’s a list of equipment you’ll need to make siphoning your booze simple and easy:

  • A racking cane ~ this makes avoiding the sediment much easier, especially when dealing with large fermenters
  • An on/off valve ~ this makes starting the siphon and transferring between multiple jugs/bottles much much easier
  • A bucket ~ this is just a bucket that you can use to drain the tap water into when you first start the siphon.  I use my five gallon bucket and fill it with bleach water beforehand to sterilize the racking jugs and the siphoning rig
  • A towel ~ You’re gonna make a mess, just accept that fact, put a towel down underneath your racking vessels to help minimize how much you have to clean
  • Bleach ~ always sanitize your rig before use, always

Here’s a really good video on the step by step process of siphoning your homebrew