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For the Beginning Homebrewer - How to Start for Under $200!

March 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 143

Since this book is being written to the new brewer, I am making an assumption. I assume you have not yet started, so what I am going to do is start from the beginning.

This is the bare-bones minimum that you need to get started. This is all basically cheap and low grade equipment, the cheapest set you can find. All in all it is, or should be less then $100.

  • plastic primary fermenter with a lid and stopper
  • airlock
  • Bottling bucket with spigot
  • 6 feet of Siphon Hose
  • Auto-Siphon
  • Bottle Filler
  • Bottle Capper
  • Bottle caps
  • Cleaner/Sanitizer
  • Hop bags, at least 2

This does NOT count the brew pot. You will find the pot to be the biggest initial expense that you have. More about this later.

I recommend for your first batch an extract kit. You have a lot to learn at this point, and experience is the best teacher, and believe me, it will teach you!

Here is my first CAUTION, WARNING, and horror story!

My first batch was done in a fairly inexpensive 20 quart stainless steel (NEVER USE ALUMINUM) pot. "This is a kit with a 5 gallon batch, should be a piece of cake," I thought to myself. So you take 5 gallons of water, a quart or 2 of extract, hops, and all of the sudden, I am up to almost 6 gallons and I have not even started. "Okay, I will cheat," I tell myself, "and deduct the 2 quarts of extract and use 4 gallons of water." Good plan! (NOT)

The wife is gone, so now I start heating water, 4 gallons since I am being so I am heating water, it gets up to 160 degrees, so I pour in my extract. Now I am up to 5 gallons.

Do you know what happens when you boil something with massive amounts of sugar in it? Let me tell you; it gets a lot of foam building up on the top. 5 gallons in a 5 gallon pot, a boil over is eminent! I have the hops ready to go but nothing had prepared me for the on sloth of foam, water and sugar all over the brand new stove. I am trying to stop the foam over with a spoon, a great weapon for this kind of thing. About that time the wife comes home. Okay I have a huge mess, I am not really even started yet, and I am in the dog house already!

I won't go into too much detail, but you get the picture. Of course besides the obvious moral to the story (which is get a pot with headroom), there are other things to consider;

  • In a one hour boil, you will boil out at least a gallon of water.
  • Extract brewing, weather you are using liquid or dry, also adds mass to the pot.
  • Sugar when boiled builds up a lot of foam.

I say again, make sure you get a pot with a lot of headspace. To get a 5 gallon batch of extract beer, you will need a pot to hold 6 gallons, plus have room enough to catch the foam from the wort (the common name for unfermented beer). We will discuss all grain brewing and the water need for that in a later chapter.

Good brew pots with headroom can be bought for under $100.

Hop bags are needed to hold the hops in the pot during the boil. Don't do what I did and hang it off the side of the pot handle and let it dangle into the fire....another smart plan! (not)

Next we will discuss fermenting. Notice I went with a plastic bucket. My main reason is the handle! 5 Gallons of beer weighs in at about 44 lbs. When you add 20 lbs for a fermentor, you are getting close to 70 lbs with no handle.

Have you ever dropped a glass carboy? I have, luckily with my foot out of the way. Not everyone is so lucky! It makes a real mess. So for now, let's go with a lighter and easier to handle fermenter.

The airlock is to allow the carbon dioxide to escape without letting outside air to contaminate the wort before it ferments.

There is one rule in brewing that is the most important of all.

The beer gods love sanitation! Clean and sanitize all surfaces that will touch the wort or the beer religiously. Therefore a cleaner and sanitizer is of utmost importance.

The auto-siphon allows you to move the beer from vessel to vessel without siphoning using your mouth, very unsanitary!

Of course the bottling equipment is self explanatory.

So we are into it with less then a $200 investment plus the $30 or so for the cost of the extract kit.


About the Author: Bill Downs is a telecommunications technician by training, a keen observer of life and participant in his own self growth by interest (or necessity - lol) and a home brewer by serious interest and experience. To learn more about brewing, go to for equipment reviews and sources for more reading on the subject. Subscribe for FREE newsletter by sending a blank email to

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