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How to Syphon & Rack Off
Syphoning is the process of transferring liquid from one vessel to another using siphonic action.
Racking off is removing the beer or wine from the yeast sediment. Usually by syphoning the liquid out of the vessel (6-gallon bucket)with the yeast and into a clean and sterile vessel (5-gallon bucket), leaving the sediment behind.
Syphoning in homebrewing relies on gravity.
The simplest way of syphoning is using a long thin tube and two equal sized buckets. Raise the full bucket on to a work surface or table, and put the clean, empty bucket on the floor next to it.
Then put one end (end A) of a sterilised tube into the top bucket, with the liquid in, ensuring that the tube reaches all the way to the bottom and is securely fixed in position by a bucket clip or similar device.
Next, ensure that the tube reaches a reasonable distance into the bucket on the floor.
Finally check the tube has no kinks, and the tube is not kinked or flat at the apex. (Where the syphon tube passes over the wall of the top bucket.). Now, draw the liquid through by sucking on the other end (end B).
Once there is more liquid on the down flowing side of the pipe than there is between the top of the beer(wort) or wine (must), and the apex (highest point of the syphon, where it passes over the wall of the bucket.)
Gravity should be able to continue the siphonic action, and you can place end B in the lower bucket and let the liquid flow.
The reason for raising the bucket you are removing the liquid from, above the vessel you are filling, is because you need to have a greater weight of water acting on the down flowing side of the syphon, than the upflowing side.
This allows the extra gravitational impact on the longer down flow side to counteract the lesser gravitational effect on the smaller up flow side, allowing the liquid to flow in the desired direction.
This is the most straightforward method.
There are, however, some pitfalls to using just a tube.
First, there is the risk of "hoovering" up a lot of sediment.
If you are racking off, this can defeat the purpose of racking off if bottling it can result in sediment going into the beer bottles, which can affect the flavour.
To protect against this problem use a syphon with a sediment shield.
All our syphons come with a sediment shield.
Although instances of this causing a problem are rare, it has happened occasionally.
Many people prefer to use a pump action syphon, which makes syphoning easier and the process cleaner.
Unfortunately, you will no longer get the little treat of a first taste.
When racking off, set up the buckets and syphon like when syphoning.
Ensure you use a syphon with a sediment shield ie a ubend, and suspend end A of the syphon tube, the end with the sediment shield, just above the sediment, ensuring you do not disturb it, syphon of all the liquid above the sediment trap as usual.
The remaining liquid can be passed through a filter to separate the wine or beer from the sediment, or you can discard the last bit, or use it for something else.
Some use it in the garden to catch slugs or feed the garden.
Some re-use the yeast on another batch.
Reusing the yeast is fine if re-used quickly, but can be problematic if stored for longer. Yeasts can only be re-used once or twice before the yeast is significantly different from the strain bought.