Make Your Own Beer! – Start Home Brewing – New Brewers Guide

Deluxe Homebrew Starter KitPictured: Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit via MoreBeer

Are you a new home brewer or considering taking up the hobby?  Welcome!  Homebrewing is an awesome hobby that can grow with you!  You can start out very inexpensively and upgrade when and if you’re ready.

There are a lot of how-tos, books and starter guides out there for new homebrewers.  Since we deal with a lot of equipment and suppliers our guide includes some general information to get you going as well as some equipment and shopping tips.  I’ve personally, made a lot of purchasing mistakes.  This guide aims to help you make informed decisions come time to purchase your gear and supplies.

Included In This Guide:

  • Getting Started – The Basics of Homebrewing
  • Homebrewing Books
  • Getting Involved With the Homebrewing Community
  • Step by Step Guide to Brewing Your First Extract Beer
  • General Home Brewing Equipment Guidance – “Master Plan” Your Purchases
  • Finding the Right Home Brewing Starter Kit
  • The One Thing Most Starter Kits Get Wrong
  • Cleaning and Sanitation for Homebrewing
  • The Boil
  • Chilling Your Wort
  • Fermentation Equipment and Process Tips
  • Scales for Hops and More
  • Thermometers for Homebrewing
  • Bottling and Kegging Your Beer
  • All Grain Homebrewing
  • Serving Your Homebrew
  • Specific Equipment, Supplies and Supplier Tips
  • Great Homebrew Shops!
  • Deal Landing Pages – dynamically updated
  • Next Steps

Getting Started – The Basics of Homebrewing

The basics of brewing are simple, beer almost wants to make itself.  Even so, you probably have some of questions.

Homebrewing 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 for free, but the text has been updated an expanded several times since.  I recommend picking up this great title in print form.

More great reads… Check out the Homebrewer’s Library selection of great homebrewing and craft beer books.  Those titles cover the basics through advanced brewing, recipe formulation, beer tasting and lots more.

Getting Involved With the Homebrewing Community

Generally speaking, homebrewing is a dynamic and helpful community of people.  Getting involved is fun and can be a great source of knowledge.

Step by Step Guide to Brewing Your First Extract Beer

Check out our illustrated, step by step guide on brewing your first beer – Brewing Your First Extract Beer, Illustrated Step by Step – this starts with unboxing an equipment kit, continues to brewing, fermentation and bottling and ends with you pouring your first homebrewed beer.

General Home Brewing 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.  “Master Plan” your purchases.  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 thing?  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.

Finding the Right Home Brewing Starter Kit

  • Look for a solid starter kit.  These will generally have everything you need to get started and can save you some money.  This kit from MoreBeer [Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit] includes everything you will need including a kettle and recipe kit.  The only thing you’ll need are bottles which can easily be saved up from commercial beers.
  • It’s possible that a starter kit may include a few items you won’t need.  Example: it may include a bottling bucket, capper and bottle filler and you’re planning to start kegging right away.  If you’re very knowledgeable you may be able to skip the kit and buy individual items.  In general, my recommendation is to just buy a kit.  These are designed by experts who sell homebrew supplies every day.  You’ll probably need most things in the kit and they are generally discounted vs buying individual items.
  • 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 Category: Equipment Kits – Deal Roundup Page: Recent Kettles

The One Thing Most Starter Kits Get Wrong

Most starter equipment kits, that I’ve seen, get one thing wrong.  You’ll typically get a good supply of sanitizer.  Even an 8 ounce bottle of Star San can last a long, long time – See: Star San Tips, Tricks and Guidelines – Using Star San In a Spray Bottle.  Here’s what they get wrong… homebrew cleanser.  A lot of times you’ll get only a few ounces of cleaner, sometimes not even enough to complete your first batch from beginning to end.  Do yourself a favor and get a tub of PBW right away.  Five Star PBW, 4 lbs – via Amazon

