The best and easiest way to begin homebrewing is to start with an extract method incorporating steeped grains. It's an easy method that takes just 3 hours and requires minimal equipment and space. Typically you will boil only 3 gallons during this process to minimize the size of equipment you need. This processes will produce 5 gallons of finished beer, and by steeping additional grains, you can make a wide range of different ales. For these reasons, many people will stick to this procedure for making beer and never feel the need to make brewing any more complicated.
But first let's talk about equipment. What do you need? A typical extract brewing process has 3 steps: Brewing, Fermenting and Packaging. So for each step you will need:
Kettle - A large stainless-steel cooking pot or enameled canning kettle. The goal is to boil around 3 gallons of liquid so 3.5 gallon size is the smallest you should go. Otherwise you will end up with quite the mess.
A long metal spoon - Something to stir boiling liquid without burning your hand.
Sanitizing Products - Sanitation is key in brewing, and thanks to modern advances it’s a piece of cake with the proper solutions. I recommended Star San. Its and acidic cleaner that takes just a minute to kill pesky microbes that want to ruin your beer. Plus if used correctly won't have any flavor side effects on your finished product.
Nylon or Cheesecloth Grain/Hop Bags - Sold and any homebrew store or online, these will allow you to steep grains in your kettle without having to filter them out. Basically a giant tea bag.
Cleaning Bucket - Any sort of liquid containing vessel that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Use this to mix your cleaning solution and soak all of your equipment.
Fermentor - I recommend a 6 gallon glass carboy. To save cash a food grade plastic bucket will work, but won't last as long or be as easy to clean. Note: Most brew kits come with a 5 gallon fermentor and while this will work, i have found that a the extra head space provided by the larger fermentor is helpful in not making a mess.
Airlock - Sold and any homebrew store or online. Aluminum foil could be used in a pinch but Airlock i only cost a couple of bucks. You will also need a stopper to attach the airlock to your fermentor.
Hydrometer - The only fancy scientific instrument you need. It works by floating (so scientific). You will use this to determine when your fermenting is done and how much alcohol you have made :) You will also need a sample tube to use it in.
Funnel - If you are using a fermentor with a small neck like a carboy, you will need this to get your liquid inside. Or you will make one hell of a mess. Your choice.
Bottling Bucket - A 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket with a spigot at the bottom.
Racking Cane - Used to syphon your fermented beer out of your fermentor and into your bottling bucket without introducing lots of oxygen. 3 feet of food grade vinyl tubing is also needed to attach to the cane.
Bottles - 55 12oz bottles, 30 22oz bottles or other combination to hold 5 gallons of finished beer. I recommend saving bottles from beer you are drinking right now and reuse them. The best thing to do with used bottles is to rinse them out immediately after emptying. Then you don't get any hard to remove residue.
Bottle Caps - Enough to cap your bottles (duh).
Bottle Capper - Bending those caps on by hand would probably hurt.
This may seem like a bunch of stuff but one quick trip to your local brew store or Amazon and you will be all set. If you're in Seattle, we love Sounds Homebrew Supply! If you want to simplify things you could buy a homebrew starting kit. Just be sure it contains the items above.
Excited yet? You are one step closer to being a homebrewer.
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