New Brewers Guide

Are you a new brewer or considering taking up the hobby?  Welcome!

Homebrewing is a hobby that can grow with you.

Getting Started
The basics of brewing are simple.  Even so, you probably have some of questions.

Books
I recommend starting with How to Brew by John Palmer.  This book can help you make a good beer your first time and act as a reference when you’re ready to master more advanced techniques.  The first edition of this book is available online, but I recommend picking up an updated and expanded print edition.

Also consider reading the book Beer Craft.  Beer Craft is a very well laid out, visually descriptive and easy to understand book on homebrewing.  Beer Craft’s simple techniques get you brewing small batch all grain recipes on your stovetop with minimal expense.

More great reads… Check out the Homebrewer’s Library selection of great homebrewing and beer books.

Online
Get involved in an active online forum.  You can generally get quick answers to questions here.

Step by Step Guide to Brewing Your First Extract Beer

Check out this illustrated, step by step post on brewing your first beer - Here

General Equipment Guidance
In an effort to save money, I have time and time again, under purchased.  Buying something that will do for the present, but will be quickly outdated.  If you’re excited about the hobby, think about where you want to end up and make purchases along those lines.  If you’re in doubt, buy the item with more capability.  I’m not saying buy a conical fermenter instead of a bucket.  Just ask yourself how long will I be able use this?  Is this something that will be helpful in the future?  If you think something will be outdated soon, save your money a little longer and make a purchase that won’t be outdated at the next step in your brewing evolution.

Starter Kits

  • Look for a solid starter kit.  These will generally have everything you need to get started and can save you some money.  Check out our homebrew shop sponsors for some great options.
  • Most often the items that are not included in a starter kit are: a kettle and bottles.  For the kettle, you may have a large stockpot around the house that will work to begin with.  For bottles, you can clean and re-use commercial pry-off style bottles.
  • Related Categories: Equipment KitsKettles

Cleaning/Sanitation

  • Equipment on the hot side of the process does not need to be sanitized just cleaned.  Don’t waste your time or sanitizer.
  • For cleaning and sanitation, my opinion, just use PBW (for cleaning) and Star San (for sanitation).  I’ve tried most things and these just work the best.  To me, these products are the gold standard for homebrewing cleaning and sanitation.
  • Star San is extremely economical if you use this technique to sanitize.
  • Related Categories: CleaningSanitation

Boiling

  • Buy a kettle that will work for extract AND all grain.  The cost is not significantly more.  My extract kettle now stores extra tubing.  That’s not great!  This kettle is stainless steel, 9 gallons and has two 1/2″ NPT ports.  These can be used for easy installation of a ball valve and a thermometer.
  • If you’re on a strict budget, consider an aluminum kettle.  Aluminum is a great metal for brew kettles.  Here’s a very helpful HBT post on the subject of aluminium vs stainless.  Along those lines, consider this Winware 10 gallon commercial quality kettle.  It can usually be had for under $50 shipped.
  • If you’re brewing outside on propane consider getting your tank refilled instead of swapping it.  Most propane tank swap services under fill.  The tank holds 20 lbs, refill places commonly fill to 15 lbs.  You’re only getting a 3/4 filled tank.  Find a local provider that fills your tank all the way up.  This is usually about the same price, supports local businesses and saves you time.
  • Related Categories: KettlesPropane Burners

Chilling

  • Initially an ice bath will work.
  • When you’re ready, consider an immersion chiller.  This is one of those purchases/builds that can grow with you.  Start out with a standard immersion chiller now and you can add a whirlpool arm later to upgrade it.
  • Related Category: Wort Chillers

Fermenting

  • Consider making a yeast starter if you’re using liquid yeast.
  • If you’re using dry yeast, consider properly rehydrating.  Check out Tip 1 on the tips page for my rehydration process.
  • Make fermentation temperature control one of your top priorities.  When you are able to concentrate on this get a digital temperature controller.  Analog controllers do not have the accuracy needed for fermentation.
  • Don’t be afraid to use buckets.  They can produce great beer, they are low cost and they are safe.
  • Use metric for yeast starters.  Water to DME ratio is always 10 to 1.  1,000 mL (1 L) to 100 grams of DME.  Example –  Need to make a 1.5 L Starter?  You need 150 grams of DME.
  • Related Categories: YeastYeast StartersFermentationFermentersTemp Control

