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Old 05-08-2009, 08:21 PM   #1
AbRew
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Default Newbie in the house

I am a college student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and right now I looking into beginning a homebrew operation. I bought the Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian at my local brew store and I am trying to do as much research as possible to fully prepare myelf before taking the plunge. I have some questions regarding beginning brewing. First off is a kit a good purchase? If so what do I want in it for quality brewing. I don't want to cut corners but I don't want the supreme deluxe package. The basic starters kit offers two plastic buckets. Are buckets a good start or should I invest in a glass carboy off the bat. Next, what would be a good starter beer that is fairly simple for me to brew with sucess. Keep in mind that I will probably begin with extract brewing. And lastly how difficult is it to make the transition to all grain brewing. I was truely interested at first with the thought of taking grains and brewing beer from scratch so I would like to someday be able to produce some good beer from grain.

Thanks and any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-08-2009, 08:34 PM   #2
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i'd go for one of the beginner kits at midwest or one of the other big online retailers. something like this:
(Brewing Starter Kit :: Midwest Supplies Homebrewing and Winemaking Supplies)

this kit really has all you need to get started and i still use a majority of this equipment. i normally ferment in a plastic bucket, i have done a few 6.5 gallon carboy fements, but that is not necessary. even the plastic better bottles will work and can save you a few bucks.

i'd go for a recipe like an american pale ale. you might want to start with an extract recipe like bee cave brewery haus pale ale (can be found in our recipe database here). or buy a beer kit from the place you get your kit, those seem to be pretty easy for starters.

as for the all-grain set up, it depends on how much space and time you have. it's not all that difficult to get the necessary equipment, it can be bought or DIY. a cooler and a turkey fryer will get you there pretty quick.

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Old 05-08-2009, 08:41 PM   #3
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Welcome,
you will get lots of different responses on this one but I started out on the cheap. I paid about $90 for buckets and necessary equipment including my first extract brew kit. I still use 90% of what I got with that order.
on my second batch, I ordered an extra car-boy so I could ferment more than one beer at a time.
I am in the process of upgrading to all-grain. I put most of my material together myself and probably spent an additional $200 on a keggle, burner, wort chiller.
my advice is to take it slow, order a cheap but decent kit. make sure that you enjoy the hobby, learn the ropes and upgrade as you go.

cheers! and welcome

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Old 05-08-2009, 08:43 PM   #4
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Most basic starter’s kits are good and will give you exactly what you need. You can easily grow from there should you desire but a person can brew beer great his whole life with beginners equipment.

The kit with 2 buckets is probably for single stage brewing and if you want to do single stage that is all you need. The 6 gallon plastic “Ail Pails” are perfect, no need for a carboy. If you want to go double stage, i.e. secondary fermenting, then I would suggest getting a 5 gallon glass carboy for that purpose. Also, if you go double stage you really only need one plastic bucket and one carboy.

Here is a general list of what you need to start. This is for double stage. For single stage don’t get the carboy and add one plastic bucket.

1. 6 gallon plastic fermenter with lid (primary fermenter) The lid should be drilled to accept a plastic air lock.
2. 5 gallon glass carboy (secondary fermenter)
3. Long handle stainless steel spoon
4. Long handle plastic spoon (optional)
5. Hydrometer
6. Hydrometer test stand
7. Floating thermometer
8. Bottle caps
9. Bottle capper
10. Iodophor sanitizer or other type of sanitizer
11. Racking cane
12. 6 feet of 5/16 plastic siphon hose
13. Siphon hose clamp
14. Bottle filler
15. Bottle brush
16. Carboy brush
17. Carboy handle
18. Drilled rubber carboy stopper
19. 2 plastic airlocks
20. Bucket clamp for siphon tube

I can’t really suggest the best beginners extract kit. There are lots of kits out there for beginners. Go to you local brew store or wherever you buy your equipment and tell them what kind of beer you want to make and they can help you decide what is best to start off with.

Truthfully, an extract with specialty grain or even partial mash is not all that hard. I would suggest that you at least get some specialty steeping grains to go with your extract. I think it will help the flavor a lot.

