Overwhelmed newbie, trying to start decently

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GAbrewlover

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Hey guys! New member here from south Georgia. Always had a passion for the brew and I think it's time to start seeing what it's all about first hand. I have a nice starter's advantage in that I have a partner willing to make this process happen both with the effort and finances. I know there are countless opinions on different starter setups and I have tried to search all I could in terms of "bang for the buck".

We are both quite sure this will turn into something "serious" and would like to start off with hardware that can expand with out needs. We have a $380 budget after what we've spent on the essential books.

What we are quite sure of is that we will need at least three glass carboys in our budget. Two will be for beer and one for wine. Everything else is so overwhelming I don't really understand how people get started at all :) space is not really an issue as we have a room that can be dedicated to this.

We have a keg, and are looking into converting into a "keggle" we both realize this is overkill for a beginners setup, but it looks to be the cheapest way to get a kettle...

So all we really know is that we have $380, decided on glass carboys, have a keg for conversion, and will not be doing AG right off the bat. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Please PM me if you have any starter type equipment you would like to sell, we are definitely looking for quality used equipment so we have more money for ingredients.
 
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Maybe ths?

http://tampa.craigslist.org/hil/for/2689002312.html

BEER EQUIPMENT FOR SALE

Will Let Complete System Go For $475 Cash

 Sears Kenmore Chest Freezer 8. 8 cu. ft. ($275) ($125)
 115V, 60Hz, Model # 253.14922101
 Inside Lighting, Outside Adjust Temp Dial, Inside/Outside Drain Plug
 The Controller External Thermostat ($60) (30)
 6 Gallon Unbreakable Non-Porous PET Carboy ($25) ($12)
 5 Gallon Glass Carboy (takes #7 stopper) ($34) ($17)
 5 Gallon Glass Carboy (takes #7 stopper) ($34) ($17)
 Carboy Handle (plastic-coated metal handle) ($5)
 Hydrometer 12" long ($10)
 Plastic Hydrometer Jar 13" tall ($6)
 Home Beverage System Includes: ($259) ($110)
 5 Gallon Cornelius Keg (completely rebuilt)
 Two-Gauge Single Outlet C02 Regulator
 5 LB Aluminum C02 Tank
 Dual C02 Gas Connectors
 5 Gallon Cornelius Keg (completely rebuilt) ($125) ($50)
 Double 3" Chrome Beer Tower ($135) ($70)
 22" Rigid Stainless Steel Air Wand ($34) ($20)
 20 LB Steel Nitrogen Tank (for stouts) ($75) ($35)
 Assorted Brushes, Tubing, Keg Parts, O-Rings Etc.
 

broadbill

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don't bother with glass carboys. They are heavy, expensive, and dangerous (breakage) for what they are. Plastic buckets or better bottles FTW. I might consider a glass carboy if I wanted to age a beer for a period of time (6-12 months)...otherwise your money is better spent elsewhere.

I'd go ahead and use the keg as a keggle....buy a weldless bulkhead kit so you can drain it.

Also look at wort chillers and a means to control fermentation temps....these two are important for making beer that rivals commerical stuff.

Otherwise, you can't go wrong with the basic starter kit from the home brew shop (local or online)

Good luck!
 

jwplessner

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broadbill said:
don't bother with glass carboys. They are heavy, expensive, and dangerous (breakage) for what they are. Plastic buckets or better bottles FTW. I might consider a glass carboy if I wanted to age a beer for a period of time (6-12 months)
I love this advice and wish I could trade in most of my heavy glass carboys for cheaper lightweight oxygen barrier 6 gal better bottles.
 
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GAbrewlover

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As of now, we see little reason to not make our own immersion type chiller. Not sure how much $$ that saves, but it seems like a worthwhile project.

As for the Keggle, is this something weilding companies can do with a keg and instructions. We lack a plasma cutter, and my partner really wants a "professional" to make the conversion lol.
 

Homercidal

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I think you should be able to get a basic kit for that much.

If you are doing All Grain, then it might be tight.

I would not use glass fermenter for beer, unless you see yourself doing very strong beers, like barleywine or Russian imperial Stout. They would be nice for wine, certainly. But buckets and better bottles work as well for most beers IMO.

I'd build a cooler mash tun, and get a large kettle, your choice of fermenters (probably two each) and a bottling bucket. A grain crusher would be nice, but you can start off having your grain crushed by the lhbs.

