Home brewing is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can have. The only thing is you need some supplies. Getting a set of home brewing supplies is your crucial first step in making awesome beer. Here are the best brew making equipment and kits that are available.
Brewing at home is a whole lot easier when you have the right tools and supplies to do it. But if you’re first starting out, it’s tough to know what exactly you should be looking for and what you even need. That is exactly why I have written this article. Throughout these next few paragraphs I will give you some brief knowledge on the different brewing supplies you will need to get started. I’ll also go over some the important product features to look for when you go to make your purchase. This should help you get a descent grasp on home brewing supplies. I will also cover some of the best selling most popular home brewing supplies in each category as well.
If you haven’t checked out my article on How to Make Beer at Home, and you’re just starting your homebrew adventure. I suggest you do so before checking out this article. It will get you up to speed on one of the methods of home brewing and also get you a little more familiar how and when each of these products are used in the home brewing process.
Now, let’s move on to one of the many enjoyable parts to home brewing. Picking out your new home brewing equipment! Here we go!
- 0.1 Brew Kettle
- 0.2 Home Brew Burner
- 0.3 Fermenter
- 0.4 Wort Chiller
- 0.5 Mash Tun
- 0.6 Bottle Filler
- 0.7 Bottle Capper
- 0.8 Homebrew Recipe
- 1 Basic Home Brewing Supplies
The brew kettle or brew pot is used in the wort making process and is used to boil the wort. It is very important to choose a high quality stainless steel brew kettle that is 10 gallons or larger, otherwise you may find yourself ordering a replacement in just a short amount of time. I would suggest going with something around 10 gallons or more, that way if you do want the option to brew a larger amount the option is available to you. If you go with something smaller like a 5-gallon brew kettle, you’re limited to around 3-4 gallons of beer, which can go quick especially if you’re sharing with friends and family. A smaller kettle will increase your chance of a boil over, which creates a huge awful mess.
There are a number of different manufactures out there that provide several different options and sizes. The basic brew kettle will simply be a steel pot with handles, while the some of the higher end models will come with a number of bells and whistles. These bells and whistles aren’t required for brewing beer but it sure does make it a whole lot easier and also allows less room for error.
If you are puzzled at what to even be looking for in your new brew kettle, here is a few features that I found more than helpful and will perhaps even save you money in the long run.
Capacity – As I stated earlier, it is very important that you choose a brew kettle that is 10-gallons or larger. This will allow you to bring 5-7 gallons of wort to a full rolling boil decreasing the chance of a boil over.
Stainless Steel – Brew Kettles come in a few different types of materials including aluminum, copper and stainless steel. Even though each of these materials has their pros, I would suggest going with high quality, thick stainless steel.
Ball Valve – When brewing over 5 gallons of beer, this feature is a must. The ball valve is a spigot that is located at the bottom of your brew kettle that allows you to easily transfer your wort from one place to another.
Thermometer – A built in thermometer is not necessarily a must, but more of convenience. Temperature is key when brewing beer so having a thermometer built right into your kettle will allow for constant monitoring of the wort temperature
Expandability – Some brew kettles allow for a number of additional accessories including the option to convert your kettle into a mash tun. This feature is generally only available on the large capacity models.
To sum it up, you should be looking for a 15-gallon or larger stainless steel brew kettle that has a built in thermometer and ball valve. Now that we’ve covered what you should be looking for in your new brew kettle, let’s check out a couple of the best selling brew kettles out on the market.
Home Brew Burner
There are a few different ways to heat your brew kettle and bring your wort to a boil, but some are definitely better than others. Most electric stovetop burners supply inconsistent heat that can take awhile to get you wort to a rolling boil, if ever. Also, if you have a large brew kettle it may be impossible fit it on your stovetop. Another method for heating your wort is an electric brew kettle. This method is very convenient and provides an all in one solution for boiling your wort. Since this method is electric, it can take an hour to get your wort to boil unless you go with a 240v option.
Another method to heating your wort is a propane burner and not just some ordinary propane burner. These propane burners will allow for large brew kettles of up to 30 gallons depending on the specific propane burner you choose. In addition to being able to hold large capacity brewing kettles, it can also bring the wort to a rolling boil very fast with around 72,000 BTU/hr of power. Now let’s take a look at some of the more popular home brew burners
A Fermenter is another vital piece of home brewing equipment that you definitely cannot go without. That is unless you’d like to drink non-alcoholic wort, which I can guarantee you will not be pleasant. Since a home brew fermenter can come in all different shapes and sizes, it can tend to get a little confusing when it comes down to making your very first fermenter purchase.
