How To Siphon Wine Without Disturbing The Sediment

Man Siphoning Wine From CarboyCan I add potassium sorbate to individual bottles as I fill the bottles with wine. I am making cyser and want to back sweeten with a little more honey and add the potassium sorbate to individual bottles. It is a 5 gallon recipe and was started in November. I want to bottle now, readings are telling me its safe. There is no residue of yeast at the bottom, but I really don’t want to siphon the wine into the carboy and stir anything that I cant see up. What say you.

Name: Suzanne K.
State: Virginia
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Hello Suzanne,

I understand your concerns about disturbing the sediment when siphoning, but what you are thinking of doing is not very is not very practical.

The amount of potassium sorbate required for each wine bottle is such a small amount that it would be very hard to measure it accurately enough for each single bottle. You would be much better off by siphoning into another fermenter, off any sediment (also referred to as “racking”), then mixing in the potassium sorbate to the entire batch along with any sweetening.

The fact that you are not seeing any sediment at the bottom of the fermenter is a very good sign, and makes me think that there isn’t any, since sediment is easy to spot in a lightly colored wine.

But if you are worried about disturbing the sediment when siphoning – seen, or not – the trick is to siphon gently. That’s how to siphon when without stirring up sediment. Have someone hold the siphon hose into the top half of the wine as someone else starts the siphon. Always draw your siphon from the upper part of the wine. As you get towards the end, you may want to tilt the container so as to corner the last bit of wine.

If you want to learn how to siphon wine without disturbing the sediment, the first thing you have to is understand that it’s not so much about a siphoning technique or experience as it is having the right pieces of equipment. There are several items on the market that will make racking the wine or wine much easier to do than just using a plain piece of hose. These handy little items are the key to siphoning the wine without stirring things up.

 

  • Racking Canes:
    One of them is called a racking cane. It is a rigid piece of tubing that allows you to point to where you are drawing from. It attaches to the end of your siphon hose like a wand. At the very bottom end of the tube is a diversion tip that makes sure that you do not draw from the very bottom of the container. On the top end is a hook or curve that points down toward the fermenter being racked into.The Auto Siphon
  • Auto Siphon:  
    Quite often, starting the siphon is what causes a lot of the sediment to get stirred up. This is when most of the fumbling around happens, and consequently, the unintentional disruption of the sediment. One great invention for resolving this issue is The Auto Siphon. It allows you to start a siphon with virtually no movement at all. It’s like a racking cane and pump all in one. You just attach it to the siphon hose like a racking cane, and then slowly slide the inside tube up one time and then down one time to start the siphon.
  • Racking Tube Clamps:
    Auto Siphon ClampAs an extra precaution, to make absolutely sure you do not disrupt any of the sediment when racking, you can use a racking tube clamps. These act as a third hand to keep things secured, in one position, and not moving around. You can get a Auto Siphon clamp or a racking cane clamp, depending on which you are using to draw the wine.

 

Suzanne, use these items and you’ll never have any problems with sediment getting stirred up.

How about anyone else. Do you have any tips or ideas on how to siphon a wine without disturbing the sediment?

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

17 thoughts on “How To Siphon Wine Without Disturbing The Sediment

  1. When I siphon I use a 1/4 inch tube. At the bottom of the tube I cut a half diamond shape hole on both sides of the tube by using a toe nail clipper. This lets me slide my tube all the way to the bottom with the tube against the side of my 5 gallon pail, where I clamp it there at the top with a clothespin. My pail is on top of a wooden chair, When I siphon my clean pail is halfway under the chair where the other end of the tube goes all the way to the bottom of that pail. I never have to move my containers that way while there is a lot of sediment on their bottoms. Works clean as can be.

  2. On Suzanne’s siphoning delema, I talk to lots of people that bottle from a siphoning hose, so difficult not to spill and overfill. I too siphon into a fermenting bucket with a spicket, useing a auto cane with a cap on the bottom that draws wine from above rather then the bottom, then you can sweeten, mix taste and fill bottles without any mess with a one man opperation. Or in Suzanne’s case, one woman. John

  3. HI Suzanne. Mr. Kraus is sure right about trying to measuring those small amounts. Like I tried to add some met bisulfite and gave up. What really works is to use the racking cane with a small cap on the end that holds the tip off the bottom. I put and hold the racking cane about 6 inches in the liquid to get it started. Then I slowly lower it into a stable position on the bottom, Then tilt the jug slightly and slowly place a spacer under to hold it steady, you lose very little solution, Kraus sells the Racking canes with the small cap on the bottom. Works great,and there cheap. Only other way is to have your pharmacist make you a solution of Sorbate and calculate the amount for the 750cc. and use a syringe to inject it. Cost more then the racking cane. Knute

  4. Heya Suzanne, I’ve tried sweetening with honey and its a nightmare waiting to happen! it sounds very nice, but because of all the enzymes present in honey, its a very bad idea for your cyser. Sooner as opposed to later, something will wake up and begin to eat those sugars; possibly with explosive results. I use the Lalvin 71b-1122 dry yeast for ciders and rely on the residual sweetness left by the yeast with OG = 1.100, or thereabouts. I finish at bottling with sorbate and a 4oz. bottle of glycerin to enhance that sweetness. hope this helps, CW

  5. Some tricks I’ve learned along the way…At least the day before or even a week before I plane to rack my wine off the sediment (for racking or bottling) I put a wedge under the carboy to tilt it. You can even use just a broom dust pan as a wedge. Now if I disturbed my wine it has time to resettle before I rack it. I us a small diameter hose so it siphon’s slowly and doesn’t suck hard to bring the sediment up from the bottom. I’ve also cut a V on both sides of the hose at the bottom so it doesn’t stick to the carboy. I always siphon into a bucket so its easy for adding anything I desire back into the wine (Sodium Bisulfite or Sugar for example).

