Probably the biggest hurdle when it comes to getting started brewing is getting all the equipment needed to actually start brewing in the first place. It can seem like a lot of money to part with to begin. But to be honest if you were to go out and buy the amount of beer you can make in just one batch you’ll see it isn’t all that expensive.
Some equipment is used to actually brew the beer, some equipment is used whilst the beer is fermenting and other tools are required for bottling. Really the amount of stuff you need is not a lot although it may look it on paper. Once you have invested in it though, most things last for years and the more beer you make the better return you get on this initial investment.
Large Pot (ideally 12+ litres)
The bigger the better really, the larger the pot the more you can boil. This may be the biggest investment.
A thermometer really is essential, you can’t measure temperature accurately without one and they are cheap. A regular spirit thermometer is ideal, if you want to get fancy then you could invest in a digital thermometer which tend to be easier to read.
A hydrometer allows you to measure the amount of sugar in the wort and after fermentation find out how much alcohol is present in the beer. Check out this article on using a hydrometer to find out how it works. Even if you don’t want to know how much alcohol is in your brew, you’ll need a hydrometer to indicate when fermentation is over so don’t tell yourself you don’t need one.
Keeping any bacteria away from your precious beer is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. If you don’t sanitise your equipment properly the beer could go sour and taste horrible, nobody wants that! In the next section cleaning and sanitising is covered in more depth so be sure to read through before you go and buy anything.
A simple jug that you can measure quantities with as well as move liquid about with.
These muslin bags cost next to nothing and are ideal for steeping your grains and boiling your hops in. They mean you can just pull the grains or hops right out and not have to mess around straining or sieving anything out of the wort. Your homebrew supplier will usually have muslin bags or something similar that are suitable for this purpose and are usually pretty inexpensive.
If you are brewing 21 – 25 litre batches you’ll need a 30 litre fermenting bin to ferment the beer in. The extra headspace allows room for the krausen, or yeast to froth up, preventing any overflow. Obviously if you plan to brew smaller quantities then a smaller fermenting vessel will suffice, just bear in mind most beer kits and recipes are around 5 gallons or 22 litres.
It is never a good idea to pour beer from one vessel to another even in small amounts. Once the beer is fermented introducing oxygen is an easy way to introduce off-flavours that are undesirable. Aerating the beer, by pouring it, once it’s fermented will oxidise it and make it taste like sherry at best or wet cardboard at worst, also introducing all that air is a good way to introduce bacteria that can spoil the beer.
A simple plastic tube can be used to move beer around without introducing air and is pretty inexpensive. A guide on how to syphon can be found here.
This is a simple piece of equipment but you will make a mess without it. It doesn’t matter if you are making beer kits or if you brew all grain, you’ll need to stir large amounts of liquid that is often fairly deep. A long handled plastic spoon that can be sanitised is fine, if the handle is too short you won’t reach the bottom of your large pots or fermenting bins.