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Suggestions for the equipment $500-$600 range.

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xQuestx

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Hello all,

I've never tried brewing, and I'm interested in learning. I have a kegerator and would like to start making my own kegs of beer. The problem is I don't know much about the equipment needed to brew. I'm trying to stay around the $500-$600 range. I've been checking out videos on electric kettles that look pretty good. Does anyone have some suggestions for the equipment I need to buy? Thanks.
 

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You have just rolled the stone away from the entrance to a very deep rabbit hole. 😁

Do you intend to do extract brewing or all grain brewing? Not to insult your intelligence but, not knowing what your knowledge base is, do you know the difference? Do you want to do Brew In A Bag (BIAB), which is what the electric, all-in-one systems essentially are, or 3 vessel brewing, utilizing a hot liquor tank, mash lauter tun, and a brew kettle? Again, do you know the difference?

At a minimum, you need a heat source which can bring the necessary volume of liquid, which can be as little as 2-3 gallons to as much as 10, or more, depending on the desired batch size, to a boil in a reasonable amount of time. You need kettles of appropriate size for the batch size you intend to brew. You need something to ferment the beer in, which can be as basic as a food grade plastic bucket to as elaborate as a temp controlled stainless steel fermenting system. And, you will need the usual assortment of small tools and hardware such as thermometers, hydrometers, an accurate scale, airlocks for the fermenter(s), a bottling wand, bottling bucket, auto siphon and bottle capping tool if you want to bottle some of your brews, something to cool the wort to yeast pitching temperature, cleaning and sanitizing products and-what am I missing here? Oh, yeah. A big-ass spoon. One simply does not brew without a big-ass spoon. :cool:

Give us a little more information and you will get enough different answers to thoroughly confuse you. And, welcome to HBT. There is a lot of accumulated knowledge here, some of which may be useful. 😉
 

ArizonaGoalie

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There's a fairly wide variety of options available. You could start with extract brewing and spend well under $100 for equipment. Or jump right into all grain and probably get a nice set up for $300-$400. If you've never brewed, I'd suggest starting with a few extract batches, even an extract kit from a reputable online brew shop.

For that, all you'll need (for a 5 gallon batch):
-Kettle that can boil 2-3 gallons (probably already have on hand)
-Fermenting bucket or carboy
-Airlock for fermenter
-Floating thermometer (not absolutely necessary, but helpful...but a meat thermometer would do)
-Sanitizer and spray bottle
-Stirring spoon (probably already have)
-Hose for transferring to keg and a racking cane or siphon
-Dry or liquid malt extract, hops, steeping grains, corn sugar, yeast (all would be included in a kit)

That's really all you need to get started and brew some really good beer. Once you brew a few extract batches, you can make the leap into all grain brewing with a mash tun and bigger kettle. Helpful at that point would be a burner or electric kettle, and extra fermenter for use as a secondary, and another fermenter to keep the kitty going.
 
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xQuestx

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Thank you for the replies and great information. Some of the things your talking about I'm looking up as I type this. I think I've decided on all-grain brewing with something like an anvil electric system.

Can you do beer fermentation right in the keg? For a 5 gallon keg, will the 6.5-gallon anvil system fill it, or is there burn off or something? I see they make a 10-gallon system also.

How hard is the kegging part? Right now, I use a D-coupler with the kegs from the store at the moment. A home brew keg probably uses something else?

I appreciate you guys taking the time and helping me.
 

grampamark

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OK, it appears that you are interested in brewing because you have a kegerator and would like to fill it with your own beer. Makes sense. But, it also appears that there are some significant gaps in your knowledge base. Brewing isn’t really that hard, but it is a process with quite a few moving parts, and an understanding of what those parts are, and how the brewer manages those parts, is pretty much the basic requirement for starting one’s first venture into brewing.

To answer your questions-yes, you can ferment in the keg, but that requires an understanding of what takes place during fermentation and how the keg has to be configured to get the best results. There are a number of steps in the process which you have to complete successfully before the beer goes into the fermenter, so, you‘re getting the cart a bit ahead of the horse here.