Cleaning and Sanitation for Homebrewing

  • Equipment on the hot side of the process does not need to be sanitized… it only needs to be cleaned thoroughly.  Don’t waste your time or sanitizer.
  • Cleaning is always a separate process from sanitizing.
  • For cleaning and sanitation, my opinion, just use PBW (for cleaning) and Star San (for sanitation).  I’ve tried lots of cleaners and sanitizers and these just work the best, in my opinion.  To me, these products are the gold standard for homebrewing cleaning and sanitation.
  • Pro Tip: Star San is extremely economical if you use what I’ve termed the spray bottle technique.  This is outlined in our post Star San Tips, Tricks and Guidelines – Using Star San In a Spray Bottle which happens to be one of our most popular posts of all time.
  • Recommendation: Buy 4 or 8 lb sizes of PBW.  The 1 lb size is too small and generally costs much more per lb vs the larger sizes.
  • Related Categories: CleaningSanitation

The Boil

  • 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 from MoreBeer is stainless steel, 9 gallons, has two 1/2″ NPT ports and a ball valve.
  • If you’re on a strict budget, consider an aluminum kettle.  Consider this Winware 10 gallon commercial quality kettle.  Another budget option is a tamale steamer pot.  These can be found in larger sizes (32 quarts) and sometimes include a false bottom that can be helpful if you choose to brew BIAB.  Example – IMUSA USA MEXICANA-30 Aluminum Tamale and Steamer Steamer Pot 32-Quart via Amazon
  • If you’re brewing outside on a propane burner 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.  See: Propane Tips – Refill vs Swaps and Extra Tanks
  • Related Categories: KettlesPropane Burners – Deal Roundup Page: Recent Kettles

Chilling Your Wort

  • Initially an ice bath will probably 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

Fermentation Equipment and Process Tips

  • Consider making a yeast starter if you’re using liquid yeast.  Brewing software, like BeerSmith has calculators to help you determine what size yeast starter you should use.
  • 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.  See: Hands On Review: Inkbird ITC-308 Dual Stage Temperature Controller
  • Don’t be afraid to use buckets.  They can produce great beer.
  • Skip siphoning.  Look for a fermenter option that has a removable spigot so you can drain directly into your keg or bottling bucket.  I say removable because this is something you’re going to want to clean and sanitize.
  • 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

Scales for Hops and More

To begin with you should get a smaller gram scale to accurately weigh hops and smaller amounts of ingredients.  Consider: American Weigh Scale AWS-100 Digital Pocket Scale, 100g X 0.01g Resolution [Hands On Review]

If you transition to all grain brewing, I recommend a two scale approach.  A smaller gram scale for smaller, more precise measurements and a larger scale (both physically larger and larger capacity) scale for weighing grain.  Consider: UltraShip 55 lb. Digital Postal Shipping & Kitchen Scale [Hands On Review]

Deal Roundup Page: Homebrew Scale Deals, Discounts and Coupons & Reviews

Thermometers for Homebrewing

A good thermometer is a must have for homebrewing.  You can skip it for a while, but you should pick one up when the time is right.

  • Thermapen Mk4 by ThermoWorks – This update to the beloved Thermapen series includes auto rotating display, backlight, uses (easy to find) AAA batteries and… waterproof.  Add that to extremely quick response times and amazing accuracy and any homebrewer, bbq-er or home chef would love to have one of these. [Hands On Review]
  • CDN DTQ450X – via Amazon –The CDN DTQ450X is a great homebrewing thermometer! [Hands On Review]

Bottling and Kegging Your Beer

  • 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.  A soak in warm/hot PBW can help clean the inside and also helps you get old labels off.
  • I like bottling on clean bottles that are still wet with properly mixed Star San.
  • 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 a used tank.
  • CO2 tank.. the bigger the cheaper to fill or swap.  At least for me, 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.
  • We have a treasure trove of information when you’re ready to start kegging!  See: Our Top Draft and Kegerator Resource Pages & Tips and Gear for your Kegerator
  • Related Categories: Bottling, Bottles, DraftFaucetsKegsKegeratorKegging SystemsTemp Control

All Grain Homebrewing

  • 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 typically sells for a very reasonable price.  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.  See: Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit: All-Grain Starter Set – ALSO – see our step by step on small batch stove top all grain: Small Batch, All Grain Stove Top Brewing + Water Calculation Spreadsheet – that technique makes the transition from extract to small batch all grain very simple and economical.
  • Resource Page: All Grain Tips and Gear
  • Related Categories: All GrainBIAB

Serving Your Homebrew

Specific Equipment, Supplies and Supplier Tips

Great Homebrew Shops!

