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I'm a beginner. This is my second batch (and the first made from my own recipe idea). The equipment I have is the standard starter kit, made up of two large plastic buckets with spigots near the bottom of each one.

Last batch, I lost a huge amount of beer due to poor siphoning from fermenting bucket to bottling bucket. I wonder if siphoning was necessary at all! Palmer's book says that the spigots are good enough to use instead of siphoning.

How would you recommend transferring the fermented beer into the bottling bucket? If I use the spigot, how can I be sure that it is mounted high enough above the yeast cake, so as not to transfer unwanted yeast by-products into my bottling bucket?

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Spend the $10-15 on an 'Auto Siphon' from your local brew shop, or your favorite online outlet:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/auto-siphon-1-2.html

You can collect almost every drop of wort off the top of a tight yeast cake with one of these bad boys by titling the carboy as the level gets low to make sure the bottom of the cane is submerged in those last 2-3 inches of wort.

The problem with the spigot, as you are noticing, is that you won't easily be able to tell if the spigot mouth is above or below the yeast cake. And some yeast strains compact harder than others (Safale S04 is very firm, for example), so two otherwise identical wort with different yeasts would have different heights on the yeast cake.

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Autosiphons are also very handy for filtering out dry hopped hops I have found as well. Most likely this is only the case if you use whole hops like I do. –  Chris Plaisier Jan 11 '13 at 21:43
    
ps. my local store does not carry auto siphons, and I didn't have time to order one for that particular batch. Instead, I bought a nice piece of tubing and, maintaining diligence, manual-siphoned the beer. It was fast, easy, and my hand went in the beer only a little (but nobody needs to know that). It just so happened I was using S-04, and as you say, it was beautifully packed and easy to siphon off of. Thanks for the confidence boost re: siphoning. –  eli Jun 28 '13 at 17:07

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