I thought it might be helpful if I created a list of must haves if you are considering getting into home brewing, but do not want to spend a lot of money on gear until you know how much you will enjoy it.
If you are just starting out, you will want to begin with extract brewing. In extract brewing, the starches from grains have already been extracted and converted to sugar for you. To make things even easier, most home brewing supply stores and online vendors will have ready made extract home beer brewing kits that will provide you with all of the ingredients you will need. I advise that you start with an ale since they are lower maintenance than lagers and are typically ready to drink much sooner.
Here is what you will need to get started home brewing beer:
1) Large Pot – You’ll need this to boil your home brewed beer. The larger the better, but at least 3 gallons in size if you’ll be making a 5 gallon batch of beer. You will need to add additional water after your wort has been boiled to dilute it to 5 gallons if you do not have a large enough pot to boil the entire batch.
2) Fermentation Vessel – You’ll need a glass or plastic fermentation carboy, or a plastic bucket with a drilled hole airlock. The fermenter needs to be sanitized and airtight, but it has to allow the massive amount of CO2 that is being created during fermentation to escape. I highly recommend you purchase either a carboy or bucket built for fermentation as opposed to making your own unless you are very handy. If wild yeast or bacteria gets into your fermenting beer, it can quickly ruin a batch.
3) Airlock – As mentioned above, you will need an airlock for your fermenter.
4) Cleaner and Sanitizer – Cleanliness is rule number one when it comes to home brewing. Anything that will come in contact with the wort or beer after boiling must be cleaned and sanitized first to avoid contaminating the wort or beer. Every item should be cleaned properly and then rinsed of any soap or cleaning residue. Next, the item should be sanitized using either an iodine or acid-based solution to ensure that it is free of any germs, bacteria, or foreign fungus/yeast. You can use a food grade cleaner that you have around the house, just make sure that all of the residue is removed, as it can impact the taste of your finished beer. I recommend you purchase a food grade sanitizer if possible.
5) Siphon and Siphon Tube – You will want to purchase a siphon and siphon tube to allow you to transfer your beer from primary to secondary fermentation if you will be conducting a two stage fermentation. You can also use it to transfer the finished beer to your bottles.
6) Bottles – If you want to save money, you can collect beer bottles and reuse them to bottle your own beer. Be sure that the bottles are properly cleaned and sanitized prior to bottling. You will want to avoid screw cap bottles, and if you can find them, latch top bottles are ideal since they do not require capping.
7) Bottle Caps and Beer Bottle Capper – You need to purchase an appropriate amount of beer bottle caps and a beer bottle capper so that you can bottle your beer when it has been finished.
8) Thermometer – You will also want a cooking grade thermometer to check your temperatures.
9) Beer Ingredient Kit – Lastly, you will need to choose a beer ingredient kit for the type of beer you want to make. I recommend starting with something simple that you really enjoy drinking. My first kit was an American Wheat extract kit. It was very easy to brew and it came out wonderful, way better then I expected it would. Beer always seems to taste better when you brew it yourself!
There are a variety of other items that will come in handy, such as a large paddle to stir with, a funnel, a wort chiller, and secondary fermenter; but for your first batch, you should be able to get by with the items listed above. I have included some links for home brewing recipe kits and home brewing equipment kits that will provide you with all that you need to get started at a reasonable price.
Home Brewing Equipment Kits:
Home Brewing Beer Recipe Kits:
Photo of a home brewing recipe kit and home brewing equipment: