I received a basic homebrew equipment kit from Brewers Best for Father’s Day in 2018. Best gift ever!
While this was enough to get me started with homebrewing, little did I know this was just the beginning of things.
Over the course of the last 5 months, I’ve invested hundreds of hours reading and researching various homebrew topics. Of course you can’t homebrew without the proper tools, and you might as well throw a kegging system into the mix for kicks. So yea, I’ve invested a few hundred dollars into various components as well.
This little hobby is addicting as hell.
Getting started with homebrewing doesn’t need to be any more complicated then buying that basic homebrew kit. You can brew some great beers with that initial kit, and once you’ve got that process down, you can expand into other areas – if you want to.
The purpose of this post is to educate, and help you understand what you need to get started with homebrewing.
Getting Started With Homebrewing
If you’re just getting started with homebrewing, or looking to get started brewing your first beer, let me try to explain where you should begin.
Buy A Beginners Brew Kit
The easiest way to get started with homebrewing is buying a brew kit. You can buy a very basic brew kit for under $100, which will get you the following:
- Plastic fermenter (a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket)
- Bottling bucket (another 6.5 gallon plastic bucket with a spigot)
- A plastic lid for the fermenter (includes a drilled hole for the airlock)
- Auto Siphon (to transfer your beer)
- Plastic tubing
- Bottle filler
- Hydrometer (measures “gravity” to help you estimate alcohol content)
- Bottle cleaning brush
- Bottle capper
- A small packet of brew cleaner
This gives you everything you need to brew your own beer, provided you have a kettle large enough to boil your wort (think pre-beer). Speaking of a kettle, you probably already have a stock pot laying around in your kitchen somewhere. That’s all you need, provided it can hold at least 3 gallons.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can get a brew kit that includes the kettle and a few other trinkets, but that’s not really needed to get started.
You can buy a beginners brew kit from a number of homebrew supply stores, most of which have an on-line presence.
Start With Extract Brewing
Once you purchase a brew kit, you’ll need something to start brewing your first beer. That’s where an extract kit comes into play. An extract kit will typically include the following ingredients:
- Malt Extract (either liquid or dry)
- Speciality grains for steeping
- Yeast (which you will typically have to buy separately)
- Instructions for brewing your beer
Extract kits are awesome, as you can purchase almost any variety of beer to brew. The number of kits available is mind blowing, and can be purchased from any reputable homebrew store. Northern Brewer has quite a selection of extract kits to choose from.
A quick sidebar… Extract brewing is the easiest way of getting started with homebrewing. Some folks are tempted to jump right into all grain brewing, which gives you more control, but my recommendation is to keep it simple if you’re just getting started. There’s just too many other things you need to get down before you make the process more involved.
Use Brewing Software (and take notes)
If you’re going to stick with this hobby, you’ll eventually need to invest in some brewing software for your computer. This takes much of the guess work out of the brew day, and gives you the ability to fine tune a recipe.
Brewer’s Friend has a very easy to use on-line recipe builder that is a great place to start. Did I mention it’s free (as long as you don’t save more then 5 recipes).
One of the things you might as well start doing up front, is taking very detailed notes during your brew day. Notes around water volumes, gravity readings, the type of yeast you used, can all be very helpful when you’re trying to sort out how you fucked up your beer (and it will happen).
By using brewing software, capturing notes on your brew day is as easy as entering them into the software package. Trust me on this one. I didn’t start taking detailed notes until my 3rd or 4th beer, and wish I would have done it sooner.
Other Things You’ll Want To Have On Hand
In addition to the brew kit and extract kit, there’s a few other things that you may want to purchase that will make your life easier.
You’ll want to have a decent cooking thermometer to measure water temperature. Homebrewing requires some rather precise temperature readings to brew quality beer.
Since you’re getting started with extract brewing, you’ll need to ensure any speciality grains you steep are typically kept between 150 – 165 degrees. Anything hotter has the risk of extracting tannins from the grain, which can result in an off flavor.
Probably the most important thing you’ll need to buy.
Anything, and I mean anything that comes into contact with your wort after the boil needs to be sanitized properly. Otherwise, you risk infecting your beer with some crazy ass bacteria that will completely ruin your batch.
I use something called Star San. Simply dilute with water, and coat any surface that will come in contact with the wort after your boil. No need to rinse. Use it in your fermenter, on your thermometer, wine thief, cooking utensils, anything.
Beer/Wine Thief and Test Tube
In order to take a gravity reading, you’ll need a tool to draw a sample out from the cooling wort. A simple wine thief gives you the ability to do just that.
Once you’ve drawn a sample of wort, you need someplace to put it. A test jar/tube is a glass or plastic container that you’ll use to deposit the wort sample you’ve taken with the wine thief. Once that sample has cooled, you place your hydrometer into the tube to take a gravity reading.
While these two tools aren’t required, they make life a bit easier. The alternative is to place your hydrometer, sanitized of course, right into your fermentation bucket.
Getting started with homebrewing doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it’s a fairly simple process when you start with extract brewing.
My one takeaway… As I stated above, start with an extract kit before you decide to jump into all grain brewing. You’ll have your hands full with sanitizing equipment, steeping grains, boiling wort, doing hop additions, and taking measurements along the way.
Once you have a few extract brews under your belt, you’ll start to get into a process that you can replicate if you decide to make the jump to all grain or partial mash brewing.
How did you get started?