Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Homebrewing fun - Good Reasons & the Equipment you need

Home Beer Brewing 102

Picking up where we left off in our previous blog post, we are really hoping to help the newbies get their "beer feet" wet and not feel out of place because they don't know something. Homebrewing is supposed to be an adventure and its supposed to be fun damn it:-)

Americans are drinking more craft beer than ever and homebrewing is gaining in popularity. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as craft beer and homebrewing have always been closely associated. In fact, many of America’s biggest craft brewers started out as homebrewers. With so much great beer out there, some may ask why you’d want to bother with brewing in your kitchen. 

Here are a few reasons why you should give homebrewing a try:

It’s cheap. After the initial cost of equipment ($100 - $140), the ingredients for a 5 gallon batch can cost as little as $40 dollars. That’s less than $1 per beer. While that’s may be more than a Bud Light at home will cost you, it’s a much better deal than a higher end craft beer at a trendy local hot spot. What’s more, when you homebrew, you make exactly the beer you want to drink. With a little practice, you’ll soon be able to create amazing beer right in your kitchen that rivals many craft breweries and you will do it with your own touch of love.

It’s easy. The brewing process is surprisingly simple. If you can boil water, you can make beer. By far the most difficult part of making beer is cleaning the bottles to put your homebrew in. Who can’t do that?

It’s fun. Making beer can be a great way to spend time with your fellow beer lovers and family members. Although it certainly can be done single-handedly, making beer is quicker and more fun with others. There is a fair amount of waiting involved; meaning there’s plenty of time to crack open a beer and enjoy it with your brewing partner.

It’s educational. When you see a brew go from raw ingredients to finished beer, you’re better able to appreciate all that goes into making beer and how each ingredient impacts the final outcome. This will help you understand what beers are your favorites and why.

It’s legal. Although home wine making was re-legalized in the US with the repeal of prohibition in 1933, beer was actually excluded from this due to a clerical error. Homebrewing wasn’t legalized until 1979. Today it’s legal to make 100 gallons of beer per person over the age of 21 per household, up to a maximum of 200 gallons per year.

Now with respect to the equipment, here is what a homebrew kit generally includes ($100 or less):

An obvious first question most new brewers ask is, "What do I need to get started?".
None of the equipment setups in home brewing require a degree in rocket science, 
and some of the needed equipment you may already have on hand. Start-up costs will
depend what you already have and how elaborate you want to get, but usually $100 
or less will get you started.

Airlock - Several styles are available. They are filled with water to prevent 
contamination from the outside atmosphere.

Bottle Capper - Two styles are available: hand cappers and bench cappers. Bench 
cappers are more versatile and are needed for the champagne bottles, but are more 

Bottle Brush - A long handled nylon bristle brush is necessary for the first, 
hard-core cleaning of used bottles.

Fermenter - The 6.5 gallon food-grade plastic pail is recommended for beginners. 

These are very easy to work with. Glass and plastic carboys are also available, in 3, 5, 
and 6.5 gallon sizes. The carboy is used for secondary fermentation and possibly to 
help with bottling.

Siphon - Available in several configurations, usually consisting of clear plastic tubing
with a racking cane and optional bottle filler.

Racking Cane - Rigid plastic tube with sediment stand-off used to leave the trub 

behind when siphoning.

Bottle Filler - Rigid plastic (or metal) tube often with a spring loaded valve at the tip 

for filling bottles.

Stirring Paddle - Food grade plastic paddle (or spoon) for stirring the wort during 


Thermometer- Obtain a thermometer that can be safely immersed in the wort and has 

range of at least 40°F to180°F. The floating dairy thermometers work very well. Dial 
thermometers read quickly and are inexpensive.

Bottling Bucket - A 6.5 gallon food-grade plastic pail with attached spigot and 

fill-tube. The finished beer is racked into this for priming prior to bottling. Racking 
into the bottling bucket allows clearer beer with less sediment in the bottle. The spigot
is used instead of the bottle filler, allowing greater control of the fill level and no hassles 
with a siphon during bottling.

Hydrometer - A hydrometer measures the relative specific gravity between pure 

water and water with sugar dissolved in it by how high it floats when immersed. 
The hydrometer is used to gauge the fermentation progress by measuring one aspect 
of it, attenuation. Hydrometers are necessary when making beer from scratch 
(all-grain brewing) or when designing recipes. The first-time brewer using known 
quantities of extracts usually does not need one, but it can be a useful tool.

***These are helpful extras to have ($40 or less for all):

Boiling Pot - Must be able to comfortably hold a minimum of 5 gallons; bigger. 
Use qualitpots made of stainless steel are best. A 5 gallon home canning pot 
(those black, speckled ones) is the least expensive and can also be a good choice for 
getting started.

Bottles - You will need (48) recappable 12 oz bottles for a typical 5 gallon batch. 

Alternatively, 30 oz of thelarger 22 oz bottles may be used to reduce capping time. 
Twist-offs do not re-cap well and are more prone to breaking.

Bottle Caps - Either standard or oxygen absorbing crown caps are available.

Funnel - A simple plastic funnel to make transfer of wort to initial fermentation

Pyrex(tm) Measuring Cup - The quart-size or larger measuring cup will quickly 
become one of your most invaluable tools for brewing. The heat resistant glass ones 
are best because they can be used to measure boiling water and are easily sanitized.

Wine Thief or Turkey Baster - These things are very handy for withdrawing samples 
of wort or beer from the fermenter without risking contamination of the whole batch.

At the end of the day, how do you put a price on fun anyway?  So what are you waiting for? There’s really not much to buy. You can pick up your supplies at a homebrewing store near you

Get your kids or your significant other involved and kick up some home brew family time!