Monday, March 25, 2013

Start Brewing for Less Than 100 Bucks.

The Essentials:

  • 6.5 gallon Fermenttion Bucket
  • Air Lock
  • Bottling Bucket
  • 1 Hydrometer
  • 6 feet of 5/16" Vinyl Tubing
  • Butterfly Capper
This kit seems to have it all, and at a great price:
  This is the kit I cut my teeth on:

What you'll need to round up

  • Your spaghetti pot.  (6 quarts is a reasonable size)
  • Two cases of pop top brown beer bottles with a long neck and a skirt.
You don't need an immersion chiller or a thermometer when doing a partial boil.  For a five gallon batch of ale boil 1 gallon of water and combine with 4 gallons of refrigerated water in the fermentor.  The resulting temperature will be the correct pitch temperature for most ales.

The three most common mistakes made by first time home brewers are:
  1. Lack of fermentation temperature control.
  2. Insufficient yeast.
  3. Use of tap water with extracts kits.
To control the temperature put the fermentor in a plastic bin with about five gallons of water.  This will hold the temperature very close to ambient temperature.  Choose a kit that ferments well at your ambient temperature.  If your basement is near 55 degrees choose a Lager.  If it is near 60 degrees choose a hybrid like a Cream ale or Kolsh.  65 is ideal for just about any ale.  70 is best for Saisons and some Belgium beers.

When choosing a kit look for one that uses dry yeast and has an ABV of 5% or less.

One packet of dry yeast contains about 150 billion cells.  This is sufficient for up to a 1.050 starting gravity which is less than 7 pounds of extract in a five gallon (19 liter) batch.  The result will be a beer less than 5% alcohol by volume. 
Because extract is made from an all grain mash it has all of the minerals needed for the beer concentrated in it.  The major manufactures, Briess and Muntons, both are located in areas that have great brewing water that already have enough minerals.  By using tap water, or spring water you are adding extra salts that will end up leaving your beer with a kind of a twang.  Use Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water for extract brewing.  You should be able to find it for less than a dollar a gallon.

 55°F        60°F
65°F         70°F

Step up your game

  • Autosiphons ($10)
  • Thermometer for measuring pitching temperature ($8) 
  • Kegging setup
Kegging take much less time than botteling.  Kegging can take as little as 15 minutes where botteling can easiliy take over an hour. When it comes to kegging most people will recomend that you skip the small kegging setup and move right to the soda keg and CO2 tank.  For me, I don't have the space (or cash) to sink into a soda keg setup, so what I use is the tap-a-draft system.  My brother uses the Party Star system and he loves it.  Another advatage of a mini keg system is that they are easier to bring over to a friends house than a soda keg setup.

These are the ones I have and they work great!

Making better beer and brewing toys.

  • bin or cooler to use as a water bath for fermentation temperature control.
  • Refractometer. Much easier, faster, and smaller sample size required.
  • aquarium heater to ferment ale's in the winter 
  • scale for grain and extract
  • scale for salts and hops 
These are the items that work for me, and what I have my eyes on:

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