So you’re committed to jumping into all-grain brewing? Now you need to decide what equipment to buy and how much it’s going to cost. Below are some great items that I would recommend and that I use regularly myself. I’ve tried to note what equipment is required and what is optional. So consider your own budget and buy what is going to work best for you.
Also note that many of these items can be done at a lower cost if you build them yourself. While this can save you money, it can also be time-consuming and confusing if you don’t have help from others who have done it before.
Mash Tun (required)
This is the most important purchase. For an in-depth look at mash tuns, check out our mash tun design series parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. If you don’t have a few hours to kill reading other blog posts, here are a few recommendations:
- For the brewer typically making 5 gallon batches: 5-gallon converted Igloo cooler ($110)
- For higher gravity 5 gallon batches and some 10 gallon batches: 10-gallon converted Igloo cooler ($160)
- For higher gravity 10 gallon batches: Converted 1/2 barrel keg ($260, or DIY for less)
Hot Liquor Tun (recommended)
You don’t *have* to use a separate HLT, but it is definitely helpful and will alleviate some stress out of your brew day. This vessel needs to be large enough to hold all of your mash water, and then all or your sparge water. It doesn’t need to hold both together, so don’t feel like you need a super-sized HLT. Also, this vessel needs to be capable of being heated via direct flame or electric element, so choose a material that will allow for this, unless you plan on heating the water in your boil kettle and then transferring it into the HLT, which is less expensive but more time-consuming.
Some great HLT options:
Stainless Steel brew pot
Converted 15.5-gallon keg
Igloo Cooler (cheaper, but water must be heated in another container, then the cooler will maintain water temps)
Wort Chiller (required)
You can’t effectively chill 5 or 10 gallons of wort by using an ice bath in the sink like you could with the smaller extract boils. Instead, you’re going to need a wort chiller. For 5 gallon batches, I recommend either building or purchasing an immersion chiller because they are easy to use and easy to clean, and they are the least expensive.
Immersion chiller: $80-150 (depending on thickness and length of copper)
For 10 gallon batches, you should invest in either a counterflow chiller or a plate chiller. These can be harder to clean, but provide almost instant chilling, which is ideal for larger batch sizes
Counterflow chiller: $100-200 (depending on length and material)
Plate chiller: $100-200 (depending on number of plates)
Brew Stand (recommended)
You will need a workspace to make room for 2 to 3 vessels on brew day. You can always show your strength by lifting and pouring the wort from one vessel to the next, but this is a good way to hurt or burn yourself, so I recommend building or purchasing a brewing rig.
Or, if you are inclined to pump the wort through your system for faster transfers, you could opt for building a single-tier or 2-tier system. There are also some great options for purchase, depending on your budget.
Pump-based rigs: $1500+
Wort Pump (optional)
If you go with a single tier brewing rig, then you’ll need a way to pump the liquid from one vessel to the next. The two best brands in this arena are March and Chugger. People will swear by either. I, personally, use a March pump, but don’t have any experience with the Chugger pumps. Here are links to both. Occasionally, you’ll come across a good sale on one or the other to sway you in one direction or the other.
March Pump: $150+
Chugger Pump: $100+
Mash Paddle (recommended)
Get yourself a solid paddle to stir your mash. You’ll want the grain and water to be mixed well without leaving any balls of dry grain. The wood ones look quite sexy, but you can also opt for cheaper plastic versions or even the nearly indestructible stainless steel.
Wooden Mash Paddles: $15-25
Plastic Mash Paddles: $3-6
Stainless Steel Mash Paddles: $20-25
Grain Mill (optional)
If you’re purchasing grain from your local homebrew store, then they will usually crush the grain for you at no extra charge. But if you purchase grain in bulk or if you have to purchase several days (or longer) prior to your brew day, then you will want your own grain mill. This will allow you to save some money and purchase your base grain in bulk and just measure and mill on brew day (or the day before) It will also allow you to adjust the mill to your desired setting to help optimize for the best mash efficiency.
Now there are *tons* of other do-dads and fun toys you can buy – refractometers, pH meters, hop backs, etc. – but with the items above, you will be well on your way to brewing up some terrific all-grain batches of beer.
Let me know if there is anything I’ve missed or if there is a piece of equipment that you feel you can’t live without once you make the jump to all-grain. I would love to hear what you have to say!