The beer brewing process is for the most part a process where the liquid needs to remain silent. No, no, we don’t have to worry about the liquid talking; we have to worry about the liquid being mixed with oxygen. In most stages of the brewing process oxygen is extremely detrimental to the chemistry that occurs during fermentation. In order to avoid this, brewers make use of siphons and racking canes.
A racking cane is normally a very long steel rod that attaches to a siphon. This will then allow you to extract the beer that is settled the deepest in your brewpot, fermenter, or carboy without letting it come in contact with oxygen. These two devices are very useful for transferring beer from one vessel to another (something that may happen many times during the beer brewing process).
To use a racking cane you simply place the cane so that it goes into your vessel at a depth that is about one inch from the bottom of the vessel. In order to do this, some home brewers have attached a straw to the bottom of the racking cane that protrudes one inch from the bottom of the racking cane. This effectively creates a gap between the bottom of the vessel and the racking cane. This is important because the bottom of most brewing equipment is usually covered in some sort of gunk called trub.
Sanitation is the most important part of the brewing process. One brewer even went as far as to say that the trick to brewing beer successfully is 75% sanitation. When siphoning using your racking cane, it is very important not to use your mouth to start the siphon. Your mouth is full of bacteria that will completely ruin your beer. Some even say it is worthwhile to put a valve in the middle of your siphon. You can then fill one end with bleach and let the beer being siphoned push the bleach out. When the beer begins to flow using this process then you can move the siphon to the next container. This will ensure that no bacterium reaches the next container through the transfer process.
There are some products (such as the AutoSiphon) that start the siphoning process for you with just the pump of a hand. If you feel inexperienced with siphon’s than such products are must for any home brewer.
Siphons and racking canes may seem insignificant in size compared to the rest of the brewing equipment, but they are nevertheless a very important part to the brewing process.