What do you really need to start brewing beer?

Brewing beer — By on April 16, 2009 at 8:48 am

There are several ways to make beer, each with their own list of equipment requirements.  You’ll need less equipment if you’re making an extract beer than you would if you were making an all-grain beer.  But what is the minimum you will need?

The goal here isn’t to determine the cheapest way to home brew, however, buying only what you need will be inexpensive.  In this economy, saving any amount helps.  These lists represent the bare minimum equipment you need to make beer.

Bottle Brew

If you get the bottle brew kit, you’ll have everything you need.  The kit is a two liter bottle of wort with a special cap.  You drop the yeast into the bottle, attach the special cap, and you are done.  Once the fermentation is complete, you refrigerate the beer and then enjoy.  No equipment necessary.

No Boil Beer Kits

If you’re using a no boil kit like the Coopers beer kits, you’ll need very little equipment.  You can mix the wort in your fermenter, so you do not need a “brewing” vessel.  Normally I’d suggest getting a hydrometer, but in the no-boil case there is little chance you beer will not ferment out.

coopers european lager kit

The Coopers kits are a great way to start brewing without bothering with the boiling of beer

The no-rinse sanitizer is a must.  You need to make sure your fermenter is sanitized, and nothing is easier than a no-rinse sanitizer.  You might be tempted to use bleach, but this is a bad idea.  The chlorine can give your beer an off-flavor.

You do have the option of using a bottling bucket when it comes time to bottle, but you can fill buckets using your siphon hose.  A bottling bucket is not 100% necessary, but it will make bottling easier.  I strongly recommend the auto-siphon over using just a hose or racking cane, because it makes it easier to siphon the beer.  No matter if you choose to siphon the beer with a hose, racking cane, or auto-siphon, you will need something to siphon the beer.

This is the minimum list of equipment you’ll need to make a no-boil beer kit:

  • No-rinse Sanitizer
  • Fermenter
  • Long Spoon
  • Bottles
  • Bottle capper
  • A hose to siphon beer, racking cane or an auto-siphon

Extract Brew

If you are making an extract kit, you need to boil your wort.  This increases the amount of equipment you will need.  You don’t necessarily need a huge pot for your boil, but you will need a pot able to boil about 3 gallons.   Many large pasta pots are capable of holding 3 gallons. This is for a partial wort brew.  You will boil about 2 1/2 gallons of wort. When you add it to your fermenter, you will top off the fermenter with 2 1/2 gallons of very cold water.

You need the thermometer to make sure the wort has cooled enough before pitching your yeast.  You won’t necessarily need a wort chiller, although it will make it easier for you to chill the wort quickly.  You can put your pot in an ice bath or add very cold water to the fermenter to chill the beer without a wort chiller.  Either way you will need a thermometer to make sure the temperature is safe for your yeast.

This is the minimum list of equipment you’ll need to make a extract brew:

  • No-rinse Sanitizer
  • Fermenter
  • Long Spoon
  • Large Pot
  • Thermometer
  • Bottles
  • Bottle capper
  • A hose to siphon beer, racking cane or an auto-siphon

All-Grain Brew

The minimum equipment for all-grain is a bit tricky.  You need some way to mash your grains.  Before a few weeks ago, I would have suggested buying a cooler and converting it into a mash tun.  This is the way I do my all-grain mashes, but the Australians have shown us the cooler mash is not quite “the minimum”.

They are doing all-grain mashes using a grain bag.  After hearing about it on Basic Brewing and Brew Your Own Magazine, I’m convinced this is the minimum amount of equipment required.  This adds a grain bag, large enough to hold all of the grain, to our equipment list.

brewing beer

All-grain brewing changes the equipment required to make beer, but with creativity you can still do it cheap

You cannot do a concentrated brew when you brew all-grain batches.  This means you need a pot capable of boiling more than 5 gallons.  The minimum sized pot required is 30-quarts.  If you are making a 5 gallon brew, you can get away without a wort chiller.  You will be soaking your pot in an ice bath for quite a while however.  I recommend a wort chiller, but it is not absolutely necessary.

This is the minimum list of equipment you’ll need to make a all-grain brew:

  • No-rinse Sanitizer
  • Fermenter
  • Long Spoon
  • Large Pot (large enough for a full wort boil)
  • Large Grain Bag (large enough to hold all the grain)
  • Thermometer
  • Bottles
  • Bottle capper
  • A hose to siphon beer, racking cane or an auto-siphon

Did I miss anything?

There might be something I’m missing.  I think these lists represent the minimum equipment you will need to make beer.  What do you think?  Is there anything I missed or is there anything I added which you do not need?

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!

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  • Matt Hendry

    You dont need a Chiller if you Follow the No-Chill method this is the same method that the Bottle Brew and Wort Kit manufacturer use which is basically pasteurization .

    http://hyperfox.info/no-chill.htm

    And if your doing all grain or extract who says you have to make 5 Gallons when you can make 1 or 3 gallons reducing the cost of equipment .

    Stovetop All Grain Small Batch Brewing
    http://brewing.lustreking.com/articles/stovetop

    The no Chill method also reduces costs and time .

    How to go from Extract to AG for < $10.00
    http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/forum/viewtopi

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    Good points. I'm still not sold on the no chill method. I think this is how the Australians do it, and where the idea originated. You should be ok from infection since the wort is supposed to be going into the cube boiling and the cube is sealed. I'd be more worried about finding a cube that is food safe up to 100 C (212 F). I haven't seen any cubes like this.