But don’t worry, I’ll wrangle in some of the more popular fermenters out there that have proven to work best and deliver a great home brew.
After boiling your wort you’ll have to cool it down to so it’s not boiling lava hot. This is done fast and easy using a wort chiller. Although this process can be accomplished by just letting your wort sit around for a while, using a wort chiller is a much better solution. Quickly cooling down your wort lowers the chance of contamination, off flavors and improves the overall clarity of your home brew.
There are three main types of wort chillers: the immersion chiller, the counterflow wort chiller and the plate chiller.
Immersion Chiller: The immersion chiller is definitely one of the most common and easy to use wort chiller solutions among the home brewing world. The immersion chiller is simply a coil of stainless steel or copper tubing that is cooled by running cold water though it. Clean and sanitize your coil with Easy Clean and Star San and then immerse it your wort. Let the cold water flow and you’re in business!
Counterflow Wort Chiller: The counterflow wort chiller is the most efficient wort chiller design and best suited for larger home brew batches of 10 gallons or more. The counterflow wort chiller design works by incorporating a copper tube inside of another copper tube. The hot wort flows through the inner tube while cold water is ran through the outer tube running the opposite way, creating a counterflow design. This design is a little more complex to use and works best with a brew kettle that has spigot.
Plate Chiller: The plate chiller is hands down the fastest and most efficient way to chill your wort. Just like the other two methods, the plate chiller uses cold water to chill your wort, just lesser amounts, which is one of the reasons it is the most efficient chiller. The plate chiller uses water-cooled stainless steel and copper plates that maximize surface-to-volume ratio. This option is a little more complex than the immersion style chiller but may be worth the hassle. If you go this route I strongly recommend picking up a backflush assembly for cleaning.
After you’ve experimented with extract brewing and think you’ve got the hang of it, it’s time to try your hand at all-grain brewing. All-grain brewing allows for much more creativity and control in the brewing process. However, it does require some additional equipment and steps. One of the additional steps is the mashing process, which requires the use of a mash tun.
There are several different types of mash tuns and some variations are certainly better than others. There are plenty of makeshift diy mash tun options out there that will do the job. However, these may not be as accurate as what you would think. Here is a quick description of the two most popular types of mash tuns out there.
Gott-Style Mash Tun: This is often referred to as a mash tun cooler and is one of the best and most popular home brewing options. This is perfect if you’re brewing smaller batches that are between 5 and 7 gallons. This option is basically a converted drink cooler with a spigot and false bottom. With this option, you’ll heat your water to the proper temperature and pour it into your mash tun cooler. The insulated Gott-Style mash tun works well because it is able to maintain a consistent temperature for long periods of time.
False Bottom Brew Kettle: If you own a brew kettle large enough, you can convert it into a mash tun by purchasing a false bottom. Since the false bottom can take up lots of room in the kettle, you’ll want a brew kettle that is 15 gallons or larger. The tricky part when going this route is to reach and maintain a constant and steady temperature between 150° and 158.8° for an hour or so. You’ll need to keep stirring your mash and constantly be monitoring the temperature. This is the preferred method by experienced and commercial brewers.
Once your homebrew is finished, you’ll need to bottle it and it and cap it. There are a few simple products that make this task nice and easy. Don’t forget to transfer your beer out of the primary fermenter and into a bottling bucket to avoid picking up the sediment that is left behind. So before you grab your empty beer bottles and get started, let’s take a look at some of the most popular bottle filling options out there.
Simple Bottle Filler: The basic and simple beer bottle filler is a popular option among the small batch home brewer. It works by siphoning the beer into the bottle using gravity. Certain models often utilize a spring tip to start and stop the flow of your beer.
Counter Pressure Bottle Filler: This is the most common filling technique and is used by commercial breweries. However, this method is only an option if you are kegging your home brew beer. This option provides a sediment free fast and easy bottling solution.
Once your beer is bottled up, you’re ready to put a cap on it! All you’ll need is some crown beer bottle caps and a bottle capper. There are two main types of bottle capping machines out there, which are described below.
