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Old 08-16-2012, 04:35 PM   #1
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Default Advice for upgrade?

Hey, folks! I was planning on making another purchase to my growing collection of beer making supplies this weekend, and I am at a bit of an impasse. I would like to get into AG brewing soon, since I discovered with mini mash kits that a) I think that the smell of the warm grains is heavenly and b) I just think it seems more fun to me to turn cereal grains into wort instead of syrup or powder mixing with water.

I am also about to bottle in the next week or so, and I was toying with the idea of buying a kegging kit.

I am not able to jump in and make purchases for both setups, but I could do one or the other, but which is more bang for the buck, as it were? I was thinking if I did the keg kit, I'd also need a mini fridge or chest freezer to go with it, and that would be it. If I went with the all grain setup (I think I saw a good one from Midwest that was already assembled) I'd have some budget left over to toss in a few cases of swingtop style bottles and maybe another fermenter. With the kegging setup, I would also still need a beer gun or something in order to share my brew with my family out of state.

Any suggestions for which type of addition is better in the end would be appreciated

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:43 PM   #2
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The first thing I'd think about is how much you like your beer.

What I mean is this- is the beer pretty perfect, and you love drinking it? If so, go with kegging.

But if you think, "This beer is good, but it might be better", then go with some steps to fix that first. If you don't have a big enough pot for full boils, for example, then get a big pot and a burner first. In other words, make sure you're making great beer before kegging. There is no sense in spending the money to keg so-so beer, in my opinion.

You do NOT have to go AG to make great beer, as you can keep doing partial mashes and make wonderful beer. But there are a few things that you may not have that can make the beer you're making better- like doing a full boil (and you can use the same pot and burner when you do go AG), having temperature control for fermentation (again, you'll need that later on, too), and so on.

So, if you let us know what you already have, we might be able to help point you in the right direction which may or may not be kegging and/or AG.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:45 PM   #3
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There are a lot of considerations in that. I built my kegerator and started kegging before going all-grain because I lived in an apartment at the time and didn't have the space for AG, and I hate bottling. On the flip side, if you have the space going AG well worth it. You can easily build your on MT instead of spending a premium on having someone else do it for you. You will also want a couple kettles of adequate size for the HLT and BK (minimum 40qt for 5 gallon brews IMO) with valves, some form of chiller, and obviously means to heat the liquid.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:49 PM   #4
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If you're thinking of going all grain the first thing you should buy is a 8 gallon pot. That way you can stick to extract/partial mash while doing a full boil which can be argued will improve your overall product. If you do this thought, depending on the size/power of your stove you may also need to buy a propane burner which you will need eventually anyways. Then, when you're ready you can buy a mashtun to get to your full all grain set up. You could look into Denny's cheap and easy batch sparging system which could save you some money over the fully assembled kits from Midwest although they may not look as fancy.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:51 PM   #5
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^That said, kegging is awesome but more of an upfront investment. Once you get one keg set up you need two, and once you get two you need three, and then you need a different freezer to get four in there and since your buying a new freezer you might as well have six kegs....

Kegging can really snowball on you to a pretty big chunk of cash.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:53 PM   #6
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You can get an all-grain setup together for a lot less than you can get a kegging setup together. I made the switch from extract to AG for about $100. I got a nice brew kettle for $80 off instawares.com, its a commercial stock pot, no valves or anything, but its nice. I converted a cooler I had for about $20. You need a cooler for a mash tun, and two kettles, a big one to boil in and one to heat water in. You can switch cheap. If you are brewing on your stove, you may need a propane burner to hit a full boil with a full batch so add in another $50-100 for a decent burner. You could also dump thousands into a tiered setup with Blichmann kettles and all, but that isn't necessary to make great all grain beer.

I've been pricing up kegging setups for myself as well, and I've been looking at $500 or so at the low end to get a setup going, if i can find a really cheap fridge/freezer on craigslist. So... Im still bottling Like you said for the keg setup, you need the mini fridge or chest freezer, Corny kegs at $50 or more each, CO2 tanks, regulator, etc, etc. It adds up fast. The beer gun will cost you $80 ish.

I made the switch to all grain a lot cheaper than i can piece together a keg setup. if you're on a tight budget, I'd jump to AG. If you have a grand or so to throw around, you can do both, if you shop good.

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Old 08-16-2012, 04:56 PM   #7
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Yoop nailed it. Kegging gets you convenience but doesn't improve your beer necessarily. Let us know what you have and we can better brainstorm with you. Before I went all grain, I'd insure I had fermentation temperature control locked down. Do you have a process/equipment for yeast starters? That would also be high on the list. I'd then insure I could support full volume boils - including cooling. Once I got these things down, then I'd be looking into either more control of the process (all grain / partial mash) and or convenience/packaging (kegging).

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Old 08-16-2012, 05:00 PM   #8
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all grain is fun and all but you will definitely get more enjoyment from keggin

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Old 08-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #9
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Oh, and one other thing to consider- how much do you hate bottling? I ask that because I bottled 200 batches before kegging. I didn't really hate it enough to make the jump, so I went AG long before I started kegging.

Some people hate bottling, to the point where they don't want to brew any more because it's such a chore. If that's what you feel, then it makes kegging more of a priority. But if you have room to store bottles, and don't despise the bottling process, then it would be of a much lower priority.

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Old 08-16-2012, 05:05 PM   #10
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If you go the AG route look at what is in the kits, search the DIY threads and piece together what you need. There are different options depending on what type of AG brewing you decide to do. With a kit you will probably be getting things that you don't need because they have to cover a lot of bases.

Also you can get some accessories that will help in extract or PM brewing and use them while you assemble your AG setup.

You can also save quite a bit of $$.

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