A Homebrewing Guide For The Perplexed

Over the years quite a lot of you have asked about how to start brewing your own beer. The short answer is that it’s pretty easy! Find your nearest homebrew supply store and introduce yourself. Most of those guys love to help beginners get started, and the few jerks won’t mind if you keep going to the next homebrew shop down the road.

As an added incentive to get yourself started, here are FAQ-formatted answers to questions that would-be homebrewers often ask. Join me after the flip.

How much time does brewing take? Making good beer takes about a month total, although the brewer only needs to work for about six hours of that. Brew day generally needs about three hours. Then you give the yeast a week or two in a primary fermenting vessel (usually an eight-gallon plastic bucket with lid). You usually siphon the beer into a secondary fermenter where it sits for another week or two to clean up the flavors. Bottling takes another three-ish hours of work, then two more weeks for bottle-fermenting. Then you’re ready to go.

How much does it cost? If you buy everything new, the durable goods for your first batch should cost $70-100. I would spend another $50-$100 for useful extras such as a copper-coil wort chiller, a tap-threaded bottle washer and a secondary fermenter, but you can go without if cost is a problem. Consumables for each batch will range from as low as $15 for a pre-mixed syrup with dry packet yeast (that you will probably regret) to $60-$70 for a high-alcohol specialty recipe with exotic ingredients. Expect to spend about $40 for the ingredients in a typical medium-strength beer recipe.

How much beer will I get per brew? One 5-gallon batch produces two cases worth of beer. If filling and capping forty-eight bottles sounds like no fun, either use larger 22-oz bottles or look into kegging at home.

Can I make my favorite kind of beer? With one notable exception, the answer is almost certainly yes. Homebrewers have diligently reverse-engineered ‘clone’ recipes for nearly every commercial brew on the market. If you want to make your own homemade Dead Guy Ale, the odds are pretty good that a recipe is already out there. Further, most beer styles are doable once you know the basics. The major exception to this rule is lager beer. The lagering process is ultra-sensitive to mistakes, making it an unforgiving style for beginners. Worse, you basically cannot do it at all unless you have access to temperature-regulated cold rooms. If you need lager beer then keep buying cases of Budvar until you get quite good at turning out porters and pale ales.

Where can I find out more about brewing? (1) Find a shop near you and get to know the guys who work there. Either they will be thrilled to help you get started, or you shouldn’t shop there anyway. (2) The book list here is a great place to start. I enjoyed The Complete Joy of Homebrewing; others recommend The Brewmaster’s Bible.

How much space will I need? Unless you have particular skill with stacking things, plan to set aside a small dining room table’s worth of space somewhere in your property. Basement space is a prime spot for cases of empty bottles and unused gear.

That covers most of the questions that non-brewers typically ask, but we are not done yet. Here are a couple more points that will save many novice brewers from pain and tears.

How do I keep my beer from turning bitter, nasty, full of stringy crap and exploding out of overpressurized bottles? Both yeast and bacteria can potentially grow on sugary mash. You want yeast to win. Hops keep bacteria under control to some degree, but hops won’t save the batch if you handle it carelessly. Here are a few tips from a guy who uses sterile technique for about ten hours most week days. First of all, everything that touches the beer gets soaked first with no-rinse sanitizer. No-rinse works better for me than the other kind because you just soak, drip-dry and you’re ready to go. Once the initial boil is done I handle everything with rubber kitchen gloves, and I keep those sterile by routinely dunking in a bucket of the same no-rinse sanitizer. Finally, I avoid leaving my beer open to the air as much as possible. After fifteen batches without bacteria I’d say that the trouble is worth it.

The second way to keep bacteria under control is to use pre-grow your yeast in a decent-sized ‘starter culture’. To do this, prepare a one-liter ‘growler’ bottle of mash two days before the main brew day and pitch your yeast in that. 48 hours later the yeast should be awake and fermenting like mad. When you pitch a vigorous starter culture into your main brew, the yeast will have the beer up to 5% alcohol before bacteria can get their pants on.