You can keg using Sanke style kegs, but most homebrewers use the Cornelius style kegs because they are less expensive and easier to clean and maintain. Converting your kegerator to accept the commonly used ball lock style connectors isn’t expensive or difficult.

The Anvil systems seem to be popular. But, you should be aware that the rated capacity of those systems is the gross capacity, not net. The 6.5 gallon Anvil is, according to their website, intended for 2.5-3 gallon batches; the 10 gallon unit is intended for 5 gallons net.

I’d suggest you do some reading about the brewing process in some detail to get some idea of what the entire process involves. A pretty good, quick and dirty, resource is John Palmer’s How To Brew. The first edition is available free, online. Just Google “how to brew”. The book is up to the 4th edition, now, but the original will give you a basic understanding of both extract and all grain brewing. Do a bit of research into the process, not just the equipment, and keep asking questions here. There is a lot of brewing knowledge here, but you have to do some of the grunt work yourself; we can help fill in the blanks. Good luck, and welcome to the hobby!
 
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xQuestx

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Thank you. I'll check out the book, and you're right; I need to do more research. Off to learn.
 

bracconiere

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my setup pretty much, except the fridge for the keg, that i got at a garage sale. and few more kegs, but i pieced my keg collection together slowly....
 

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Buy a beginner's brew set and an extract kit to see how a simple extract brew goes before you start to invest too much. The brew kit will have a couple of buckets or fermenters, hoses, hydrometer, racking canes/siphon, and other bits and pieces. Get some sanitizer and a large brew kettle (cheap 5 gallon) that you can use on the stove.

Which ever way to decide to go, this will allow you to get a basic understanding of what goes on in the process and let you make up your mind which way you want to go. This will also help you understand what any book on the subject is talking about at different stages of the process. And pretty much everything in the brew set that you buy will still be required which ever way you go.

Use bottles for the first batch. The brew set will probably come with caps and a capper, so you will just need some bottles (save the ones that you are drinking now). Bottling at least 1 batch will make you learn what you need to know about kegging, because you will not want to bottle again if you can help it.
 

Rogue_Atom87

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If you want to do small batch this wouldnt be bad idea for $500


Also look at Anvil products. They are good quality for a little less than others
 

DarrellQ

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I'm relatively new to brewing also and have numerous lessons learned. The two positive things that I've done is buy a decent basic brewing kit for about $150 that even came with a recipe kit of ingredients and I bought John Palmer's book 'How to Brew.' I did a couple of these extract brews, the beer turned-out pretty decent, and I learned --a ton. The book along with a basic kit gave me "context" which helped my learning. Based on information I received from these early brews as well as from the knowledgeable folks on this forum, I did decide early-on to buy a cheap mini-fridge with temperature controller that would fit my 6.5 gallon fermentation bucket and I also bought an immersion chiller. At this point, I had invested about $450 and did several brews with liquid malt extract (LME). I then decided to move to all-grain brewing and bought an Anvil Foundry 10.5 for $450. I did my first brew with the Foundry, and despite numerous lessons learned, the beer still turned-out great. One big lesson learned about the whole experience so far is regarding all the low end stuff that I have bought, such as aeration wand, hydrometer, and little stuff like that, whereby I went on the cheap. I wish I had bought higher end versions of these little items as I'm now looking to upgrade them. I also learned on this forum the phrase, "buy once, cry once." Very appropriate for this hobby! With about $900 invested so far, the only things I think I still need are a kegging system because bottling SUCKS, and a Milwaukee PH meter. Dear Santa.
 
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xQuestx

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Thanks everyone you've been helpful. Now to learn and start buying stuff.
 

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First, welcome to the hobby and the brewing subculture! All above are great recommendations. Not sure what your mechanical/electrical skill level is but part of the fun I have with this hobby is building my own things. If you have some modest skills you can make your own mash tun if you want an all grain system... You will need something to chill your beer and that can be made as well. As others, I recommend reading about the process before you buy as you will ba able to purchase.make almost anything to fit your budget. The most important step IMHO is to make sure you create a great sanitary environment.
 