Bottling/Kegging

  • Bottles can be had for free!  Save them, ask friends to save them or talk to your local bar.  I’ve had great success getting high quality Belgian/German bottles from a local bar.
  • You can save a bundle by buying keg o-rings in bulk.
  • Consider buying a used CO2 tank locally.  Many places do not have a local vendor that can refill tanks.  It makes no sense to buy a shiny new tank, pay to ship it only to have to swap it for an old, used tank.
  • CO2 tank.. the bigger the cheaper.  A 5 lb tank costs nearly the same to swap out as a 10 or 20 lb tank.  Get the largest tank you can fit in your setup.  It will easily pay for itself.
  • Related Categories: BottlingDraftFaucetsKegsKegeratorKegging SystemsTemp Control

All Grain

  • Extract brewing is a great way to start!  You can always brew all grain when you’re ready.  You’ll use much of the same equipment.
  • All grain brewing in a nutshell: soaking crushed grains in a measured amount of warm water, waiting (the mash), draining that liquid (now wort) and then, depending on what technique you’re using, rinsing those grains to get more sugars out of the mash.
  • All grain brewing is easy.  Brooklyn Brew Shop makes a start kit that sells for around $40 shipped.  It includes most of the equipment you’ll need (just add a stockpot and empty bottles) to start out brewing all grain right on your stove top.  You also get ingredients for your first batch.  Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA - here.
  • Related Categories: All GrainBIAB

Serving

  • An analog temperature controller will work for serving, but I still recommend a digital controller.  They don’t cost a lot more and they provide you with much more control.
  • For tubing, think about a disconnect system right away and get those as you add new lines.
  • Related Categories- DraftDisconnectsTemp Control

Specific Equipment and Supplies

How to Brew by John Palmer - This book can help you make a good beer your first time and be there as a reference when you’re ready master more advanced techniques when you’re ready.

Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer - A very well done, visual guide to homebrewing. 

Starter Equipment Kit - Just add a kettle, bottles and your selection of ingredient kit

Brooklyn Brew Beer Making Kit, Everyday IPA - around $40 shipped

An all grain equipment kit and recipe kit for around $40 shipped.

 

Recipe Kit - Choose out an ingredient kit to get started.  Extract is the easiest way to start out.  This is a great way to learn the brewing process.


9 Gallon Stainless Kettle - This will work for extract and 5 gallon all grain batches.  It has two built in 1/2″ NPT ports.  These make it easy to install a ball valve (for draining wort directly into your fermenter) and a thermometer.

9 Gallon Stainless Kettle 1 Port - $69.99

9 Gallon Stainless Steel Kettle with a welded 1/2″ NPT port.  This port allows you to easily add a ball valve without having to drill or deal with weldless kits.

Winware 10 gallon Professional Aluminum Stock Pot - Commercial quality kettle. Usually under $50 shipped.

PBW by Five Star Chemicals - You’ll use this to clean your fermenter and other equipment.  Cleaning is always a separate process from sanitizing.

Star San by Five Star Chemicals - You’ll use this to sanitize your fermenter, tubing and everything that comes in contact with post boil wort or beer.  Use the spray bottle technique to make this last a long, long time.

Ultraship Scale - Tare feature (subtract the weight of the container) and removable face for easy weighing of larger objects.

Fast Weigh Gram Scale - I recommend two scales.  One larger scale for weighing grain and a smaller, more accurate scale for weighing hops and more.  This scale is usually below $7.

Suppliers
There are a number of great suppliers available.  Homebrewing is generally a community based hobby.  That comes through loud and clear when you start dealing with a great supplier.  Check out the sponsors page for suppliers that I have personally worked with and recommend.  Make sure and tell them that you saw them on Homebrew Finds!

Next Steps

  • Subscribe to Homebrew Finds to keep up with the latest deals, news and product related tips.
  • Keep an eye on our Top Finds page.
  • Read our Tips page.
  • Join the AHA
  • Find a club to be involved in.
  • Find a great deal or product/supplier related tip?  Keep Homebrew Finds in the loop.  Submit a Tip!
  • Continue to participate in the Homebrewing community by staying active in forums.
  • Have fun!

Questions?  Email Homebrew Finds!