There are a number of great suppliers out there.  Homebrewing is generally a community based hobby.  That comes through loud and clear when you start dealing with a great supplier.  The following list of shops are shops that I’ve worked with (in some cases for over a decade) that I can recommend to you.

  • MoreBeer – great selection, great customer service.  MoreBeer manufacturers some of their own equipment and is a leading supplier.  They also have one of the best shipping deals available.  Most orders ship for free to addresses in the lower 48 US states with a $59 order.
  • Adventures in Homebrewing – Outstanding shop that can have some outstanding (sometimes borderline unbelievable) prices on kegs, kettles and lots more.  AIH is awesome.
  • William’s Brewing – a homebrewing legend.  Lots of original kits (both beer and wine) along with original equipment.  Willam’s is an awesome place to give your business.
  • Keg Connection – can have some really, really outstanding deals on kegs and more.  They also offer flat rate shipping site wide with no exclusions.  Good selection of CMBecker QDs and faucets and they also have an excellent selection of draft parts and pieces and repair parts along with both homebrew and commercial kegerators
  • Beer and Wine Hobby – family run homebrew shop in the Boston area
  • Bell’s Brewery General Store – Bell’s Beer has deep homebrew roots.  That continues with their homebrew shop.  They offer direct-from-the-brewer clone kits of some Bell’s Beers as well as a good lineup of homebrewing gear and supplies.  They have some consistently low prices on Candi Sugars as well as StirStarter Stir Plates.
  • Beverage Elements – specializes mostly in kegs and kegging systems but also sells kettles and more.
  • The Brew Bag – focus on quality BIAB bags in both ready made sizes and made to order sizes.  BIAB related accessories like gloves, pulleys and stubby thermometers are also available at The Brew Bag
  • Brew Hardware – run by Bobby M, a smart and experienced homebrewer.  Bobby has some super amazing, original equipment and great everyday low prices.  Great shop and great gear!
  • Great Fermentations – located in Indiana.  Great Fermentations has a stellar lineup of Blichmann gear and parts.  They are generally one of the first shops to pickup new Blichmann merchandise.  Prices are generally a little higher here, although Blichmann prices are the same as other shops.
  • GrogTag – Offer custom high quality, professional quality, reusable beer and wine labels and lots more customized gear including coasters, caps, tap handles and more.  Using our link should save you 10% site wide.
  • Home Brew Supply – Flat Rate shipping and access to some unique lines like Sabco Brewmagic.  You’ll see some overlap with Keg Connection as the two are the same company.
  • Label Peelers – located in Ohio right next to the warehouse of a large homebrew distributor, Label Peelers can have some great prices.  Somehow they also have generally great availability on harder to find hops.
  • Love2brew – New Jersey shop that offers some hard to find yeast strains – East Coast Yeast and the Yeast Bay.  Calculated shipping can be expensive, but this is easily fixed as most orders ship for free when you spend $75.
  • Pro Flow Dynamics – not strictly a homebrew shop, but Pro Flow Dynamics has some stellar prices on fittings, QDs, kettle accessories, sight glasses, ball valves and more.

Deal Landing Pages

We offer deal landing pages for select suppliers and for select types of items.  These are dynamically updated and should help you get up to speed quickly.  Some also offer related resource posts, tips and reviews.

Next Steps

  • Connect With Homebrew Finds! – keep up with the latest deals, new equipment and ingredients, industry news, reviews, resources and product related tips.
  • 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!

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