What is the most dangerous moment in brewing? This question has two answers. The biggest red zone of your entire brewing career unquestionably comes at the particular moment when your sugary mash first starts to boil. Unattended mash WILL foam over onto the stovetop. Then you get a thick layer of sticky, smelly, burned goo on and around your burners, on the floor and spreading. If this happens on your very first batch, with a skeptical spouse looking over your shoulder waiting for exactly that to happen, there may not be a batch #2! To prevent this, keep a brewing thermometer in your mash and watch it like a hawk for the moment when it crosses over to a rolling boil. As soon as foam starts to rise, lift the whole pot off the burner and wait for the foam to settle back down, then return the pot to the burner. Depending on how strong you want your beer, you need to repeat this process three to five to eight times before the mash settles into a clean rolling boil. Also, do not cover a pot of boiling mash, ever. Trust me.

Brewing also involves involves several steps where you need lift your batch to something elevated like a chair to siphon it into another container. A 5-gallon batch of beer weighs about 45 pounds, so lift with your knees! There is a 50% chance that you have a greater-than-average risk of straining your back.

Now, as Hillel might have said, go home and brew.

41 replies
  1. 1
    Walker says:

    Beer, schmere. Funky foreign drink.

    Historically, hard cider (and applejack) is the true American drink.

    My apple trees have done really well this year because of the cold summer in NY. I should get a good yield when I press in October. I might need to buy some more carboys.

    Cider brewing isn’t that much different (provided you press your own Apples). The main challenge for cider is the yeast. Cider has its own sugars and so you want much less yeast (I have tried it without yeast and it does not quite eliminate all the sugars). And finding the right yeast for cider is tricky.

  2. 2
    Joey Maloney a/k/a The Bard Of Balloon Juice says:

    I’ve been on the intertubes pretty much since it first went civilian. I can confidently state this is the first message about beer ever headlined with a Maimonides shout-out.

    Well-done, sir.

  3. 3
    Jason says:

    Yeah, this is good stuff! I can vouch that people who run homebrew shops are really interested in just talking to you about the stuff, generally. My local shop is a lot of fun.

  4. 4
    Derek says:

    The hardest thing about homebrewing is temperature control (as pointed out when the guy talks about making lagers). But other then that, it’s one of the funner things you can do.

  5. 5
    Dude in Jersey says:

    What about grow house? Can they help with that?

  6. 6
    shirt says:

    Zymurgy. As they say, it’s the last word in homebrewing. From that magazine I learned how to make good extract brews, graduated me to all grain brewing, taught me how to make my own mash tun, counterflow heat exchanger and lots of litle things. I would strongly recomend a 120,000 BTU propane burner (think turkey fryer) and get out of the kitchen. Flies love fermenting wort. make sure your air traps work and the pressure of fermentation doesn’t blow the lid off of your fermenter. Watering the roses with the output of the heat exchanger is really a very bad idea.

  7. 7
    Ed Marshall says:

    If you basement brew I’ve never had any problem lagering in the winter. I’ve got a fermenter wrapped in Fermawrap with a temperature control box attached and it works perfectly. I guess it matters some on just how cold your winters are. You can’t use lagering recipes that are below probably 50 degrees that way but there are great lagers in the above 50 range.

    For summer we have a blond ale that drinks perfectly in hot weather, I toyed with the idea of building a refrigeration unit for my fermenter but I couldn’t justify the cost and hassle when there are so many great beers that don’t need it.

  8. 8
    Crusty Dem says:

    Thanks Tim, after 10 years of waiting, I’m finally getting the space I need to start brewing. After years of watching my dad fuss with bottles, does anyone have any advice on kegging? I’ll start with bottles, but I’d like to move to kegs once I know I’m enjoying it..

  9. 9
    Roger says:

    My recommendation for a book is How to Brew by John Palmer. Simply Excellent. You can even read the first edition of the book (3rd Ed. is out now) online at HOWTOBREW.COM

    Palmer’s book is much more advanced than Papazian’s classic Joy of Homebrewing.

  10. 10
    Ed Marshall says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    I use cornelius kegs and it’s simple. My fermenter is about six feet off the ground and you just suck and start a siphon into the keg. When it finishes you attach the top to the keg and you are done. Repeat until you get down into the sediment.

    I’ve got a fridge with beer taps attached and it holds four of them. I use five gallon kegs but my setup would work fine with ten gallon kegs.

  11. 11
    Roger says:

    Kegging is definitely the way to go. I bottled exactly one batch before moving to kegs. I use ball lock (pepsi) cornelius kegs. The pin lock kegs (coke) are a little harder to find parts for.