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Like otheres mentioned, you can spend as much or as little as you want on this hobby.
First read the online version of How To Brew. Assuming you want to continue, get the latest edition in print, read that as well - he's changed his mind on some procedures and the equipment and technology has changed drastically since he first wrote it. I would also recommend reading Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy of Homebrewing. IMO they're both essential reading - |Palmer is more scientific, by the numbers, and Papazian is more of a feel guy.
I would also recommend starting with a simple beginner's kit - the buckets and so on, and depending on what you have at home, as big a pot as you can. Most kits and recipes are set for 5 gallon batches, so that's likely what you'd start with. (there are some notable exceptins, of course.)
I started with a 32-quart GraniteWare pot, I think it's technically marketed as a seafood pot. Under $50, and I still use it today, not as my main kettle, but for other things.
The other big question is how you plan to boil things. Many home kitchen stoves don't have the gumption to bring 6+ gallon to a boil in any kind of time frame. Gas is better, but it still takes a while.
Also, when brewing, the most important things to concentrate on are sanitation, yeast health, sanitation, temperature control, sanitation, PATIENCE, sanitation and patience. Keep things clean and give everything time to do what it does, and you'll end up with beer.
 

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Hello all,

I've never tried brewing, and I'm interested in learning. I have a kegerator and would like to start making my own kegs of beer. The problem is I don't know much about the equipment needed to brew. I'm trying to stay around the $500-$600 range. I've been checking out videos on electric kettles that look pretty good. Does anyone have some suggestions for the equipment I need to buy? Thanks.
I know you have a budget to buy new equipment, but check out Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. A lot of brewers post there and you can pick up some real bargains. I see a lot of complete kits for sale from people who went all in and found that brewing wasn't for them or brewers who upgraded and want to sell off their old stuff. Also, look for a cheap mini fridge so you have temperature control over your fermentations. I got mine for $50.

There's also sound reasons to go new and get exactly what you want, but that $600 budget can get maxed out really quick.

My advice is to keep your process simple to learn the craft. You can always upgrade later, but the simple brew day will get you beer and help you decide where you want to go from there.

Good luck!
 

apache_brew

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Like other have suggested, read How to Brew before you start buying equipment. The fact that you haven't bought a starter kit and are asking questions first is a good sign.

You've got a good start already having a kegerator. It won't take much to adapt ball lock kegging equipment to your sankey equipment. Don't bother with kegging in sankeys. The hassle to disassemble and clean/sanitize them is enough to push you away from the hobby at this point. Look for some Cornelius (style) ball lock (more common than pin lock) kegs and replace all the gaskets if you buy used ones. Assume these will be around $50 each used.

Do you have a turkey fryer? I used a cheap turkey fryer burner for my first 10 batches and it was good enough to boil 10 gallon batches with simple propane 20lb tanks that you might already have. Check craigslist, etc.. I've since stepped up to a Blichmann hell fire burner. This will work on propane and natural gas. I don't plan on ever needing to replace this. Fuel type (flame or electricity) will vary. Think about what you have available to you.

A 15.5 gallon keg with top cut out makes a great vessel to boil in. Add a $15 drill bit and a $40 ball valve/fitting and you now have a boil kettle. Add a $20 bag and you now have a simple BIAB set up. Don't burn your bag (only heat before you put the bag in and after you pull it out) When you do pull it out, consider a pulley/hoist. This setup will allow you to make 5 gallon biab batches now no problem, and allow you to step up to 10 gallon batches (boil kettle volume) in the future if you want to buy a mash tun to hold more grain (100 qt coolers are cheap). I jumped to all grain, but you can easily do 10 gallon full volume extract right now too. Do you have an old sleeping bag? wrap it around the keg during mashing (if doing all grain) and you'll be good.

