Beginner equipment upgrade

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

mn_homebrewer

New Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2019
Messages
2
Reaction score
1
Location
St. Paul, MN
Hi everyone,

Apologies in advance, there are probably posts like this often. I'm new to the forum and new to homebrewing. I've made about five batches of beer now (5 gallons, extract, partial boil on my stovetop) and I'm looking to upgrade.

For context, I'm a young guy looking to brew for many years to come. So I'm okay spending a little money for durable equipment that will last for years. I know I want to purchase a new burner and boil kettle (with a valve). Any recommendations on a good burner that doesn't break the bank? And as far as the kettle, I know I want to start moving to all-grain brewing so I would like to get a kettle that would be compatible with an eventual all-grain setup. There are just so many kettles out there I don't know which ones are quality kettles that homebrewers really like. I also don't know if I'll ever move to 10gal brews, any perspective on moving to 10gal batches vs sticking with 5gal? Why did other people make the jump? I'm just trying to think ahead and purchase new equipment with this in mind.

As far as other equipment, how would other people prioritize upgrades? Is equipment for yeast starters (stir plate, flask, etc.) the way to go? Is a fermentor a priority? (I'm currently using buckets.) Is there something else that is a better investment?

Thanks in advance for any help or recommendations, I really appreciate it!
 

Kirkwooder

Emperor of all things nobody cares about
Joined
Jan 15, 2013
Messages
1,176
Reaction score
497
Location
nowhere near NYC
I would suggest a Bayou Classic 10 gallon kettle. I bought one a few years ago and love it. As far as burners go, bigger is better.

I also love my plastic Better Bottles for fermenting. They give you the endless joy of watching a fermenting beer without the dangers of the glass carboys.

Welcome to the forum and the obsession!
 

Veets

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 8, 2016
Messages
128
Reaction score
48
Hi everyone,

Apologies in advance, there are probably posts like this often. I'm new to the forum and new to homebrewing. I've made about five batches of beer now (5 gallons, extract, partial boil on my stovetop) and I'm looking to upgrade.

For context, I'm a young guy looking to brew for many years to come. So I'm okay spending a little money for durable equipment that will last for years. I know I want to purchase a new burner and boil kettle (with a valve). Any recommendations on a good burner that doesn't break the bank? And as far as the kettle, I know I want to start moving to all-grain brewing so I would like to get a kettle that would be compatible with an eventual all-grain setup. There are just so many kettles out there I don't know which ones are quality kettles that homebrewers really like. I also don't know if I'll ever move to 10gal brews, any perspective on moving to 10gal batches vs sticking with 5gal? Why did other people make the jump? I'm just trying to think ahead and purchase new equipment with this in mind.

As far as other equipment, how would other people prioritize upgrades? Is equipment for yeast starters (stir plate, flask, etc.) the way to go? Is a fermentor a priority? (I'm currently using buckets.) Is there something else that is a better investment?

Thanks in advance for any help or recommendations, I really appreciate it!
I'd really recommend reading more, doing your own research, rather than crowdsourcing random recommendations. Find out what's good for you.
Some words to help you with your research :

Conical
Temperature control
Electric brewing
BIAB
Counterflow vs immersion
Pressure Fermentation
LoDO
Grainfather
Robobrew
 

RPh_Guy

Bringing Sour Back
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 26, 2017
Messages
9,141
Reaction score
7,456
Location
Cleveland
@Veets makes a great point.
There are a lot of brewing setups and while there is overlap, the parts aren't all compatible. For example if you ultimately decide you want to brew with an electric system, buying a propane burner may be a waste.
And what any one of us likes might not be what you prefer.

That said, I've been brewing all grain for over 2 years (65 batches including cider and mead) and I have no regrets with my setup or how it's progressed since I started. People here have been very helpful with that.

For 1-2.5 gal batches I use a BIAB setup either on the stove (1 gal only) or on my propane burner.
For 5-6 gal batches I use a propane 2- or 3-vessel system. I have both an immersion chiller and a counterflow chiller, plus a brew pump.
For fermentation I use ported Fermonsters and an inkbird temperature controller with a refrigerator and fermwrap.
I bottle everything.
This system let's me experiment with low oxygen brewing (AKA LODO), sort of the cutting edge of home brewing at the moment.
I do have lots of gadgets including a stir plate and flasks for yeast starters.

Just ask if you want more details about my system, and what specifically. I have a lot of flexibility with it.

It's a great hobby and a lot of fun, and you can definitely match it to your style, budget, and space. Cheers!
 
Last edited:

madscientist451

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2014
Messages
4,326
Reaction score
2,025
Location
Bedford
In St. Paul, Minn, you may not want to be an outdoor propane burner brewer. I've been brewing on my kitchen stove for years and its pretty convenient for me. I mostly brew at night and in the fall and winter and I don't really want to be outside all that much keeping an eye on my kettle at night when its 20F and windy.
I use a 7.5 gallon tall boy kettle for stovetop BIAB brewing. I mostly run 2.5-4 gallon batches because I like a lot of variety. My first kettle was a 6 gallon and I use that for the "dunk sparge".
A bigger 10 gallon pot will be harder to clean, but you will have room for larger batches if you want.
I like 4 gallon batches because I use 5 gallon better bottles for fermenting so that leaves enough head space for the yeast. I also ferment IPA's in corny kegs with some of the tube cut off so I can do a closed transfer to the serving keg, so If you like IPA's you should consider that option.
I also have cooler/mashtun and a keggle kettle for brewing large outdoor batches, but getting all that equipment out and then putting it away just takes extra time and effort and I've turned into a real lazy brewer so that stuff just collects dust.
My 2 cents: Making wort is not complicated and you don't need an expensive brewing "rig".
Get a small chest freezer and a temperature controller to use as a fermentation chamber.
Then get a kegging set up.
An extra refrigerator to hold the kegs also comes in handy storing jars of yeast and other brewing stuff.
After that you can get a more complicated/expensive brewing rig if you want one.
 