    Expect to spend about $250 on your initial setup. $80 for CO2 tank (filled), $60 for regulator, $25 per keg (get at least two!), and another $50-100 on keg connects, beverage and gas tubing, faucets (the rice range depends on if you get plastic picnic taps or actual faucets). Obviously you’ll need a fridge to stick your kegs in. Another $100 on craigslist and you’re golden.

  12. 12
    malraux says:

    After fifteen batches without bacteria I’d say that the trouble is worth it.

    I’m a big fan of bleach sanitization (everything gets a soak in bleach water then a rinse with tap water). I’m also a big fan of the idea that brewing predates the idea of bacteria, so you’re probably going to be ok even if your sanitation standards are lax.

    I would go for a tougher sanitation regimen, but my current kitchen just doesn’t allow for useful actions. Also, I’ve taken up the idea of outdoor brewing, so I kinda assume that I’ve got a fair amount of bacteria and fungi getting a shot at my beer. I just hope that my yeast is stronger, and thus far it has been.

  13. 13
    Zach says:

    Agree with just about everything Tim has said. When I bottle, I do not use chemical sanitizer, though — I’ve had one too many bottles that tasted of Iodophor. I find that it’s much easier, and equally effective, to sanitize bottles in the oven. 90 minutes at 250 degrees, with a pan of water at the oven floor to generate a little steam and carry the heat more effectively, works well for me, and I can easily fit a full 5 gallons’ worth of bottles in my oven. Just make sure they’re cool before you try to fill them!

    How’s about a favorite homebrew recipe open thread?

  14. 14
    Joel says:

    No-rinse sanitizer. I’m wondering if that works for cheesemaking.

    My curd floats a little bit when I’ve completed the first step and I’m thinking it’s because the things I don’t boil (thermometer, utensils, things that melt, etc.) are introducing a gas-producing contaminant.

  15. 15
    Ketzel says:

    Tim –

    How about a thread for beer novices?

    My husband drinks what we call “Old Canoe” because of the old joke – Why is American beer like making love in a canoe? Because it is f#@king close to water.

    I like what I think of as darker, richer beers like Dos Equis in the brown bottle, or Bass or a Delaware beer called Pamlico or a NC beer called Highland Gaelic Ale. But I don’ t know why. Is it the hops, the malt, the fermentation?

    When selecting a new beer in a restaurant or store what clues should I look for – Ale not lager? What else?

  16. 16
    Sentient Puddle says:

    A little over a month ago, I walked into my local homebrewing shop and said to the guy at the counter “So I want to get into homebrewing, but I know nothing about it.” He apologized, said I came to the wrong place, then proceeded to give me the full tour. Showed me all the equipment, what I would need it for, suggestions on equipment I didn’t need but were really useful (oh how I regret not walking out with a wort chiller that day…), a recipe, all the ingredients for said recipe, some extra reading, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting.

    My experience may just be colored by the fact that I’ve only used that shop since (gotta plug it: Austin Homebrew Supply), but homebrewers seem to absolutely love helping others out with the craft, even if they’re starting with absolutely zero knowledge. I too recommend anyone interested in brewing give it a try, even if you’re intimidated by it (I sure as hell was).

  17. 17
    lovethebomb says:

    This stuff is fascinating, but I got hung up on the idea of using an 8 gallon plastic bucket. Yuk, that is just awful to keep the beer at any stage in plastic. All the major breweries use copper vats, I would think/hope there would be a homebrewed version. I am allergic to plastic myself and have to get my bottled water in the old school glass jugs. It is scientific fact that plastic leaches into any liquid you store in it.

    As to American beer’s closeness to water, that is because due to demand or marketing, Americans want highly carbonated light bodied lager. The German beer law requires only 4 ingredients; water, barley malt, hops and yeast. American beer (bud, millers, coors) uses rice and corn to lighten the malt and less hops to reduce bitterness. Plus they load up the carbonation and many add preservatives, coloring and other junk. Foreign beers are often required to add preservatives for the American market. I know this the case for Guiness.

    But, American beers are not lighter on alcohol. They have about the same or higher content as most foreign beers, about 5%, just without the heavy malt which accounts for their rich thick body. If you like chugging vast quantities and don’t want the calories or the heavy malt sitting on your gut before puking, American beer is still the tops.

  18. 18
    malraux says:

    This stuff is fascinating, but I got hung up on the idea of using an 8 gallon plastic bucket. Yuk, that is just awful to keep the beer at any stage in plastic. All the major breweries use copper vats, I would think/hope there would be a homebrewed version. I am allergic to plastic myself and have to get my bottled water in the old school glass jugs. It is scientific fact that plastic leaches into any liquid you store in it.

