Homebrew 101: Essentials and Equipment

Homebrew, beer you make yourself, or BYO (Brew Your Own), enthusiasts will tell you that there is no more rewarding hobby ever invented. It can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. Arm yourself with a few basic pieces of knowledge, get some experience under your belt, and you’ll be making great beer at home in no time flat.

How To Learn Homebrew

Every brewer has to start somewhere. Many community colleges offer a homebrew class, which allows you to create and taste the end result before you ever strike it out on your own.

If this isn’t an option, there’s always the old standby: pick up a book. Hundreds of books are available to get you into brewing your own beer at home, describing everything from ingredients to equipment and the brewing process. Most include tested recipes, which mean that you won’t end up with a bunch of wasted time.

Looking into books, your best bet by far is “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition” by Charlie Papazian (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060531053/qid=1126191061/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-5122827-6453744?v=glance&s=books ) , master brewer and founder and president of the American Homebrewer’s Association and Association of Brewers, presents a fully revised edition of his essential guide to homebrewing. This third edition of the best-selling and most trusted homebrewing guide includes a complete update of all instructions, recipes, charts, and guidelines. Everything you need to get started is here, including classic and new recipes for brewing stouts, ales, lagers, pilseners, porters, specialty beers, and honey meads.

But I Wanna Start Now!

If you don’t have the patience to learn all about brewing beer, you can *ahem* cheat. There are complete starter kits currently on the market that produce some very good beer. Two of your best bets in this category are The Beer Machine (http://www.beermachine.com/ ) or Mr. Beer (http://store.mrbeer.com/brewkitsmain.html )

More Knowledge

Really, do yourself a favor and learn more about the various beer styles. There are dozens of websites that will help you learn about the qualities of different beers, and even more magazines dedicated to the homebrewer. You can also save yourself some frustration by purchasing and trying different beer styles so that you can see which styles you like best and would actually enjoy brewing at home.

Get The Equipment

Okay, so here’s the doozie. Depending on how complex you want to get with your homebrew, you’ll spend very little to a whole lot on the equipment. Your must-have basics are something to ferment your beer in, and something to store it in. From there, the sky is the limit.

Your absolute must-have equipment is:

*1 large boiling pot: It must be made of stainless steel or ceramic-coated steel. The bigger the pot the better, because it needs to be able to hold at least 3 gallons of liquid comfortably.

*1 5-gallon carboy: A carboy is a large, glass bottle. They look identical to the bottles that large amounts of water are often sold in, but they must be made of glass for beer brewing. Visit your local recycler and ask if they have any on hand to sell, as they are expensive to buy when new.

*Funnel: You will need a large funnel to transfer the wort into the carboy.

*1 6-gallon plastic “bottling” bucket with lid: This plastic bucket should hold at least 5 gallons and be food-grade. You can find them cheap (or free) at many restaurants; ask the kitchen staff to save any extra for you rather than throw them away.

*Siphon hose: This is at least 6 feet of plastic tubing that will be used to transfer beer from the carboy to the bottling bucket, and later into bottles.

*Racking cane: An ingenious piece of shaped, hard plastic tubing that connects to the siphon hose for transferring beer from one container to another.

*Fermentation lock (airlock): This clever feature will seal your beer from outside contamination while letting carbon dioxide escape the fermenter. It must fit in a hole in the lid of your carboy.

*Long spoon: This will be used for stirring; make sure it has a long handle so you do not get burned.

*Bottles: Do not use the type with twist-off caps. Any type of sealable glass bottle is good: beer, old-fashioned pop or even champagne bottles. Ask your friends to save these types of bottles for you.

*Bottle-capper: It is used for securing caps onto bottles. You can use any style that catches your fancy.

*Bottle caps: Used for capping bottles.

*Household bleach or an iodine solution: Used to sanitize brewing equipment. (2 ounces bleach to 5 gallons water).

*Thermometer: Be sure to use a thermometer that has a range of at least 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) to 150 degrees F (65 degrees C). Either a floating dairy thermometer or a stainless steel dial thermometer can be used. The floating dairy thermometer can be broken more easily than the stainless steel dial thermometer.

Bargain Brewing Equipment & Supplies

Listed here are some of the best, bargain sources of beer brewing equipment that can be found on the internet. Make sure to look around before you buy – when it comes to your time and brewing pleasure, you don’t want to settle for the first piece of equipment to catch your eye. Ask questions if you need to, the owners of these sites are usually very quick to respond and offer some truly invaluable advice.

Beer, Beer & More Beer (www.morebeer.com ) – This is an exceptional site. They offer Homebrewing Equipment, Homebrewing Ingredients, Beer Dispensing Equipment, Wine Making Supplies, and even a section on “Build It Yourself” hardware to do such things as build your own bar. They have a free shipping plan, too.

Beer-Wine (http://www.beer-wine.com/ ) – Even the look of this site is clean and sophisticated. With their overwhelming selection of quality, truly affordable equipment and supplies, you don’t have to look much beyond this one website to get everything you need (from equipment to ingredients and books) and have it delivered right to your doorstep.

Briess Malts (http://www.briess.com/ ) – Truly superior malts, with a section for homebrewers and professionals alike.

The Brew Hut (http://www.thebrewhut.com/ ) – Their slogan is “Your one stop brew shop” and they definitely live up to their name. Quality of customer service is impeccable. They offer a product catalog, brewing recipes, brewing and wine-making discussions, and a full look at brewing basics.

Hoptech Homebrewing Supplies (http://www.hoptech.com/cart/ ) – I’m not wild about their site, but we’re not critiquing web design here and their products are top-notch. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, just hit their toll-free number and they will special-order for you.

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