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Old 01-02-2009, 11:03 PM   #1
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Default What are your low-cost homebrewery must-haves?

Hi all, I'm a relative n00b with my 3rd batch dry-hopping in the 2ndary and many more ingredients somewhere in a UPS truck. In my first 3 batches (so far so good), I've learned an amazing amount with no shortage of great advice from this site. So thanks!

In my short time as a brewer, there's a few things that I've learned from this forum, purchased from a HBS, or figured out on my own that have made my process go much better. I figured I'd list them here while they're still fresh "innovations" for me because they might help someone else. Some are obvious to experienced brewers, but they helped me so they'll likely help someone else just starting out.

Here's my "beerovations"...

- Short garden hose & faucet adapter: I brew in a small Manhattan apartment kitchen, so a short garden hose with a faucet adapter has been an key purchase. Try washing a 6.5 gallon bucket in a regular sink!

- More vinyl tubing: I bought more tubing at Home Depot and it has turned out to be huge. I had to make an emergency blow-off tube, so having extra for siphoning was important. I also broke the racking cane in my autosiphon trying to take off the hose...fortunately I had a spare regular cane that I attached to the plunger of the autosiphon (I broke it off closer) with a bit of extra tubing.

- Plumbers tape: there's the white kind you put in the threads of fittings, and the black kind you wrap around pipe joints. It's available at hardware stores and it helps. My faucet connection leaks, but the tape helps. My IC also leaked where the hose attached to the metal of the IC. The black tape cured that problem so I don't have to worry about water dripping into my cooling wort.

- Starsan. Just buy-it, don't fear the foam, end of story. A spray bottle and a used poland spring bottle full of it is very handy.

- A large kitchen strainer: I went to a restaurant supply store (must cheaper) and bought a big wood-handled strainer. It sits on top of the ale pale perfectly, don't even need to hold it, and does two things fantastically...first, it strains out grains, proteins, and hops from the wort...second, it aerates the heck out of the wort. But the time I'm done pouring it it's all foamy like crazy. Something like this

- 2nd thermometer: having a second thermometer on brew day is super handy.

- Wine thief: infinitely better than a leaky turkey baster

- Bottle out of the cases: When bottling I found it's much better to take the bottles out of the cases to fill them because I spill a little and that ruins the cardboard cases. I live in nyc and beer soaked cardboard is not good for keeping the local "ecology" away. Revvy has a great write-up on a nice system I plan to try next time that appears much better.

- Google site:homebrewtalk.com As a n00b I learned that this site is an amazing resource and almost every problem a n00b could have has been dealt with here by someone with a ton of experience. I find the Google Search is much better than the integrated search in the upper right. You can add "site:homebrewtalk.com" to the search box in Google, or use the google box in the search dropdown.

- A remote temp sensor: I have an oregon scientific wireless weather station. I used to have one in the BR and one outside, but the outside one moved to right next to the fermenter. This way I can check the temp from bed!

- Blow off tube: I'll be doing these from now on as I experienced a nice exploding airlock. Check it out.


If I think of more, which I'm sure there's some I'm overlooking, I'll add them to the end. I hope this is helpful to someone!

More importantly, I'd be really curious to hear what other "hacks" people have made that have significantly improved their lives as a new brewer so that they could take the RDWHAHB advice more seriously.

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Old 01-02-2009, 11:06 PM   #2
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A lot of my "hacks" are in here...

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/revvys-tips-bottler-first-time-otherwise-94812/

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Old 01-02-2009, 11:13 PM   #3
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Perfect Revvy, that's the post of yours I alluded to. Thanks for adding it!

Admittedly there's probably a lot of these hacks out there allover, and maybe a thread like this exists already that we could just link to. I wrote the Google one above with some fear that a similar thread exists. But, at least my helpful hints are out there now too!

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Old 01-02-2009, 11:17 PM   #4
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Large metal binder clips. Great to attach to the brewpot and hang hop bags from, or to hold the thermometer in place.

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Old 01-02-2009, 11:21 PM   #5
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Great thread! I can feel ya on the 2nd thermometer! when I was brewing my Double Chocolate Stout (came out great btw, just needs to condition a bit longer) I dropped my electric thermometer in the wort!!! I went out and bought 3 more at 11 bucks a piece and a non-electric one, it was a scramble for sure because I had my wort brewing at the house. I would say my biggest must do is recycling the star san solution. If I make five gallons of star san and water, you better believe I am going to sanitize every piece of kit that is not in use or might be in use! I use a 22 gallon rubbermaid storage bin in the tub also, not a bad buy for 7 bucks.

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Old 01-02-2009, 11:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewflyfish View Post
- A remote temp sensor: I have an oregon scientific wireless weather station. I used to have one in the BR and one outside, but the outside one moved to right next to the fermenter. This way I can check the temp from bed!
You slick pimp.
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Old 01-02-2009, 11:40 PM   #7
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RGH, actually now that you mention it I think all us beginners should probably get at least two of everything that could break or get ruined on brew day (provided we can afford it).

I can think of nothing worse than something happening in the middle of a boil with no remedy. The closest homebrew shop is an hour away from me

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Old 01-03-2009, 12:48 AM   #8
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As another NYC apartment brewer here are things that helped me:

70 quart cooler to control the temperature - http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/newbies-2nd-batch-some-diy-cooling-chamber-85133/

digital thermometers that i attach to my primaries - http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/3-wired-digital-thermometer-82194/

reusable ice packs (use to cool wort & water in cooler) - http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/how-these-cooling-82325/

home - you should try washing your primary in your bathtub, thats what I do.

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Old 01-03-2009, 12:48 AM   #9
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Paint strainer bags... cheap and handy for straining, for mashing, and even boiling hops in. Plus, I use plain old clothespins to clip them up to the side of the brewpot.
Not really a tool, but a good source for chea... uh, I mean frugal, people like me is Craigslist, so I'd count that too.

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Old 01-03-2009, 12:58 AM   #10
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I have to second the OPs mention of extra tubing and racking cane. I also broke my racking cane trying to use my only tube for both siphoning and blow off (only because my airlock was also exploding at 6am as informed by SWMBO). It was right after I spit washed siphoned yeast into my beer...tip 2: get an autosiphon.

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