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knob

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First, forgive me if I ramble. I've been drinking.

I always had an interest in getting into homebrewing. I decided I'd do it one day, but I didn't know when. A few days ago, as some of you may know, Woot.com offered the Mr. Beer kit for just $20. Awesome. I ordered it without much thought. I knew it was crap compared to a "real" kit, but I figured it'd be a good way to just mess around and see what there is to see.

Well, while waiting, I had "How to Brew" quickly shipped to my house (Amazon Prime is pretty awesome, not a shill) and began reading it. I also started looking up starter kits. As well as Mr. Palmer explains things, it all sounds horribly complicated (although some youtube videos make me believe that it doesn't have to be as complicated as it sounds). Just the act of cleaning and sanitizing alone sounds like a mess (beerstones and soaking them, followed by an acidic bath? ugh).

And then reading these forums (along with others) and hearing about all of the various equipment not included in the starter kits... What are some things that you own now that you wish you owned from the start? I was thinking about the various bottle cleaners and faucet-attachment rinsers to save some time.

I also wish suppliers offered a bit more customization to their starter kits. I'm so torn between a glass and plastic carboy (Plastic is easier seems easier and safer to handle, but the glass carboys seem a lot easier to clean... and look neater). And I'd like to exchange the default cappers for a bench capper.

Oh, and I wish I had any idea which brew was the easiest (and preferably quickest! I do want to drink this stuff after all) to start out with. I love stouts, but they all seem to take forever to brew and I want a little more instant gratification for my first brew.

The too long; didn't read version:

1) I've seen suggestions for Midwest stuff (intermediate), but which starter kit, looking back, would you go with? I'm not really wanting to spend $400 on a keg kit, but half that price is cool.

2) What equipment, not normally included with a starter kit, would you consider useful? Something that you own now, but didn't own when you started out, that you wish you did.

3) Give me some brew recommendations. I'm a pretty open guy. I love my craft brews and spend way too much money on them, but I can easily bring myself down to bud light mode if needed. I want something that is fairly quick and straight forward to allow me to get the basics of brewing down.
 

Hugh_Jass

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1) Go with the deluxe starter kit and a quality boil pot. Turkey fryer would be a +

2) Kegs make your life much easier but not necessary. An immersion chiller would be a useful tool.

3) Brew what you like to drink. Some beers "mature " quicker than others. I don't particularly care for Hefes but they mature very quickly. No matter what you brew, it's going to take some time for the beer to reach it's full potential. Buy two kits. Brew one. When that's maturing, brew another. It helps pass the time.

Welcome to HBT and the obsession.:mug:
 

histo320

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At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the talk here. You have to understand that many of the brewers here are highly experienced and have a bunch of equipment. I am a newb with 9 brews under my belt and all I have is the basic kit you buy at any hombrew supply store and a 5 gal kettle. Overtime you accumulate more and more equipment but you do not need all the kegs, keggles, turkey fryer, mash tun, etc. All of that does help a bit but is not completely necessary. Although all of that turns out a quality beer, not many people go from newbie to full all grain brewhouse.

It can be a very discouraging hobby at first, but like all things you have to keep at it and get your own process down and you will be happy with good beer in your belly....and probably a bit drunk too!
 

Yooper

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When I first started, I used a good stew pot and cooled the wort in the sink. I wish I had bought a good brewpot then, and an immersion wort chiller. I ended up buying them anyway.

One thing probably not in your starter kit but is almost a wonder tool is an autosiphon. Since you siphon ("rack") the beer, sometimes starting a siphon is difficult. The autosiphon starts a siphon with one pump. I brewed a couple of years before I bought one, and that was silly. They cost about $10.

All you really need is the siphoning tubing, the ale pail bucket and lid, a couple of airlocks, and a good sanitizer. I like Star-san, which is easy to use. You can start saving bottles now (drink Sam Adams- they have nice reusable bottles) and buy a capper and caps. A bottling bucket (it has a spigot) and some tubing for it, including a bottling wand, is almost a must-have. I think you can find this stuff for about $75 total.