There are various resellers that offer basic kits. Many of them start at around $100-150. I'm sure you could adjust up and stay within your budget. An immersion chiller is very easy to make, and you should have one st start with IMO.

You can cut a keggle if you have a keg and a cut off wheel or grinder. Or you can probably call any welder and have them cut it for you with the plasma torch. Each method will produce a pretty decent cut. Have them sand the edge with a 2" grinder to keep you from cutting yourself. What they can do in a few minutes with air tools you'll spend hours doing by hand.
 

joeybeer

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Take the keg to the welder to cut the top off and while they're at it, put in a 1/2 valve from bargainfittings.com - its a kettle that will last a lifetime !

Consider making a counterflow chiller instead of an immersion chiller , it's only $10 more and much quicker .. You'll find the DIY plans on here

I second(or third) plastic fermenters and use buckets o aquatainers from walmart (they're about 10$ and 7.5 gallons)

Start thinking about temp control for fermentation - I found a chest freezer on craigslist for $40 and a eBay temp controller for $30 I can fit 30g in at a time
 
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GAbrewlover

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You guys really rock! We only really decided on glass due to the fact that wine was also an interest and that it was supposed to be able to let you "see" what's going on in the fermentation process. We will look into the Better Bottles. Since wine is still an interest with our budget, maybe two glass and two better bottles are in order. We will also look at the DIY counter chiller.

Seems like our first hardware purchase should be the equipment needed to outfit the keg and get our carboys in order.
 

Quietandsimple

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I started off on an absolute shoe string budget. If I'd had $380 to set up my home brewery, this is what I honestly would have bought.

1. 4 Better Bottles, or Brewing Buckets (because you're always going to want to have at least two brews fermenting/conditioning at any time)

2. Stoppers, Airlocks, and Blowoff tube hosing for your carboys, a big spoon, funnel, strainer.

3. A nice big brew kettle. Get the best kettle you can buy. Trust me. You will thank yourself later. (You have to decide whether or not to do the propane outdoor turkey frier setup, or brew on the stove. I personally brew on the stove.)

4. Bottle washer. You NEED this, whether or not you realize it yet.

5. Sanitizer. (Absolutely essential piece of kit here, make sure to buy lots.)

6. Hydrometer (Get it.)

7. Bottles, caps, priming sugar, and labels are nice to have.

8. Ingredients. (Shop around. I buy bulk LME because I can normally find it for a good price. You can find excellent prices on hops if you shop around, as well.)

This is not meant to be a definitive list, just things that I would have bought.
 
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GAbrewlover

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That list helps immensely. We have been debating about equipment for so dang long, that I almost wish we just got one of the $100 kits so we were working on SOMETHING! Lol

All those little things like airlocks and stoppers add up. I am going to post in classified under WTB for whatever we can get our paws on. We won't be able to cook on the stove and will need a propane burner.

You guys have really given me a great starting point, I know my question is something that must get asked over and over, but everyone with different levels of dedication and budget, it's hard not to come out with a unique answer.

We are going to focus on the luxury of having a keg and order two Better Bottles and their bungs/tubing. Once the kettle and fermentation are sqaured, I think all the other decisions will be made easier.
 

Quietandsimple

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Welcome to the Art! Make no mistake, you're in Brew Sorcery land, now. It'll hook you fast, and make an addict out of you in no time. Soon you'll be walking through the store buying random crap because it will connect to Y to help facilitate X in your brew setup.

Case in point, I bought this outrageously expensive organic apple juice (R.W.Knudsen's Organic Apple Juice @ 7.95 for 96 ounces), because it came in a FREE GROWLER. :rockin: This is what you have to look forward to.
 
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You guys really rock! We only really decided on glass due to the fact that wine was also an interest and that it was supposed to be able to let you "see" what's going on in the fermentation process. We will look into the Better Bottles. Since wine is still an interest with our budget, maybe two glass and two better bottles are in order. We will also look at the DIY counter chiller.

Seems like our first hardware purchase should be the equipment needed to outfit the keg and get our carboys in order.
I highly recommend the BB's.
 

StittsvilleJames

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The things I found the most important were, in order of importance:

1. hydrometer. Cant tell what is going on with fermentation otherwise, can't figure out a.b.v.

2. Autosiphon. My first kit didn't come with one of these, and after trying to bottle my first batch without one (and my bucket doesn't have a spigot), went and bought one the next day.

