Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So you want to homebrew?

I received an email from an individual wanting some advice on how to start homebrewing. If their is anything I love more than craft brew, it is homebrew. I do offer a word of warning, once you catch the homebrew bug you will become hopelessly addicted. You will not stop until you have 30 or 40 gallons of homebrew at various stages of production in your house. You have been warned!

First things first, we need to get some equipment. Unless you have some sort of equipment already, you will most likely need to order a kit from a retailer. There are countless online retailers and a couple of local shops to purchase from. I am going to mention the two retailers I am familiar with, Bacchus and Barleycorn which is the local shop and MidwestSupplies.com. Please note I am not paid in any way for my opinions and I have no financial interest in your purchasing decision. With that being said I purchase most of my all-grain ingredients from the local shop Bacchus and Barleycorn. I purchased my equipment starter kit from Midwestsupplies.com and purchase most of my replacement equipment from them. Bacchus' equipment is a bit too expensive in my opinion. However they do offer a frequent shopper card that gives you $20.00 back for every $200.00 you spend, so that is a plus.

There are two basic ways to make beer, extract or all-grain. With extract brewing you will be using a malt extract which will be either syrup or powder. This extract will be added to water, boiled, and provide the sugar needed for the yeast to convert to alcohol. All-grain brewing utilizes grain soaked/rinsed in heated water to make wort. The wort is boiled and is the sugar source for the yeast. Here is my guide for the necessary equipment for brewing extract brew. I will make a separate post regarding the equipment necessary for all-grain brewing at a later date. Here we go!

Mandatory Reading - HowToBrew.com

Bare Bones Brewing Equipment -

This is the equipment you will need to brew extract recipe ales up to about 6.0% ABV. These recipes will require you to boil 2.5 gallons of wort and will not require a secondary fermentor. It should be fairly easy to find a vessel capable of boiling 2.5 gallons and you can use your stove top to boil it. Bottles can be either purchased from a retailer or you can save the bottles after you drink your favorite craft brew. Bottles that are not screw top and have the single lip are suitable for your homebrew.

Midwest Supplies Basic Kit - $64.99

- Instructional Homebrewing DVD
- 6.5 Gallon Plastic Fermenter
- 6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket with Spigot
- 8 oz Easy Clean
- Airlock
- Hydrometer
- Bottle Brush
- Bottle Capper
- Bottle Caps
- Bottle Filler
- Racking Cane
- Tubing

Not included in the kit but you will need:
- Long stem Thermometer - $10.99
- Funnel w/strainer - $6.10
- Bottles - 52 12oz or 28 22oz
- Big 15 gallon plastic tub (for putting your kettle in to cool the wort after the boil) - $5.00 Dollar Store/WalMart

Optional Equipment:

If you are wanting to now or in the future brew lagers, high gravity brews, or more than one batch in a 3 week period you will need carboys as secondary fermenters. I prefer glass but they do have plastic versions that will save you some money.  In addition to a secocondary fermenter, lagers require temperature control (extra fridge with manual controller $50.00) during fermentation.  Due to this added complexity of brewing lagers I would avoid them for your first couple of brews.  If you think you will ever brew all-grain you will need at least a 7.5 gallon brew kettle. So my advice, if you are investing in a brewing kettle do not purchase one less than 7.5 gallons or you will kick yourself in the butt later. Another option for brew kettles is to acquire a 15.5 or 7.75 gallon keg and cut a hole in the top of them. You can usually find the full sized kegs on Craigslist for $50.00. Also with 7.5 gallons of wort you will need to migrate from the stove top to a dedicated burner (turkey fryer).

- 7.5 gallon stainless steel brew kettle - Midwestsupplies.com - $79.99
- Glass Carboy $29.99
- Turkey Fryer Burner - Bayou Classic @ Homedpot.com - $49.97


For your first two or three batches I recommend you order a recipe kit. These kits will have all the ingredients you need to make a batch of brew accompanied by detailed instructions. The only recipe kits I have personally used are the Irish Red and Cream Stout from Midwestsupples.com. Both of these kits procuced delicious brew so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. The local shop Bachuss also has ingredient kits available. Once you get the mechanics of making homebrew down, you can venture out on your own and start developing your own recipes. In developing your own recipes I find Brew Your Own magazine and the book Designing Great Beers to be valuable resources. Along with these publications you can search the ever expansive Internet for other peoples ideas. My recipes with tons of others are posted at Hopville.com and I have found some good recipes at MaltoseFalcons.com.

- Irish Ale Recipe Kit - $26.99 for 5 gallon batch

Local Shop:

Bacchus & Barleycorn
6633 Nieman Road
Shawnee, KS 66203
Phone: 913-962-2501

1 comment:

  1. Home brew is great idea for wine lovers with this wine is also available on web and with help of online suppliers you can order wine.