Increasing batch efficiency – reducing siphon losses

, December 14, 2011

Ever finish siphoning a batch from one carboy to another or into a keg and wonder how you can leave less homebrew in the bottom of the batch? All that beer that is left in the bottom of the carboy becomes beer that you can’t drink. These losses can add up, especially if you are dry hopping or have a beer that has to be racked multiple times for any reason. Here is a simple modification that you can make to your standard racking cane to reduce the amount of loss each time you siphon.

To reduce the amount of beer that is left in the bottom of the carboy, all you have to do is cut down the foot of the racking cane. This foot is very useful for preventing trub, yeast sediment, dry hops, or any other undesirable materials from making it into your secondary or keg, but most of them are too tall and end up leaving too much beer in the bottom of the carboy. By cutting down the foot, you can still keep most of the nastiness in the bottom of the carboy, but with a lot less beer. Here’s how.

To perform this task, all you need is a couple of simple tools. I used a vice grip and a hacksaw. Only the hacksaw is really required, but it is very nice if you have a vice or vice grip to make it easier to hold onto, and also makes the modification somewhat safer.
Tools for racking cane modification

Take your vice or vice grip and clamp it around the foot of the racking cane that you wish to enhance. This can take a couple of tries to get a good solid grip and get in the correct location, but make sure you have it right before you move to the next step. I like to cut about half of the height of the foot off, to make sure that you can leave all of the sediment in the bottom of the carboy. You certainly don’t want to let a lot of that through if you can avoid it. Note that there may be some scratches that end up on the foot during the process, so minimize that if you can, because scratches can harbor bacteria, but since we all do a very good job of sanitizing these things, don’t worry about some minor scuffing.
Preparing to perform the racking cane modification

Using a hacksaw, cut the top off of the racking cane foot. Be careful while you are doing this, as obviously the saw is sharp, but also to get a good groove in the plastic and stick with it. If you get multiple grooves in the plastic, the rest of the sawing can be much harder.
Cutting the racking cane foot

When you are done cutting the foot, you should have the shorter version of the foot and the piece that was cut off as well as some smallish bits of plastic left over from the cutting. You can get rid of everything except for the remaining part of the foot at this time.
Completed cut for the racking cane modification

The cut will have some very rough edges and burrs on it from the cutting, so I recommend getting out a piece of sandpaper and sanding down the cut until it is smooth. Simply place a piece of sandpaper, rough side up, on a workbench or table and wiggle the freshly cut end of the foot until there are no more burrs and it is as smooth as possible. If available, do this twice, using 60 and then 100 grit sandpaper to make it as smooth as is practical.
Sanding the cut racking cane foot

Rinse the racking cane foot well in water, and then do a visual inspection to make sure that it looks good, and is free of any burrs or other pieces of plastic that could come off during the rack. You wouldn’t want to see any plastic bits floating in your beer! You are now ready to put it on your racking cane, sanitize the entire setup, and siphon away. Good luck keeping more of your beer to drink and increasing your efficiency by reducing the losses you encounter during the siphoning process.
Completed racking cane modification

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