3. bottling wand. See number 2. I would never ever try to bottle without one again.

4. Immersion chiller. I made one for about 20$. Bought 25' of copper, and a couple clamps, and some re-purposed rubber hose.

Those are my only essentials, which I would make sure I had from day 1 if I could go back.
 
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GAbrewlover

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What's not to love about a "free" Growler lol. I can't wait to get started guys, it's something I've talked and talked and talked about and now it's time for action.

Can you guys point me in the right direction for the cheapest/best better bottle? seems there are many options of material and ports. There are a few retailers new Atlanta and I saw a few offerings on Amazon.
 

Jwood

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whatever you decide to get, the number one most important thing that is almost always overlooked by people starting out is.....

how you treat your yeast and water.

You can ruin a brew by using chlorinated water, it is imperative you filter your water if you have chlorine in it (maybe 40 dollars for a filter and fittings to a garden spigot at Lowes)

As for the yeast, before you brew look up how to make a starter. Use the pitching calculator on www.mrmalty.com and most importantly figure out how you are going to keep those fermentation temperatures in check. Not ambient room temperature, but fermentation temperature which could be as high as 10 degrees!! over ambient. (look up low cost swamp coolers for your first brew, if you find you love brewing, make one of your first major investments a fermentation chamber)

I (and i know many people would agree) would rather drink a beer made from a cheap kit where the brewer treated the yeast and water correctly than the best all grain recipe that was under pitched, fermented in the high 70's, low 80's, and brewed from a chlorinated water supply.

But, have fun :mug: you are about to open a door (and a wallet) you will never be able to close.

EDIT: And make sure you update us on how that first brew goes and eventually tastes! All of us will be looking forward to it
 
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GAbrewlover

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All the intricacies makes this whole process seem very foreboding lol. Through the Better Bottles website, we found a homebrew store in Tallahassee which is close to us. We plan on going next week and coming back with some goodies. You guys have already steered us out of glass carboys, which we thought was the easiest and most solid decision made. So a trip to Tally and the local welder and we should be in the start of business.

What do you guys so for your water? We joked about having one of those ultra violet water systems- but maybe that is a good idea? And that beer software I see on Amazon?
 

Jwood

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what i do for my water is run it through a charcoal filter and then add about half a campden tablet to my total water volume (5.5 gallons) to rid all chlorine and chloramines (yeah, im really paranoid after that first (and only) chlorinated batch. Like drinking liquid plastic/band-aids. You can never forget it.).

And that's all that is necessary really. Once you get further along you can worry about adjusting your water parameters if you'd like, but just making sure the chlorine and chloramines are out is what is crucial.

For the charcoal filter, i bought it at Lowe's. It is one of the inline filters that are meant to be put under your kitchen sink. However, i just attached a garden spigot adapter on one end and just connect it there when i want to collect my water for brew day. One filter is good for about 3000 gallons i think, so i mean, its well worth it. It is inexpensive and you don't have to worry about building up a water profile like you would if you used an R/O (reverse osmosis) system.

I should also note that i live in a place where the tap water is awful. Your city should have a breakdown available of what exactly is in your water supply. That is the best place to check to see what you need to do. Not everyone needs water adjustment.
 

Homercidal

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With the Better Bottles, it's important to know that the bottom flexes when you lift it with liquid inside. Not a big deal except that causes suction at the top, which can suck whatever is in your airlock into your beer. Not a big deal if you use vodka or Star San in your airlock.

My advice is to keep the airlock off when picking up. You'll get some air, but the chances of getting anything bad is very minute. The better way might be to place your BB in a milk crate and carry it around by that. That will keep the bottom from flexing.

They also sell a strap call a brewhauler, which was designed for glass carboys. Very handy, but I don't know if one of those would keep the bottom from flexing.

A turkey fryer setup is probably the cheapest way to get a burner and a kettle, but if you KNOW you are going to be in this for the long haul, I recommend also buying a large kettle in addition. The turkey fryers are too close to the full boil volume, but could make nice HLTs.
 

muthafuggle

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If you are doing wine, you need to remember that wine kits comes in larger volume kits (i want to say 7 gallons?) than beer (5 gallons). You are going to need a bigger fermenter for wine.
 

broadbill

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Another option instead of buying a filter for water is to buy spring water from the grocery store. Most of them have the water kiosk up-front.
 

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