Do you have a good handheld thermometer? A good digital pen type thermometer is another multi use tool that isn't going to grab and rip your bag when you pull it out of your kettle (hint...) A big ass spoon is great to have too (long term multi use)

Hop socks in the boil kettle work and are cheap. Pumps are nice to move wort around for features like a counterflow heat exchanger, but you don't need one to start. A 25' copper immersion chiller will be fine to cool 5 gallon batches down to pitching temps (make sure it reaches down into your kettle, 25' ones typically don't fit down into keggles) . I use my original one in series with the counterflow chiller now to quickly cool 10 gallon batches from boil to 50F.

A brand new food grade plastic bucket works fine for a fermenter to start out with. They're cheap, easy to clean, and can be repurposed after they've retired (grain storage, wash bucket, etc..) Get used to taking gravity samples during fermentation. I do this easily now with a welded in bung in my stainless fermenter with a ball valve, but looking back on plastic bucket days, I'd suggest a simple wine thief where your thumb holds a vacuum (easy to sanitize) This is just me, but I don't recommend commercial plastic fermenters. If you're gonna spend money on a fermenter, go stainless. You don't need to right now, but when you do, consider going with a commercial sankey keg. 7.5 gallon for 5 gallon batches (if you happen to stumble upon one), and 15.5 for 10 gallon batches. Cheap, rock solid, and will last forever. Simple way is to use a carboy cap with airlock and dip tube. Sophisticated way it to use stainless tri clamps and endless other stainless parts that could allow pressure fermentation, carbonating, closed transfer, etc... Worry about that later.

Like mentioned, for now you don't need a pump and can gravity transfer your wort into your fermenter. When you upgrade you'll want to have silicone hoses and disconnects.

Above is essentially everything you need to make wort (equipment wise) + 4 lbs of PBW, 32 oz of starsan, hydrometer, etc..

For now, just use smack packs for yeast and you should be good. You can get into making yeast starters later on, and when you do, that will consist of a stir plate, Erlenmeyer flask, dry malt extract, nutrients, etc..

Because you already have a kegerator, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you have room for another refrigerator right next to it. This could be a free freezer or mini fridge that you plug into a $30 inkbird controller that you tape the temperature probe to the side of your fermenter and use to control your fermentation temperature. This is really what's gonna make your beer taste like beer worth making.

I like to recommend stuff that's bare bones and robust enough to last hundreds of batches based on some of my own experiences as well as recommendations from a professional brewer who got me started. This hobby can get crazy involved and real expensive fast. BTW, you don't even have any ingredients yet, haha. That being said, do your homework think about what direction you want to go. See what fits in your budget now, and go from there.

🍻
 

ATLBeer

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I'll second the Craigslist suggestion. Lots of equipment out there.

I bought an older Robobrew, multiple fermenters, pots & buckets, ink bird, and a bunch of extras for under $300 about a month ago.
 

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Shiny new equipment doesn't make beer, ingredients do. I'd suggest that you start cheap on the equipment and spend on the ingredients until you know what equipment you would need (want?) to upgrade. There is a market for used equipment so it isn't like you have to throw away your equipment if you upgrade.
 
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xQuestx

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Like other have suggested, read How to Brew before you start buying equipment. The fact that you haven't bought a starter kit and are asking questions first is a good sign.

You've got a good start already having a kegerator. It won't take much to adapt ball lock kegging equipment to your sankey equipment. Don't bother with kegging in sankeys. The hassle to disassemble and clean/sanitize them is enough to push you away from the hobby at this point. Look for some Cornelius (style) ball lock (more common than pin lock) kegs and replace all the gaskets if you buy used ones. Assume these will be around $50 each used.

Do you have a turkey fryer? I used a cheap turkey fryer burner for my first 10 batches and it was good enough to boil 10 gallon batches with simple propane 20lb tanks that you might already have. Check craigslist, etc.. I've since stepped up to a Blichmann hell fire burner. This will work on propane and natural gas. I don't plan on ever needing to replace this. Fuel type (flame or electricity) will vary. Think about what you have available to you.

