Saturday, December 6, 2008

Putting together the home brewery - Part I

Home Brewery ItemsIf you're new to homebrewing or even if you've got a few batches under your belt you'll probably be in need of a few items before you make your next batch. The following pages provide an insight to some of the most commonly used homebrew equipment items you'll need and some options to consider when gathering equipment for your own home brewery setup.

Plan for the Future Now

One thing to always keep in mind when making purchases for your home brewery is the future. Sure, you may only be making small 1 to 5 gallon batches now, but eventually you may wish to jump up to bigger batches. If you buy all of your equipment based on small 5 gallon or less sizes now you'll end up spending even more a little down the road to make larger batches. So you might want to consider buying bigger now and then grow into it when you're ready.

Blichmann BoilermakerIf you are anything like me, it can take a long time to decide on which equipment to buy. Doing a little shopping around won't hurt and buying quality now will save you a bit in the long run. With a bit of planning and research, you'll soon be ready to take the plunge and start buying. But which is the best item to get first? In most cases, you'll want a good quality container to brew your beer in.

The Brew Kettle

Getting a quality brew kettle, something that can stay with you for a long time, is key to getting you started. This will be the vessel that you'll boil my wort in, add in your hops and specialty additions, etc. If you're like me, you might want to go all out and spend some extra bucks up front on a decent sized kettle.

Might I suggest starting out with a quality stainless steel kettle like a 15 gallon Blichmann Engineering Boilermaker (pictured above). This size unit is big enough to handle just about anything and let you easily do up to 10 gallon batches of beer without worrying too much about boil-overs. This particular unit cost around $369 and can be purchased via your favorite homebrew retailer. Price a Blichmann brewpot.

Blichmann HopBlockerWhile some of you may not be able to splurge on a big brew kettle right away, I've compiled an article about how you can choose your own brew kettle that will fit your needs and pocket book. There are lower cost options for every situation.

Blichmann also sells a handy HopBlocker attachment for your Boilermaker (pictured above) that helps filter out hop pellets and other materials better without clogging for about $59.95. While not necessary, the more brewing you do the more you'll want to thoroughly filter before transferring your wort to the fermenter.

Outdoor Propane Burner

Bayou Classic SP10 Propane BurnerAnother important piece of homebrewing equipment you'll need is a reliable heat source for boiling your wort. Many beginners may opt for using their kitchen stove for boiling beer. This is fine for small batches, but using a common kitchen stove may result in long waits to get your wort up to a boil, particularly when you step up to larger batches. To remedy that, you might consider getting an outdoor propane burner, one that can grow with you as your batches get bigger.

I had a hard time deciding on which propane burner unit to buy but ultimately went with a Bayou Classic SP-10 high pressure burner. This little powerhouse puts out up to 185,000 BTUs and can quickly bring 10 gallons of water to boil in 30 minutes or less, even in cold temperatures. The Bayou Classic SP-10 has a built in wind screen and can hold the weight of a large brew kettle full of liquid.

I found this item on for $54.99 with no shipping costs and wrote up a review of it. Alert: the price seems to vary between $48 to $65 so be patient and you can find it at a good discount. I've personally used this for my last several batches and I'm quite pleased. Price a Propane Burner

Consider Using a Brewing Logbook

Basic Brewing Log BookEvery year, James Spenser of Basic Brewing publishes his annual Brewer's Logbook. It's a nice ring bound spiral notebook used for tracking details on all of your brewing sessions for the year. I've used this logbook to take a lot of notes on my brewing sessions to help me record my recipes and brewing steps. It helps to review your steps in order to make improvements in your next batch. The journal is well written and costs $12.95. It also makes a nice holiday gift.

Having a good kettle, a strong reliable heat source and an organized way of taking notes is a good first step in outfitting your home brewery.

In the next article, I'll give some insights into my own adventure on how I started building my own home brewery.

Continue reading "Putting together the home brewery - Part II"

Related articles:
- Choosing a brew kettle.
- Breaking in the Bayou Classic SP-10.
- Colorado homebrew clubs listing.
- Colorado homebrew supply stores listing.
- Choosing a fermenter for your homebrew.
- My humble homebrew beginnings.

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