If you want to get a nice pot now, that would be handy as I said. And of course, some way to cool the wort. Those are "extras" but I'd spend on those before I'd buy another carboy at this point.

I am still putting my system together piece by piece. It seems like there is always something I want to tweak. But I've never had to rebuy anything- I still use all of my original stuff.
 

Belmont

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1) It depends on how much you can spend and what you think you want to do. When I started kegging I was telling friends interested to definitely keg from the start but I've changed my mind on that. Bottling is more work but you're going to want to bottle for long term aging eventually so it's not a waste to buy the equipment to cut cost early. Northern Brewer and AHB have some nice kits too.

2)A good starter kit should get you going pretty well. Brew kettles are the things that I wasted money on upgrading. If you can afford it get a good one that will allow you to boil 10 gallons. A wort chiller fits this question pretty well.

3) Since you like stouts try norther brewer's Irish Dry Stout. It's cheap, easy, and with low gravity ferments out and is ready to drink pretty quickly.
 

irunxcjm

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Don't worry about it being too complicated. It sounds hard, but it's not. And don't worry about sanitizing. Get yourself some StarSan mix it to the directions and that's it. You don't have to rinse it or anything. To answer your questions:

1)That kit is fine. I would go with buckets, they are easier, I think.

2)The only things I can think of is a immersion chiller (not necessary, but nice) and the one thing I think is a must is an Autosiphon. It makes things so much easier.

3)Like the above poster mentioned, hefes (wheats) mature very quick. Some say that they are better young. But again, brew what you like. If you are very impatient, this hobby will drive you crazy. Just let the beer do it's thing and you will be rewarded!
 

SnickASaurusRex

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The two things I wish I had from the get go are a bottle tree and a vinator (bottle sanitizer device). I was good at making beer from brew one and made the jump straight to AG for brew two. It was tasty in the carboy, a little darker than I had planned, but very good. I never bottled the stuff and ended up with a nasty carboy of moldy vinegar after about a year, because I hated bottling. I got back into brewing about a year latter and decided to buy the bottle tree and vinator. Now bottleing only takes about 45 minutes, and is easy as store bought pie.
 

JuanKenobi

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An autosiphon is a must if you ask me, and the bottle tree and vinator are a huge help in bottling. I've been kegging for a long time now, and I just picked up a tree and vinator to bottle a hefe and it was a life saver (especially bottling alone). I'd also recommend picking up a copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian. The information is not as up to date as Palmer's, but the beginner (and intermediate) sections of the book keep the process very simple and are enjoyable to read.
 

VABeerSnob

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Having Palmer for a primer on brewing is almost like having Albert Einstein for your high-school Physics teacher -- there is too much information! But don't throw that book away. As you grow in your hobby, you will keep turning to it for information. I do.

My first brewing book was Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione. It is a terrific book for first-timers because it has color-illustrated, step-by-step instructions. The idea of making extreme brews is good for newbies because extreme amounts of malt, hops, and other stuff add some intrigue to the process (Wow! This stuff has twice the malt and hops of Bud! I wonder how it will turn out?!) Plus, the extreme ingredients help mask the off-tastes in the efforts of inexperienced brewers.
 

woodenbuick

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You said you bought Mr Beer.. Try that and see what you think as far as sanitizing and bottling goes. They make it easy. Check out some of their advanced recipes, the beginning ones are not that good. As you find out what you like to do and what not, you will determine what you need. With a little work and some tweaking you can make good beer in the Mr. Beer kegs. I like making 2 1/2 gallons to try a beer, so I stiil use them.
 
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knob

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Huh, I clicked the "Prost this thread!" button. I don't know what that does.


Anyway. Like I said, I ordered a Mr. Beer from Woot. It arrived today. The spigot was missing the nut, so I had no way of making it water tight. Hugely disappointed as I was starting to get excited, even though it's not exactly up to par with a real homebrew kit.