JohnSand

Moderator
Staff member
Mod
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
May 13, 2013
Messages
4,749
Reaction score
2,071
Location
Long Island NY
I took a path of starting with small cheap gear and building later. Many will advocate buying peak gear from the start, to avoid expensive duplication. ("Buy once, cry once") But you may not know your ultimate needs or preferences when you start brewing. I started with partial boil extracts, I already owned 16 and 20 quart pots, I made 2.5gal batches. I bought a 7.5 gallon pot, then a 10, both aluminum. I now own a 16 gallon stainless with a valve and thermometer. I love it, but it was expensive and it is large and heavy. My first burner was an SP10, I still use it. My first mill was a blender, then a Corona type, now a beautiful Millar's. My other upgrades have been kegs, kegerator, ferm fridge etc. I can make ten gallon batches and I have, mostly to split into two beers with different yeasts. I do the same with 7.5 gallon batches.
I suggest you start with a ten gallon aluminum kettle, an SP10 burner and a reasonable mill. Almost all my upgrades were Christmas gifts. Read, study, if possible check out other brewer's set ups. Then go ahead and buy using your best judgement, knowing that you're going to change in the future.
Have fun, keep us posted.
 

Hwk-I-St8

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
1,776
Reaction score
750
Location
The Hawkeye State
Here are some things I'd recommend:

Kettle: I really don't like weldless connectors...that's an "ok" solution if you need to add a port to an existing kettle, but buying new, I really don't know why someone would choose weldless. I think BrewBuilt is a great welded port option. It has two welded ports (for drain and thermometer), triple ply bottom, a notch in the lid (nice for an immersion chiller) and an available false bottom. Similar in quality to Spike, but less expensive. I'd consider 15 gallon as it allows for 5G BIAB and, for lower gravity beers, potential for 10G batches.

Mashtun: you can use a round or rectangular cooler with either a bazooka tube filter or a brew bag and be ready to go. Alternatively, you can BIAB with your 15G kettle and skip the mashtun completely.

burner: Bang for the buck, it's pretty hard to beat the Bayou Classic KAB4. High power output, and routinely available for $70-80. If you want to get fancy, they make a SS version for about $120.

Chiller: Full volume boils, you'll want to be able to chill. Many go with counterflow or plate chillers, but I find, for 10G or less, than a quality immersion chiller is easier to use, easier to clean, and you don't have potential pitfalls like clogging or mold/gunk building up inside. There's really no reason to go with counterflow or plate chillers unless you're brewing bigger batches.

Fermentation: having a way to maintain fermentation temps is a huge quality enhancer. You can get a chest freezer for $130-160, an inkbird for $30, and you've got a robust fermentation temp control environment that allows for cold crash and can even be a simple kegerator (picnic tap...open the door and pour) in a pinch.

Mill: these are nice, not necessary, but does enable you to control your own crush. Cereal Killers are highly regarded and the 2 roller can be had for $90 if you find it on sale.

Flask & Stir Plate: Again, this is a nice to have, but you can skate around this for a long time. Using dry yeast, you don't need a starter. If you want to do NEIPAs, I don't think there's a dry yeast that's highly regarded for them, so then this might move up the priority list. You can always just pitch two doses of liquid yeast.
 

LittleRiver

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2017
Messages
1,082
Reaction score
1,228
...BIAB with your 15G kettle and skip the mashtun completely.....Bang for the buck, it's pretty hard to beat the Bayou Classic KAB4....a quality immersion chiller is easier to use, easier to clean, and you don't have potential pitfalls....having a way to maintain fermentation temps is a huge quality enhancer....Mill: these are nice, not necessary, but does enable you to control your own crush. Cereal Killers are highly regarded...
I agree with all this. My KAB4 was a solid purchase. Regarding chillers, I love how easy it is to use & clean my immersion chiller -- there's never a worry about sanitation with it.

To the OP, I BIAB and have found that having my own mill makes a huge difference. The crush you get from most online suppliers or local brewing stores is just too coarse for effective BIAB. So if you go BIAB, consider moving the mill up in your priority list.

If you don't have good control of fermentation temps, make that your first priority. I found a large(ish) wine fridge on Craigslist for $75. I added a reptile heat mat (~$15) and wired up a temp controller based on an ITC-1000 (<$20).
 

Jag75

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2018
Messages
5,022
Reaction score
2,074
Location
Taft
Either way theres no right or wrong way . As was said figure out what your wanting to do . If being outside isnt ideal for you then it's a waste buying propane set up. However if you want to brew outside go for it. Another thing to consider is space. How much of it do you have and can it accommodate a 3 vessels . I think fermenters and ways to keep fermentation temps right is a big importance. Do you wanna always bottle or is kegging a possibility.
 
Top