Quantcast

What to Upgrade First?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
I got into brewing recently and am enjoying it a lot! I was gifted a pretty basic brewing kit with two plastic buckets for fermenting and bottling. I'm thinking of upgrading part of my system for a Christmas present to myself. What do you recommend upgrading first? Fermenter, Brewing system or CO2/Keg setup?

Thanks!
 
Joined
Mar 6, 2011
Messages
768
Reaction score
135
Location
Denver, PA
What is your brew pot? Assuming that you are doing extract brews a brew pot that can do a full boil is a helpful addition. A 10 gallon pot is helpful. But you will need a burner that can heat it, it needs more than a stove. For fermenting, the biggest return of investment is temperature control. If you have the room, look for a used fridge and get a cheap temp controller, like an inkbird 308. Kegging is nice on not having to bottle, but it will not make your beers necessarily better with some exemptions such as NEIPAs. Between the two, I would get the fridge.....
 

tracer bullet

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2020
Messages
277
Reaction score
177
Location
Minnesota
Honestly the buckets aren't so bad. Many fine beers made in buckets.

I'd go kegging if it were me. Bottling is fun at first, because you're wrapping up your beer making process and getting excited to taste it. But it loses its luster after a while and you just want to get the stuff out of a fermenter and also pour as much or as little as you feel like.
 
OP
B

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
If you have the room, look for a used fridge and get a cheap temp controller, like an inkbird 308. Kegging is nice on not having to bottle, but it will not make your beers necessarily better with some exemptions such as NEIPAs. Between the two, I would get the fridge.....
I'm doing extract brewing now and probably will for a while. I've got a 10 gallon pot that I do on the stove. I've got some nice gas burners so I've been able to get a good boil. For the fridge, does it just cycle the fridge on and off to hit higher temperatures?
 
OP
B

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
Honestly the buckets aren't so bad. Many fine beers made in buckets.

I'd go kegging if it were me. Bottling is fun at first, because you're wrapping up your beer making process and getting excited to taste it. But it loses its luster after a while and you just want to get the stuff out of a fermenter and also pour as much or as little as you feel like.
Thanks - with the bottling equipment isn't great with the basic kit, so it might make sense to bite the bullet and go to kegging now rather than upgrade the bottling equipment.
 

khannon

Guy who really knows where his towel is.
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 21, 2016
Messages
371
Reaction score
246
Location
Amherst
Kegging will make life easier, but I think the biggest game-changer for me was temp control during fermentation. I started being able to brew what I wanted when I wanted rather than the season dictating my yeast choice and beer styles.

You can go the inkbird way, they make great products, really easy to setup and use. I ended up building my own controller from a raspberry pi, some temp sensors and the like, because I needed better logic to keep the freezer part frozen(hops/yeast) and the fridge part at the temp I need it to be at.
 

jrgtr42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
1,349
Reaction score
583
Location
Metrowest, Massachusets.
How do you cool your wort down? Sink with ice packs?
Honestly the best move I made, other than going from a barely-adequate stove to a propane turkey burner (you can get those cheap about now) was to build an immersion chiller. I did get lucky and found a 50-foot coil of 1/2" copper tubing for $20, but at any price it's worth cutting chilling time from a couple hours to 15-20 minutes, depending of time of year and ground water temp.
 
OP
B

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
How do you cool your wort down? Sink with ice packs?
Honestly the best move I made, other than going from a barely-adequate stove to a propane turkey burner (you can get those cheap about now) was to build an immersion chiller. I did get lucky and found a 50-foot coil of 1/2" copper tubing for $20, but at any price it's worth cutting chilling time from a couple hours to 15-20 minutes, depending of time of year and ground water temp.
Yes I do have icewater/icepacks and it takes a while. This is good advice and I'll look into it - thanks!
 

