Creating a homwbrew setup is the same amount of fun as brewing beer itself. Exactly what homebrew equipment you’ll need for making beer will depend largely upon the methods you use for making it. Since there are just about as many ways to make homebrew as there are homebrewers, we can’t really tell you exactly what you’ll need. We can, however, give you a good idea of what most of the really important equipment is. Let’s simplify this and start with a kits.
Homebrew Equipment Kits
|Igloo 5 Gal Kit||$||Good Beer||The perfect all grain entry level system with out taking up too much space. More Info.|
|Igloo 10 Gal Kit||$$||Good Beer||Brew twice as much as the 5 gallon with this perfect all grain entry level system. More Info.|
|The Grainfather||$$$||Great Beer||The Grainfather is an all inclusive all grain brewing system that will simplify brewing. More Info.|
|PicoBrew Zymatic||$$$$||Award Winning||The PicoBrew Zymatic is the first fully automatic, all grain beer brewing appliance that does it all. More Info.|
|Ruby Street||$$$$||Award Winning||The Ruby Street Brewery is a full featured high quality home beer brewing structure unlike anything else on the market. More Info.|
Just about any starter homebrew kit you buy will be adequate, but as you progress though to more advanced techniques, there are more advantages to spending a bit more money by investing in brand-name trusted equipment.
Custom Homebrew Build
While kits eliminate guesswork, if you already have equipment or would prefer to build your own kit from scratch, here are some items you’ll need to evolve your brew setup.
This is (obviously) where the actual fermentation takes place. Many homebrewers use two stage fermentation, which means that they require two fermenters — a primary and a secondary. Although most brewers use a white plastic bucket as a primary and a glass carboy as a secondary (and indeed, when many of them speak of a “primary fermenter” they are referring to a white bucket), in reality either could be used for both stages.
For the longest time we did primary fermentation in a 23 litre (6 US gallon) carboy fitted with a blow-off, but we eventually switched back to using a food-grade plastic bucket simply because it was much easier to use and clean. In short, try both and see which you like best, then use it.
There are of course other possibilities, but these are certainly far less common (and far less accessible) than the above. Soda canisters (converted to allow the CO2 to escape!), large stainless pots, and coffee urns are just some of the other things that homebrewers use to ferment their beer in. If you are just starting out, however, we’d recommend that you stick with one of the more common items.
A good brewpot is perhaps one of the most important tools a homebrewer employs. Depending upon the choice of kettle, it can also be one of the most costly. For extract brewing, a 2.5 gallon pot is about the bare minimum required, although it would be better to have at least a 5-10 gallon pot. Since you’ll be buying one anyway, get 5-10 gallon to start. For all-grain brewing, 10-15 gallons will be the ideal volume, since the entire wort will have to be boiled and more space will help avoid boilovers.
Many brewers will choose to use a stainless steel pot as they do an exemplary job of boiling wort. Such a pot is made of a fairly heavy gauge, and will last a long time.
Then there are the discount pots which can be found at most discount department stores for about 15 or 20 bucks. Although these most certainly will not last a lifetime, with proper care they can easily last a few years, making it well worth the lower price. One just has to be careful to treat them properly, and to be aware that the wort can easily scorch onto the bottom of the pot unless a trivet is placed over the stove’s burner.
Another option that many brewers use is the enameled canning kettle. At a cost which is only marginally more than the discount stainless pot, the canning kettle is a quality brewpot at a decent price. The big problem with them is that if the enamel chips, the pot is no longer of any use since the metal underneath will rust, and that will leach into your beer. So care must be taken when purchasing one of these, as many are already chipped on the shelf in the store. Care must also be taken when handling and storing them, as it isn’t too difficult to chip them.
There are various things a brewer can employ to move beer from one location to another. At a bare minimum, a racking cane, hose and cane tip (as listed above) are required. As some brewers advance, they begin to fashion plumbing out of copper tubing and fittings. Also, rather than bust their backs lifting heavy carboys, some brewers purchase food-grade high temperature pumps for moving the beer from point A to point B. Start simple, and if you feel like going crazy with the hobby, then go for broke!
There are several measuring devices which brewers require. As a beginner, you’ll need at very least some sort of measuring cup for liquids. Ideally you’ll also get yourself a decent thermometer. The two best kinds in terms of accuracy are the long thin glass ones used by chemists, and the bimetal stem ones used in the cooking industry. Don’t, however, get one of the cooking thermometers with “Broil”, “Chicken” and other words written on the face. Starbuck’s actually sells a good bimetal stem thermometer for about $10. The floating thermometers which most homebrew shops sell are actually not very accurate, so don’t waste your money on one.
The only thing to keep in mind with these cheaper spring-loaded scales is that the cheaper they are, the more often they should be replaced. The two here which look the same except for size, for example, should probably be replace every 2nd year. But for each that’s still pretty cheap.
After a good 5 years of using the above sort of scales, I bought professional models. Remember that digital does not always mean better or more accurate. Most people don’t realize that digital gives a false sense of accuracy which in some cases may be ill-founded. Scales are available in any kitchen-ware store and come in a variety of weight ranges. The one on the left goes up to 34 ounces or almost a kilogram and is great for small amounts of grain, hops, and other ingredients for which 1/8 of an ounce or about 3.5 grams is accurate enough. These scales should last a long time. All you have to do is check them once a year against the commercial scales at your local coffee shop, or by weighing things from the supermarket which are of a known weight.
As you advance in brewing, wo will the hardware you collect. Exactly what you collect and the performance you get will vary from person to person, mainly because of personal preferences, but also because of good fortune. There’s nothing like discovering a real cheap piece of equipment at a yard sale or flea market. Mills, pumps, propane heaters and used kegs are just some of the things more advanced brewers will eventually want to possess in their setup.