Brewing Beer at Home: Siphoning and 2nd Fermentation

Beer Sessions

A week after brewing our first batch of beer, it was time to transfer it from the primary fermentation bucket into a clean carboy. We've never actually siphoned anything before, so this was quite an adventure!

1. The End Goal - It's not completely necessary to transfer the beer into another container at this point. Some sources say that the beer can start to develop off-flavors from the dead yeast or evaporate too much due to the bigger surface area. We think the primary advantage is that your fermentation bucket is then freed up to brew another batch of beer!

2. First Glimpse at Our Beer - After waiting a whole week, we were anxious to take a peek at our beer. It looked like...beer! It smelled rich and yeasty, and was a deep brown color. The rings of sediment above the surface are spent yeast cells.

3. Starting the Siphon - To start the siphon, we put the fermentation bucket on the counter with the clean and sanitized carboy on the floor. The siphoning tube goes all the way to the bottom of the fermentation bucket, and it has a special cap to prevent the yeast sludge from being siphoned along with the beer. The other end goes into the carboy. You start the siphon by suctioning beer all the way through the tube with as few air pockets as possible - like a straw. Once the tube is full, the beer flows on its own. It's like magic!

4. The Whole Siphon - Here you can see the entire siphon from the primary fermentation bucket down to the carboy. (Sorry for the bathroom shots. We've been using the tub in our second bathroom for beer storage!)

5. The Siphon - You can see how the beer is flowing smoothly through the siphon. The trick is to keep it always flowing downhill, which was a little difficult with the long hose we got with our kit.

6. Into the Carboy - You don't want to end up with a lot of air bubbles in the beer at this point, so we tried to keep the beer from splashing into the carboy as much as we could.

7. Half Full Carboy - Almost there!

8. Yeast Sludge - There was a thick sludge left at the bottom of the fermentation bucket. This is all the spent yeast that has already done its job converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

9. Full Carboy - Once all the beer was siphoned, we re-attached the air lock and were done. We'll wait another two weeks to make sure all the remaining sugars in the beer have been converted and then we can bottle it up!

What's Next?

Once the beer has completely finished fermenting, we'll mix it with some priming sugar and then siphon it into individual bottles. The priming sugar will give the bottled beer one last burst of fermentation and also give it carbonation. This takes another two weeks, and then we'll finally get to sample the finished product!

Related: How Cold Should Beer Be Served?

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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