The other day, I was reading Trace’s goals over at Trace My Preps blog. One of his goals is to learn how to brew beer. I’ve been brewing beer for a few years and I offered up my assistance in getting him started in homebrewing. While I’m no expert, I know enough to help a new brewer. I also think that coming from someone who still remembers what it was like to brew that first batch of beer will be a nice change of pace. I just bought the ingredients to brew a kolsh, so I figured now is a great time to do a series of posts on how to brew. The first post is about required equipment.
One of the most important pieces of equipment is a big brew pot. This does not have to be dedicated just to beer brewing, I use mine as a large stock pot. You can use any pot that’s big enough to boil 1.5 gallons of liquid, but the bigger the pot, the better the hops will be utilized. I recommend a pot that is at least 20 quarts.
One thing to keep in mind if you have a glass top stove is the bottom of the pot. It needs to have a flat bottom. A coworker had a pot where the bottom had a rim around the outside then the rest of the bottom was raised off the bottom. But since it did not make contact with the glass, it took a long time to boil. He bought a new pot with a flat bottom and is able to bring it to a boil much quicker.
A plastic of glass primary fermentation vessel is required. Personally, I use a plastic primary fermentor. I choose to use my bottling bucket as my primary fermentation vessel because it is easy to add the hot wort to the fermentor. To add the wort to a glass carboy requires some way to siphon it from the brew pot. The bucket is easier.
Since I already mentioned the bottling bucket, I’ll talk about that next. The bottling bucket is where you add your fermented beer to your priming sugar. The bucket usually has a spigot on it to allow easy draining into the bottles. When it is time to bottle, attach a length of hose to the spigot and a bottling wand to the other end of the hose. The bottling want has a spring-loaded valve on the tip. Press the wand into the bottle to open the valve. When the beer is level with the top of the bottle, release the wand to stop the flow. Remove the wand and the proper amount of head space is left in the bottle.
An airlock is needed to seal off the freshly brewed beer from the atmosphere. It keeps the air out of the beer, but still allows the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast to escape. The lid of a bottling bucket usually has a hole with a rubber grommet. Insert the airlock into this hole. When using a glass carboy, a bung with a drilled hole is required for the airlock.
When brewing beer, all items that come into contact with the beer must be sanitized. This equipment can be cleaned in many ways, but many brewers choose to use a cleanser like One Step Cleanser. But after cleaning, the equipment must be sanitized with something like Star-San. I did an entire post about how to sanitize.
Finally, something to stir the wort is required. I just use a big Lexan spoon. Avoid using wood because the cannot be properly sanitized. Also avoid metal because it can lend off flavors due to the pH of the beer.
Actually, there is one more required item. A vessel to put the beer into to carbonate and serve. Many keg their beer, but most will bottle their beer. Here’s a shot of some of the stuff I’ve bottled ints.
Most people use standard beer bottles that do NOT have a twist top. To use these, a bottle capper is also required. To the right of the standard bottle is an EZ Cap bottle. No capper is required because the plastic stopper that’s attached has a rubber grommet to seal the bottle. To the far right is a PET plastic bottle. These use a plastic cap like a soda bottle. I rarely use these, but they are useful in case you want to take your homebrew someplace that does not allow glass bottles. Finally in the back is a growler. This holds 2 liters of beer, so makes bottling much quicker. But most will point out that these may not withstand the pressure of carbonating beer. I have bottled into these growlers several times and haven’t had a problem. If you bottle into a growler, you do so at your own risk.
There are many nice to have items, but I’ve gone on long enough.