    Plastic really only leaches notable amounts over long periods of time. Beer normally only sits in the plastic fermenters for about 2 weeks, as the plastic is slightly permeable to O2, which is bad for beer. But most brewers upgrade to a glass fermenter, as it is easier to keep clean because it doesn’t scratch.

    Of course, there are the Better Bottles out there, which are claimed to be impermeable to O2, and not to leach, but I’m somewhat skeptical.

  19. 19
    malraux says:

    I like what I think of as darker, richer beers like Dos Equis in the brown bottle, or Bass or a Delaware beer called Pamlico or a NC beer called Highland Gaelic Ale. But I don’ t know why. Is it the hops, the malt, the fermentation?

    Dos equis counts as a darker richer beer? Anyway, as to finding out what you like, the secret is luckily to drink a lot of beer. All the better if you can find a micro-brewery in town. If you really want to find out what you like, I’d find a beer style guideline chart (for example: http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/catdex.php ) and drink your way through it.

  20. 20
    wmd says:

    I like everclear for some of my sanitization. 95% ethanol kills bacteria on my siphon cane, exterior of Wyeast packet, rubber stopper for fermentation lock.
    I use iodophor for fermenter sanitizing (it’s no rinse, but I’m in the habit of rinsing from back when I used bleach).

    Coming to the start of serious lager brewing. I got a salvaged refrigeration unit from the Stockton CA Hilton. MFer is huge – space for 12 cornelius kegs at 36 degrees, 4 lagering fermenters and 40 bottles of wine at 45-50 degrees, and 15 cu feet of freezer space at 0 degrees. I’m working on zone controls now, had a brainstorm to use old CDROM drives to open/close the zone vents last week – they will push a louver open before air is blown from the freezer compartment to the other zones.

    9 taps, 2 of which are guiness/Nitrogen mix. Probably will be playing with soft drink brewing too, and inventing cocktails using home made rooty/fruity soft drinks of my own concoction. I have a feeling the summer of 2010 will have some epic parties.

    For brewers that want to bottle – in the earlier days of my brewing insanity hobby I found that 2 out of 3 1/2 gallon Mountain Valley Spring green water bottles will hold pressure. be sure to batch prime before bottling – priming each bottle is inconsistent and can lead to

  21. 21
    wmd says:

    huh, comment got cut off – overpriming leads to bottles exploding.

    22 ounce brown beer bottles should all hold pressure. The 1/2 gallon green water bottles I used to use before I started kegging have about a 67% chance they’ll hold pressure.

    In case it isn’t obvious larger bottles means less bottles to wash/sanitize. Less work, more time enjoying brews.

  22. 22
    Jeff says:

    I second the “How to Brew” recommendation. Papazian’s book is OK, but honestly I’m comfortable declaring How to Brew to be the authoritative guide to homebrewing. It should be the first homebrew book anyone buys.

    A couple other notes:
    – Secondary fermenters aren’t necessary IMO. You can go straight from the primary into the bottle and you won’t notice a difference. The exception here is if you’re going to be doing a wacky dry hopping schedule, or something else. But for most beers, just go from the primary into the bottle.
    – You need a place to do your fermentation. The most important thing is that this place has a stable temperature and isn’t exposed to sunlight. Basements are great. If you don’t have a basement, find a nice closet, preferably on an interior room. The most important thing is you don’t have a wild temperature swing throughout the day, that will wreak havoc with your yeast and your final flavor.
    – Cleaning and sanitizing is the most important part of homebrewing. You cannot be too anal about these things. Get ahold of some Five Star PBW and Five Star Star-San (the aformentioned no-rinse sanitizer). Learn to love them.

    To the fellow who asked about kegging – it’s not hard, but it’s not cheap either. Your basic kegging setup will cost you close to two hundred dollars – that gets you a CO2 tank, a regulator, hoses, and a single used Cornelius keg (Corny kegs are 5 gallon kegs that are used for soda). Additional kegs will cost you 40-50 bucks used; 100-120 new.

