A beginner’s guide to brewing equipment

Brewing your own beer is more than just an affordable way to enjoy one of mankind’s favourite beverages – it’s a fun hobby as well. In fact, a lot of expert homebrewers enjoy the process of brewing beer more than they enjoy drinking their finished product!  Brewing ale doesn’t even require the type of high-tech equipment that you might expect, and most of the equipment is quite cheap.

There are several starter kits for sale on the internet but you can save a bit of money by searching for the products individually.

For a basic beginner’s homebrewing setup you will need:

  • Large fermenting container
  • Stopper
  • Airlock
  • Siphon tubing
  • Empty bottles
  • Bottle capper
  • Bottle caps

Once you get more serious about your beer brewing you can add in lots more equipment as you go. Some will help you to measure alcohol content, or produce more consistent brews, but the basic pieces of equipment listed here will be more than enough to help you produce something tasty and alcoholic. At this level you will use a pre-hopped malt extract, which saves you the messy business of having to boil the wort with the hops yourself.

The fermenter is going to be the largest part of the whole setup. Your fermenter should be around 20 litres, but if it’s bigger then no problem – just make more beer! Glass is the best option as glass doesn’t add any flavor to the liquid that is stored inside. If all you can find is plastic, then by all means use it. Some people have even been known to use large water dispenser containers to hold their beer.

The stopper is a round piece of hard rubber with a hole down the middle, which will go into the opening at the top of the fermenter. It is important to have a good fit, so measure the opening in your fermenter before purchasing a stopper. You want a snug fit so you should have to work a bit to actually insert it. A stopper that is larger than the opening of your fermenter by about half a centimetre in diameter is perfect.

The airlock is the tool that allows the yeast to work its fermenting magic. They come in many styles but they all serve the same purpose – letting gas from the fermentation process out, while not allowing outside air in. At a pinch, an airlock can even be made out of a piece of rubber hose that lets the gas out into a glass of water. The airlock will go into the hole in the middle of the stopper.

A piece rubber hose as your siphon tubing makes things much easier when bottling. You could always just pour the beer out of the fermenter during the bottling process but it is quite messy and a siphon tube is very cheap. Speaking of the bottling process, you will need to have a supply of empty bottles to store all of that delicious ale in. Most starter kits come with bottles but most regular beer drinkers have no problem coming up with a collection of empty beer bottles. Just make sure to clean and sterilise them well before bottling.

Your bottle capper and bottle caps will help you with the last step of the brewing process. Bottle caps are usually a universal fit and will form a seal around the rim of almost any bottle. This keeps the pressure in and will allow the beer to build up some more carbonation before it’s ready to drink. There are several different types of bottle cappers – some pretty large and cumbersome, and others quite portable.

Out of everything on the list, the only items you will need to visit a shop for are the bottle capper, stopper and airlock (unless you want to make a homemade airlock). This will save you lots of money compared to the homebrew kits, and will give the whole process a much more homemade feeling.

With each brew that you make you will learn more and more about the process until you become an expert brewer. You can even scale up the operation and get several brews going at once to really start experimenting. Before long you will start to wonder why you ever bothered buying beer in the first place.

This post was written by David Josephs. David works for ThePortableBarCompany.com as a beer blogger.

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