Brewing your own beer at home is becoming a more and more popular activity across America. In 2017, homebrewers produced 1.4 million barrels of brew. It’s no wonder so many beer lovers are becoming interested in this hobby. Imagine the added satisfaction of drinking a delicious beer you created yourself. With some basic ingredients and supplies, you can make this dream a reality.
For ingredients, many beginner brewers purchase a kit of premeasured ingredients for extract brewing. As you continue to brew, you’ll likely want to experiment more with ingredients. No matter what ingredients you use, there are some necessary beer brewing supplies all homebrewers should have on hand. There are always more accessories you can add on, but here are our top 12 beer brewing equipment items that you need before you start on your journey to making amazing homebrews
1. Digital Scale
While brewing beer may seem like an art form, it is also most certainly a science. Being able to carefully weigh ingredients, such as grains or hops, helps to ensure that the various components of your homebrew will come together as they should. Even if you experiment and come up with your own favorite recipe, you want to be able to replicate it in the future to enjoy that taste you and your friends love over and over again.
A reliable scale can help you achieve this type of precision. Especially if you plan to use your scale to measure smaller elements, like spices, look for a scale that can provide an accurate reading down to one-tenth of a gram.
2. Brew Pot or Kettle
One of the most important things you need for homebrewing is a brew pot, also commonly referred to as a brew kettle. This is the pot that will hold your wort while it’s boiling. These pots come in a variety of sizes, so you can choose one that will comfortably hold the batch size you plan to make. Many of the popular sizes for brewing range from 1.5 to 5 gallons. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t make a 5-gallon batch in a 5-gallon kettle — you need some extra room in the kettle for the wort to froth up without boiling over.
While brew pots come in different sizes, they are all cylindrical. This shape allows the wort to swirl as it should. The ideal material for your brew pot is stainless steel with a tri-clad bottom to help the pot heat evenly. If you’re on a tight budget, an aluminum pot will also work. No matter what size or material you choose, try to find a pot with silicone-covered handles to help you move the pot when it’s hot.
3. Heat Source
To get your wort boiling, you need a source of heat. If you only want to make very small batches, then you can boil your brew inside on your kitchen stove. However, for quantities that are a bit larger, a stove — especially an electric stove — begins to become an inadequate heat source. When that’s the case, you have two main options — an electric brew kettle or a propane burner.
An electric brew kettle combines the heat source with the brew kettle for a convenient solution to boiling wort. Since these kettles use electric heat, they can take a long time to heat up enough to get your wort boiling. If you’re impatient, you may want to move on to the next option.
A propane burner is the best option for brewing larger batches and can bring your wort to a boil quickly. Some burners are specially designed for brewing, while some are just general camping burners, which can also work. When you purchase a propane burner, pay attention to its British thermal units (BTUs) capacity, which should be in the hundreds of thousands. These units of measurement have to do with how rapidly the burner will get your wort boiling. Also, make sure it will accommodate your brew kettle without any chance of tipping over.
4. Brewing Thermometer
When you’re brewing beer, there are times when it’s important to know the temperature of your wort, such as before you add yeast. For this reason, homebrewers should always keep a thermometer on hand. You can choose from a variety of thermometers. Some brewers just grab a candy or meat thermometer from their kitchen drawer to use, but it’s best if you have a thermometer just for brewing.
Brewing thermometers are generally made from stainless steel. Sometimes, they will float, while others mount on your kettle. You can choose a digital or a classic dial read, depending on what you prefer. This accessory doesn’t cost much and could help you tremendously as you carefully move through the steps of brewing your own beer.
5. Long Spoon or Paddle
When your wort is brewing in the kettle, you’ll want to stir it. Yes, we know you’ve got loads of spoons in your kitchen already, but you probably don’t have one that is large or heavy-duty enough for this job. If you’re only planning to make one- or two-gallon batches, then you may not need a special spoon or paddle for stirring, but in most other cases, you will.
Look for a spoon that is long enough to reach the bottom of your kettle while keeping your hand at a safe distance from the hot liquid. Brewing spoons and paddles tend to come in sizes that range from 21 to 42 inches. Stainless steel is an excellent material, but you can also look for a spoon or paddle made from food-grade plastic or wood. Keep in mind that wood may be harder to thoroughly sanitize since it is porous.
6. Wort Chiller
Any homebrewer knows that, once your wort is ready to move on to the fermentation stage, it’s crucial that it cools down quickly. Allowing your hot wort to gradually cool off leaves room for contaminants to get in or for the flavor to be affected. It also means you have to sit around a long time while your boiling-hot wort, which is still in a hot kettle, slowly cools down.
A wort chiller is designed to cool your wort off quickly. These chillers come in three main varieties — the immersion chiller, the counterflow wort chiller, and the plate chiller. The immersion chiller is an extremely popular option. It consists of coiled-up metal tubing that you place inside your brew kettle. Cold water runs through the tubes and creates a heat exchange, quickly cooling off the wort.
The counterflow wort chiller also uses metal tubes, but it’s a little more complicated. In this design, a smaller tube runs through the larger tube. The cold water runs through the outer tube, and the hot wort runs the opposite direction through the inner tube. A counterflow wort chiller is an excellent choice if you plan to make larger batches that need more help to cool down.
A plate chiller is also a good option. As the name suggests, the plate chiller uses metal plates rather than coils of tubing. This method can cool off the wort even faster due to the increased surface area from the plates.
