Monday, March 3, 2008

Homebrewing: Equipment


Last week I answered some simple questions in an attempt to motivate you to brew your own. So, what do you need to get started? This is a common question non-homebrewers ask me. There are various setups an aspiring homebrewer can purchase. The setup I'm about to describe will cost ~$150. You can get a brewing setup for cheaper, but I do not recommend it. My equipment choices will save you hours of frustration that I had to endure. The exact equipment will vary slightly depending on your local homebrew shop. If you don't have a local homebrew shop, I list some great online retailers at the end of the post!

Equipment:
5+ gallon stock pot

Approximate cost: $50
Used:
brew day
This will easily be the most expensive piece of equipment. You can get away with a smaller pot, but I do not recommend it. You will be using this to boil ~3 gallons of water. Make sure the pot is STAINLESS STEEL, do NOT use aluminium. Aluminium will impart off-flavors in beer.

Re-usable nylon mesh grain bag
Approximate cost: $5
Used:
brew day
This will save you money in the long run. Should be able to hold up to 3-4lbs of grain.
Large spoon
Approximate cost: $5
Used:
brew day
This is simply a large stirring spoon such as one you'd use to stir soup. Nylon/Silicone are the best options. It should be able to withstand boiling temperatures.

Non-rinse sanitizer
Approximate cost: $6
Used:
brew, racking, bottling days
You will find many options available for sanitation. My favorite product is StarSan sanitizer, it should be available at your local homebrew shop. Sanitation is the most important part of homebrewing.

Thermometer (one used for cooking applications)
Approximate cost: $5
Used:
brew days
Allows you to steep your grains without extracting unwanted flavors.

Hydrometer
Approximate cost: $6
Used:
brew, racking, bottling days
This device will allow you to calculate the alcohol in your beer and monitor the progress of fermentation. Very fragile, I've broke many, so be careful!

Funnel
Approximate cost: $2-5
Used:
brew, racking, bottling days
I recommend a large oil funnel such as the ones you can find at automotive stores. Smaller funnels will work, but they can be frustrating.

Carboy Brush
Approximate cost:
$5
Used:
racking and bottling days
Allows you to easily clean your carboys for future brewing sessions.

Rubber Stopper for 6.5 gallon carboy & airlock
Approximate cost: $.50 and $1.20
Used:
seals the carboy shut, allows carbon dioxide gas to exit during fermentation while keeping contaminates out.

6.5 gallon glass carboy
Approximate cost: $28
Used:
brew and racking days
These look similar to the plastic water jugs some people have delivered to their homes. Your beer will reside here during the first 7-10 days of fermentation. You will be doing 5 gallon batches so why use a 6.5 gallon carboy? The extra space allows the actively fermenting beer to foam up without overflowing out of the carboy.


5 gallon glass carboy
Approximate cost: $22
Used:
racking and bottling days
After 7-10 days in the 6.5 gallon carboy (your "primary fermenter"), the beer is transferred or "racked" to a smaller carboy or the "secondary fermenter". While in this smaller carboy your beer will condition and clear for 2 weeks or more.

6.5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket
Approximate cost: $10
Used:
bottling day
This is your "bottling bucket". It is used to mix sugar into your beer prior to bottling.

3/8" Auto-siphon pump
Approximate cost: $10
Used:
racking and bottling days
Makes transferring your beer from one container to another effortless.

3/8" Bottle Filler Wand
Approximate cost: $5
Used:
bottling day
Enables you to fill bottles with minimal spillage.

10' of 3/8" vinyl tubing
Approximate cost: $3
Used:
racking and bottling days
Links your siphon to your bottle filler.

Double-level Bottle Capper
Approximate cost: $14
Used:
bottling day
Allows you to seal your bottles shut.
Bottle caps
Approximate cost: $1 per 50 caps
Used:
bottling day
One batch of beer will use approximately 50 caps, buy in bulk to save money! Oxygen barrier caps are nice, but not necessary.

Bottles
Approximate cost: $.50 per bottle
Used:
bottling day
You can use any size bottles you want, as long as they are NOT TWIST OFF! I re-use commercial bottles, as they are rather expensive to buy new. Be sure to use brown bottles, not green or clear (unless you want your beer to get skunked!)


Online Retailers (It's always most convenient to use a local homebrew shop. If you do not have one, here are some online retailers I use regularly and recommend):

Austin Homebrew -
great selection, lowest price on some hot items, $5.99 standard shipping (an incredible deal when buying large/heavy items).
High Gravity -
amazing selection, incredibly knowledgeable staff. The brick and mortar shop is something to behold. They also have a very amusing mascot, a witty grey macaw.
Learn to Brew - my local homebrew shop. Competitive prices and an owner that used to brew beer commercially. The "superior brewing kit" contains almost all of the items I have recommended above.

2 comments:

Aaron said...

That is some sexy equipment!

Josh said...

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/820840323
Hey man. So i brewed and ESB about a month back....did not turn out terrible and is definetely drinkable and i think my biggest problem is that i know what an esb should taste like and it doesnt really taste right to me. ALthough no one has complained yet. I was going to brew and IPA but they did not have the HOPS for it at High Gravity. I will probably be going back again to get the IPA kit...unless you have a recipe that you think might be better to try out. Thought you might be interested in the above link....hopefully i can get you to Tulsa soon for some brewing and some fun at McNellies. DId you ever talk to anyone there about a job?