A 15.5 gallon keg with top cut out makes a great vessel to boil in. Add a $15 drill bit and a $40 ball valve/fitting and you now have a boil kettle. Add a $20 bag and you now have a simple BIAB set up. Don't burn your bag (only heat before you put the bag in and after you pull it out) When you do pull it out, consider a pulley/hoist. This setup will allow you to make 5 gallon biab batches now no problem, and allow you to step up to 10 gallon batches (boil kettle volume) in the future if you want to buy a mash tun to hold more grain (100 qt coolers are cheap). I jumped to all grain, but you can easily do 10 gallon full volume extract right now too. Do you have an old sleeping bag? wrap it around the keg during mashing (if doing all grain) and you'll be good.

Do you have a good handheld thermometer? A good digital pen type thermometer is another multi use tool that isn't going to grab and rip your bag when you pull it out of your kettle (hint...) A big ass spoon is great to have too (long term multi use)

Hop socks in the boil kettle work and are cheap. Pumps are nice to move wort around for features like a counterflow heat exchanger, but you don't need one to start. A 25' copper immersion chiller will be fine to cool 5 gallon batches down to pitching temps (make sure it reaches down into your kettle, 25' ones typically don't fit down into keggles) . I use my original one in series with the counterflow chiller now to quickly cool 10 gallon batches from boil to 50F.

A brand new food grade plastic bucket works fine for a fermenter to start out with. They're cheap, easy to clean, and can be repurposed after they've retired (grain storage, wash bucket, etc..) Get used to taking gravity samples during fermentation. I do this easily now with a welded in bung in my stainless fermenter with a ball valve, but looking back on plastic bucket days, I'd suggest a simple wine thief where your thumb holds a vacuum (easy to sanitize) This is just me, but I don't recommend commercial plastic fermenters. If you're gonna spend money on a fermenter, go stainless. You don't need to right now, but when you do, consider going with a commercial sankey keg. 7.5 gallon for 5 gallon batches (if you happen to stumble upon one), and 15.5 for 10 gallon batches. Cheap, rock solid, and will last forever. Simple way is to use a carboy cap with airlock and dip tube. Sophisticated way it to use stainless tri clamps and endless other stainless parts that could allow pressure fermentation, carbonating, closed transfer, etc... Worry about that later.

Like mentioned, for now you don't need a pump and can gravity transfer your wort into your fermenter. When you upgrade you'll want to have silicone hoses and disconnects.

Above is essentially everything you need to make wort (equipment wise) + 4 lbs of PBW, 32 oz of starsan, hydrometer, etc..

For now, just use smack packs for yeast and you should be good. You can get into making yeast starters later on, and when you do, that will consist of a stir plate, Erlenmeyer flask, dry malt extract, nutrients, etc..

Because you already have a kegerator, I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you have room for another refrigerator right next to it. This could be a free freezer or mini fridge that you plug into a $30 inkbird controller that you tape the temperature probe to the side of your fermenter and use to control your fermentation temperature. This is really what's gonna make your beer taste like beer worth making.

I like to recommend stuff that's bare bones and robust enough to last hundreds of batches based on some of my own experiences as well as recommendations from a professional brewer who got me started. This hobby can get crazy involved and real expensive fast. BTW, you don't even have any ingredients yet, haha. That being said, do your homework think about what direction you want to go. See what fits in your budget now, and go from there.

🍻

Thank you for this great write up and for taking the time to explain things. I'm thinking of trying to cut off the top of a keg idea you've listed. Seems fun.
 

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Thank you for this great write up and for taking the time to explain things. I'm thinking of trying to cut off the top of a keg idea you've listed. Seems fun.
Try and find one already cut up if you can. Commercial kegs are typically owned by the breweries. Most of the time commercial kegs on the secondary market are just un-returned “stolen” kegs. Ideal would be to source decomissioned kegs from a distributor or brewery.
 

