I get this question a lot. Friends send me emails saying, “hey, you homebrew. I think my friend/spouse/neighbor/dog would really like to start doing that. What should I give them to get started?”
What they’re really saying is, “Gosh, Chris, you make really great beer. I would love it if my friend/spouse/neighbor/dog would make beer that great, so I want to nudge them along by giving them something to get started.”
But I digress…
To anyone who is not (yet) a homebrewer, it can sometimes be a bit intimidating to walk into your local homebrew shop and try to figure out what is needed to get you up and running. So, I’ll make it easy for you. And I’ll try to give some options at different price points as well, to make sure you can get brewing at any budget.
1. The Homebrew Equipment Kit
There are lots of different equipment kits out there. They all get the job done. For the beginner on a budget that is unsure if they’ll be brewing very often, I would recommend the Beginning Homebrew Kit. This will likely get the first few batches under your belt, but there will be some add-on purchases not long down the road. However, for $70, it is a great starter system!
If you want something that will have a few extra bells and whistles, I like the Beginning Homebrew Kit Upgrade #2. It comes with a few extra things such as an auto-siphon and an extra fermentor (carboy), which you will really be glad you have once you start brewing regularly. It also comes with a nice 5-gallon stainless steel brew pot, which will be quite handy! The price tag is a bit higher, but is currently on sale for $130. Honestly, I think this is a great deal and is really the ideal kit for the beginning homebrewer.
Lastly, if you know you want to jump right to the big leagues, then you can hop right into all-grain brewing by getting a system like the Beginning Homebrew Kit Upgrade #6. This has everything that you see in the kit above, plus a cooler mash tun, an 8-gallon pot (in addition to the 5-gallon pot), and an immersion chiller. It also contains one of my personal favorite books, John Palmer’s “How to Brew.”
Side Note: If you are wanting to jump right into all-grain brewing, I have a couple of other posts tailored specifically for you. (here and here) If you don’t know what all-grain is, then don’t sweat, and just keep reading.
2. A Good Boil Kettle
You will want a large pot to boil your beer in. This is important because it needs to be large enough to accommodate the amount of liquid you’re boiling. It’s also nice to have a pot with a lid to get the large amount of water up to boiling more quickly, but remember, don’t ever boil your beer with the lid still on.
If you are going to be doing typical 5-gallon batches of extract beer (what most beginners brew) on your stovetop, then I would recommend getting a 5-gallon stainless steel pot. You can get an aluminum pot, and that will work, but it is usually thinner and doesn’t distribute the heat as well as a stainless steel pot.
5-Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Pot: $20 (normally $35, but currently on sale!)
If brewing all-grain, you’ll need a larger pot. I like this one with the two welds, which will make it easy to add a thermometer and a valve to drain the pot (you don’t want to lift 5-gallons of boiling hot wort do you?).
9-Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Pot w/ 2 Welds: $80 (normally $110, but currently on sale!)
The last thing any new brewer is going to need to brew a batch of beer is some ingredients. I recommend swinging by your local homebrew shop to see what recipe kits are in stock and in season. That will be the best way to get the freshest ingredients. Or, you could check out the kits available at an online distributor, if you don’t live near a brew shop.
It’s definitely best to use the ingredient kits for your first few batches. You need to learn the process before you start creating your own recipes. You wouldn’t try to make your own cookie recipe if you hadn’t ever made a single batch of slice-n-bakes before, would you?
If you have a commercial beer you really like, you might be able to find “clone” ingredient kits to help you create a beer that tastes like the original:
Clone Recipe Ingredient Kits
And that’s it!
Sure, there will likely be tons of other upgrades and supplies you will want along the way, but with these 3 basic items, you can be brewing your first batch of beer in no-time!