If you want to get into homebrewing, you are going to need equipment. This equipment can be as simple as a pot on your stove or an expensive 3 vessel system with automated controls. The first thing you want to consider is if you want to brew with extract or all grain.
It used to be the norm that homebrewers would start by brewing extract and after one or two years, they would ‘graduate’ to all grain. Nowadays however, more and more people are starting with all grain. With the abundance of information available on the internet and the relatively small difference in equipment needed, I would tend to recommend if you are serious about it, starting with all grain. I did and I wouldn’t change it.
If I was giving advice on someone getting into the hobby to brew all grain, I would recommend they get the following.
A kettle (pot)
Brewing all grain, you are going to need a large pot so you can boil the entirety of your liquid. Usually people produce 19L batches (5 gallons if you’re American) because this is the size of most corny kegs (which are the kegs homebrewers use). This is what I tend to make.
If you want to make 19L batches, it is generally recommended you get at least a 50L kettle as you will need extra liquid to account for boil off and will need extra room to avoid boil overs.
A good option would be this 58L keggle with 2 piece ball value and fitting for $189. http://www.ibrew.com.au/collections/boilers/products/keggle-boiler
A person far more handy than me could probably make this a lot cheaper but if you don’t have the skills and want to just buy something, this could be a good option.
A ‘BIAB’ bag
I mash my grains in a ‘mash tun’ made from a converted esky. The reason I do this is simply because I bought all my gear second hand and it was included. If I had to buy everything again, I would go down the BIAB (Brew in a Bag) path. Essentially, it means that you put your grains in a bag, let them mash and then remove the bag.
The benefit of this is not only that it is cheaper but that there is less cleanup as you are using only one vessel.
Ibrew has these for $24.50 http://www.ibrew.com.au/products/biab-grain-bag
Again you could probably make this cheaper if you have the skills and I have heard of people buying material from Spotlight and doing this.
When I bought my second hand gear it came with an old mini bbq as a burner. After my first brewing session where it took hours to get going, I quickly decided I needed a really good burner.
I wouldn’t recommend skimping on a burner. If you buy right, it should last you a long time and the better the burner, the quicker you will be able to get your kettle boiling therefore significantly reducing the length of your brew day. After some research I went with the Rambo Burner. These are $219 at craftbrewer.com.au and I haven’t regretted it.
Once you have finished your brew day, you are going to need a fermenter to ferment the beer in. Most people just get these from Bunnings where you can get a 30L Water Can for $25 and a tap for $2. http://www.bunnings.com.au/venture-bmw-30l-blue-tint-wide-mouth-water-storage-drum-with-bung_p3240534
I currently have a Coopers fermenter which is great, but probably a little over priced at $50 + delivery.
There is no need for an air lock as you can use glad wrap. We will discuss this in another post.
An old fridge, temp controller and heat pad
This is one of those things you could get away with not having, but living in Queensland, it’s probably not worth it. A successful fermentation relies on you keeping the wort at a constant temperature within the yeast strain’s preferred range. You can achieve this with other methods and a lot of hard work but it’s generally not worth it.
A second hand fridge should set you back about $50.
To control the temperature of the fridge, you are going to need a temp controller. This measures the temperature of the wort and if you need to refrigerate or heat, it turns on the power to either your fridge or heat pad.
Ibrew has heat pads at $60. With the temp controller, you will want to get one that has auto switching between heat and cold. These tend to cost more and Craftbrewer has these at $75.
You can definitely pick up cheaper items on eBay and if you do some basic wiring, can save quite a lot. I unfortunately do not have these skills.
This is fancy brewers speak for a small heat proof container. Weirdly these are a lot more expensive than you think they will be. A great tip is to go and buy a ‘fresh wort kit’ from Craftbrewer. You get the beer and you can keep the cube! I’m going to say these are ‘free’ because really you are paying for the delicious wort!
You are going to need a number of miscellaneous things which never seem to be mentioned in these types of posts so I’m going to do my best to point them out now, so you don’t realise you don’t have something just as you are about to brew.
A jug- you are going to need a way to measure liquid. I struggled to find a cheap 5L jug and ended up getting one from a home-brew store for $23.
A yoga mat/sleeping bag/blankets- When you mash in your kettle, you are going to want to maintain a temperature. You likely have these lying around and they will help. I have also seen people use metal colanders to keep the bag off the bottom of the kettle.
A thermometer- you will need to measure liquid temperatures regularly so this is a must. Again a lot of people have one lying around but it might be worth getting a decent one from Ebay. Estimated cost is about $10.
A hose- you are going to need to transfer wort from your kettle into your cube. This needs to be able to handle boiling heat and you can pick this up from a homebrew store for about $10.
Cleaners- You are going to need some cleaners and sanitisers. Most people use fragrance free Napisan for a cleaner and ‘Starsan’ for a sanitizer. 8 ounces is $20 but it will last you quite some time.
A big stirring spoon- these can be had from home-brew stores or alternatively you might have something useful lying around.
Adding all this up I come to a total of $687.50. It’s certainly not a cheap start and you can definitely do better if you can shop around.
I was lucky and came across a guy getting out of the hobby at the same time I was getting into it. I also managed to fluke onto a free fridge so yeah for me!
If you have any tips yourself feel free to leave them below.