Brewing beer is easier than you think. To get started, you need just a few simple pieces of equipment. You’ll also need a basic beer-making kit of ingredients. The kit will contain everything you need to make (usually) 2 cases (48 bottles) of beer. Here’s what you need in the way of equipment to make beer from a basic kit:
- 5 gallon pot with lid.
- 5 gallon pot with lid.
- 6.5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket with tight-fitting cover drilled for an airlock and o-ring for
fermenting. The bucket should also be fitted with a removable spigot that will accept 3/8”
inner diameter plastic tubing.
- 3-piece airlock for fermenting bucket lid.
- 4 – 5 feet of food grade plastic tubing for siphoning – 3/8” inner diameter.
- 6.5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket with lid and spigot for bottling. The bucket should be fitted
with a removable spigot that will accept 3/8” inner diameter plastic tubing.
- bottle filling tool – available from homebrew suppliers locally or on the web.
- cap crimping tool, lever-type – available from homebrew suppliers locally or on the web.
- 48 – 12 oz. brown glass bottles. Be sure these are the type that accepts a crimp-on cap and not
the screw-on type.
- 48 plus a few extra bottle caps.
- Specialized bottle capping tool – available from homebrew suppliers locally or on the web.
- Specialized bottle filling tool – available from homebrew suppliers locally or on the web.
- Bleach for sanitizing equipment and bottles – pure, unscented chlorine bleach – no additives.
- Measuring spoons.
- Thermometer – digital preferred.
- Corn sugar for carbonating the finished beer.
- Bottle brush.
- Vodka to fill the airlock
- Optional: aeration setup including a small aquarium pump, airstone and narrow plastic tubing
that fits the pump and airstone.
- Your choice of a beer brewing kit that contains hopped malt extract and yeast.
Before you buy individual items, check locally or on the Internet for package deals that may or may not include the beer ingredients as well.
Before you start, remember that good sanitation is the key to good beer. Since beer ferments at room temperature or a few degrees below, it’s susceptible to all kinds of bacterial invasions, also called infections. An infection will ruin your beer with off flavors and aromas, so be sure to sanitize all equipment prior to use. If you’re using chlorine bleach as a sanitizer, mix it at the rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water for a concentration of 200 ppm (parts per million). Be sure to rinse sanitized items thoroughly to avoid getting sanitizer in your beer. Let whatever you’re sanitizing remain in contact with the bleach-water mixture for 5 minutes.
There’s a good article about chlorine as a sanitizer at: http://osuextra.okstate.edu/pdfs/FAPC-116web.pdf
There are a couple of extras that would be nice, but aren’t required, for your first couple of batches. The first item is a hydrometer. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy to use instrument that measures the specific gravity of a liquid. For beer, a hydrometer will help you figure the alcohol content of your beer if you take samples before and after fermentation. As the sugars in your wort are converted to alcohol, the wort will lose density. If you measure this decrease in density, you can calculate the alcohol percentage in your finished beer. There are plenty of sites on the Internet that will do the calculation once you’ve taken your original (OG) and final gravity (FG) readings. A typical OG would be 1.050 and a typical FG would be 1.010.
Another extra to have for brewing beer is a wort chiller. A simple wort chiller is just a coil of copper tubing with hoses attached to each end. When the chiller is attached to a cold water source (like a faucet) with one hose, water flows through it and out the other hose. When submerged into hot wort, the chiller full of circulating cold water will cool the wort quickly, so you can add, also called “pitch,” your yeast as soon as possible after the boil.
If you’ve acquired all the necessary gear for brewing beer, be sure to read the next article in this series to find out how easy it is to actually brew a 5-gallon batch of delicious custom-made beer.