As far as the transition to all-grain, I don’t know, I haven’t done it. Not because it seems hard but only because I would need more equipment, more time, more space, and more money to buy the equipment. Right now I don’t have any of those and frankly, I am perfectly happy with partial mash brewing. I absolutely love the beer I have made and see no reason to move to all-grain. The point is that moving to all-grain is not inevitable. You can brew excellent beer with extract and partial mash.

Dennis

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Old 05-08-2009, 08:52 PM   #5
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Step one is to know yourself. How likely are you to stay with a new hobby? How much do you like good beer? How much cash can you put out?

If you are convinced that this is a hobby you are prepared to turn into an obsession, then buy all the best equipment and build for the future after doing a ton of research on this site.

If you are described above, but are limited on funds, go the kit route with plastic fermenters etc.

If you are just mildly curious, then buy a Mr. Beer kit and see where it takes you.

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Old 05-08-2009, 09:50 PM   #6
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The brew kits with plastic buckets are great for beginners and experienced brewers as well. Many seasoned vets still brew with the plastic buckets. The glass carboy is not necessary, start with the buckets and save a little money. The list given by Dennis1979 is a good starter set, I would take out the glass carboy and the carboy tools, and have 2 buckets to start.

Any of the extract kits you can find at your local homebrew store or online will work great for your first batch. The kits usually include basic brewing instructions, and Papazians book will help with that too.

I suggest getting a few extract brews under your belt before you move to all grain. Try a couple extract kits, then a couple extract recipes. Get your process down and get a feel for the little things, get your basic process down. Then you can move to partial mash brewing, and then to all grain if it still interests you.

There is a ton of info and helpful people on this site that can help you through this whole process. Good luck with your first batch and last but not least- WELCOME!

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Old 05-09-2009, 12:20 AM   #7
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Welcome, man, and if I may add one other piece of advice (not that I, an almost complete n00b myself, ought to), it would be:

Check craigslist.

Many homebrewers use cragislist to upgrade their equipment, sell off old equipment, or even, God forbid, get out of the hobby for various reasons. You can save some serious coin by watching craigslist carefully. I got a conical fermenter for $100, and that's easily half of what it cost new.

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Old 05-09-2009, 04:45 AM   #8
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Yes, a kit is a great first purchase! I started with a winemaking kit for mead and became a beer brewer. Most of the time a kit will give you all of the basics that you need as a new brewer for the least amount of cash.

Yes, buckets are a great start. I had carboys but that was because I started with mead. The only word of caution is to make sure you use the soft side of the sponge when cleaning them after you have fermented. Scratching the bucket with the "scrubby" side of the sponge and make nice little places for nasty microbes to hide and start infections. I still use buckets for secondaries on fruit. You will always want to have a bucket around!

The transition to all grain brewing is not difficult at all! I started with extract with steeping grains, then progressed to partial mash then to all grain brewing. I have made some really great beers with extract so don't think that the extract will make bad beer. My first beer took second place at a local competition, so you CAN make good beer right in the beginning. Unfortunately, the first beer is gone so I am having fun with the third and fifth beers right now... (kinda like the Star Trek Movies...)

The biggest learnings I have had as a newbie? First, sanitation, sanitation, sanitation! Be sure to pick up some Iodophor or some Star San! I use both (since I brew both mead and beer). I prefer Star San for my beer brewing and I prefer Iodophor for my mead making. Both are great no-rinse sanitizers and do a great job at helping keep things sanitary! Second, people have been doing this for thousands of years! There are things that you wouldn't believe have happened while brewing beer and the beers come out great! It is a lot easier than the books make it out to be.

Have a great time with your new hobby! There is a great DIY section on the board that can give you some money saving tips to build your equipment to go all grain! I did the rubbermaid MLT and I do all of my brews in the kitchen with an aluminum turkey fryer pot and a rubbermaid bin filled with iceto do my post boil chilling.

You will make a great beer! You will also want to start a pipeline, if you can. It takes a hell of a long time for that first beer to come to yummy goodness. With a pipeline, you will have 3 -4 beers before you know it and will be able to be more patient for the bigger beers to come of age! (ask me how I know..)

The folks here are great with questions.

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