If you’re looking to get started homebrewing your own beer, then you’ll need to get some equipment. If you read a beer brewing magazine or homebrewing forum, you’re likely to get all sorts of different information and it won’t take long for you to think you shouldn’t even bother unless you have a HERMS system, dedicated fermentation chamber and stainless conical fermenters. If you don’t know what any of that means, that’s ok! The point is it’s very easy for someone who is new to the hobby to become overwhelmed with the wealth of information out there. That’s a problem, because when you’re overwhelmed you do nothing and I want more people to start brewing their own beer!
Full disclosure, the links on this post are affiliate links. They don’t cost you any more but I get a small percentage of sales from these links to help support this site. I personally don’t care where you purchase your brewing supplies from so long as you decide to start brewing as a result of reading this!
What you need but probably already have
- 3 gallon or larger stock pot – Most mash extract recipes will have you boiling 2-3 gallons of liquid and while this leaves head space a little tight, with good stirring and heat control you can make do.
- Cool, dark, dry place to ferment your beer – in my case, the closet in my basement stays a very stead 64 degrees in the winter and summer. I shut the door and don’t worry about ale fermentation. Lagering will require more.
What you need to brew your own beer
So these are the items that I would get first knowing what I know now. You can make excellent beer using malt extract and some specialty grains, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes all grain allows you to customize the flavor profile a little more but it is not necessary to brew amazing beer. In order of importance here are the 6 things you need to start brewing your own beer at home:
- 6 Gallon Plastic Fermenter with Lid and Spigot – Fermentation is the single most important step in beer production. It is literally what makes beer (or any alcohol for that matter). This bucket allows you to ferment and later when you upgrade fermenters they make a great utility bucket for holding sanitizer or cleaning solution among other things. NOTE: the fermenter in the link above does not come with a lid, stopper or airlock which need to be purchased separately to use as a fermenter.
- Star San Acid Sanitizer – Now that you have a nice space for your yeast, time to make it safe by using Star San to kill anything in there. I like Star San because it’s quick (5 minutes) and does not need to be rinsed off. It works, get it.
Technically that is all you really need to start brewing beer. There are kits that are no boil kits that you could use right away. You don’t NEED bottle caps and a capper, I’ve seen several people who bottle in sanitized plastic soda bottles with screw tops. While not ideal it works and if you wanted to get started with a minimal expense that is what you would do. Plus this equipment would still be useful when you upgrade.
Upgrades to the brewing process
- 6 Gallon Glass Carboy – A glass carboy provides the yeast with a nice safe space to play in while it’s busy converting your brewed concoction into beer. This upgrade gives you a nicer fermenter or the option for a secondary fermenter after the bucket to clear the beer. I prefer glass to plastic because of it’s durability, scratch-resistance and the fact that you can see through it. Scratch-resistance is important because if a plastic container gets scratched, it basically becomes useless for fermenting because that scratch can harbor bacteria and contaminate your beer. Being see through is useful for when you’re siphoning your beer out of the fermenter. If you can see the layer of yeast and hop residue at the bottom you can avoid siphoning it into the next container (bottle or secondary fermenter). Plus you get to see fermentation taking place which is always cool.
- Siphon and tubing – Of course now you need something to get the beer out of your narrow neck fermenter into a final container of some sort. This is where a siphon comes in. There are several ways to siphon beer but I prefer and use the auto siphon. It’s very easy to start and just works simple as that.
- Funnel – The funnel allows you to easily add wort and other things to the fermenter with minimal risk of spilling. Not 100% necessary since you could siphon wort into the fermenter, it’s still very nice to have.
- Bottle capper, caps and bottles – Yes you CAN bottle in reused soda containers, but there is something nice about cracking open a bottle of beer brewed. Glass bottles stay good a little longer block sunlight, etc. You’ll need this bottle capper plus extra bottle caps.
Those are the 6 pieces of equipment you need to brew great beer. But there’s nothing in there that helps to create the wort you say? You’re right there’s not. But the most important step in making beer is fermentation and if you have a good fermenter with good temperature control you will make much better beer than someone using fancy methods of wort production who does not control the fermentation.
Want a little more?
I would recommend the 6 pieces of equipment above to get started and make sure you enjoy making beer. Inevitably as you get more involved with the hobby you will want more and better equipment. Here are my recommendations for the next pieces to acquire:
- Bottle Filler – This little device makes bottling so much easier. It’s basically a spring loaded valve for the end of your siphon tube. Basically you start the siphon, place the end of filler in a bottle and push down. When you stop pushing beer stops flowing. This makes bottling super easy, it even gives you uniform head space.
- Hydrometer – Eventually you’re going to want to know things about your beer like the amount of alcohol in it. You do this by measuring the Specific Gravity before fermentation and after. This will also let you know when fermentation is done.
- Thermometer – If you want to know what temperature your wort is, well pretty obvious you need a thermometer. This is mostly important for pitching temps but is also important when steeping specialty grains for mash extract and certainly for all grain brewing.
- Nylon mesh bag – Lots of uses: boiling hops, steeping specialty grains, dryhopping
If you assemble ALL of this equipment you’re well on your way to brewing truly great beer with the mash extract method. Or just purchase this starter kit which has everything mentioned above plus a couple of other things.
Am I missing anything from this list? Do you use anything you feel should be added? Let me know!