Homebrewing requires a few pieces of specialized equipment in order to do it properly. Luckily, most of the everything is easy to find at your local homebrewing supply store or online, and the rest can be made at home relatively cheaply.
All of my homebrewing equipment cost me about $100. Alternatively you could just buy a homebrewing kit (affiliate link) which should come with everything you need for a small batch. Or if you don’t want to commit to that level of investment, then try a UBrew first. However, a well made homebrew is far superior to what you will bring home from most UBrews.
This is part of a series of posts on homebrewing. Check out Homebrewing 101 for more information about brewing beer at home.
The biggest difference between using a homebrewing kit versus making your own kit is the size of the batch.
In general, most homebrewers brew around 20L of beer at a time, since it is quite time consuming. It is also often a social activity, so you might need to split your final bottles 2-3-4 ways.
Homebrewing kits tend to make batches of less than 10L, which is not enough for sharing.
If you wanted to experiment with a really small batches of about 4L of beer then you probably don’t need any special equipment beyond an airlock and some tubing.
- Boiling Pot: This pot will dictate how much beer you can brew. For a 20L batch you need a 22L pot. I recommend a canning pot for a good, cheap option.
- Beer bottles and caps: The best way to get beer bottles is to save them from your recycling. You can use plastic bottles with screw lids, swing-top bottles, or regular beer bottles. If you use regular beer bottles then you will also need to buy bottle caps and rent/buy a bottle capper.
- Carboys and Airlocks: Airlocks are very important if you are serious about making alcoholic ferments, and they’re pretty cheap at about $2 each. An airlock allows the CO2 to escape, while maintaining a sterile environment. I recommend using cylindrical airlocks because they are easier to clean than a S-shaped airlocks, but either will work. You just need to make sure that your airlock fits snugly into the mouth of your fermentation jug. In my case I use 5 liter jugs that I got from buying apple juice. If you want to make large batches of beer you may want to invest in large carboys.
- Sanitation Chemicals: It’s important to sterilize all equipment. Read this post on how to sanitize for brewing.
- Siphon and Tubes: These are food grade tubes that are used to move liquid between vessels. They are also handy for filtering out the sediment and bottling. I recommend getting an auto-siphon because it makes it easy to fill the bottles, and they only cost about $20.
Here are some items that are handy if you plan on making a lot of beer.
- Mash Tun: If you are going to do wholegrain brewing (which is basically how you make really good beer) then you will need to keep your grain warm for 60-90 minutes to activate the enzymes that will convert the starches to simple sugars. We made our own mash-tun by adding a spigot to the bottom of a juice a cooler. You can find more detailed instructions on how to do that here.
- Hydrometer: A hydrometer measures the approximate alcohol levels of your beer, by comparing the amount of sugar in your mixture before fermenting and after fermenting. The level of alcohol is assumed by the decrease in the sugar levels. It can help you determine when enough sugars have been consumed and your beverage is ready for bottling. Here’s my post on how to use a hydrometer.
- Wort Chiller: If you are brewing 20L of beer, then it can take a REALLY long time to cool down, which increases the risk of contamination. So it is important to cool your wort down as quickly as possible. A copper wort chiller hooks up to your sink and allows you to pass cold water through a copper pipe which is submerged in the pot of proto-beer.