Basic Equipment

One of my friends asked what equipment she should get her boyfriend so he could start making beer. There are many equipment articles out there and here is one more

Note: If I were to write this up again, I would recommend the Australian brew-in-a-bag method rather than all the all-grain equipment.

I don’t know what your budget is… you can easily spend a few hundred dollars for a good kitchen setup.

The Minimum:

A large pot. Stainless steel is best, but aluminum is cheap. Like I said before, at least 2 gallons. The bigger, the better. Best is 6 gallons so he can do a full-wort boil where he doesn’t have to top off the fermenter with tap water. Boiling 5 gallons of wort on a kitchen stove is a big pain though, consider getting one of those turkey fryer burner deals. The one I used to have was a 7-gallon aluminum pot and a burner. Never did fry a turkey.

A fermenter. Go for the 6 gallon variety. I used glass carboys, but I have heard very good things about the Better Bottle. If I needed another (cheap) fermenter, I’d try one out. The homebrew shop will probably tell you need a primary & secondary fermenter, but that’s a big myth. I do my fermentations in a single vessel and make pretty good (damn good) beer. Politely decline.

Transfer tubing, bottling wand and a racking cane. Not too much to say here – the homebrew shop will know what you need. I recommend a stainless steel racking cane over a plastic one. It’s worth the extra money.

A bottling bucket.

Bottles. Five gallons of beer fills a little fewer than fifty bottles.

Sanitizer. Go for the “no rinse” variety. I switch between iodophor and 5-Star to keep the nasties on their toes. Buy in bulk.

Testing equipment. A floating thermometer or a digital thermometer on a probe. Also a hydrometer and a cheap graduated cylinder to take specific gravity readings in. Long ago I ditched the cylinder & hydrometer in favor of a refractometer. Really worth the extra money (but maybe only if you’ve been using a hydrometer for a while :-)

That equipment will be enough to get him started doing “extract with specialty grain” (also incorrectly known as “partial mash”) brewing. The recipe kits are classified by the level of equipment you have. Since he’s got some brewery experience he will probably want to get into “all grain” brewing pretty soon. All of the above equipment will serve for that purpose, plus a few additional pieces.

All Grain

You definitely need the full sized pot.

A hot liquor tank (HLT). Ideally this is a vessel you can heat, but anything that keeps 3-5 gallons of hot water is fine. Many people use Rubbermaid or Gott coolers.

A mash tun. This is a vessel to hold the grain and hot water for making sweet wort. It’s slightly specialized because you need a filter at the bottom used to separate the sweet wort from the spent grain. If either of you is crafty you can make one on the cheap. Mine was a large cooler with the drain plug removed replaced by some copper fittings. Some rigid copper tubing with small holes drilled in it sat in the bottom connected to a brass ball valve on the outside. Served me well for five years.

Here’s a good shot of my previous all-grain setup. Left to right in the picture is a 5-gallon aluminum pot that I punched a hole in for the drain and spigot. It served as my HLT. Next is my mash tun which I described above. Lastly is a 10-gallon aluminum pot sitting on a burner. It also has a drain and spigot.

Consider a subscription to Zymmurgy or BYO Magazine. One of the books I recommend to everyone is Designing Great Beers. Really helped me understand the process.

Get involved in a homebrew club. They are the best places to learn the hobby. There are at least two in Oakland: The Draught Board & Bay Area Mashers (BAM). If you go to a Draught Board meeting tell Roger St Dennis I say hi.

I’ve gone on for a while now. There are a billion other brewing resources on the web.

One thought on “Basic Equipment”

Leave a Reply