3 Dawg Night

Life is too short to drink crappy beer.
Lifetime Supporter HBT Supporter
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
Messages
999
Reaction score
706
Location
Huntsville, AL
If I had it to do over again I'd go in this order:

1) Propane burner
2) Big kettle (figure out the biggest you think you'll ever need, then go up at least 5 gallons)
3) Plastic water cooler mash tun conversion
4) Fermentation temperature control (mini-fridge)
5) Immersion Chiller
6) Submersible pump for circulating ice water through chiller

I still enjoy bottling, but kegging might eventually be #7.

Alternatively:

1) Anvil Foundry
2) Fermentation temperature control
 

TsunamiMike

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Messages
105
Reaction score
17
Location
Cleveland, Ohio
Here is what I did:

1. Bought the Brewers Best Beast Kit
2. Bought a wort chiller
3. Bought a recirculating pump to recirculate milk jugs of ice through the wort chiller
4. bought a freezer and inkbird for fermentation
5. bought a Ferm Wrap for heating inside the fermenter
6. bought a 2 tap kegerator, 5lb Co2 tank, bought a dual taprite regulator to set two different pressures & 2 new corny kegs
7. bought a small pump and built a tap cleaning device to recirculate the line cleaner versus using Co2.
8. bought 2 used corny kegs
This where I am at now, next purchases are below:
1. extra Co2 tank for a spare in case I run out in the kegerator and for force carbing
2. single gauge regulator to go with the second Co2 bottle so I can force carb outside of the kegerator
3. 3 tap tower to replace the 2 tap, realized that the wife enjoys her Miller Lite on tap and I buy those in the slim quarters so it doesnt rotate as fast as my crafts do. So the thought is 1 dedicated miller lite line and 2 home brews at a time <wish i would've realized this before>.
 

Chuckbergman

Active Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Messages
26
Reaction score
13
Location
South bend
I'd go next with immersion chiller - buy parts and make one or just buy one. 1/2" copper is the way to go!
Next I'd upgrade to larger carboys. I like the 6.5gal Big Mouth Bubbler with spigot.
Kegging would be next, but you need to consider CO2 tank, corny kegs and a fridge/chest freezer you can convert.
 

rmchair

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
129
Reaction score
15
Whatever you do, dont do half measures. Go all in.
Definitely kegging. It leads to all of the other upgrades because you almost need refrigeration and CO2 to make the best beer.
 

Brooothru

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
1,035
Reaction score
675
Location
Either in the brewery or on the road
All of these are great suggestions, but I'd also suggest to temper any big ticket ($$$) purchases with the future in mind. At some point you'll want to move into all grain brewing. Consider what path you want to go down: 3V, BIAB, all-in-one? Focus your initial purchases on quality and adaptable equipment. A really good 10 gallon boil pot and ss immersion chiller would be my suggestion.

Brooo Brother
 

bwible

Born to brew, forced to work
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Messages
362
Reaction score
310
Location
Oxford
1. Quality Stainless Steel Brewpot (sounds like you have that covered)
2. Wort Chiller
3. Quality Stainless Steel long handled brew spoon

If you plan to do only extract, these are all you need. Wort Chiller will give you the biggest bang for your buck where you are. And if you decide to go all grain then you still need these things anyway.

4. Add a Wilser bag or other mesh bag and you could also do Brew In A Bag with that 10 gallon pot.
 
Last edited:

apache_brew

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
208
Reaction score
110
Location
Nor Cal
A 10 gallon pot is a great size to start with. Big enough for most 5 gallon BIAB, and if you upgrade in the future to a larger boil kettle, it's nice to have an extra pot to heat water, transfer, etc.

Unless you have a nice location with stable cool temps for fermentation, I'd say try and find a used freezer to use as a fermentation vessel (ideally vertical to avoid lifting in and out). add an Inkbird controller and a heating pad and you're set for temperature controlled fermentation.

After that I'd say a kegging setup, yeast starter equipment, then a brew pump, then a counterflow chiller, etc.......
 

Surly

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2011
Messages
224
Reaction score
18
Location
Prairie Farm
What might be the brewery capacity that meets your need?

