If you have been thinking about starting off making your own beer, depending on how much time and money you're willing to invest there are a few options for you to get the key equipment to start brewing. The equipment list below will give a guide on the basic utensils you need to get started along with some recommended tools that will become a key investment in latter stages and advanced brewing techniques.
The following equipment is what you will need to start beer kit brewing.
As it would happen, this is what you will need to let your beer ferment in! There are a few options here. For basic brewing methods a food grade buckets/brewing buckets would be ideal, they’re typically 5 gallon/25 litres that would be needed, with an accompanying lid. A glass/plastic carboy is another option, great use for brewing with secondary fermenters. The glass carboys would be more expensive but a good investment if you plan on home brewing for a long term. Buckets and plastic carboys can come with a fitted spigot (tap) that will come in handy for bottling and taking samples. Glass carboy can come with these fitted also but again at an extra investment. A subsequent bucket with spigot attached would be worthwhile getting for use as a bottling bucket, great for priming your beer to be bottled/kegged. This isn’t essential but will make life a lot easier for you to bottle your beer.
Stirring paddle /spoon
You can either buy a dedicated stirring paddle or spoon from a homebrew supplier or if you have a long sturdy spoon made from stainless steel or food grade plastic, this can be used. Don’t use a wooden spoon as the wooden grain cannot be fully sanitized and my harbour contaminants.
A siphon for transferring you beer to the bottles or to a bottling bucket will be required. If you have a spigot attached to your fermenter you could get away without having this and bottle direct from the fermenter but it will come in handy eventually if you plan in moving onto more complex brewing techniques. An auto-siphon is a great tool to invest in as it will save a lot of effort initiating a siphon.
Bottles, bottles and more bottles! With each batch of homebrew beer you would need at least to facilitate 40 pints. Soft Drink bottles would be a cheap alternative and handy if you don’t have a collection of glass bottles at hand. If you have a large amount of glass bottles from beer you’ve bought, be sure to give them a good clean as soon as they’re empty, this will save on the amount of cleaning you will have to do later when it’s time to bottle. You will need to get a bottle capper and crown caps for the glass bottles, on that note don’t bother with screw top beer bottles as they won’t seal as well with crown caps. Brown bottles are best to preserve your brews. You can also buy glass or plastic beer bottles from your homebrew supplier (or bottle supplier if there’s one around)
A spirit thermometer would be the most versatile thermometer type to get. This would be needed to monitor the temperature of the wort prior to pitching the yeast and to monitor the temperature fermentation vessel. It will also come in handy when starting to do boils/steeping grains during extract and all grain brewing if you eventually head down those roads, although dial thermometers with clips to fix to the boil pots are better for this also. Self adhesive LCD thermometers are great for sticking to your fermentation vessel to keep a handy eye on the temperature of the contents inside.
As beer is susceptible to infection if it’s contaminated, any equipment that will come into contact with your wort/beer needs to be thoroughly sanitized after they have been cleaned. There’s sanitizer that will require a good rinse after the equipment has been sanitized and there is also no-rinse sanitizer. Commercial sanitizers like Star san are a good investment but a good no rinse homemade sanitizer can be made : best mixed in the order listed, mix 30 ml (two tablespoons) of thin bleach mixed with 20 litres of water into your fermentation vessel, followed by 30ml distilled vinegar -DO NOT MIX BLEACH AND VINEGAR NEAT, this will cause a release of chlorine gas.
The below items listed would be considered optional yet highly recommended to get if you plan on making a good quality beer.
This is something that is really ideal to get. The job of the airlock is to allow CO2 gases that are released during fermentation to escape, without letting oxygen or other unwanted spoilers enter in the fermentation vessel. There are two common types, a bubbler and a 3 piece type. The both work by letting the CO2 bubble out through water once enough CO2 pressure builds up. If some good reason you were unable to get an airlock you could leave the fermenter lid open fairly slightly to allow air to escape but there is no barrier to prevent any of the outside atmosphere getting in. There are some tricks to make a homemade airlock also but as most airlocks are typically inexpensive, it’s highly advisable to throw one or two in the cart.
If you want to know how much alcohol is in our beer, you’ll need a hydrometer. It works by floating in a sample tube full of liquid & gives a ‘gravity reading’ based on the density of the liquid. Water will have a default reading of 1.000. When you mix up your wort (unfermented beer), which will have a higher density than water, a reading is taken. After the fermentation is complete a final reading is taken and as the alcohol would have thinned out the liquid density this will give a lower reading. The differences between the two readings are then applied to a math formula to work out the Alcohol % volume.
Secondary Fermentation Vessel
A second fermentation vessel will really come in handy for when you want to experiment a bit more with your brews with methods such as dry –hopping (adding hops to your beer while it’s fermenting). By racking (transferring) your beer into a secondary fermenter, you also filter out a lot of the unwanted crud that would be found eventually settling at the bottom of your primary fermentation vessel (also known as a yeast cake or trub), thus giving your beer a head start to condition for some time before you bottle. This is an optional method, brewing with a single fermentation vessel can still produce exceptional results. If you are looking to get a secondary vessel, get one that won’t leave as much space at the top. For instance your primary vessel, allow space for foam produced during the initial few days of fermentation. For your secondary fermenter, get a smaller one that will hold close to the exact amount of beer you have. EG Making 23 litres of beer, primary fermenter – 33 Litres, secondary fermenter - 25 litres. The reason behind this is so your beer isn’t exposed to too much oxygen during the fermentation process in the second fermenter, which is the main drawback of using a secondary fermentation vessel. For Beer Kit brewing, one fermenter is fine to be honest.
Other Bits & Bobs
Beer Thief/Turkey Baster – This will come in handy to extract samples of your beer to test in the hydrometer etc.
Measuring Jug – Preferably a glass Pyrex jug that can hold around a pint. Will be used if you need to re-hydrate dry yeast. A larger jug would also come in handy to fill with no rinse sanitizing solution that you can keep your stirring paddle, thermometer etc in while your doing other tasks on your brewday.
Can opener – You’ll need this to open the extract cans supplied in beer kits – clean and sanitize it before use.
Large Pot – If you’re using a beer kit to start brewing, a decent sized pot to hold up to two cans of wort concentrate will suffice. If you’re planning on moving onto advance brewing methods like extract & all grain brewing, you’ll need a significantly larger pot, but we’ll look into that another time.
A beer kit, for the makings for brewing your own beer! There are kits / ingredient packs available for extract and all grain brewing but what we want for now are likes of either:
- A single can kit with 1.7-1.8kg of wort concentrate and yeast included. With the single can kits the instructions will recommend to add 1 kg of sugar, however in the best interest of your beer tasting well, ignore this instruction and use 1kg of light spray malt extract (aka dry malt extract). It's a bit more expensive than sugar but improves the quality quality of your homebrew significantly.
- A 3kg kit which include 2 cans of pre-hopped concentrated wort with a packet of dried yeast included. No additional ingredients need to be added and these kits are fairly simple to make p for a first time homebrewer.
Getting these items shouldn't be much of a task. Some of the items listed can be found in any decent homeware store. Best place to go first is a homebrew supply shop, depending where you're based you can drop into a physical store or go online. Most homebrew store will offer starter kits which include most of the equipment (and sometimes a beer kit) you need to make your first batch of beer.