Six Essential Items Needed to Start Homebrewing

By on July 12, 2013

Drinking craft beer: awesome. Paying $10+ for a 6-pack: not so cool. You might associate homebrewing with hipsters, or assume anything that ferments in someone’s basement can’t possibly taste any good, but brewing your own beer can save you a lot of money, taste genuinely good (certainly a million times better than a Bud/Miller/Coors/Whatever Lite), and is a lot of fun. Here’s a list of the things you’ll need in order to get started*:

*If you get a pre-packaged starter kit, a lot of this will be included, but it’s still good to know what it is you’re buying and what it all does.

1. Malt Extract Ingredient Kit ($25 to $40)

An ingredient kit will have all the grains, fermentables, hops, yeast and priming sugar you’ll need for 5 gallons of beer, along with instructions on when and how to put everything together. A simple brown ale is a good place to begin when you’re just starting out. Once you have done a few batches, you can start to get a bit more creative by adding additional ingredients and/or tweaking the recipes to fit your taste (for example, I recently started with a wheat kit and added blueberries and fresh mint — it was delicious).



2. Heat Source (Free to $60)

The top of your stove will work just fine for brewing, but you could also go for something like this turkey fryer if you want to brew outside. I suppose a grill would even work — basically anything that can hold (and get hot enough to boil) a 5 gallon stockpot.


3. Stock Pot/Brewing Kettle (Around $30)

Speaking of stockpots, you’ll need one. This is what you “cook” the beer in. Most people start with a 5 gallon pot, but they come as big as 25 gallons for the semi-professional brewers out there. If you buy one from a homebrew shop, it will be called a “brewing kettle” or something similar, but any old stock pot will work just fine. (FYI, they have them at thrift stores all the time).



 4. Fermenter ($10 to $40)

The fermenter is the container the beer sits and ferments in (ie: turns alcoholic) for anywhere from one week to three months. The cheapest version is a plastic bucket with an airlock and the standard version is a plastic or glass carboy (pictured).


5. A Good Brewing Book ($10ish)

The more you know about the brewing process, the more you’ll be able to play around and experiment. The Complete Joy of Homebrewing is a good place to start — it’s a really broad guide that covers everything from equipment to basic instructions to recipes.  The Alaskan Bootleggers Bible is another fun one — super odd and goes over not just beer-making but how to make your own wine, cider, moonshine whiskey, bathtub gin…


 6. A Capper and Empty Beer Bottles ($15 to $20)

Nobody wants a flat beer. The cheapest way to fizz your beer up is to start saving/collecting beer bottles (only the fancy beers will do; twist-off bottles won’t work). Then buy a capper to put caps on your beer once you transfer it to bottles (which will create carbonation in a week or two). An alternative is to get a kegging system (around $200); it will eliminate the need for caps and bottles altogether.



If after all this you find yourself thinking, “You know what, I think I’d rather buy my beer and not mess with this. What am I going to do with all this crap if I don’t end up liking brewing?” The answer is Craigslist. Brewing gear is in high enough demand that you won’t lose much should you decide to sell it after giving it a try. Basically, there’s a lot of potentially awesome beer to gain and not a lot to lose, so go for it!

About Kristin Cook

I'm the Managing Editor for When I'm not hunting for deals online, I enjoy good food, good beer, and Star Wars.

One Comment

  1. Jabba's Ex

    July 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Homebrewing is the most fun when you do it with a friend. The second bit of wisdom I will share is that after you’ve been doing it a while you will want to invest in a used 5 gal. stainless steel soda keg (and likely a CO2 bottle). The link in the article is for something quite fancy and likely overpriced. You can get a the used keg that I mentioned off of ebay for ~$20, or maybe from your local brewing supply store. Bottling is tedious with large batches, especially considering the sanitization and capping of all the bottles. Speaking of cleanliness, ALL of your brewing gear has to be clean clean clean. Buckets are for amateurs. Get yourself a few glass carboys. Cheers!

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