Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Askin

I am in the market for a basic home brewing setup. Don't want to spend an arm and a leg but I want stuff I can use for awhile and build upon instead of just discarding down the road. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Michael Hawkins said...

I suggest you buy ingredients fresh, and look for a kit with long lasting equipment. Kits are often packed with old ingredients, especially yeast may lose it worth.

I also suggest you learn to make water locks by looping a piece of tubing down and up again and tying it toghether with a twist tie.
Those can be straightened again and scrubbed out with a squeegee, or a piece of cloth and a dowel.

Cheaper, easier to properly clean out and sterilize.

Chief Instructor said... is a great site. I'm partial to it because they're my local homebrew store, but they really are good. One of the biggest out there, too.

I'd start with the basic kit for $70, pick a style of beer you like and buy that as well. Start with an extract kit, and once you have your legs under you, get into all-grain brewing.

I'd also recommend starting off with an ale instead of a lager. Ales are much more forgiving. The heavier (a stout) or more pungent (India Pale Ale) the brew, the easier it is to count your first beer as a "win".

When you're ready to go all-grain, drop me a line and I'll send you a link to a personal site with tons of how-to's on it.

fullycompletely said...

This is a kit similar to the one I started out with:
I've looked locally and you tend to pay a little bit more. You should be able to find everything to get you going for under $100. But remember you'll also need bottles that are not twist off. Also, when you purchase a brewing kit(ingredients) it normally comes with bottle caps. Good luck and happy brewing!

Ragnar said...

Grab a copy of "The Alaskan Bootleggers Bible" it tells all on brew, whiskey, and liqueurs and has a big section on what the author calls Homemade "Pore Boy" Equipment. It's even a fun read to boot.

The Urban Survivalist said...

I like that idea for an airlock. I might actually be able to fit a carboy into my fridge for a lager with a setup like that.

As for a homebrew setup keep an eye out. I'm going to be doing a post about it soon. Your local homebrew shop is your best bet for getting a good kit. Shipping is what kills most online deals. There are a couple of outstanding kits out there if you don't have a good local shop nearby, though. Rebel Brewer probably has the best kits available. Their $60 basic kit is a great start. You can start with that and upgrade a piece at a time and everything will remain useful. Their $160 deluxe set has everything you need for a basic setup. The only thing I don't really like about their kits are the plastic stirring spoons. Plastic gets soft and warps when you're boiling your wort. Get a metal or wood spoon asap. The only other thing that you need is a really big pot. I recommend that you get a turkey fryer. The sky's the limit for how crazy you can get. I know guys with better brewing setups in their garages than some microbreweries have to work with.

Mayberry said...

I will consult with the brewmeister tomorrow at work...

sobriant74 said...

I agree with Michael Hawkins, I would add that if you are using anything other than a glass container, or a glass lined container for your fermentation you are asking for trouble. Glass is non-reactive and easy to clean if not scratched up. I also recommend making a copper tubing cooling unit for cooling your wort after cooking. Rapid cooling means less time with your wort exposed to air (less chance of microbial infection) and a faster cooling actually helps fold your proteins correctly. Plus, some brewers firmly believe that touching copper helps the wort in some chemical fashion, although this is unproven.
Bottling can be fun, but cleaning those bottles well can be hard and can result in a lot of weird flavors after an inadvertent infection during bottling. Kegging your own beer, whether you are naturally fermenting or injecting CO2 is again a better way to avoid air exposure (getting the theme?, air is bad).
I set up a complete kegging solution with all the equipment (minus the CO2 tank since I naturally carbonate my beers) for under $350, not a bad investment for something I have been using for years.
Stainless steel strainers and stirrers are easy to clean and plastic can have scratches that harbor all kind of nasties.
I use a super duper solution of Oxyclean to disinfect my work space, tables, counters, everything that touches anything that will touch the beer and use commercial brewing cleaners to clean the stuff that touches the beer directly as Oxyclean leaves residues you don't want to later drink.
Fresh ingredients are not more expensive than pre-made kits, although you may have to buy ingredients in bulk quantities so it may seem expensive, but buying enough stuff for three batches will save money and taste better than buying that convenient kit. That being said, there are some website in the US that will sell you custom "kits", basically a set of fresh ingredients they put together from bulk supplies they have. Also, if you have a brewery near you, go and ask for yeast, they usually have way more than they can use and will give or sell it to you cheap.
Good luck and Slainte!

Brian said...

This is the most basic kit offered but you will not throw any of this stuff away if/when you upgrade. This kit will get you started with extract brewing and eventually hooked.
More Beer is a great company, there are other great companies (Northern Brewer, Williams Brewing) that will have similar kits. So grab the spaghetti pot and one of these kits and get to work.

Flight-ER-Doc said...

Try these:

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I do not know where you are but if you are in Indiana I have my original Mr Beer you can have. I am headed to Pensacola in a week if you are on the way. Also used plastic carbonated beverage bottles work, I use them so I always have some to take where glass is prohibited.

Skas said...