  6. Hi Sue, I agree with the other wine makers. It may be a bit more work but I find that on certain batches to rack the wine into gallon jugs 2 to 4 times and by the 4th time there won’t be any sediment . Also cut your hose on the bottom at a 45 degree which even when tipped it won’t pick up any sediment. Also if you are having a problem getting 1 gallon jugs check your church or a friends church that serve Communion couple times per month. They will be happy to get rid of them.
    Al

  7. Light wines cause one to be especially careful because you can see EVERYTHING!
    I like to leave as much sediment behind as possible when moving from the 1st to 2nd fermentation, then let the sediment sit for a bit longer than normal after clearing (3-5 weeks). This normally causes the sediment to ‘stick’ and compress a bit more, since 5/6 gallons of wine sitting on top is pretty heavy. If it’s compresses, it won’t float up on you as easily when siphoning. i use a siphoning cane, start siphon with cane at the top of wine, then move down to a ‘corner’ and tip the carboy a bit when I’m close to the bottom. Been making wine for 9 years and have bottled off the lees every time w/o a problem. Have a glass before your start to steady your hand 😉

  8. I use a 3/8 inch tubing with a rigid 1 foot tube on the end. I placed a cork in the end and bored 2 1/8 inc holes 1/2 inch from the bottom of the tube. The tubing is clear so I can see if I am picking up any sediment.

  9. All great ideas for racking wine off of the lees. When I started making wine some 10-12 years ago I was able to purchase from my local wine supply store a special valve that had a tube attached that was controlled from the outside. I was able to rotate the tube to just clear the lees and rack my wine in this manner. I also wedged my fermenters so that the lees were steeped to the rear of the carboy. One other thing that I did was to collect the lees in a small glass jug and allow them to sit. After a while I would get an additional amount of wine that could be used for topping off so very little ended going down the drain. Unfortunately my wine store changed hands and I have not been able to locate any more of these valves. When I started having problems with the “O” rings I had to disassemble the valve,, measure the “O” rings and purchase them through a local supply house.

  10. When I rack off my wines I use the siphon cane. Works great. I usually have to rack the carboy anywhere from 3 to 6 times. By the last racking there is no sediment. Towards the last racking’s I use a clearing agent. If there is any sediment left in the wine the clearing agent will take it out. Before I bottle it I back sweeten it after I mix in my potassium metabisulfite to stabilize it so it don’t start fermenting again.

  11. One more thing – arrange the heights of the supply vessel and receiving vessel so that the level of liquid in the receiving vessel will be just below the bottom of the supply vessel at the finish of the operation. The siphon suction will decrease as the operation proceeds and the liquid levels approach one another. Suction will be quite weak near the end, when the danger of sucking up lees is greatest.

  12. I might have to invest into the auto siphon at some point. For at least 15 years I just tape a wooden dowel rod (enough to go down to the bottom of a 6 gallon carboy) onto my siphon hose. It is then like stiff tubing going down to the bottom of the carboy. I tilt / prop the carboy over a little to get the most out. Happy bottling!!!

  13. My siphon tube goes into a gravity filter so anything that the siphon picks up doesn’t make it into a bottle.
    I will use some of the suggestions previously offered: tipping the carboy a few days before siphoning, tapering the end of the hose so it reaches the bottom.

  14. To bottle the wine,I use a racking cane,and a wedge. I just don’t care for my last bottle of wine, usually the 30th bottle, which most of the time is OK. I do rack my batch twice before bottling which makes for almost no sediment at bottling time. However, I top up with clear wine during the two racks previous to bottling. Top up consumes about 1 bottle of good wine.

  15. Alvin is right on. You can get all the gallon (actually 4litre) jugs you need from your catholic church. We use this wine for communion and the jugs are just tossed unless somebody asks for them. Ive been using a wedge actually just a one foot long 2 x 4 I slide under the edge of the carbloy. As I siphon I keep sliding and tilting the carbloy even more so the wine stays ahead and on top the sediment. I will say its impossible to get all the wine without picking up some of the sediment in the last few ounces. Joes idea of keeping the last few ounces along with some of the lees is right on. I put mine in a ice wine bottle which is tall and thin, After a few days you can siphon off the top of this so as to salvage almost down to the last bitty bit. 🙂

  16. I’m not sure about using a wooden dowel in your tube Dave. I would be concerned about bacteria absorbed in the wood tainting my wine.

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