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Old 09-22-2012, 09:32 PM   #1
CapnMorgan
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Default Need help getting started with my equipment

OK...I have been lurking on the site for a while and reading a lot of different posts. All in all, I need just a little direction to make sense of what would be the best way to get started. Here is a little back story...

1. I bought a starter kit about 15 years ago and still have some of the supplies available. (I tried to make mead but think it made a better drain cleaner since I poured it down the tub.) I still have the glass carboy, a brush, a bin full of 12oz long neck bottles and a few 1 liter bottles (flip top), and a capper and caps.
2. I know I need a kettle, burner (not doing this in the house on the stove), funnels, sanitizer, wand and tubing, and ingredients.
3. I have a book of 200 recipes that I bought at the Tractor Supply store (which is why am considering doing this again) and the Complete Joy of Home Brewing. I don't need any more books.

What I need help with is deciding on which way to go:
*Pre-assembled kits and bottling all of my beer.
*Buying a Beermeister and kegging my beer.

My ultimate point is that I don't want to keep spending money for the next big thing. I am stuck in the dilemma of spending a lot up front for the good stuff or going the cheaper route to get started again. Any guidance would be great. I have some time to make the decision but otherwise I am thinking myself into circles.

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Old 09-22-2012, 10:02 PM   #2
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You already have bottles, so I would probably go with that until you can start focusing on kegging. Seems there is a lot of upfront cost with kegging like the funds for fridge or freezer, temp controller, C02 bottle, kegs, etc. You could build up a small inventory of bottled brew to get you going while you're saving for a keg setup. Another option to help is going with some small batch brews. It's easier to boil 2-3 gallons of water on an electric stove than 5 gallons, if 5 is even possible. Plus with smaller batches, you don't have to worry about partial boils and longer wort cooling times. You can get a 2 or 3 gallon kettle, strainer, funnel, etc. cheap at places like Walmart. For things like the wand and tubing, sanitizer, bottle caps (don't forget those!) etc. just order those along with the recipe kit(s).

I'm slowly working off my first batch, American Wheat, and have a second batch fermenting (Nut Brown), so I'll have enough bottled beer to last me while I'm piecing together my keg setup. I also ordered a couple of 1 gallon recipes from Northern Brewer last night, so that will be more to add to my pipeline and also have a bit more variety in the old beer fridge.

Hope this helps and good luck!


EDIT: just in case you're not (assuming) financially able to get what you want, this is the best time to read up here and elsewhere to increase your brewing prowess. 70% of my time on here has just been reading and what not. Heck, you could probably go through that recipe book and start making a list if ingredients you want for the first few recipes you want to brew.

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Kegged: St Paddy's Irish Stout, Chocolate Milk Stout. La Petite Orange, Dead Ringer IPA
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:18 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Yesfan. I was trying to decide how much I really wanted to invest in doing this. Go all the way with everything I need for kegging or just what I needed to make my first batch and bottle it? I am getting spun in circles with my line of thinking on both.

I think I will go with the bottling option to start it off. If it turns out that I like what I make I will move on to the kegs. If I don't like it, maybe I will just bottle some soda!

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Old 09-23-2012, 11:07 PM   #4
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What size batches are you looking to brew?

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Old 09-24-2012, 12:38 PM   #5
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My recipe book calls for 5 gallon recipes. I like the thought of that because I wanted to start this project with the long term in mind.

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Old 09-24-2012, 05:38 PM   #6
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I always recommend equipment that will grow with you. Most people start with 5gal batches and quickly dream of doing 10gals....

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Old 09-24-2012, 05:43 PM   #7
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1) Make sure you start off with an 10-11 gallon stainless steel boil kettle. MOST newbies go cheap and start with a 4-5 gallon kettle and 95% of them that stick with the hobby quickly upgrade to 10-11 gallons.

2) Get a Blichmann burner. Beyond looking cool, it uses about 1/2 of the propane that my old SP-10 burner did. I did the math the other day, and just the savings in propane means the Blichmann will pay for itself vs. old my SP-10 in about 17 batches. I bust out about 35 batches a year, so that's a no brainer in my book! If money's tight, at the very least get one of the Bayou Classic burners with the BG14 banjo burner in it (they start around $45-50). Don't waste your money on the wildly inefficient budget burners, they are propane hogs.

3) Get PBW as your staple cleanser. It's a little pricier than the alternatives, but works MUCH better, and is worth every penny IMHO. If you buy it in bulk, it is cheaper than buying oxyclean from the grocery store. 8 lbs is about $35 at my LHBS, and lasts about a year for me. Also note that it's much much more effective when you use it with hot water.

4) Use StarSan as your sanitizer. Again, it's the best, and you don't want to skimp when it comes to sanitation. I messed with Idophor for a few months when I first started brewing, and wish I had started using StarSan sooner. Again, buy it in bulk and it's about 40% of the cost of the smaller bottles. A 16 oz bottle lasts me about a year,and costs about $20 at my LHBS. 32oz is $30, so you can see how more = cheaper over the long run.

4) Get an autosiphon. I brewed for two years before I got one, and wish I had it from the start. SOOOOO convenient, and pretty cheap.

5) The only thing I see missing from your list is a big stainless steel brewing spoon. Don't buy this from a homebrew site. You can get the SAME exact thing at Target/Wal-Mart for 1/2 the price. I have both a stainless steel spoon and one of the plastic ones, and hardly ever use my plastic one anymore.

Good luck!

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Old 09-24-2012, 06:09 PM   #8
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start out bottling... You can bottle for maybe $40 if not cheaper, bucket (any food grade container that you can drill a hole in and will hold all your brew will do), a wand, a capper, and some caps.

Kegging would set you back hundreds. A fridge or freezer, a temp controller, a coupler, a tap, a Co2 tank, a regulator, a couple corny kegs.

For the most part, homebrewing is a cheap hobby, but kegging takes a small investment, so there's no need to start there IMO.

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Old 09-25-2012, 12:52 AM   #9
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Thanks for the advice from all of you. I finally found my "local" home brew supply. Had to look in another state...guess Google couldn't find it across the state line (about 10 miles). While their prices are a little higher than some of the websites that I have found gear on, I think it will be worth it since they also sell 20 different beers for my growler. That should help ease the wait for my home brew to get ready! I plan on taking all this advice to the store to make sure that I get what you guys have recommended. Now that I have found some place near and don't have to order it online, it has taken a lot of stress off.

Also, thanks for the advice on the kettles and burners. I was actually thinking of going cheap but I am sure that even if I don't keep brewing I can find a real good use for them (crab boil, crawfish boil, or a good gumbo)!

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Old 09-25-2012, 01:50 AM   #10
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Most brew stores have some samples of the kits they sell for you to try out while you figure out what you need.

And right now I'm using a burner and ss pot that i had to steam crabs in, so yeah, you can always multi purpose

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