Sooooo... I ordered the midwest intermediate kit. And a wort chiller. And one of those squirting bottle sanitizers. And a Noble Trappist kit. And a burner. And a 7.5 gallon pot. And a replacement spigot for the Mr. Beer kit, so I can fool around with that. I think there was other stuff, but oh god, it came out to be 200% more expensive than the Mr. Beer kit. At least I should be set for now.

I still need bottles and caps, but those are fairly inexpensive. Since I'm going to bottle for now, I kind of want to get a bench capper. Other than more carboys and bottles, I can't think of much more I need right now. I thought about getting a bottle tree and a faucet jet cleaner, but I won't need that for a few weeks.

God, I hope I use this stuff.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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A) You are clearly already under the obsession.
B) You are OK with dropping $200 already

With those two points in mind, I would buy basic items big enough to cope as your obsession grows, and good quality for the future rather than a ton of small or poor quality gear that you will want to replace down the line.
 

EoinMag

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I'll only answer on the third question as a relative newcomer to this hobby.

Start off with a Woodfordes Ale kit. Woodforde's Champion Real Ale and Beer from Nelson's County of Norfolk

Best homebrew kits I've found, but they are at the top end of the market for pre-hopped extract kits, some of them also contain hop packs etc.

Leave it a month in the fermenter and then a month in the bottles before drinking.
They are the easiest kits you will find to make, it's just add water and that's all.
Get some bucket fermenters to do these in I don't think Mr Beer will be any good for them.
 

jmiracle

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Don't worry about sanitizing and cleaning, after a couple brews it becomes automatic and beer is pretty forgiving anyway. People who have been brewing a long time with the same equipment are actually more likely to get an infection from lax sanitation because of scratched equipment or buildups of gunk in hard to clean spots.
 

android

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just a suggestion, don't worry about the bottle tree and use your dishwasher once bottling day comes to sanitize (run through the cycle without any soap and heat dry) and let your bottles hang until you're ready to fill them. lots of people on here use the dishwasher method to sanitize, i've done 3 batches successfully with that method.
 

Buford

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When I started out, I was doing extract using a 8 gallon pot, a copper IC, and ale pail fermenters, and bottling my batches. The one thing I don't think I could have done without was an auto-siphon, although I don't have a need for it now. Two years later my system is completely different (AG with 10 gallon Boilermaker, two 10 gallon coolers, march pump, therminator, Better Bottles) and I keg everything. Starting out my setup was fine, but later I decided to take it up a notch. I wouldn't have started out like I am now, so I can't really recommend any of what my current setup uses for a beginner as there's just too much cost wrapped up in equipment if you don't stick with brewing. My initial setup was pretty good, though, for when I was learning the ropes.

One thing that has been invaluable, though, is a plain old wallpaper tray. It's great for storing small gear and long items between brewdays, and makes sanitizing long stuff easier. Just fill it with sanitizer and you're good to go.
 

BillTheSlink

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I agree about the bottle tree and I don't have a dish washer. If anything else you can make a bottle tree using sealed wood for the trunk (shellac or lacquer) and plastic dowels for the branches. Those things are priced way too high.

As far as cleaning your bottles:

When you drink a beer rinse it out right away. On bottling day, wash with brewers cleaning powder from where ever you get your brew supplies. It can be used to clean just about anything and even be left to soak in it. Then just mix up your idophore (SP?) iodine solution and let them stew in it for a few minuets and then either hang them on your homemade tree or turn them upside down in a dish drainer until they drip dry. Complete this an hour or so before you start the bottling process and you'll be fine.
 

Weezknight

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just a suggestion, don't worry about the bottle tree and use your dishwasher once bottling day comes to sanitize (run through the cycle without any soap and heat dry) and let your bottles hang until you're ready to fill them. lots of people on here use the dishwasher method to sanitize, i've done 3 batches successfully with that method.
I've seen a lot of people say they do this. Is it safe, though, to do the first cleaning with soap prior to sanitizing? Such as run them through a regular cycle with the soap to clean any crud out, and then run them through a sanitizing cycle.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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By the way, regarding the title of this thread. the hobby is not overwhelming at all. It is easy.......it's just the passion it sparks that can be a bit hard to handle, and yes, a little overwhelming. ;)
 

boydak

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K.I.S.S

Take your time collecting the stuff. If you are looking to keg in the future why get a bench capper? suffer throught the butterfly.