A hydrometer is another measuring tool, but it’s one you probably don’t already have in your kitchen unless you’ve brewed before. This device measures specific gravity and sugar density. What does this mean for brewing? A hydrometer is what allows you to determine how much alcohol by volume (ABV) your brew contains. Therefore, it’s a highly recommended piece of equipment for homebrewing.
First, you establish a baseline by measuring the original specific gravity of your wort before you add the yeast. Once your brew is done fermenting, you measure the final specific gravity. You subtract the final specific gravity amount from the original specific gravity amount. Then you multiply this number by 131.25. That gives you your ABV. Pretty simple math, but you can’t figure it out without a hydrometer.
A hydrometer is also essential for monitoring the fermentation process of your brew. Unfortunately, placing a hydrometer in your brew opens up the possibility for contamination, but not if you have the Brew Perfect WiFi Digital Hydrometer. This hydrometer allows you to closely monitor the specific gravity, temperature, and ABV of your brew every 20 minutes without ever lifting a finger. Live readings are sent to your phone and online dashboard. Unlike manual readings, live readings help prevent beer waste and fermentation past the final gravity.
8. Siphon and Tubing
When you’re transferring beer from one container to another, it helps to have a siphon and tubing. This makes transfers easier for you since you won’t have to lift a heavy pot and possibly spill some of your precious brew, and it protects the brew from contaminants or too much oxygen. An auto-siphon is the easiest way to do this. An auto-siphon pumps the liquid through the tubing automatically, using a vacuum.
Depending on the stage of the brewing process, you may want to use a different type of tubing. For example, silicone tubing works best for transferring wort that is still fairly hot. Siphon hose tubing, which is thinner and more flexible, is used for transferring beer out of the fermenter. Whatever type of tubing you purchase, make sure it has a pounds per square inch rating that is high enough to handle the pressure created by your pump.
A fermenter is critical equipment for home brewing. Wort isn’t called beer because it hasn’t gone through the fermentation process yet. This final step is where the true magic happens. Fermentation needs to occur in a container designed for it. Fermenter containers come in a variety of types and sizes.
If you want a fermenter that’s similar to what commercial breweries use, look for a conical fermenter, which is generally made from stainless steel and features a cone-shaped bottom equipped with a valve. Opening this valve allows you to easily remove solids like trub and yeast that settle. These fermenters are sleek and professional, but they are also relatively expensive.
One of the most popular types of fermenters for homebrewing is a glass carboy. Like the conical fermenters, you’ve probably seen one of these before. It’s essentially a large glass jug. You can also get a plastic carboy, which is even less expensive. The cheapest option of all is to use a bucket with a lid. There are many other types to choose from, so make sure you find a fermenter that fits your budget and your needs.
10. Airlock and Bung
Remember that fermenting beer releases carbon dioxide. This can become a problem if the fermenter container is completely sealed. At worst, this problem could look like an explosion that ruins your batch and your poor fermenter as well. So, why not just leave it open? Any opening in the container oxidizes the beer and allows bacterial contaminants to get in the beer.
This is where an airlock comes in. It’s the perfect solution to this problem since it allows carbon dioxide to exit the fermenter without allowing anything to get in. You insert an airlock into the opening of the fermenter after you’ve filled it with water or sanitizer, which seals off outside air. The pressure of carbon dioxide building up inside the container is enough to bubble through the liquid, so airlocks are also called bubblers. To get a good seal, a wooden or rubber stopper, known as a bung, is sometimes also needed.
You’ve probably noticed already that contamination is something you must avoid when homebrewing. This is why it’s important to sanitize everything you use. Sanitizing is not the same as just washing with soap and water. Washing your equipment is fine, but you also need to rinse it in a sanitizer to ensure that no pesky microorganisms hang on. Make sure all your equipment is sanitized, including your brew kettle, spoon or paddle, strainer, tubing, fermenter, and anything else that comes into contact with your brew.
You can use bleach to sanitize, but then you must rinse it off very thoroughly. A no-rinse sanitizer, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be rinsed off. It will foam up like soap, which may make you feel like it needs to be rinsed off, but it doesn’t. It won’t affect your brew at all. This no-rinse feature especially comes in handy when you’re trying to sanitize something that is hard to rinse out thoroughly, like a carboy.
12. Bottles, Growlers or a Keg
When you’re finished brewing your beer, it’s time to do a little victory dance and transfer it from your fermenter to whatever type of container you plan to leave it in until you drink it. Many homebrewers like to bottle their beer in standard 12-ounce bottles. You can buy bottle caps and a capper to close the caps on tightly. You can even make labels to put on your beer for a final professional touch.
Unlike bottles, growlers are rarely used for commercial beer sales. A growler is a jug made out of glass, stainless steel, or ceramic. These jugs tend to be more decorative and can be a stylish way of packaging your beer if you’re giving it to someone as a gift. Growlers are, of course, larger than bottles. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can choose one that matches your level of generosity. If you’re feeling extra generous, try kegging your homebrew and sharing it with friends.
Begin Your New Brewing Experience With Brew Perfect
To learn more about homebrewing, browse through our other blog articles. If you have questions, feel free to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (804) 214-3820. If you’re interested in homebrewing, why not give it a try? We’re sure you’ll find it to be a fun and rewarding experience, and that you’ll find many other homebrewers who are excited to welcome you into the community.