    In addition to that, you’ll need a kegerator. You can buy them online, but most are single tap systems and you’ll probably want two taps. You can build your own (I did), but it’s again not cheap. A new Sanyo 4912-M minifridge (the standard kegerator fridge) will cost you about 200-250 bucks. The tower and lines will cost you another 150 bucks or so. Expect to do a bit of cutting on that fridge to make it work (you’ll be cutting a hole in the ceiling, and cutting all the shelving off of the door). It’s a pain in the ass, but for cold homebrew on tap it’s worth every penny. ;D

  23. 23
    lovethebomb says:

    Time is one factor in plastic leaching. The major one is heat. Anyone, for instance, who heats up their food in a microwave inside a plastic container is nuts. Bisphenol A, a common plastic agent, mimics estrogen and is known to contribute to breast cancer and other maladies. How hot is the ferment when you dump it in the plastic vat? That will determine a lot. If cold, I can see your point. If you look at plastic under a microscope, you will see deep valleys, ridges, hanging chads, if you will, which all get mixed in with the final product. Have you seen the new plastic bottles for Coors? God, what a country. Cans are just as awful as most are sprayed with some form of plastic film before filling.

    Sanitation wise, I reccomend a product you will only hear about in the natural health world; Grapefruit Seed extract. Just do a search for GSE. It is wonderful stuff, mostly natural and has more sterilization chops than bleach. It’s antibacterial properties are highly touted. Although Everclear does sound safe and natural.

  24. 24
    kdaug says:

    @ Sentient Puddle –

    Small world. My billiard league plays at Slick Willie’s right up Burnet from AHS.

  25. 25
    Jeff says:

    Oh – and a good resource for all this stuff is The Brewing Network. Brew Strong goes into great detail about a single aspect of brewing, and tells you everything you will ever need to knew about it. The Jamil Show is Jamil talking about a single style of beer, though lately it’s become “Can You Brew It,” in which Jamil attempts to clone a particular commercial brew.

  26. 26
    malraux says:

    It is wonderful stuff, mostly natural and has more sterilization chops than bleach.

    Bullshit. Both pedantically and on the substantive point.

    On BPA, its mostly gone from plastics now. Moreover, it was never used in HDPE (ie type 2) plastics, which are what brew buckets are made from.

  27. 27
    lovethebomb says:

    Bullshit, both pedantically and substantially? Not really, both pedagogical and chemical. Perhaps I overstated the comparison to bleach, but GSE is far more powerful than the average anti-bacterial, and it is non chemical, thus highly pleasing to us natural types and memebers of the reality based community. I find your response boorish. I thought beer drinkers were more congenial. Congenital fits you.

    BPA may be less prevelant, but the rest is pure petrochemical nastiness. Cheers.

  28. 28
    malraux says:

    Pedantically, neither bleach nor GSE is a sterilizer; they would fall under the sanitizer category. So pedantically, it isn’t a sterilizer. Substantively, I don’t find there to be much evidence of GSE’s efficacy, especially once you eliminate the artificial preservative that really seems to be the antibacterial agent.

    And of course it is chemical, denying that chemicals make up matter seems to be the reality denying element.

  29. 29
    wmd says:

    Ferment in glass.

    Buy 5 gallons of water in a glass carboy. Brew with it. Don’t return the carboy. Now you’ve got a fermenting vessel (best for a secondary, you want a bit of room for trub to settle out in a primary).

    I did a bunch of trading of 5 gallon carboys for 24 liter carboys at a brew shop. Got the 5 gallon carboys from water company for $6 deposit, paid another $5 to trade up.

    Glass is wonderful for fermenting, you get to see the action (It’s alive! alive i tell you, look at it churning!) Then when it comes time to clean you can see if there is any residue as you scrub with the bottle brush. For hard cases oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate) will work, most of the time water and elbow grease does the trick.

    Iodophor products are the main “no rinse” disinfectents and aren’t that obnoxious. Sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) can leave residues and possibly react with equipment.

    Like I said above I use everclear to sanitize my racking cane. If some gets in the beer it just means a little more ethanol is in the beer.

  30. 30
    Crusty Dem says:

    Thanks everyone for the kegging recommendations. Once I get going, I’ll be looking to buy a cheap fridge for keggeration. I do like the idea of everclear to sanitize, though as a lab geek like Tim, I’d actually recommend watering it down a bit, 70% EtOH is more deadly to bacteria than 95-100%. Strange but true.

    Sentient Puddle – I might have a harder time getting into brewing my own if I had the Gingerman down the street (it kept me going when I couldn’t brew in Houston).

