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Old 10-28-2012, 10:04 PM   #1
Gunpowder
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Default New brewer here, need advice!!

Hi everyone!

My wife got me a $50 brew-at-home kit from a local cranberry festival (It's a Cranberry cream ale) cheap little kit... plastic carboy, basic ingredients, you know how it goes.

Anyway, I just bottled yesterday, will be chilling it tomorrow. While bottling, I took a sip and other than it being flat & warm, it actually wasn't too bad! I was impressed considering the quality of the kit. It's not going to win any medals, but I was impressed nonetheless.

I really enjoyed making it, and I think I may want to step it up to an official hobby. Now, being a woodworker, a welder, and a filmmaker, I know *full well* that you need halfway decent equipment if you want a halfway decent result.

Since I'm just starting out, I don't want to invest thousands, but I'm willing to throw down a couple of hundred to get going. I talked to the wife and she agreed to let me allocate my old workshop (which I relocated to the garage) in the basement and turn it into a little brewery, which is good! For those of you married, you know how it goes... Happy wife, happy life.

Anyway, I started looking for starter kits on various websites, including Amazon, and was instantly overwhelmed. I don't have a clue what to get!! So here I am, doing what I should be doing, asking the experts.

From what I've gleaned so far, I'm definitely going to want a glass carboy, a decent kettle, an electric boiler for the kettle, and a wort chiller. Blowover was a problem for me in my first batch (and it made a hell of a mess on the kitchen counter) so I was thinking about using clear plastic tubing from Home Depot and an airlock system to avoid that problem in the future.

So my questions to you (and I'm sure you get this a lot) are as follows:

1. Are there any GOOD starter kits out there, or would I be better off buying individual components?

2. What additional items are recommended?

3. Should I invest in a brewer's cleaning agent, or is hot water & vinegar good enough to clean everything?

4. Any other recommendations to get up and running??

I appreciate your responses in advance, and I'm glad to meet all of you! Thanks!

~Brian

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:14 PM   #2
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Hello and welcome. I'm no expert having just had my first boil yesterday. But I got my starter kit from my local home brew store. If you have one I'd check them out 1st. Mine came with a glass carboy, bottling bucket, and most the little parts I needed. The only things I bought outside of the kit was a boiling pot and a propane burner. I boiled outside, I had 2 minor boil overs. Nice to have the mess out there. Just hosed it off. Like you said. "Happy Wife, happy life"

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:31 PM   #3
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I'd say the most critical things to start out with are something to boil in, something to chill with, and something to ferment in. When and if you feel like moving to all grain, there is the matter of a mash tun. For cooling, I have an immersion chiller I fashioned myself from refrigerator coil. One of the things I like about this hobby is the DIY aesthetic. Don't worry too much about kits and build your system up as you think you need. Also build a relationship at your local homebrew shop. There is usually lots of experience there, whether it's the owner or the customers you'll bump into.

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:37 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunpowder View Post


1. Are there any GOOD starter kits out there, or would I be better off buying individual components?

2. What additional items are recommended?

3. Should I invest in a brewer's cleaning agent, or is hot water & vinegar good enough to clean everything?

4. Any other recommendations to get up and running??

I appreciate your responses in advance, and I'm glad to meet all of you! Thanks!

~Brian


1. For equipment, you need this: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/b...arter-kit.html plus a hydrometer and test jar (order that separately- they are cheap). That kit comes with the ingredients for one batch of beer, so that should be all you need for the time being.

2. That's about it, but you need a boil pot and a stove.

3. No vinegar! Never ever vinegar! You can use oxiclean or something like that for cleaning, and then a no-rinse sanitizer like star-san for sanitizing.

4. I can't really think of anything, except for random stuff like a nice big stainless spoon. But I'd wait and see after the first batch or two to see what kind of things would be useful for you.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:40 PM   #5
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Gun,

Here's what I would highly recommend. Check out Williams starter brewing kits. The nice thing about them is that they are siphonless. You never need to siphon beer from one container to the other. This makes transferring a breeze. Also, taking beer samples to measure specific gravities is easy. I would not buy anything else. I have been using mine for three with no leaks or problems whatsoever. Check it out.

http://www.williamsbrewing.com/BASIC...EWERY-C73.aspx

Good luck,

NRS

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:48 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone!! And especially about the vinegar! I will look into those sanitizers...

NorthRiverS, I heard glass carboys were the only way to go... did I get bad info?

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:49 PM   #7
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As for the DIY comment, yep, I can see myself doing that!! Are there any metals (brass, copper) or plastics (PVC) to avoid?

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Old 10-28-2012, 10:59 PM   #8
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It's probably just me, but the downside of cleaning hassles, added weight, and broken glass dangers that steered me away from glass carboys. I make good beer and am not convinced that glass would improve the results. Just my 2 cents.

NRS

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Old 10-28-2012, 11:16 PM   #9
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Get a decent little starter kit from one of the big homebrew retailers (Midwest, Austin, Northern Brewer, etc.). This will provide you with a couple fermenter buckets, airlocks, siphon, plastic tubes, racking cane, bottling equipment, hydrometer, etc.

After you get the basic starting equipment, I would sit down and think about how you will do your mash. Will you go extract or all-grain? That will define a lot of your other equipment needs and processes. Partial boil or full boil? You can easily do partial boil extract brews on your stove using a sink or bath to cool. But as soon as you go full boil, you're pretty much relegated to outside with an outdoor burner setup and a 8+ gallon pot. And if you go all-grain, you're making your own extract so you need a mashing vessel, which for most starting homebrewers probably consists of a modified cooler.

Anyway, just some things to think about.

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Old 10-29-2012, 06:17 PM   #10
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A spray bottle to keep some cleaning solution is always handy to have around on brew days!

The reason for glass carboys is to avoid oxidation of the beer, that being said I have NO glass. Whatever I figure plastic is working fine, work on the process and perfect it overtime right. A basic starter kit like everyone said will do you fine, the rest you'll figure out and slowly add and/or make yourself from the hardware store

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