Start-up brewing equipment can cost anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to thousands. It all depends on the quality, size, and type of equipment. The list below is a general checklist of what you need. Kettles, burners, chillers, and fermenters have their own sections, but the rest are discussed later in this page.
- Mash paddle
- Spray bottles
- Malt Mill
- Motor or hand drill for malt mill
- One to two gallon buckets for cleaning and sanitizing
- Powdered brewery wash (PBW)
- Sanitizer (star-san)
- Airlock (depending on fermenter)
- Recipe ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, and water if not using tap water)
- Wort pumps and hoses
- Bottles, bottle capper, bottle caps, and bottling wand (if bottling)
- Soda, corny, or other keg (if kegging)
Required Brewing Equipment
If it is in your price range, I recommend using stainless steel brewing kettles over anything else. They come with temperature probe attachments, thermometer inserts, volume markings, sight glasses, valve ports, and a lot of other useful attachments. If you are looking to start with something cheaper, a heavy duty aluminum stockpot will work, but it will not have the above accessories and you will have to siphon your wort. For the mash tun you will want to add insulation, if there is none, to help maintain the temperature, and for that I recommend using duct wrap. If using direct flame for a heat source, be careful to not have it come in contact with the flame. The mash tun will also need a false bottom to prevent grains from coming through as you re-circulate your wort. You can buy one, or make one yourself.
You will want the kettle to be a slightly bigger than the volume you plan on brewing. The grain will add significant volume to the mash tun, and the wort will foam up before the hot break. For a 5 gallon batch, you will have a pre-boil volume of about 7 gallons, so you might want to consider having a 10 gallon boil kettle. A good rule of thumb is to use a boil kettle 5 gallons larger than your batch size
I would caution against boiling large volumes on a kitchen stove because it will take up a huge amount of space and will be difficult to maneuver. Electric and gas burners are both good options. For output, you want to find a gas burner in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 Btu or an electric burner in the range of 15 kW to 30 kW for batches up to 20 gallons. Take note of the burners stand before you purchase one. It will have to be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of your wort without the risk of tipping.
After the boil, wort must be chilled rapidly to pitching temperature. Cooling rapidly provides a strong cold break, which will help prevent chill haze. The cold break and chill haze is discussed on the brewing process page. For homebrewing, wort chillers work great for cooling smaller batches of beer. The most common type of chiller is a copper coil immersion chiller. To cool your wort, you immerse the coil into the wort and run cool water through it. The water can be straight from a hose, or you can run your water through an additional coil that is in an ice water bucket beforehand to drop the temperature more rapidly. If you would rather cool outside of your boil kettle, you can pump your wort through a copper pipe with cool water run around the pipe, or use a plate chiller.
When first starting out, a good fermenter to start out with is simply a bucket. They are cheap and easy to clean. When cleaning the plastic buckets, use a soft sponge. Anything hard can scratch the bucket, which will be a harbor for bacteria and other microorganisms. You can also use glass carboys, plastic carboys, wide-mouth plastic jugs, plastic conical fermenters, or even steel conical fermenters. Anything with a narrow neck will be difficult to clean, but will not impact fermentation in any way. If you are going to splurge on any equipment, I would recommend it to be a fermenter. Try to find one that is easy to clean and has a drain valve and racking arm port.
Conical fermenters are by far the most popular option among experienced homebrewers. The cone at the bottom collects all of the trub and flocculated yeast, which can easily be dumped. The conical fermenters should have a racking arm port midway up the cone, which will allow you to pull beer through without picking up any of the settled trub or yeast. It also provides a convenient valve to harvest yeast if collecting from the bottom of the fermenter.
Miscellaneous Brewing Equipment
- Thermometers: These are required for the mashing process. Further discussed on the brewing process page, temperature control is essential for a successful mash. You also need to know the temperature of your beer during fermentation.
- Mash paddle: When mashing, you need a paddle to help mix it all in. This will prevent the grist from clumping together and reducing efficiency.
- Spray bottles: When setting up the fermenter, you need to spray the ports with star-san solution to ensure proper sanitization.
- Scale: You need a scale to measure out grains and hops.
- Malt Mill: You can order pre-crushed malt, but it is a little more expensive. We describe the mill and its purpose in more depth on the brewing process page, but it reduces the particle size of the malt and is required for a successful mash.
- Motor or hand drill for malt mill: A motor will have your mill run at a constant speed, but you can also use a hand drill to power the rollers.
- One to two gallon buckets for cleaning and sanitizing: I clean all parts with pbw, rinse them with water, and place them in sanitizer. These buckets make it easy to clean and store your brewing components.
- Powdered brewery wash (PBW): PBW is an alkali cleaner that is perfect for cleaning your brewing components.
- Sanitizer (star-san): Star-san is an acid based, no rinse sanitizer. It is made from phosphoric based, food grade sanitizer and is very commonly used in homebrewing.
- Airlock (depending on fermenter): The airlock can release carbon dioxide during fermentation while simultaneously preventing microorganisms from entering.
- Recipe ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, and water if not using tap water): Check out the brewing ingredients page for an in-depth guide on how to choose your ingredients.
Optional Brewing Equipment
- Wort pumps and hoses: The pumps are not required, but they make it easier when recirculating wort and sparging. If you do not have pumps, you will just have to use gravity.
- Bottles, bottle capper, bottle caps, and bottling wand (if bottling): These are required if you are bottling, not if you are kegging.
- Soda, corny, or other keg (if kegging): Alternatively, these are only required if you are kegging.
- Refractometer: Refractometers measure the brix in your wort, which can be converted to specific gravity. This is commonly used to get the last runnings out of your mash tun and your pre-boil gravity.
- Hydrometer: The hydrometer measures the specific gravity of your wort after you finish knockout. This value, along with the post fermentation specific gravity, gives you your abv.
There are a number of additional attachments you can add, such as secondary fermenters and brite tanks for carbonation, but these are all you need for your first batch. Continue on to the next page, the brewing process, to begin learning about the brewing process and how to put all of this brewing equipment to use.