Putting together your brewing kit can be as expensive as you’d like it to be, but if you keep it simple, it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Saving money on some of the items you’ll use may be made up in time, though.
With the exception of a few items, most of this can probably be found in your kitchen. The rest of the items can be bought or made.
It should be BIG, at least 3 gallons, but the size of your recipe (5 gal, most likely) plus 20% is better. Start with your biggest stock pot if you have to, and upgrade later. Most brews can be modified to use only a partial mash, where you make your wort concentrated and add more water to make up the rest of the recipe volume before pitching the yeast.
Turkey fryer rigs are perfect starter kits, and it’s nice not to heat up the house in the summer.
Stainless steel is preferable, but Aluminum or enameled steel work fine. Some folks say that aluminum will ruin your beer, but I call BS. If you have an aluminum pot, you just need to season it before you use it for brewing—add a couple inches of water, cover, and boil for 10 minutes or so. Let it cool all the way back down on its own. This will build a layer of aluminum oxide inside the pot, which is a way of passivating the aluminum, or making it non-reactive.
We like StarSan no-rinse sanitizer, but have also used plain ol’ chlorine bleach in a pinch. If you’re not using a sanitizer that specifies no-rinse, please MAKE SURE YOU RINSE everything you’ve sanitized in clean water.
Go to your hardware store and pick up some paint strainer bags. They’re meant to fit in 5 gal buckets and should fit in your brew pot for brewing in a bag or in your fermenter for straining your wort.
Paddle or spoon
You’ll need to stir occasionally.
A 6 gal food grade plastic bucket is perfect, but if you really like glass you could get a big carboy/water bottle.
Secondary Fermenter (optional)
We use a glass carboy for secondary because it makes it easier to see what’s going on with our beer, but another bucket will work fine.
Get another bucket, 5 gal is fine as long as it’s food grade. either put a hole in the side near the bottom and add a spigot, or just use a racking cane or autosiphon hooked up to your bottling wand.
Hydrometer, test tube
This is a blown glass tube with a weight at one end and a scale up the length of it. You’ll need it to measure the gravity of your beer every step of the way. It tells you how much sugar you have that can turn into alcohol, and then you can figure out the %ABV of your beer at the end.
It’s important to mash at the right temperature. It’s also necessary to keep a close eye on your wort when you’re chilling it for the cold break, and so you know when it’s down to a safe temperature for your yeast.
We use one with a built-in alarm and timer so we don’t have to hover over the brew pot. You could use any instant-read thermometer though, as long as it’ll measure from about 50℉-212℉ (10℃-100℃).
These are available at brew supply houses, but you can make your own for about $20 with an ice maker kit.
clean water (filter?)
If your water is safe and tastes good, use it. If it has an off-flavor, it can’t hurt to run it through a filter.
This is another piece of equipment you’ll probably have to buy at your homebrew store. It’s a device that crimps caps down on your bottles. Alternatively, you could use only swing-top bottles.
You’ll probably have to drink some local craft brew to get these. Damn the luck! You can also buy new bottles with swing-top closures for a reasonable price, or drink Grölsch.
are available at your local homebrew store or from many online sources for very cheap.
This is all you need to get started. I suggest starting with bottles, as it’s the easiest. plus looking at your growing pile of bottles will make you want to fill them with something delicious. Maybe start by brewing with a kit?