An obvious first question most new brewers ask is, "What do I need to get started?" None of the equipment setups in home brewing require a degree in rocket science, and some of the needed equipment you may already have on hand. Start-up costs will depend what you already have and how elaborate you want to get. Initial cost will vary from $20 to $100 U.S.
Airlock - Several styles are available. They are filled with water to prevent contamination from the outside atmosphere.
Boiling Pot - Must be able to comfortably hold a minimum of 3 gallons; bigger is better. Use quality pots made of stainless steel, aluminum, or ceramic-coated steel. A 5 gallon home canning pot (those black, speckled ones) is the least expensive and a good choice for getting started.
Bottles - You will need (48) recappable 12 oz bottles for a typical 5 gallon batch. Alternatively, (30) of the larger 22 oz bottles may be used to reduce capping time. Twist-offs do not re-cap well and are more prone to breaking. Used champagne bottles are ideal if you can find them.
Bottle Capper - Two styles are available: hand cappers and bench cappers. Bench cappers are more versatile and are needed for the champagne bottles, but are more expensive.
Bottle Caps - Either standard or oxygen absorbing crown caps are available.
Bottle Brush - A long handled nylon bristle brush is necessary for the first, hard-core cleaning of used bottles.
Fermenter - The 6 gallon food-grade plastic pail is recommended for beginners. These are very easy to work with. Glass carboys are also available, in 3, 5, and 6.5 gallon sizes. The carboy is shown with a blowoff hose which ends in a bucket of water.
Pyrex(tm) Measuring Cup - The quart-size or larger measuring cup will quickly become one of your most invaluable tools for brewing. The heat resistant glass ones are best because they can be used to measure boiling water and are easily sanitized.
Siphon - Available in several configurations, usually consisting of clear plastic tubing with a racking cane and optional bottle filler.
Racking Cane - Rigid plastic tube with sediment stand-off used to leave the trub behind when siphoning.
Bottle Filler - Rigid plastic (or metal) tube often with a spring loaded valve at the tip for filling bottles.
Stirring Paddle - Food grade plastic paddle (or spoon) for stirring the wort during boiling.
Thermometer- Obtain a thermometer that can be safely immersed in the wort and has a range of at least 40°F to 180°F. The floating dairy thermometers work very well. Dial thermometers read quickly and are inexpensive.
Optional but Highly Recommended
Bottling Bucket - A 6 gallon food-grade plastic pail with attached spigot and fill-tube. The finished beer is racked into this for priming prior to bottling. Racking into the bottling bucket allows clearer beer with less sediment in the bottle. The spigot is used instead of the bottle filler, allowing greater control of the fill level and no hassles with a siphon during bottling.
Hydrometer - A hydrometer measures the relative specific gravity between pure water and water with sugar dissolved in it by how high it floats when immersed. The hydrometer is used to gauge the fermentation progress by measuring one aspect of it, attenuation. Hydrometers are necessary when making beer from scratch (all-grain brewing) or when designing recipes. The first-time brewer using known quantities of extracts usually does not need one, but it can be a useful tool. See Appendix A - Using Hydrometers.
Wine Thief or Turkey Baster - These things are very handy for withdrawing samples of wort or beer from the fermenter without risking contamination of the whole batch.
Equipment Kit Comparison(1999 prices)
|College Student Budget Package||Complete Beginners Package|
|Ceramic on Steel Boiling Pot (5 gal)||$20||Ceramic on Steel Boiling Pot (5 gal)||$20|
|1 Fermentor with Airlock||$10||2 Fermentors with Airlocks
(1 Fermenter doubles as Bottling Bucket)
|Siphon||$4||Siphon w/ Bottle Filler||$6|
|Bottle Capper (hand)||$15||Bottle Capper (Bench)||$25|
|Bottle Caps (gross)||$3||Bottle Caps (gross)||$3|
|Large Stirring Spoon||$2||Large Stirring Spoon||$2|
|Bottle Brush||$3||Bottle Brush||$3|
|Ingredients Kit||$20||Ingredients Kit||$20|
You will usually find beginner's kit packages at homebrew supply shops containing the majority of these items for $60 -$80. The prices shown above are for estimating your costs if you purchased items separately.