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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > Brewing on the cheap...
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Old 07-05-2006, 07:55 PM   #1
somekramers
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Default Brewing on the cheap...

Hi all! I am planning on buying my hubby equipment to get started on home brewing. However, we have a limited income and want to get the most bang for my buck, so to speak! I have looked at a lot of the starter kits at different sites, and wonder if it might be cheaper (if not up front, in the long run) to buy the equipment seperately.

What basics can't you do without? I've read that the hydrometer is not necessary, and that bleach can work as well as sanitizer. Obviously, I am looking at buying fermentation bucket, carboy, airlock, capper, bottles, and some materials to brew with. What else is a necessity? What will make brewing easier (and less likely to explode, which is what happened to my dad's only attempt at homebrewing!) I have most basic cooking tools already. Please let me know of any equipment substitutions you've had luck with!

Thanks for your advice!

-Lori

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Old 07-05-2006, 08:11 PM   #2
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IMO...
If you are planning on saving money in the short term...
Go cheap on your fixed cost items but do not compromise on you ingredients or your consumables. Once you have few batches under your belt and you are sure that this hobby is for you, it will become clearer which items to upgrade.

By using the best ingredients and honing your methods, you will be able to make quality beer. If you can resist the gadget bug for a year or two and resist the urge to buy, you will come out ahead. If you cannot commit to that, I'm afraid that you will end up rebuying better quality stuff thereby losing your short term savings. A dilemma, I'm sure you understand.


Carboy is a nice to have and not required.
Using bleach (a consumable) really doesn't save you a great deal of money.

Finally, what kind of brew pot do you have (basic cooking tools?)

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Old 07-05-2006, 08:44 PM   #3
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I would recomend getting a hydrometer. It tells you the alcohol content of your beer and tells you when it is ready to be bottled...

You might be able to get a bottling bucket that you could use as a fermenter.

look here at these kits.. http://www.northernbrewer.com/starterkits.html

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Old 07-05-2006, 08:51 PM   #4
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I, on the other hand, would recommend buying the deluxe kit as they usually give you more items for your money.

REASON: You'll probably buy that extra stuff anyway and pay more for it.

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Old 07-05-2006, 08:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olllllo
Using bleach (a consumable) really doesn't save you a great deal of money.
I'd disagree with that in terms of how much she'll have to lay out to get started. She's trying to get her hubby started with a minimum cost. Not buying a new bottle of a consumable product and using something you already own is definately going to lower one's initial bill. Seeing as you're talking about a couple tablespoons of bleach eveyr few weeks you're really not going to miss it from your normal clothes washing.

If you already buy plain, unscented bleach then there's no need to buy a no rinse sanitizer because you already have one (given that he uses the bleach properly).
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Old 07-05-2006, 09:03 PM   #6
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The hydrometer you can probably live without. It will help you make sure that fermentation is complete, but I think you would be better off spending that $20 on a carboy as a secondary. Knowing the alcohol content it nice, but you'll be able to see the beer ferment by watching the airlock. If you can't take a gravity reading, the risk is that you might bottle before fermentation is complete (and that's when you risk "bottle bombs"). If you use a secondary, the risk of fermentation being incomplete is minimal, since it will be conditioning for two weeks before you bottle. Makes better beer, too.

If you are careful, though, you can get by without a hydrometer even if you DON'T use a secondary. Just make sure you leave the beer long enough in the primary, don't be in a rush to bottle after four days.

Since it sounds like you will be using your regular kitchen utensils, I would just caution to make sure you sanitize really, REALLY well. Ideal is to have a dedicated set of utensils for brewing, but understand that's tough to do at first.

But, this doesn't have to be a terribly expensive hobby. Since you're going to drink beer anyway, it'll pay for itself before long!

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Old 07-05-2006, 09:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99
I, on the other hand, would recommend buying the deluxe kit as they usually give you more items for your money.

REASON: You'll probably buy that extra stuff anyway and pay more for it.
I'm with you on this point. These kits are not a million bucks and it's a good idea to start off on the right foot. The experience will be more enjoyable with the right tools. You do love him don't you?


