Every beer lover dreams of making the perfect homebrew beer. That’s why many have started to brew their own.
Homebrewing, as the name suggests, is brewing within the confines of the home. This is an activity that people get into for the sheer love of beer.
They are enthusiasts who like to do the work themselves and enjoy the fruits–well, the homebrew beer!–of their labor.
Making the perfect homebrew beer is not simple. Homebrewing is not exactly something that’s easy to do. It can cost, too, if a brewer is not careful or practical. It depends on the person’s ability to budget and find the proper tools without going over the budget. After all, homebrewing is a personal thing and not for commercial purposes. Still, generally, homebrewing tools do not cost much.
Any interested brewer-wannabe should be prepared to spend just a few dollars more, though, to get the right equipment and, eventually, the right results.
What a Brewer Needs
Homebrewing essentials are not hard to find at all. There are various supply stores especially dedicated to providing the necessities for this hobby. They can be found online as well. Amazon definitely has these in their very long list products.
So what does a brewing newbie need to start his/her own homebrewing projects?
Ten Essentials for a Homebrewer
Brewing the perfect homebrew beer isn’t a simple task. Every aspiring brewer should have these homebrewing essentials:
Fermentation is a vital part of the process of homebrewing. Therefore, this tool is vital as well. Fermenting units come in a variety of styles, though, which may confuse the homebrewing beginner. The most common style is the plastic bucket. The 6-gallon food-grade plastic pail is recommended for beginners because they are easy to use. There are glass carboys in 3-, 5-, and 6.5-gallon sizes.
Professional brewers do prefer the stainless steel style instead, despite it being expensive. It is very durable and easy to clean. Many fermenters come with a dish bottom with raise outlets to allow yeast and trub to settle below the faucet.
2. Hot Liquor Tank (H.L.T.)
The term says it all. The tank serves as the container or vessel of the hot liquor. Basically, it’s hot water that eventually turns into beer. This almost sounds religious! Then again, homebrewing is only for those who can religiously commit to the project.
Get an HLT that is double the brew length. It must have good insulation and thermal control, otherwise, the whole exercise is wasted.
3. Mash or Lauter Tun
This is where to infuse the grains. But first, a few terms to define in relation to homebrewing:
mash – malt or other ingredients mixed with water and heated to convert starches into fermentable sugars
lauter – to drain the wort (unyeasted liquid that becomes the beer) from the mash’s residual grain
tun – a large cylindrical container for storing liquids
The tool must be well-insulated because temperature maintenance is very important in the whole process of brewing. A temperature that’s more than 3.6° F over an hour? It just isn’t good enough. Get a tun with a slotted, removable bottom. Pick a good-quality steel faucet (to control flow on the outlet).
There are two most popular mush tun types (from 52 Brews).
Gott-Style Mush Tun or Mush Tun Cooler:
“This is perfect if you’re brewing smaller batches that are between 5 and 7 gallons. This option is a converted drink cooler with a spigot and false bottom. With this option, you’ll heat your water to the proper temperature and pour it into your mash tun cooler. The insulated Gott-Style mash tun works well because it can maintain a consistent temperature for long periods of time.”
False Bottom Brew Kettle:
“If you own a brew kettle large enough, you can convert it into a mash tun by purchasing a false bottom. Since the false bottom can take up lots of room in the kettle, you’ll want a brew kettle that is 15 gallons or larger. The tricky part when going this route is to reach and maintain a constant and steady temperature between 150° and 158.8° for an hour or so. You’ll need to keep stirring your mash and constantly be monitoring the temperature.”
4. Measuring Equipment
Homebrewing does not only demand accurate temperature readings. Just as important are exact measurements. That’s why measuring equipment is high on the list of must-haves. There must be precise quantities of liquids and solids. You can’t just make the best homebrew beer by chance.
Some measuring equipment are calibrated jugs, test cylinders, and weighing scales (digital ones should read in 1-gram increments and be able to handle up to six pounds). Glass should be kept away when brewing since they are prone to breakage.