My first books were my Pappazian.
 

craigd

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I wouldn't recommend it. They won't get clean enough that way and you may or may not effectively remove soap residue. I just soak in oxyclean solution (a big sports bin works great for soaking a whole batch worth,) hit them with a bottle brush quickly as I take them out and rinse with a spray nozzle on a hose. Then I use the dishwasher to sanitize just before bottling but soaking in a sanitizer would be just as effective if not more.

I've seen a lot of people say they do this. Is it safe, though, to do the first cleaning with soap prior to sanitizing? Such as run them through a regular cycle with the soap to clean any crud out, and then run them through a sanitizing cycle.
 

craigd

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K.I.S.S

Take your time collecting the stuff. If you are looking to keg in the future why get a bench capper? suffer throught the butterfly.

My first books were my Pappazian.
+1 on Papazian for those who think things are over complicated. He has a very relaxed approach so as not to overwhelm. Palmer is good for folks who really need to understand in detail and thrive on the science of it all.
 

SumnerH

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I agree about the bottle tree and I don't have a dish washer. If anything else you can make a bottle tree using sealed wood for the trunk (shellac or lacquer) and plastic dowels for the branches. Those things are priced way too high.
+1 on the pricing being too high.

I just put my bottles right-side up on a towel. If it's post-cleaning, they dry fine overnight; if it's post-sanitizing, I want the damp as I'm about to fill them.

An auto-siphon is the only thing you might be missing that's a real must-have (not sure if that kit includes it).

Otherwise, you may want a few more buckets/carboys as time passes, but other than that you can spend your money on ingredients. When you decide to switch to all-grain, you can start off with brew-in-a-bag for about $10..
 

BrewChick

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I just started myself, brewed my first batch Monday night. I bought the basic starter kit from Northern Brewer and I think it came with a lot of the things that people here are saying to buy... NORTHERN BREWER: Beer Starter Kits

I spoke to my brother beforehand and he said to just get that one and he sometimes wishes he had the buckets instead of carboys because of how easy they are to clean. It comes with an autosiphon and a bottle capper, and even comes with caps.

From that, I bought a honey brown extract kit, a 6 gallon stainless pot, a rolling pin and 5 gallons of spring water. Oh and two bags of ice, I will probably buy or make a wort chiller later, but for now ice water in the sink will do. I will be using my dishwasher for bottling.

Altogether I spent $200 to get my first batch going. I think it can be as complicated or simple as you choose. I agree with everyone else, start simple and easy, the stuff you buy won't go to waste. Some people think certain things are very important while others disagree. Figure out what is best for you, and what is worth the extra upgrades.
 

WBC

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I have been brewing beer since 1972 and think it is a fantastic hobby. I like the fact that I can make any beer any way I like and have become very good at it "as my neighbors constantly ask me to share my beer". After a while they too want to know how it is done and I am happy to show them. The single most important thing I have found to make beer the best is the yeast and fermentation temperature. I keep my fermentations as low as I can (refrigeration) for the yeast I am using and the beer comes out fantastic every time. Use the freshest ingredients just as you would in cooking. You do have to use sanitary procedures at all times after the boil because that is when it can become infected. Always do your best to plan your brew day and have everything ready and you will have no problem. THERE IS NO THING SUCH AS INSTANT BEER. It does take time but you can brew better beer than you can buy, believe it or not.
 

MawrCwrw

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had a brewmeister over and he helped a couple of us noobs brew our very first batches on my crappy electric stove (extract brewing) it was so much less intimidating WATCHING someone go thru the process instead of just reading about it.

our baby hefe is bubbling away in its plastic 5 gal. bucket.

i'm so excited, i've been googling beer recipes and coming up with my own whacky ideas for herbed/spiced ales...

we borrowed a lot of our beermeister friend's equipment, so still have to buy quite a few other things -- a big pot, hydrometer, thermometer, paddle to name a few.

but i think i'm hooked and i haven't even tasted the first try yet.
 