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I've been doing small batches for about 6 months, so take my advice with a large grain of salt :) If I had the funds, I would buy the 6.5 gal anvil foundry w/ recirculation pump. But I think if I had started with that, the learning curve for my first few brews would've been very, very steep. My advice to you is to spend $50-$100 on a basic 5 gal extract setup. Read How to Bew, and brew with this equipment until you understand how beer is made from start to finish. Then once you're ready to jump into all-grain, the 10 gal foundry will be a great way for you to make consistent 5 gallon all grain batches. Also use recipes/kits for a while. It seems easy to tweak with ingredients and timings, but I've made some potentially great beer that I turned into so-so beer by messing with the recipe before I knew what I was doing. Good luck, have fun, and make sure to post pics of your sweet new gear!! :)
 

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Im not gonna lie, I dont believe in the whole buy a book and read, youtube has take that out of the equation now. I would probably get a digiboil with pump and call it a day. i didnt know aything about making beer and just found this site, which is a god send, and bought equipment and started, messed p a couple but since then its been non stop beer making.
 

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Do you have a list of recommended videos?
I’m a big fan of Homebrew 4 Life. Lots of great bare bones DIY brewing info. Everybody else on YouTube seems too recipe and equipment advertising oriented.

Brew-Dudes also put out a lot of good content, but you need to comb through it to get what you’re looking for.
 
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xQuestx

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I've been thinking about the last couple of days about buy once pain once. I've been looking at the 10.5-gallon anvil all in one and get a stainless steel fermentor like Ss brewtech 7 gallons. Do you think this system would be too much for a new person to learn? I keep going back and forth with what I want to get. Thanks.
 

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I think it is a lot to spend when you don't know if you will like the hobby or will brew enough to 'justify' the spend. I don't really mean justify, I mean not wanting you to regret spending almost $1K when you quit after two or three bad batches.

Since you've never brewed before, I'd suggest trying one of these:
- Find someone local and spend a brew day with him/her. Where are you anyway?
- Brew an extract batch or two on your stove. You really just need a pot, a bucket, spare keg and an extract kit. You'll reuse everything later, even after you upgrade your system. If you enjoy it, then by all means go spend your money.
 

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Never brewed before, never brewed with someone before. Start with an extract kit and beginners equipment and see if this hobby is for you before you spend serious money on it.

Extract can make decent beer, all-grain can make great beer (and bad beer if you don't know what you are doing). Extract is also simpler, so is good for starting out. If you buy a beginners kit, you will find you will still use most things as you continue to brew even when you upgrade.
 

Sunfire96

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I've been thinking about the last couple of days about buy once pain once. I've been looking at the 10.5-gallon anvil all in one and get a stainless steel fermentor like Ss brewtech 7 gallons. Do you think this system would be too much for a new person to learn? I keep going back and forth with what I want to get. Thanks.
There are so many holiday sales for beginners homebrew kits right now (northern brewer, more beer). Multiple posters here have suggested starting with an extract kit, and then moving up to the eBIAB and SS fermenter once you understand the fundamentals. Can you jump straight into an electric all in one and make beer? Absolutely. But I would strongly suggest waiting before you start doing all grain batches on a swanky new system.

When I started brewing i jumped straight into all grain. This forced me to learn things like water chemistry and mash pH a lot earlier than normal when I could have been focusing on the fundamentals of beer with an extract kit. It took me several months of crap beer to finally produce a drinkable beer I was proud of. Looking back, I really wish I had started with extract first. I think my beer would be better and I wouldn't have spent money on equipment/supplies that I didn't actually need, but lacked the knowledge to know better.

At the end of the day, it's your money and it's your beer, so do what you want :) I just wanted to share my experience starting with all grain and what I wish I had done differently in retrospect
 

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Like the above poster i jumped into all grain straight off, bought a brewtools B80 and grainfather conical fermenter. First batch the yeast was old and it didnt attenuate, lesson learned. Ever since then everyone is either on the money or close to it. Dont be afraid to learn on the fly, especially with all grain, its pretty cheap honestly, the time is what costs the most.
 

Calder

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Dont be afraid to learn on the fly, especially with all grain, its pretty cheap honestly, the time is what costs the most.
It is a hobby; time doesn't count as a cost. But I agree, it does require a large investment in your time.
 
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