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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Brand new, but don't want extract - EQUIPMENT Q's
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:36 PM   #1
gleemonger
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Default Brand new, but don't want extract - EQUIPMENT Q's

Hey folks of the brewing world...

I'm a brand new brewer. I just got my first kit of equipment a few weeks ago and my first brew is still sitting in primary... an IPA kit that came with my set.

My goal is probably like most people - I want to get really good at brewing (and fast), so I'm not super interested in shortcuts. I hope to learn something on every single batch. I've already spent a good chunk of time becoming pretty good at TASTING beer, and have tried most of the styles out there... and now I'm finally ready to try brewing my favorites.

I bought my kit from Williams Brewing - it's a pretty nice kit with what seems to be most of what I need for now (actually recommended by a friend who's been brewing for a while) - here's the kit I got: COMPLETE BREWERY WITHOUT A KIT @ Williams Brewing

I got the set with their American IPA kit, since I love IPA's and wanted to start with something easy that didn't have any specialty grains or anything, so I could just see how the basic boiling, cooling, sanitizing, fermenting and bottling process works.

So far the kit seems pretty great, but I really don't like how it doesn't list any ingredients. I definitely learned about the initial process, but beyond this first brew, I wouldn't want to brew any kits that don't list the ingredients, since I wouldn't really learn much as far as ingredients and their combinations go. I plan to order my next kit from Austin Homebrew Supply, since they have a bunch of great clones of some of my favorite beers, they say they list all of the ingredients, and they offer extract, mini-mash or all-grain versions of all their kits.

Like I said, I want to learn something from every batch, and I can already tell that I'm not going to be super psyched on extract malts. SO HERE'S MY QUESTION (finally, sorry I'm so long winded, it's a problem): I want complete control over the whole process, which of course (to me) means going all grain, or at least partial grain. But I don't have a huge budget - I'm hoping to get by mostly with what I already have: ie, almost a nil budget. As you can see from the link of the kit I got above, it came with a 32 quart kettle with a KettleValve already installed, which has a thread on the inside for installing a KettleScreen, which they say can turn the pot into a mash tun. It sounds like all I need to get is their KettleScreen and I can use the pot as a mash tun. Given my small budget, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS FOR GOING ALL GRAIN? I don't plan on doing batches any larger than 5 gallons any time soon, so I'm hoping the 32 quart kettle will be large enough for everything - but is one kettle also enough for the whole process including boiling the wort? Other than the screen, would I just need a grain mill? Anything else?

I want to go as cheap as I can, but I also want to be sure I'm set up for at least a good chunk of batches, to brew 5 gallon or less batches and also learn things every time.......

I appreciate any help!!

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Old 12-15-2011, 08:50 PM   #2
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The only other piece of equipment you need is a mash tun. It can be done cheaply if youre resourceful. Your pot is big enough to do full boils but depending on your stove you probably will need a propane burner to get it to a nice boil.

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Old 12-15-2011, 08:50 PM   #3
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If you're just starting out, I'd recommend getting complete control over your process first. From sanitation to the final product ending in your gut. Once you nail that down, then re-evaluate what you need for All Grain or Extract with Steeping Grains...etc. Equipment doesn't make great brew....it just makes getting great brew easier or with less hassle. It's all about the process. Just my .02 of course.

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Old 12-15-2011, 08:51 PM   #4
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I would forget trying to mash in your boil kettle and just make a cheap cooler mashtun, it’s easier to keep your mash temperatures constant and your pot would otherwise need some sort of insulation. I know you said almost nil budget, but maybe you already own a cooler and then all you need is a couple dollars worth or parts at the hardware store.

Is it possible to get your LHBS to mill your grain? Grain mills are not cheap.

Only other equipment that I can think of would be a decent thermometer, assuming your kit didn't already come with one, and a propane burner for full boils.

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Old 12-15-2011, 08:57 PM   #5
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Probably least expensive in terms of equipment is Brew In A Bag (there is a sticky around here about it). Basically instead of 2 or 3 seperate vessels for yoru hot water tank, your mash tun, etc, you do similar to steeping grains, but all in one kettle/vessel.

you don't need a mill unless you buy uncracked grains. Most places will crack for you. Upside, no mill, down side cracked grains are less 'fresh' and go stale quicker.

Place not to skimp - ingredients. Sugar ferments just as fine as Malt or Malt extract - actually better because it is 100%.... BUT it will taste like CRAP because sugar has no flavors. And the beer will feel thin. Now some recepies will say 'add xlb of sugar' and that can be ok if that is the style, but don't just add sugar for the heck of it, or decide, 'I'll use 3lb of malt and 3 of sugar instead of 6 malt because sugar is less $$'

Another thing to look(listen) is the beersmith podcasts (available at apple) one called 'brewing on a budget' where the guest talks about ways to help save money in equipment and help save time.

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Old 12-15-2011, 08:58 PM   #6
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Make your mash tun.. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/chea...version-23008/

I would suggest either an extract with specialty grains or a partial mash kit next. They will give you an idea of what all grain entails.

Northern Brewer has great kits and do list all the ingredients.