HillbillyDeluxe

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I have been brewing beer since 1972 and think it is a fantastic hobby. I like the fact that I can make any beer any way I like and have become very good at it "as my neighbors constantly ask me to share my beer". After a while they too want to know how it is done and I am happy to show them. The single most important thing I have found to make beer the best is the yeast and fermentation temperature. I keep my fermentations as low as I can (refrigeration) for the yeast I am using and the beer comes out fantastic every time. Use the freshest ingredients just as you would in cooking. You do have to use sanitary procedures at all times after the boil because that is when it can become infected. Always do your best to plan your brew day and have everything ready and you will have no problem. THERE IS NO THING SUCH AS INSTANT BEER. It does take time but you can brew better beer than you can buy, believe it or not.
I read this entire thread and this was the best advice i saw. I only have a few things to add.

1: Never compromise your sanitation!
2: Brew what you like.
3: I'm currently doing 10 gallon batches out of ale pails(carbouys are nice bun not as versitile and multi useful as ale pails.
4: Get a brew masters bible(not a particular one) it will give you an instant reference and ease your mind.
5; Buy a damn hydromeder, it less than 10 bucks and ur best freind!

as the laughing knome said..... Welcome to the obsession.!!!!!!!:rockin:
 

HillbillyDeluxe

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I almost forgot! Holy **** dude! you got a responce from yooper on your first thread! My firs yooper responce was chewin my ass cause i keep saying stuff like Guys, fellas, etc... She reminded me girs brew beer too.

And contrary to the rumors i do not have a restraining order on her for stalking me..... But i likem crazy.
 

simpleton

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I read this entire thread and this was the best advice i saw. I only have a few things to add.

1: Never compromise your sanitation!
2: Brew what you like.
3: I'm currently doing 10 gallon batches out of ale pails(carbouys are nice bun not as versitile and multi useful as ale pails.
4: Get a brew masters bible(not a particular one) it will give you an instant reference and ease your mind.
5; Buy a damn hydromeder, it less than 10 bucks and ur best freind!

as the laughing knome said..... Welcome to the obsession.!!!!!!!:rockin:
Buy two hydromeders. They are very delicate and break often. They are an important tool for knowing what your beer is doing. They are also cheap enough to keep an extra on hand.
 

brian_g

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I just want to comment on your last point:

"3) Give me some brew recommendations. I'm a pretty open guy. I love my craft brews and spend way too much money on them, but I can easily bring myself down to bud light mode if needed. I want something that is fairly quick and straight forward to allow me to get the basics of brewing down."

There are several ways of brewing beer: no boil kits, extract and specialty grains, mini mash, and all grain. You can get high quality beers from all these methods. Brewing your own Bud light clone wont be any easier then brewing a craft beer. A bud light clone will probably be harder, since you'll probably have to create your own recipe. All brewing methods take about a week for fermentation and three weeks for bottling. What you save is time on brew day. The no boil kits can be done in under an hour (including sensitization and clean up). When you do a boil you'll add at least couple of hours. (time to heat up the water, 20-30 min steeping the grains, 1 hour for the boil, cooling time) The mini mash and all grain takes even longer, because you have to soak the grains in 150 degree water for a full hour before you start the boil. What you gain from the more difficult methods is control over flavor. The no boil kit is easy, but you have to make the beer styles as their sold. There are a couple of dozen kinds to choose from, but all the ingredients are prepackaged: hops, grains, etc. There's not much room for experimentation, but in the end you can make great beer from any of the methods.

Another tip for keeping it simple and straight forward. Stay away from specialty yeast, at least for your first couple of batches. Specialty liquid yeast can cost around $6. The problem is that specialty yeast is much more sensitive to fermentation temperatures. I had a beer come out tasting like bubble gum, with my Trappist ale yeast, because the fermentation got too hot (85+). If you stick with a "boring" yeast like Coopers Ale yeast, you wont have to worry about it as much. My advice, stick with the plain yeast for a few batches, until you are sure you can keep your fermentation temperature under control.
 

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