5. pH Meter
A pH meter instrument measures the degree of alkalinity (acidity) of a solution, which is the “pH” in the name. The “potential of Hydrogen” or pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. Using a digital pH meter is more effective than pH test strips that are still not that accurate. The downside is they don’t come cheap. Buying cheaper ones from garden supply stores for brewing projects will not help. They are often not-so precise at all and can ruin a brew.
When buying a pH meter, also purchase the right buffer solutions. Keep the probe regularly calibrated, at least, per week.
“A refractometer is a simple instrument used for measuring concentrations of aqueous solutions. It requires only a few drops of liquid and is used as lab equipment throughout the food, agricultural, chemical, and manufacturing industries.” (Cole-Palmer)
A handheld refractometer should already help give general gravity readings. What’s more, though there are more pricey digital versions, refractometers are generally affordable.
7. Sparge Arm
A sparge is…
“The process of circulating water through the mash to strain out all the fermentable sugars from the grain…” (Food52)
So the sparge arm is for sprinkling water over the grain bed for lautering purposes. A quality sparge arm is made of stainless steel that has evenly spaced holes and a bearing that freely spins.
8. Stainless Steel Pot
Brewing is still essentially cooking so yes, this is needed. Stainless steel pot is a type of brew kettle or brew pot based on material, the other two being aluminum and copper. This one should be 10 gallons or larger, in case there will be a need to brew a larger amount in the future.
Look for an even heat transfer to avoid scorching while boiling. Choose one that is solid and with strong handles. Enamel pots would be good alternatives. Electric boilers? Use them only when they have built-in temperature controls. Large capacity models allow converting kettle into a mash tun.
The best is a 15-gallon or larger stainless steel brew kettle that has a built-in thermometer and ball valve.
We all know what a thermometer generally is for. In relation to brewing, this is a very basic but much-required accessory. The process of homebrewing requires specific temperatures at various steps or phases and a thermometer is the main tool for this purpose. It improves quality and consistency. Most thermometers are made from stainless steel and can be either digital or dial face. They are generally inexpensive.
Between a separate waterproof probe and a glass one, the former is much safer and reliable. It probes down inside the tun and accurately shows temperature differences between the top and bottom. Meanwhile, a built-in thermometer, though not required, may be more convenient as it allows constant temperature monitoring.
10. Wort Chillers
A wort chiller is also what it is. After boiling wort, it’s time to cool it down using a wort chiller. Quick cooling results to a lower chance for contamination and off-flavors, as well as a clearer homebrew.
Wort chillers have different shapes and sizes. The three main types are the following:
The immersion chiller is one of the most common and easy to use, making it perfect for small-scale operations. It is formed from copper tubing or a coil of stainless steel cooled by running cold water through it.
The counterflow (or countercurrent) wort chiller is the most efficient design. It is best for larger homebrew batches (at least 10 gallons or 80- to 100-pint brew lengths). It is called “counter” because it works by incorporating a copper tube where hot wort flows inside another where cold water runs the opposite way. One can choose to have it feed back into the HLT.
Obviously, this needs immediate proper cleaning after the wort is transferred to the fermenter.
The plate chiller is the fastest and most efficient chiller. It also uses cold water, but in lesser amounts, so that makes it somewhat more economical. This chiller uses water-cooled stainless steel and copper plates. To clean, use a backflush assembly.
Other tools worth mentioning:
- Homebrew burner
- Bottle filler (ex. siphon, counter-pressure)
- Bottle capper (two main types: double-lever, bench)
- Hydrometer (measures the amount of dissolved sugars in water)
- Beer brewing spoon/paddle (not the typical small and short ones!)
- 10-inch fine mesh strainer or 5-quart colander
- Muslin bags
- Food grade sanitizer
Homebrewing is a worthy endeavor. All one needs are the right tools for the right budget, perseverance, and patience.
If actual homebrewing is not one’s “cup of tea”, though, Keg Fridges can help. With affordable, brand new kegerators, beer enthusiasts can get their fix regularly without all the other work. There are kegerators of various shapes, styles, and sizes — take a pick! There’s bound to be the perfect kegerator for everybody.
Interested to know more? Visit Keg Fridge for more home brewing supplies and articles!