Homebrewing is more than just a means to make your own beer. There are several different layers to this hobby, and ultimately, you end up learning about a lot more than the four ingredients that make beer.
But before you can start making beer at home, you'll need some homebrewing equipment. As with any hobby, homebrewing can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.
In addition to the homebrewing setups listed below, you'll also want some empty bottles, bottle caps, and a bottle capper to package and carbonate your homebrewed suds. Amazon has plenty of homebrew bottling setups. One that includes a bottling bucket with spigot, an auto siphon, and a filling wand should do the trick, though -- such as this kit here.
Homebrewing systems for beginners
Extract starter kits
The easiest way to get started brewing your own beer at home is to use extract kits. Essentially, all you need is a fermentation vessel, a boil kettle, and a few other odds and ends, all of which are typically included in starter kits.
A basic cooler setup
For someone who wants to make the switch from extract brewing, or perhaps skip extract brewing altogether, to all-grain brewing, a basic setup that a lot of brewers start with consists of two slightly modified water coolers.
One cooler is used to hold the sparge water, while the other cooler is where the grains are steeped in hot water for a set amount of time (usually 60 minutes), to extract as much sugar from the grain as possible.
A boil kettle and a heat source, most likely a propane burner, are still needed to round out this all grain brewing setup, but the core of an all-grain setup is the mash tun and hot liquor tank.
Mash & Boil
The $299 Mash & Boil is an all-in-one system for all-grain or extract brewers. The 1600W heating element can be slow to heat water and get to a boil, but it does the job as long as you have some patience.
The appeal to an all-in-one system is that it's easy to clean up and store when not in use, and doesn't require a dedicated brewing space. And, of course, ditching propane burners and moving brewing indoors is always a big plus for those who live in colder climates during the winter months.
Recently a Mash & Boil was released with the addition of a pump, bumping the price up to $419 for those who want a bit more control over the brewing process.
Another all-in-one option is the Grainfather. This system comes with everything you need to brew 5-gallon batches of beer, and you can do so from your phone via a Bluetooth connection.
It's not entirely hands off, of course, but you can view timers and current temperatures from the Grainfather mobile app.
At just under $1,000, it's not the most affordable system for someone just starting to brew his or her own beer. However, it comes with everything from a pump to a counterflow chiller, required to quickly cool the wort before you can add the yeast that turns the wort from a sugary liquid to beer.
A kettle and a bag
When using the brew in a bag (BIAB) method, the brewer adds grains to a bag that's then placed in a kettle that contains hot water. At the end of the mash, typically 60 minutes, the bag is lifted out and the wort is boiled and hops are added.
MoreBeer sales a prebuilt BIAB setup that includes a kettle, all necessary ball valves, and a mesh bag. The only thing you need to supply is a burner. The $99 8.5-gallon version is big enough for 5-gallon batches of beer. The $149 14-gallon model is big enough to make 10 gallons of beer at a time.
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