Beer 102

In this second part of my brewing diatribe we’ll look at the equipment necessary for extract brewing.

Before going out and buying equipment, I recommend you see if your local brew supply house offers brew-on-premise (BOP) services.  For $100-150 you can get a guided tour through the brewing process from someone with experience.  You get to use nice equipment.  You don’t have to clean up.  You find out if you really do like brewing or if you should stick to buying bottles.  And you’ll end up with about 15 gallons of decent beer.  The reality is that when I want to make large batches I still use my local BOP because it just flat out simplifies things.

Let’s say you’ve done a BOP, or you’re so certain you want to get into it you’ll willing to skip the step.  Well here’s a list of equipment that you’ll need.  You can get brewing with less equipment that I’m listing, and you can get smaller or cheaper equipment that some of what I list, but trust me.  If you do much brewing you’ll outgrow the small stuff.  You’ll quickly grow to dislike the cheap stuff, and in the end you’ll end up with what I have listed here.

I’m also going to keep it simple.  You can go crazy and spend way more on things if you want.  You can also get all sorts of paraphenalia that I’m not even listing, but this is a solid core of brew equipment that you can use for years of brewing.

1. Propane turkey fryer burner and thermometer ~$50

The pot is usable for brewing _only_ if it’s stainless steel.  If it’s aluminum don’t even think about it – you’ll end up with ruined, nasty tasting beer.  I actually recommend you pitch the pot that you get too as I have a better recommendation later.  The turkey pot is just big enough to make you think it will work, but I guarantee you’ll have messy boil overs and have to add water to get the volume or gravity you want.  Keep the thermometer.  It’ll work well enough.

You can also try the kitchen stove, but wort is an unbelievably sticky mess when it boils over, and believe me, when it first comes to a boil and you throw in hops it really wants to boil over.

2. Brew kettle ~$100-200

Don’t go cheap here.  You’ll end up spending a lot on crap entil you finally end up back where I’m pointing you.  Get a converted stainless steel 16-gallon keg.  You can get just a cut keg, but I really recommend you get one with two stainless fittings welded to it.  One for a stainless quarter-turn spigot with a 90-degree down tube, the other for a good thermometer.  You don’t need the thermometer right away, so save yourself the $40 and just put a plug in it for now, but it’s a lot easier to start with the fitting than to try to get it added later on.

3. A brew paddle or really big spoon  ~$20

You can buy one, make one from wood or whatever.  It’s going to go into boiling liquid so porosity ios not a big issue.  Make sure you can clean it reasonably well though.  It needs to be big enough that you can stir your kettle without scaling the hell out of yourself.

4. A good barbecue or oven mitt ~$10

You’ll be dealing with hot metal and liquid.  You need something to prevent burns.

5. A plastic fermenting bucket ~$20

Get this at the brew supply place, not in the alley behind a restaurant.  It needs to be food grade.  It needs to have a lid with a gasket so it can be sealed airtight, and it needs a hole and seal for the gas bubbler.

6. Gas bubbler ~$2

Get this at the brew supply shop.  It goes into your fermenter to allow CO2 out and no bacteria, spores, etc. in

7. 7-gsllon glass carboy and rubber stopper ~$25

No, not a plastic wtaer bottle from the office, a good glass carboy.  THis is your secondary fermenter

8. Simple siphon and some tubing $~10

This nice tool allow you to easily rack your beer from primary to secondary and from secondary to your keg.  Do _not_ mouth siphon or you’ll contaminate your beer.

9. A good sanitizer.  ~$5

Bleach works, but there are some others available at the brew supply shop that have less potential to leave off flavors.

10. 5-gallon Conelius keg ~$20 used

You can go with bottles if you’d like, but once you clean and sanitize enough bottles for 15 gallons and then fill and cap them, you’ll be asking youself “why the hell don’t I just keg this stuff?”

11. Fittings and new seals for your keg. ~$15

These are for the gas in and the liquid out.  Make sure the fittings match your keg.  There are two connection types: ball lock and pin lock.  I use pin lock, but I know others who use ball lock.

12. A CO2 bottle ~$100

Get it at the local welding supply shop.  A 5lb bottle will probably last you 6 months and refills are usually only ~$10

13. CO2 regulator and hoses ~$50

eBay is a good source here.  You may want a manifold too if you intend to hook up multiple kegs at a time

14. A hose and spigot $10-$250

A cheap hose and spigot will work, but you have to open the fridge.  Nicer kits have a shank that passes through the fridge and gives you a tap right on thee side.  Or you can go all out and buy a pedestal to mount somewhere like the kitchen and run lines to it.

15. A used refigerator ~$50

A full-size will hold 2 kegs and plenty of bottles, hops and the like.  You can use the freezer to hold glasses, ice and packs of ribs and brats for all the people who will start visiting when they find out you have beer on tap

16. A basement or insulated garage

You need to keep beer at ~70F when fermenting for ales, 50F for lagers.  For a lager you really need another fridge, but for ales a typical basement is fine.  If the beer feremnts warm, the yeast creates esters that give it a bad flavor, so this really is essential.

The basement or garage is also useful to store items 1-15.

So there you go.  About $500 to get you going, then it’ll run you $30-40 for ingredients per 5-gallon batch you make

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