On the "easier" front, I'd like to have you make sure you have a pot, preferably stainless steel, that is capable of boiling 2-3 gallons of wort (read: liquid sugar) with enough headroom to avoid boilovers. I wish I had my current pot when first starting out. It would have removed many tense moments and not just some of the enjoyment factor.


My .02

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Old 07-05-2006, 09:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kornkob
(given that he uses the bleach properly).
Point taken, provided that your assumption holds true.

I, for one, have been banned from the laundry room. Guys tend to over do bleach (sometimes on purpose.)

Brewing saitizers are designed for the job and are more difficult to screw up.
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Old 07-05-2006, 10:07 PM   #9
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I can see this is going to turn into another bleach vs. no rinse sanitizer thread so I'll go ahead and fan the fire:
IF you dilute the bleach the right amount it shouldn't create an off flavor but, being paranoid as I am, I don't want to risk ruining a batch with a chlorine off taste so I'd rinse.. ah but now I just undid whatever sanitizing I accomplished... back to the "how sanitary is the tap water?" question. I say if you use bleach you'll be unable to resist the urge to rinse and if you rinse then you ought to do it with boiled and cooled water.. what a pain. Just spend the $8 on some star san and be done with it. Besides, star san won't lend off flavors to your brew if you use it at higher than recommended concentrations (unlike bleach).

Now, as for your items:
You absolutely need a bottling bucket, bottling wand, capper, racking cane, hose, primary (you'll want glass soon but if you just can't afford it then go with a plastic bucket for the time being), stoppers and airlocks. You'll need about 50 pop top bottles (not twist off) you can buy these empty but they're expensive or you can buy the bottles with beer in them but they're even more expensive this way There are a bunch of threads discussing what bottles cap easily with a butterfly capper and what bottles have that narrow neck..

It'd be nice to have a secondary (this must be glass) and hydrometer. For many the secondary is a must have item.. it does greatly improve the beer by letting it age in bulk and you have clearer beer as a lot of the yeast will fall out of suspension during aging. Remember, the better the beer the greater the incentive to continue with the hobby. BTW, if you get a glass carboy for either primary or secondary use then you'll need a carboy brush.

You also must have some sort of large pot big enough for 4 or 5 gallons (assuming he'll start with partial boils). A larger pot is very desirable as the wort (beer) will easily boil out of the pot during the hot break. Until you move outside with a turkey fryer setup a boilover can be quite a hot and sticky mess all over your stove. Aluminum, stainless, or ceramic are all fine materials for the boil pot. If you use ceramic do make certain the coating is intact, any cracks or chips will allow the wort to contact the steel and you'll have a metallic off flavor as a result.

The real way to save money is, I think, by skimping on the ingredients and not the equipment. Start with lower gravity beers (less of that expensive extract is needed) and use dry yeast.. there's no need for liquid unless your making some exotic style and need a particular strain to keep the brew true to form.. this just isn't something a beginner even needs to start thinking about. And don't bother with yeast starters either.

Now, the best way to make beer cheaper is to go all grain since grain is considerably cheaper than extract but.. well.. we won't go there

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Old 07-05-2006, 10:24 PM   #10
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On the bleach / no rinse issue....

The compromise that I've come to is to use bleach for my carboys and buckets, but no-rinse cleaner for the other things (hoses, racking canes, etc.). The glass carboys are easy to rinse, and I like to let them soak for a while. I'm not paranoid about rinsing with tap water, I'll take my chances. The other stuff, I just mix up a gallon or two of sanitizer and have it in a big rubbermaid container where I soak everything. Works fine for me.

As to the ingredients, I wouldn't skimp there. You don't have to make a barleywine right off, but don't buy the cheapest kit, either. If you like something a little bit lighter, great, you won't need as much extract, but the decision to buy mediocre ingredients will have more of an impact on the quality of the final product than anything else being discussed here. I do agree with the dry yeast, that's all I've used so far and things have been fine.

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