    And 2nd (3rd? 4th? 5th?) on glass containers for brewing. My father used them exclusively and while they’re a little heavier and more expensive, the easy cleaning and transparency makes life a lot easier…

  31. 31
    Calming Influence says:

    When you pitch a vigorous starter culture into your main brew, the yeast will have the beer up to 5% alcohol before bacteria can get their pants on.

    As someone else who uses sterile technique much of his workday, that visual just tickles me.

    My first exposure to home brewing was with housemates in college, using canned malt extract from the supermarket, baker’s yeast, and varying dollops of table sugar in each bottle “to carbonate”. We knew it was ready when the bottles started exploding in the closet; We would carry each bottle to the kitchen sink like we were handling nitroglycerin, and removing the cap, no matter how slowly, resulted in at least half the beer dripping from the ceiling. But it was beer!

    I few years later I recovered enough to try it again the right way, and found with very little effort I could make home brew that friends actually begged for. You’ve inspired me to take it up again – thanks!

  32. 32
    wag says:

    Since the wide-spread availability of fantastic micro brews, my urge to brew my own has fallen off the map. That said, I still have all my mash gear, and keep telling myself that this fall will be the time to start back up….

    I can taste my first batch in 10 years, maybe an all grain IPA, OG of 1.065 with enough crystal to give it a nice amber cast.

    As for books, I would highly recommend Greg Noonan’s “Brewing Lager Beer.” It does a great job of talking about all grain brewing, with additional info on lagering your beer. And remember, if you brew at ale temps with lager yeast, you get that great All-American style of beer, the Steam Beer!

  33. 33
    cliff says:

    don’t suck on your siphon hose to start it!! all sorts of nasties in your mouth. buy a autosiphon, its worth it!

    also, pedalbiker@ http://www.homebrewtalk.com/ forums has reconditioned cornys for 25 bucks plus shipping.

  34. 34
    Ronnie P says:

    +1 on Palmer’s How to Brew. Even better, go to the forums at HomeBrewTalk.com.

    +2 on an autosiphon.

  35. 35
    Gus says:

    Since the wide-spread availability of fantastic micro brews, my urge to brew my own has fallen off the map.

    This is keeping me from taking up homebrewing. I’ve had so many mediocre homebrews, I’m afraid I’ll spend a lot of time and money and wind up with a product that isn’t half as good as something I can buy.

  36. 36
    Steeplejack says:


    Cold comfort, but what has worked for me is just buying different beers and trying them. Beer is cheaper than wine, and if you get something you don’t like you’re out relatively less money, and you just waste 12 ounces. Leave the rest as ice-bucket fodder for that big football party or when your weaselly, never-bring-a-six-pack friends come over. Or, who knows, you might find someone who likes it. “OMG, you’ve got Tree Frog Tepid Ale. I love this stuff!”

    Same at a restaurant: maybe ask the waiter, order something different, and if you don’t like it you’ve wasted only a glass.

    I like dark beer myself, and I like Samuel Adams Black Lager and, lately, Boston Ale (not Boston Lager). I also like Belhaven Scottish Ale, but it’s harder to find (and more expensive).

  37. 37
    wag says:

    I also like Belhaven Scottish Ale

    If you like Belhaven, then you have to try Old Peculier, a Yorkshire brew that has all sorts of malt and a kick-ass amount of alcohol, to boot!

  38. 38
    cliff says:

    @Sentient Puddle:
    oh you lucky guy! they are your local!

    I just got a bunch of stuff from them, cheap shipping, Very well packed, fast service and good prices.

    also check out www brewmasterswarehouse com great shipping, service and the ubercool brewbuilder which is supposed to be upgraded soon.

  39. 39
    wmd says:

    morebeer.com as decent supplies.

    I still have a very few bottles of an IPA that fermented in the back of a moving van when I relocated to CA from Indiana in May 1999. Still quite palatable – alcohol (7.5%) and heavily hopped.

    I fill my siphon tube with water up to the neck of the racking cane, lower it into the fermented beer, then lower the business end – water siphon starts the beer flowing without any suction. First 40 ml of beer gets wasted, next 60 ml goes into hydrometer, remainder goes into a CO2 flushed keg.

    Auto siphons are fine, but it’s easy enough to start a siphon without sucking.

  40. 40
    cliff says:


    yup, thats the proper way to start a reg siphon, but you should fill the tube with sanitizer or boiled water, not unboiled water.

  41. 41

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