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Old 12-15-2011, 09:34 PM   #7
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yeah, to be honest this is not a cheap hobby. You'll realize you need a burner to do full boil all grain, then you'll also need to build a mash tun, then you'll do fine for a while with the 32 quart pot, but you'll eventually want to upgrade to a 10 gallon pot (which, if you go aluminum, is relatively inexpensive), then you'll realize after a batch or so that its hard to maintain proper fermentation temperatures for all your brews so you'll want to build a ferm chamber, and if you haven't gotten tired of bottling by now...well, you probably will soon and then you'll look into kegging equipment

Anyways my point is, you will always be spending money in this hobby, especially if you think this is your calling and you will stick with it for a long time. So don't skimp along the way, because you'll end up spending more in the long run. Figure out what your main goal is, and save up for it. Even if you have to buy a little at a time.

The easiest way to do all-grain is a propane burner, 8-10 gallon pot (10 gallon preferred), a large enough pot to heat up your water needed, and a mash tun. If you want to try, you can use this method: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/easy...ng-pics-90132/

but like i said...you'll always want bigger and better things

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Old 12-15-2011, 09:57 PM   #8
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You can go the brew-in-a-bag route and spend very little money. You can buy some 5 gallon paint strainer bags from your local home improvement store. Cost for a bag: About five bucks.

If you have about 50 bucks or so, you can buy a corona mill and mill your own grains. I know some people are likely to disagree with me, but I'd rather own a mill than own a mash/lauter tun (MLT). The problems with buying pre-milled grains are that 1) you may not get a very good crush and 2) any unused grains will have to be pitched after a couple of weeks, so it wastes a good deal of money in the long run. I like setting my own crush and I like being able to store whole kernels of grain for as long as I need them. Here's a good thread about setting up a grain mill cheaply

If you have a spare cooler sitting around, you could make your own mash/lauter tun (MLT) with a few parts to make a manifold and valve. Cost for the parts and valve: about $20 to $50.

And then the next step would be making a hot liquor tank (HLT). Basically just a big pot to boil water in, and a valve to drain the water out. Cost can vary wildly.

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Old 12-15-2011, 10:05 PM   #9
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Awesome, thanks for all the super quick replies - this forum is the best!

So what I'm hearing, then, is that even though the 32qt kettle I got can be turned into a mash tun by just buying the $15 screen and attaching it to the spigot, I'm better off going the cooler route for the sake of temp control. I kind of was thinking that, but was just hoping the screen would be a cheaper option than the cooler and all the parts. Actually, though, I do have a cooler I might be able to sacrifice - it's one of those big, rectangle, roller ones, like this: http://www.amazon.com/Quart-Ultimate..._sim_sbs_sg_18

There is actually already a drain hole in there (not a spigot), but I'm not sure if it'll be the right size to install the necessary parts - but maybe close enough? If I can get all the parts I need for not much more than the screen for my kettle, maybe that's a better route then in the long run.

OTHER COMMENTS ADDRESSED:
- "depending on your stove you probably will need a propane burner to get it to a nice boil" - Yeah, this was actually one of my first issues I ran into with my first batch - I only have an electric stove, and had a hell of a time getting a rolling boil. I'm anticipating this to be an issue in the final results, not to mention just being a stupid issue - since xmas is around the corner, I actually put a good propane burner on my xmas list, along with a propane tank... so hopefully that problem is fixed next round.
- "I'd recommend getting complete control over your process first. From sanitation to the final product ending in your gut". I agree, for sure, I'm just kind of impatient and want to make the most out of each batch... and I'm a pretty quick study (plus I've been reading this forum endlessly). I definitely got over some hurdles and figured out some things I need to address for my next batch (which I don't plan to be an all-grain batch) - but I just know I'll want to get to some form of grain mashing sooner rather than later.
- "a decent thermometer" - I don't know - mine came with one of those candy thermometers... it's pretty long and can latch onto the side of the pot. Maybe there are better ones, but seems okay I guess. Unless there are other cheap options that are better...
- "Brew in a Bag" - Yeah, I've been reading up on that, and it sounds pretty great. I'm sure I'll probably try that at some point just to see if I enjoy the process and feel I can achieve the same results. Either way, though, since I'm already 90% there with a mash tun using either my kettle or maybe my existing cooler, I'll probably start with that first.
- "Is it possible to get your LHBS to mill your grain? Grain mills are not cheap." - That's a good thought. I was thinking I wanted to try and buy in bulk to save money, but maybe that's something I do later on, and just start by having someone mill the grain for me first, thanks.
- "I would suggest either an extract with specialty grains or a partial mash kit next." Yeah, actually I'm thinking the same thing - at least for my next one or two. I've already decided on my next kit as a matter of fact - most likely the Fuller's London Porter clone kit from AHS, which does include specialty grains with the extract version (the IPA I just did included none, so it was SUPER basic). I just need to decide if I want to jump to the mini-mash version or just stick with the extract this time and just add the new process of steeping the specialty grains.....
- "yeah, to be honest this is not a cheap hobby" - I'm pretty quickly realizing that, actually. But that's cool... I'm sure I can convince the wife to allow it in the budget once I've cranked out a few great beers... luckily she does appreciate good beer too.

Thanks again for all your help!

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Old 12-15-2011, 10:21 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the great replies! This is such an awesome forum. Damn, I've been trying to post a kind of long reply that brings in comments on specific comments from people, but it never seems to make it through... not sure what I'm doing wrong. Maybe it's too long or something? We'll see if this gets through, and if so, maybe I'll post shorter messages that just answer specific comments at a time...

Thanks again!

Yeah, it got through immediately... so maybe I was being too long-winded again. I'll address comments individually... after I go to some stupid meeting here at work, ha.

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