Double-Lever Bottle Capper: The double lever capper is a simple bottle capping machine that attaches crown style, non-twist beer caps to the bottle by applying force to two spring loaded handles that crimp the cap to the bottle. This is a really easy and simple way to cap your home brew beer. However, if you’re planning on capping a lot of homebrew this may get tiring and monotonous.
Bench Bottle Capper: The bench bottle capper is a much less tiring, more efficient way to cap your homebrew. It’s also very easy and simple to operate. If you’re bottling more than a few beers, this is the route I would go. Keep in mind, bench bottle cappers are designed to be secured to a tabletop of some type.
Recipes and recipe kits are broke down into three main categories listed from beginner to advanced: extract, partial mash and all-grain. Once you’re confident enough to create your own recipe, you can skip the beer recipe kits and hand pick each ingredient to make your own completely custom homebrew.
Extract Beer Recipes: Extract brewing takes the least amount of time and is also the easiest method, perfect for beginners. Extract recipe kit’s generally come with a variety of grains, malt extracts, hops, dry or liquid yeast, and a few other miscellaneous supplies.
Partial Mash Beer Recipes: Partial mash recipes are designed for the extract brewer who wants to get more creative and adventurous with their homebrew. This is a great way advance to a whole new level without making the jump into the more expensive all-grain process. A few more steps are required for the partial mash process so some additional equipment will still be necessary.
All-Grain Beer Recipes: All-grain recipes require additional brewing equipment and are generally for more advanced brewers who have experimented with the extract recipe kits and ready to try something a little more complicated. These recipe kits will generally come with mash ingredients, boil additions, dry or liquid yeast and priming sugar for bottling.
Basic Home Brewing Supplies
In addition to the home brewing specific products, there are also a few things that you will need that are small but important. These are just basic accessories that will make the beer brewing process much smoother and enjoyable and even perhaps make less of a mess! So I’ll try to be brief with each of these beer brewing supplies but at the same time get you up to speed on what you need and why you need it! Let’s get started!
Brewing thermometer – This is one of those basic accessories that are an absolute must have in the home brew supply list. The beer brewing process requires certain ingredients and steps done at certain temperature and guessing will do you no good. The brewing thermometer will help improve the quality and consistency of your brew and eliminate any type of guesswork that you may have felt confident in. A brewing thermometer is a very in expensive accessory so there is absolutely no reason to skip out. You’ll find that nearly all brewing thermometers are made from stainless steel and come in either a digital read or the good ol’ fashion dial face. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose as long as it’s accurate. Personally, I prefer the standard dial face.
Hydrometer for beer – The hydrometer is handy tool that measures the amount of dissolved sugars in water. You’ll use this tool to measure the original gravity of your wort to get the estimated amount of alcohol that your wort is able to produce. Once your homebrew is fermented, you’ll then measure the final gravity of you beer to use in the ABV formula (OG – FG) x 131 = ABV.
Beer Brewing Spoon or Paddle – Not just any old spoon you’ve got lying in your kitchen drawer, but a huge gigantic stainless steel or food grade plastic stirring spoon. Try stirring a 15-gallon brew kettle full of hot liquid with a tablespoon. Better yet, don’t! Grab yourself a high quality stainless steel or food grade plastic spoon that is at least 18” long.
Strainer – The strainer can is used for many different steps in the home brewing process, especially when extract brewing. Straining the hops out of the wort, pulling out the grains from the wort and more. I would pick up a stainless steel strainer with two layers of mesh.
Funnel – Depending on how you’re brewing your beer, a funnel is sometimes used to transfer the wort to the fermentation tank. If you’re going this route, make sure the funnel is nice and wide but still small enough to fit in your carboy!
Muslin Bags – Used mostly in extract brewing, the Muslin bag is a simple mesh bag that will hold the grains and hops. Most Beer recipe kits will include muslin bags so if you’re planning on starting with a beer recipe kit you won’t have to worry about purchasing these separately.
Food Grade Sanitizer – I cannot stress how important it is to clean and sanitize absolutely everything that you will be using to brew your beer including kettles, spoons, carboys, strainers, etc. I recommend using a no rinse cleaner like Easy Clean from LD Carlson Company in combination with Star San no rinse sanitizer. The no rinse feature of these cleaners and sanitizers come in really handy when trying to clean carboys and other hard to clean fermenters.