New Equipment for a Beginner Brewer

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Samkb93

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So I am getting into all grain brewing and am looking at everything I need to get. Right now all I have is a 5 GAL pot, 7 GAL plastic fermenter, and a 7 gal bucket with a nozzle. I am currently doing 5 gal batches but reading the threads, I think it would be wise to buy/make equipment I can use for the long-term and scalable to 10 gal batches. Acquiring everything will be a process since I don't have the funds to buy everything at one time. So here is my questions: In what order should I purchase my equipment and what suggestions do y'all have for a super budget-conscious individual such as myself? Thanks for your help!
 

JohnK93

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When I was in those shoes (except only going for the 5 gallon batch setup, not 10 gal) I decided I needed to build a mash tun and buy a 10 gallon pot ($100), outdoor burner ($50), and immersion chiller ($50) to make the step to all-grain. I think you really need all of these, but if you have to step into it, you definitely need a mash tun first to do all grain (unless you do BIAB, I suppose.)

You could start with smaller batches, probably 3.5-4 gallons max with a 5 gal pot, then save up for the pot, burner, and chiller.

Good luck!
 
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kh54s10

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For the least $$ BIAB is going to be your best bet. So a pot big enough for you largest batch - full boil and grain. A BIAB bag and a burner and you are ready to go.
 

TurnipGreen

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I don’t do BIAB so I cannot advise that way.

I would start by building a mashtun. Really that’s about all else you need to start all grain. If you have an old cooler laying around you can build a mash tun really cheap.

Then a kettle. Definitely go bigger. You’ll pretty much need a ten gallon kettle for a five gallon batch because of boil off and boil over. I only have a ten gallon kettle ‘cause I cheaped out and I regret it. Don’t cheap out here.

Then build a wort chiller. Again you can build that yourself super cheap.

Then go for the burner.

Building your own mash tun and wort chiller are both really easy and cheap. No skill needed whatsoever.
 

Jtk78

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If I was going for as cheap as possible, I would scour the for sale section here as well as Craigslist/OfferUp/LetGo/5miles and every other used market place for a propane burner. I found one at a pawn shop for $15.

Then I'd be looking for a 15-20 gallon brew kettle, preferably with a valve (you could always add one if you find a deal on one without, just figure in the cost of adding it to determine if it's worth it).

Then I would contact @wilserbrewer and get a brew in a bag for new kettle.

Also look to make or purchase a wort chiller, although there are people that do no chill brewing (I've never done it).

EDIT to add - the other option is to get a bag from @wilserbrewer for your current kettle and try your hand at a couple smaller batches of biab to see if that's the route you want to go.
 

RM-MN

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Start small. Small as in dollars and batch size. Home Depot has paint strainer bags available as a package of 2 for less than $5. Do some 2 1/2 gallon size batches to work out the bugs in your process, then as time and dollars allow you can step up. First would be a bigger pot so you can brew bigger batches followed by more fermenter buckets. Add in a bigger bag and a way to handle the heavier bag of grain. Wilserbrewer would be the one to go to for that.
 

Chris Walker

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New to AG brewing here as well.
I prefer to keep the number of different pieces of equipment to a minimum and also wait / save up for the best quality I can get. I think it is also important to make sure initial purchases are still useful / relevant in the future.
As others have said a good way to achieve this is keeping the batch size down.
I have just finished my first AG batch which was just under 3 Gal and was done in an SS brewtech 5.5 Gal kettle. I did BIAB and this kettle being smaller fits on my cooker and still comes to a boil quickly - no need for a burner (or freezing outside in Canadian winter!) Also this kettle *just* fits in my oven with all the shelves removed so I set the temp to 150 and put it in there for the mash. Had to be a little careful to avoid boil over in the next stage but not really a problem.

I fermented in a 7Gal Brewtech SS Brewbucket. I'm very pleased with it and it's super easy to clean. Did not transfer to secondary - just went straight to keg (although could also go straight to bottle.) Bottles keep initial cost down and are much easier to cool in the family fridge. They are also useful even when moving to keg as can be used to fill for picnics etc...
I made a ferment chamber out of insulation board and a simple ink bird temp controller to keep the costs down.

By not transferring to secondary I am not worried about headspace so having the larger fermentor is still OK for a small batch and I don't have to upgrade in the future if I want to start 5 gal batches - just get a bigger kettle. In the mean time I could always do a 5 Gal partial mash recipe.

Small batch brewing also has many other advantages....
1. When you are just starting you get to brew more often.
2. Failures are easier to accept! - not so much to loose if something goes bad.
3. Can try different styles and perfect techniques without creating a sea of beer. - I can't image perfecting my process until I have many more brews under my belt.

Small batch equipment is still going to be useful if you upgrade as can be used for test batches when you get into recipe creation etc...

I would say another good way to reduce startup costs is to choose from the styles that ferment at approx. room temp. It is relatively easy and cheap to keep a nice stable temp for ale yeasts. Getting into lagering adds more expense / complexity for cooling (+ starter making equip etc..) Not necessarily huge cost, but even a cheap second hand fridge/freezer is money that can be put towards a better kettle / fermenter.
 