Your own satisfaction?
That of immediate household?
Friends?
Will you barter your product for goods and services?
Might you desire to go pro?

Brewing is a huge opportunity if you continue to advance. If that is your case then consider how you seek advice.

Mine to you is: Plan the path you want to take. And, never purchase the same gear twice.
 

jerrylotto

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
89
Reaction score
44
I would have purchased my conical fermentation setup a lot sooner if I had to do it all over again. I use the Fasferment 7.9 gal with a ball lock gas post added to the lid and an insulated jacket. The whole thing cost me less than $120. Cooling with ice paks or even floating the whole thing in a garbage can full of water gives me options for temp control. It's not set and forget like an automated setup but I would obsess over it in any case :) I no longer need a secondary and routinely harvest yeast using the collection ball. By adding a ball lock liquid connector to the end of the drain tube, I've got a fully enclosed transfer system to keg or direct to bottle by swapping it out with a bottle fill tube as necessary.
 

Tom Foolery

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Apr 13, 2018
Messages
52
Reaction score
35
Location
Raleigh, NC
My vote is for the Co2 and kegging, provided you already have a garage fridge. Pick up a sankey coupler and a sixth to fill the times in btw brewing.
 

jerrylotto

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
89
Reaction score
44
I would point out that kegging has a couple of downsides too. I wouldn't trade it back to bottle exclusively, but kegging does make it a lot harder to share your brew with friends and family in these covid times, and despite than I still seem to go through a keg a lot faster than a couple of cases of bottled beer :)
 
OP
B

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
Mine to you is: Plan the path you want to take. And, never purchase the same gear twice.
Thanks I like your advice a lot. I'm pretty new to brewing, but when comes to my favorite hobbies, I don't mind dropping some cash. I think I'll plan on getting something that will upgrade short term and has room for long term use. I just might get a fancy temperature controlled conical fermenter :D
 
Last edited:
OP
B

blakerusty

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2020
Messages
8
Reaction score
1
I'm really enjoying everyone's responses. Brewing is quite addictive and seems like quite the awesome community. Thanks guys
 
Joined
Mar 6, 2011
Messages
768
Reaction score
135
Location
Denver, PA
I'm doing extract brewing now and probably will for a while. I've got a 10 gallon pot that I do on the stove. I've got some nice gas burners so I've been able to get a good boil. For the fridge, does it just cycle the fridge on and off to hit higher temperatures?
Correct, it is based off a temperature sensor that goes in the fridge.
 

tracer bullet

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2020
Messages
277
Reaction score
177
Location
Minnesota
Glycol chiller would be cool, or a frig if I had room for another, but instead I've been using one of these for temp control on the low end: IceProbe Thermoelectric Aquarium Chiller - Nova Tec

Drilled a hole in the side of the (plastic) carboy and shoved it in. Controlled via an Inkbird w/ a probe in a thermowell run through the stopper. It's been working really well, I don't lager but it keeps fermenting ales easily in the low 60's in a room that is 10 or more degrees warmer at times. I've probably used it 10 times or so now with no issues. I did proactively cut a gasket for it from a soft sheet of rubber but may not have needed to.

Just an option. But if you have the means or space both for a frig or true chiller, go for it.
 

Surly

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2011
Messages
224
Reaction score
18
Location
Prairie Farm
I have a messload of kegs. And bottles. And growlers and a few 2L soda bottles with caps allowing me to carbonate directly.

With a 12 gallon brewery I can use all of the above options as I desire. Life is good.
 

oakbarn

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
1,437
Reaction score
174
Location
Argyle
I would point out that kegging has a couple of downsides too. I wouldn't trade it back to bottle exclusively, but kegging does make it a lot harder to share your brew with friends and family in these covid times, and despite than I still seem to go through a keg a lot faster than a couple of cases of bottled beer :)
You can bottle from a Keg or use a Growler to share!
 
Top