Starter equipment kit recommendations?

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fotomatt1

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I'm about to get started in home brewing and I think I've done a little bit too much research and have now confused myself completely. I've been looking at the Midwest Supplies Intermediate Kit with 2 5 gallon Better Bottle Carboys. I think this kit looks pretty complete, plus it also comes with a 6.5 gallon fermentor bucket and a 6.5 gallon bottling bucket. Does this kit have enough equipment to basically do 2 batches at once...one in carboys and one in buckets? If there are any other kits anybody recommends, I'd really appreciate the input.

Also, what extras should I purchase? I think I'd rather go with a 7.5 gallon put since it seems more convenient to do full boils. If anybody can recommend a reasonably priced 7.5 gallon stainless pot, please let me know. If I go with the 7.5 gal, I will probably need a wort chiller, since I don't have a sink big enough to put a pot that size in, nor do I want to carry a pot of hot wort to my bathtub. Any recommendations on chillers?
 

llazy_llama

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I'm about to get started in home brewing and I think I've done a little bit too much research and have now confused myself completely. I've been looking at the Midwest Supplies Intermediate Kit with 2 5 gallon Better Bottle Carboys. I think this kit looks pretty complete, plus it also comes with a 6.5 gallon fermentor bucket and a 6.5 gallon bottling bucket. Does this kit have enough equipment to basically do 2 batches at once...one in carboys and one in buckets? If there are any other kits anybody recommends, I'd really appreciate the input.
That's the exact kit I started off with. You wouldn't really want to do a batch using the better bottles as primaries, as blow off will be a serious concern. I tried it twice, one batch was fine, the other lost almost half a gallon from blow off. You can, however, use the bucket for your primary, then rack to the better bottle as secondary. Then get another batch going in the bucket, and a week later you can rack to your other better bottle. By the time your third bucket batch is ready to move to secondary, the beer in your first better bottle will probably be ready to bottle, and suddenly you have a pipeline flowing!

Personally, I realized really quickly that one bucket and two better bottles wouldn't be enough, and bought several additional primaries. Then I stopped doing secondaries altogether, so the 5 gallon better bottles are now used for Apfelwein.

Also, what extras should I purchase? I think I'd rather go with a 7.5 gallon put since it seems more convenient to do full boils. If anybody can recommend a reasonably priced 7.5 gallon stainless pot, please let me know. If I go with the 7.5 gal, I will probably need a wort chiller, since I don't have a sink big enough to put a pot that size in, nor do I want to carry a pot of hot wort to my bathtub. Any recommendations on chillers?
For a pot that big, Wares Direct has some good deals. Personally, I use aluminum because it's much cheaper, but both work well. You'll also need a propane burner if you don't already have one. Most stoves aren't going to get 5 gallons of liquid to a boil in any reasonable time frame. It took my stove about 6 hours the first (and only) time I tried it.

You will also want (or need) a wort chiller, as you mentioned. I have the SS chiller from Midwest, and for about fifty bucks, you can't go wrong. Plus, it's stainless, so it'll probably outlive me. I'd also recommend a jet bottle washer. It'll come in handy for cleaning out bottles as well as your better bottles.

Beyond that, more carboys! But you'll figure that one out in time. ;)
 
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fotomatt1

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Hmm....is a propane burner safe indoors? I live in a small apartment, which brings me to my next question. Now that it's almost summer and starting to get warm out, my apartment is getting warmer. I don't run the AC when I'm not home, and it can get as warm as 82 - 85 degrees on a really hot summer day. I think this is a bit hot for fermentation. I have no objection to buying a small refrigerator and a temperature control for a fermentation chamber. Do you know of a small fridge that will fit a 6.5 gallon fermentor?
 

llazy_llama

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Hmm....is a propane burner safe indoors?
Absolutely not! A propane burner indoors will kill you, and quick! I use mine in the garage with the door open and a fan running. You might be able to brew in your parking lot, on a balcony, or outdoors somewhere.

As for your fermentation temps, you could rig up a fridge, or you could use a swamp cooler. Several of us just use a large plastic bin filled with water and just a tiny bit of bleach to keep mold from forming, and add frozen water bottles to keep the temps down.
 
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fotomatt1

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Do you have any links to coolers that will work well? This seems like a more affordable solution.
 

cowstick

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Just get the biggest Rubbermaid storage bin you can find. Hell it doesnt have to be rubbermaid just water tight anything will do really.
+1 on more carboys 6.5 gals.
 
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fotomatt1

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That looks pretty cool. Have any more pictures to see exactly how it's set up? I'm actually really considering getting a small fridge that I can fit a 6.5gal bucket in. I'd rather have more accurate temp control. My only prob now is the fact that I didn't really know I will have trouble doing a full boil on a stove top. I have a natural gas stove...just not sure it will generate enough heat to boil 5 - 7 gal of water. I guess I'm better off doing a partial boil to be safe.
 

patd

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I'm in the same boat. I've been sitting down at night for the last week intent on ordering a kit, but I end up spending an hour comparing the kits/additional equipment at different websites, and always walk away never being able to choose a final option. I just got done doing it again, due to Northern Brewer being out of the basic wort chillers. I almost pulled the trigger on the Midwest Homebrewing complete kit, but that one has a bucket instead of a carboy as the primary (I want to see everything going on inside). Oh well maybe tomorrow night...I better do it soon before my wife spends the extra cash hanging out in the bank!
 

shlauncha

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Buy a basic(bucket) kit, no need for a secondary until you get a few brews under your belt.. if ever.
 

llazy_llama

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I'm in the same boat. I've been sitting down at night for the last week intent on ordering a kit, but I end up spending an hour comparing the kits/additional equipment at different websites, and always walk away never being able to choose a final option. I just got done doing it again, due to Northern Brewer being out of the basic wort chillers. I almost pulled the trigger on the Midwest Homebrewing complete kit, but that one has a bucket instead of a carboy as the primary (I want to see everything going on inside). Oh well maybe tomorrow night...I better do it soon before my wife spends the extra cash hanging out in the bank!
Then just tack on a 6 gallon better bottle, a carboy cap or stopper, and an extra airlock. Seriously, as far as the online homebrew stores go, Midwest has the best starter deal out there.

shlauncha said:
Buy a basic(bucket) kit, no need for a secondary until you get a few brews under your belt.. if ever.
Secondaries aren't generally an indicator of more experience, but less. Most people start off using secondaries, then stop after they realize the benefits of extended primaries. If I'm going to secondary, it's for one of very few reasons. Either oaking, dry hopping, adding souring cultures, adding fruit, or if I just plain need to free up a larger fermenter.
 

Chrysee

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Just to chime in. We make our beer in an apartment and have no trouble getting to boil with our stove, using a 22qt stainless steel stock pot. So far, it's been pretty quick to boil. I would try it indoors on a stove first before purchasing something that could potentially get you in trouble with your landlord. I know ours would not be happy to see us in the parking lot, or god forbid on our balcony trying to make beer.
 
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fotomatt1

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I'm going to buy a 30 qt pot and I'll test doing a full boil with water first. I think my stove can handle it, but if not, I'll just do partial boils. My biggest problem is controlling fermentation temperature. I'd much rather build a fermentation chamber out of a mini fridge since it doesn't take up much room. I also don't want a swamp cooler sitting in the corner of my small apartment for 2 or 3 weeks at a time.
 
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