An "Ale Pail" and a bottling bucket should do the job just fine.

You really don't need anything too fancy. If you have a nice, large pot that you've been using or canning, that should work fine for homebrew.

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Most important thing you can do for your beer is keep your gear sanitized.

Next priority is temp. control.

Third is ingredients (assuming you're not using pure crap). said...

Funny you should ask, I just did a little post on my blog about a batch of beer I'm working on. My beer is in bottles now, final fermenting for the fizz.

6 gallon food grade pail and lid for your primary fermenter, same as you'd use for storing grain. If you can get one of those pop out spout lids like for fryer oil even better.

I use an airlock from a $5 carboy kit, a balloon with a couple of pin holes will do just fine instead. I just like watching the blurp blurp and timing the blurps to see how far along the brew is. I wouldn't worry about carboys or much else for paraphernalia for home use hooch. That is until you decide you want to get all pretentious with it.

Oh and a squeeze bulb for siphoning. While siphoning by mouth is more fun, you risk infecting your live unpasteurized beer.

Anonymous said...

Recommend the following:

If you have a local home-brew store, check them out and use them if they are reasonably well-stocked AND home-brew themselves. Local shops will likely be interested in seeing you back again, and are likely an excellent source of advice and guidance. But, if they have some dis-interested slacker just holding down the fort, flee.

Most basic equipment kits will have enough pieces/parts to get you started and won't need much upgrading later. Absolutely do get a 1/2" auto-siphon device. They are about $12 - $15 and make siphoning much easier, plus the 1/2" size is a lot faster than the 3/8" size and only a couple bucks more.

Brewing is not rocket science, but as a newbie, get the basic ingredient kits, before becoming adventurous with recipes. Be psychotic about your sanitation and following the instructions, and you'll do quite well.

Finally, I use these guys because they are relatively close to me for shipping, the owner home-brews and is readily findable for advice, and that's the kind of vendor you're looking for:


NUCCjollygreen said...

Background: I've been brewing since OCT, made about a dozen batches of beer, wine, cider, and mead - Beer from kits, the rest from scratch when I had it figured out. The equipment is flexible, as I have used the same gear for all the above products.

Ingredients: Start with Dry or Liquid Malt Extract (DME/LME) ingredients kits - they require less eqpt/time for brew and are easier for beginners. I've bought LME kits from and DME kits from and have been satisfied with both. DME requires lots of stirring to break up the malt, while LME can scorch if you don't stir thoroughly or add it with the pot on the burner.

Concur with starting with Ales; unless you have a basement that stays at a constant 48-55 degrees (typical lagering temps), you'll have to buy a fridge and add a thermostatic temp regulator (read: more $$). Ales are much more forgiving than lagers, both in requirements and the final product, and even if you make a mistake the final product probably won't be drastically different than what you set out to make.

GEAR: Start small with 1 bottling bucket and 1 6.5-gal carboy (I recommend plastic better bottles). Bottling buckets can do double duty as fermenters as well, especially for very active fermentations with lots of krausen (foamy action on top of the new beer). This set up is easily expandable - I'm up to two carboys and two bottling buckets, so I can have three batches going at any time with an extra container to rack/bottle.

Pot - I'm more flexible than some on this; I've used an enamel canning kettle (about 3 gal capacity) as well as a smaller stockpot (2.5 gal capacity), noth of which have produced fine products. If you have something like this, I would try it first before spending a lot of money on a pot, as it will probably be one of the more expensive purchases you will make. Try to find one used if you can.

Ask yourself - do you want to do kegs or bottles? Bottles are easy - just save your empties for a few months; also less likely to contaminate the whole batch if you get something funny in just one of your bottles vice a keg. Downside is all that capping. I've bought a combination collona capper that does corks and caps, and it makes the work a lot easier. If you decide to keg, it means only one container to sanitize. Downside there is you'll have get the extra equipment for CO2, etc., which means more money up front but less in the long run.

My recommendation is start with bottles - if you really like it as a hobby, then you can graduate to kegging. Also, if you have a dishwasher, you can just run them through the hot rinse cycle to sanitize quickly :-)

Definitely pick up an auto siphon - only about 15 bucks, but the greatest gadget for siphoning without sucking on the hose.

Air locks - Sure the hose trick into a water container works, but sounds like a lot of extra work to me. Get the three-piece ones -they're easy to clean and only about $1.50 a piece, so it's not going to break the bank.

Others have emphasized sanitation already, so I'm only going to add this suggestion: - use vodka in your airlocks. This is cheap insurance to prevent any unwanted nasties growing in your beer, especially if your airlock gets beer in it from a very active fermentation.

Wort Chiller - good investment, though not neccessary. I just drop my brew pot into a sink filled with ice water and stir; usually onyl take about 15 min to get down to pitching temps, which only slightly longer than a wort chiller without the expense. I expect I'll pick one up in the future, though I'm getting by just fine for now.

That's about it for my random thoughts... happy brewing!

sobriant74 said...

An article over at Urban Survival on this topic caught my eye

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