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The Right Equipment

Before brewing your first batch of beer, you will need to obtain the basic equipment. Just like a good cook needs a well equipped kitchen, a home brewer will need a well equipped brewery to produce quality beer at home. The type of equipment you purchase or find will somewhat depend on how involved you will be with your home brewing hobby. The best equipment is not cheap, but will serve you well for a lifetime of brewing. On the other hand, a simple brewing package costing less than $100.00 may be just what you need to "get your feet wet". If you are ready to start brewing and want to purchase a package deal on all the equipment essentials, we offer a good selection of homebrew starter packages here.

The following items are essential:

How To Brew, because it has information about the latest brewing products and covers beginner and intermediate brewing extensively.

Brewing Guide

Before you start your first batch of beer, you will need to learn the basic process. There are dozens of books available on the subject, as well as information on-line. Many home brewing shops teach regular classes or do frequent brewing demonsrations, or you can learn from a friend who brews. Regardless of how you learn, a good book about brewing will be a valuable reference as you explore your home brewing hobby. Our favorite books for beginners are:

The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing, because it is easy and fun to read, has an easy to understand beginner's section, and goes beyond the basics with intermediate and advanced brewing sections.

A Brew Kettle

One of the main steps in brewing is boiling the beer. As most recipes are for 5 gallons of home brew, the best choice is a stainless steel pot with a lid that is at least 5 gallons in size. If you plan on brewing all grain recipes (advanced brewing), a larger pot (6- 8 gallon) is best. Ceramic on steel (a home canning pot, for instance) is also acceptable, as long as the ceramic is not chipped. Aluminum is not a good material as it will absorb flavors from the beer that can detract from susequent brews and has been linked to Alzheimers diasease.

A Fermenter

The beer will need to be in a clean environment and protected from airborne dust and bacteria while it ferments. Most homebrewers ferment in a closed system that uses an airlock, a small valve that allows fermentation gasses to escape while preventing outside elements from entering the system (pictured on top of the bucket to the left). A good 5 or 6 gallon glass bottle (called a carboy) is the best option for most home brewers. It will give you years of service and is easy to sanitize. A food grade plastic bucket can also be used. The fermenter should have a airtight stopper with an airlock to vent gasses from the fermentation. For the best results, 2 fermenters should be used, a primary & a secondary fermenter.

Funnel

If you use a glass carboy as your primary or only fermenter, a funnel is essential. Without it, a huge mess is inevitable unless you are adept at siphoning. You should have a funnel that is only used for brewing, as funnels used in the kitchen are almost impossible to clean and sanitize adequately for brewing. Most funnels designed for home brewing are at least 8" in diameter, and some come with a snap in screen for filtering out hops and other particles.

Straining Tools

For straining whole grains and hops. For mash- extract or extract brewing, a grain straining bag is an economical choice. All grain brewers will need a large straining vessel, called a lauter tun. To strain out the hops after the beer is boiled, a good strainer is also very helpful.

Siphoning Equipment

By siphoning, it is possible to transfer beer from one fermenter to another or to bottles without exposing it to air. Plastic tubing and a rigid plastic or stainless steel tube (called a racking cane, pictured left) is needed to siphon the beer. It is important that the tubing used is food grade vinyl, as non food grade can leach chemicals into the liquid passing through it. Most home brewing siphoning systems are 3/8" in diameter. An external pinch clamp is also useful for providing flow control.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

To brew successfully, it is important to develop good cleaning & sanitizing habits. A low sudsing, fragrance free cleanser can tackle most cleaning jobs, or check with your local home brew store for excellent cleansers developed just for brewing.

After cleaning, most equipment will also need to be sanitized: a good all purpose sanitizer is Iodine (pictured right). We prefer Iodine because it is economical and when mixed with water to the recommended dilution, it it non-toxic.

Bottling Equipment

To finish your beer, you will need to bottle it. For this you will need a bottle capper, caps, and a bottle filling wand (this connects to your siphon tubing). Of course, you will also need bottles. Thick walled, non- twist off bottles, or flipper top bottles are good choices.

After the basics, the following equipment is extremely usesful because it will help you produce better beer. Most of these will also make the brewing experience easier and will save you time.

                        

Hydrometer

To measure the density of the beer before and after fermentation, which will help you evaluate your brew and enable you to determine the final alcohol content.

Thermometer

One that can be immersed in hot liquids and reads a temperature range of at least 40- 180 oF. A must for mash- extract and all grain. The one pictured on the left

A Wort Chiller

After boiling 5 gallons of beer, cooling it down can be a time consuming task, unless you have a wort chiller. An immersion chiller, pictured right, is all you really need if you brew 5 gallon batches. This chiller works by immersing the copper coils in the boiling wort (unfermented beer) 15 to 20 minutes before the end of the boil to sterilize it. After the boil is complete tubes are connected to both ends of the chiller. One tube is for the cold water to enter the chiller, and is connected to a sink or a garden hose faucet. The other tube is for the hot water to exit the chiller and into a collection bucket or drain. As fresh water is precious and a wort chiller uses up to 20 gallons to cool 5 gallons of beer, it is good to reuse this water after the brewing is done. For ideas about how to reuse this water, see our tip about water conservation here.

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