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Samkb93

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Thanks for all the good advice so far! I like the idea of BIAB (FOR NOW!) and working my way up in batch sizes as equipment permits. I am scouring the web for deals so we will see what we can get for a good price.

For boiling kettle, I have found several aluminum 60QT pots secondhand. I have heard both sides to the SS/Al debate. Do y'all think aluminum is a good choice in your experience?
 

kh54s10

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Aluminum is OK. You need to keep an oxidized layer on the inside of the pot. You do this by boiling water in it. If at any time you scrub off this layer you will have to do it again. SS does not require this. SS is nicer.
 

RM-MN

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Thanks for all the good advice so far! I like the idea of BIAB (FOR NOW!) and working my way up in batch sizes as equipment permits. I am scouring the web for deals so we will see what we can get for a good price.

For boiling kettle, I have found several aluminum 60QT pots secondhand. I have heard both sides to the SS/Al debate. Do y'all think aluminum is a good choice in your experience?
I like the "FOR NOW" comment. Many of us who BIAB have thought the same thing.....and then never changed because BIAB is so easy and efficient. It would be hard for me to spend the money to get a mash tun and then not be able to get the brewhouse efficiency I now enjoy and need to spend a lot more time to get the same beer.

Getting a used pot is an excellent idea even if it is aluminum. Aluminum works fine but it will never be as shiny as stainless steel. Buying used means that you probably can sell it more used for about the price you paid.
 
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Samkb93

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How does BIAB provide a higher efficiency than an mash tun?
 

Oneiroi

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Some good advice above, I started with small 2.5g stovetop batches and really enjoyed it. Good excuse to brew more, dial in your process and most importantly try lots of different beers/recipes for less cost.

You say you have a 5 gal pot already, I would maybe get the cheap paint strainer bags mentioned above and brew some 2.5-3.5 gallon BIAB batches in that to start. You could basically go all-grain this way with practically no extra starting cost.

Also just to throw out there, as a super budget brewer at the mo myself, I moved up to 5g batches recently by building a brew pot from an 8gal plastic bucket (food grade & temp safe obv.), wrapped in insulation foil with some some cheap kettle elements. It's a pretty ghetto set-up and not very pretty, but it works like a dream and is very cheap (Propane & Big pots are more expensive in the UK compared to our Turkey Frying cousins across the pond)
 

deadwolfbones

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I strongly recommend BIAB. I also strongly recommend going with smaller batches to start. You can experiment more without having to drink through 5 gallons of your less successful experiments. I'm doing 3 gal BIAB batches in a 6 gal kettle on my gas stovetop and I honestly can't believe how easy it is.

All you need for BIAB is a kettle, a bag, your fermenter, and a bottling bucket. Lately I've even been fermenting in bottling buckets and bottling directly from them. No real downsides I've noticed. Less equipment is better, for me.
 

divrack

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You can get a ss 7-8 gal electric urn online for cheap. Take out thermostat and safety cut out and you have a good quality boil kettle you could use for biab mash tun I suppose with a stc1000 (10 bucks). Get a second hand chest freezer from the dump or online and you have a temperature controlled ferment chamber and keezer.

Probably want to get an immersion chiller. Or make one but copper tube isn't that cheap either.
 

whiskeyjack

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I agree with everthing posted here. Wish i had started small and worked my way up. Now im downsizing for smaller 2.5 gallon batches. I like having 2-3 varieties on tap instead of one big batch.
 

RM-MN

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That makes sense. Thanks
You can get nearly as good of efficiency with a conventional mash tun but you need to crush until it scares you, then extend the mash period so the larger particles of grain can get their starches gelatinized. It is just that with the fine milling allowed with BIAB the grains particles are so small nearly all the starch is exposed allowing it to gelatinize nearly instantantaneously. Once the particles are gelatinized, the actual conversion is extremely quick and the sugars are right at the surface allowing them to dissolve into the wort.
 

Redpappy

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As of right now I have done 5 gal extract, and 3 ( 1 gal BIAB ) batches. This is what I considered ( buy once and cry). I plan on doing BIAB. But to make that decesion I did BIAB( 1 gal) to see if I liked it. Equipment needed - 5 gal Kettle, 5 gal paint strainer from Lowe’s ( store I purchased it from) 2 gal food grade bucket from Lowe’s, a drill bit to put a hole for a rubber grommet in the lid, that I purchased from LHBS, for air lock.

Since I have done this, I have decided to go EBIAB. So I have purchased a 10 gal kettle from SB for this. I also purchased plugs for the extra ports, since I am on a budget and will be purchasing the extra parts of the next few months/years. For now, my set up consist of a propane burner and the kettle. Ohh.. and a Wilser bag. I do plan on staying with a reg build beer ( 4-6 abv) and that is why i went with the 10 gal kettle. If I was thinking of the High Build, then I may have went with a 15 gal kettle for 5 gallons.
 
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Samkb93

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Just bought a half barrel keg I'm going to convert into a keggle. $20
 
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