Stay True to the Brew

Let your brew recipe inform your equipment choices and get great beer with little to no extra cost.

| Fall 2019

grain-bill
Getty Images/da-kuk

If you’re considering diving into homebrewing, you’ve probably started doing your research and learned that the equipment options are endless. It’s easy for a new brewer to become overwhelmed by the assortment of gadgets, gear, and ingredients listed in homebrew catalogs. Much of the gear can be useful and fun to use, but if you’re on a budget, or just want to start out with the basics, those products can be intimidating or out of reach.

I’ll outline the equipment you’ll need to get started on a budget, and then provide you with some tips for investing in additional equipment and scaling up, in case you ever consider volume sharing or commercial sales.

Three Basic Brews

My first homebrew kit was a very basic set that consisted of a five-gallon bucket with a spigot, a five-gallon glass carboy, an airlock and siphoning tube, a hydrometer, a bottle capper and caps, and a 20-quart aluminum brew kettle. Today, these starter kits will run you around $130 to $200, depending on how many bells and whistles you want. I recommend asking around and checking online forums first, as people often sell old equipment when they scale up or clean out their home.



Over time, I became interested in moving away from extract brewing in favor of brewing with grain, because I wanted to make beer completely from scratch. In extract brewing, the sugars needed for fermentation have already been extracted from grain, and the homebrewer simply dilutes the extract into a wort, boils it, adds flavor, cools it, adds yeast, then waits. Brew in a Bag (BIAB) is an all-grain method in which you lower a bag of grain into a kettle of hot water to extract malt sugars, but a standard all-grain method is used to experiment and build recipes. In this method, the homebrewer builds a mash tun, a system that allows great flexibility for steeping and filtering grains into a wort specifically designed for homebrewing.

 When I started brewing, the equipment in catalogs and homebrew stores for all-grain brewing had price tags that were out of my reach, so the DIY scavenger in me took over, and I started looking and asking around for the equipment. By posting on internet trading sites and asking around in my community, I quickly gathered the gear, much of it for free. Then, with a bit of research and experimentation, I started piecing together the rest of the equipment I needed.






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MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

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Join us in the heart of the Midwest to explore ways to save money and live efficiently. This two-day event includes hands-on workshops and a marketplace featuring the latest homesteading products.

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