There is no doubt that making your own beer is exiting and a great hobby to jump into.
But before you get started brewing your first batch of beer, there’s some basic homebrewing equipment and supplies that you must have on hand before you get started on brew day.
If you are just beginning to dip your toes into homebrewing, knowing the difference between what is needed to brew beer, and what is optional, can be a bit confusing and somewhat overwhelming.
We have put together a beer making equipment list of the “must haves” and what additional items and equipment you might want to think about adding for your future brew days.
Table of Contents
Basic Homebrewing Equipment Needed To Brew Beer
When it comes to homebrewing, there really isn’t a lot of expensive equipment needed to brew your favorite beer. You just need a few basic things, and you might already have some in your kitchen.
Everything listed below is the minimum amount of equipment that is needed to get brewing. Of course as you start brewing more often, you will probably want to start upgrading and adding additional equipment to make your brewing day go as smoothly as possible
The right size brewing kettle is needed for the making of the wort, and is the first step in the beer making process, and should be sturdy and be made of stainless steel.
Of course you are going to need a fairly large vessel that is big enough to boil the amount of ingredients required for whatever beer batch size you are wanting.
For small 1 or 2-gallons of beer, or partial 5-gallon boils, you will need a pot that holds at least 20-quarts, or 5-gallons of water. For all-grain recipes or brewing in a bag (BIAB) a 10-gallon kettle would be the minimum size you should use.
So you can get the right brew kettle, have a look at our review page of the best kettles for homebrewing.
Cleaner and Sanitizer
Cleaning and sanitation is probably the most important step of all with homebrewing, and must not be skipped over or skimped on.
Cleaning is not the same as sanitation, and sanitation is not the same as cleaning. Each and every tool or utensil must be properly cleaned, and then sanitized using a good brewing cleaner and sanitizer.
Primary Fermenter With Lid
The primary vessel is where most of the fermenting magic begins to happen. Once the boil is finished, the wort will be transferred to the primary bucket or carboy where it will sit for the next week or two while it turns into an actual drinkable beer.
If you are wanting a basic and inexpensive fermenter, using a food grade plastic fermenting bucket will be just fine.
There really isn’t much difference between the different plastic bucket fermenters, other thanhaving a spigot already installed, which can make the transfer of beer to a secondary or a bottling bucket much easier.
An airlock is a small and simple piece of equipment that must be used when brewing beer.
All brewers know that oxygen and bacteria are bad for beer and must be keep out of the fermenter. An airlock will keep oxygen and any harmful contaminants out of the sealed fermenter, but will allow CO2 that is building up to escape safely.
There are two basic types of airlocks, and each one will work for you.
- 3-Piece Airlock: This is often a choice for many home brewers because the 3-pieces can be taken apart and easily cleaned if they become clogged from an aggressive fermentation.
- S-Shaped Airlock: This airlock sorta resembles a drain with two chambers. Because the S-shaped airlock cannot be easily cleaned, it is often best used for secondary fermentation or conditioning where most of the fermentation has already been completed.
After primary fermentation is complete, or if you have chosen to do a secondary fermentation, the beer should be “racked” to a bottling bucket. Just like a plastic ferminting bucket, a bottling bucket can have an installed spigot to make transferring to a keg or bottles easier.
By transferring the beer from the primary vessel into the bottling bucket before you bottle or keg your beer, you are able to eliminate some of the trub that has collected at the bottom of the primary and avoid these unwanted bits and pieces of sediment into the bottles.
Auto Siphon or Racking Cane
Any time you need to transfer your beer from one vessel to another, whether it is from the primary to the secondary, or from the secondary to a bottling bucket, you need to do that quickly and the easiest way possible.
There are basically two simple ways to “rack” your beer from vessel to vessel.
If you are using a plastic fermenting bucket that already has a spigot attached, the easiest way is to buy about 6 ft of transfer tubing. Make sure your primary fermenter is placed on a countertop or at a higher elevation of the secondary carboy or bottling bucket. Attach one end of the hose onto the spigot, place the other end of the tubing into the secondary, then turn the valve on the spigot.
Not all plastic buckets will come with a spigot, so the easiest way to transfer the beer to a different vessel is by using an auto-siphon. An auto-siphon uses what is called a “racking cane” and a larger tube, which uses a suction to create a vacuum.
The pieces of the auto-siphon can be disassembled for easy cleaning and sanitizing. Just like using a spigot, make sure the primary is at a higher elevation than the secondary so gravity can do it’s thing.
Long Stirring Spoon or Brewing Paddle
It’s best to have a long stainless steel or food grade plastic stirring spoon handy on brew day. A long spoon or paddle at least 24″ long will allow you to stir 5 to 10-gallons of boiling wort without burning your hands, or losing a shorter spoon in the wort.
It is important when steeping grains or adding the yeast to your wort, that you are able to check and monitor the temperature correctly without any guesswork.
A good quality brewing thermometer is needed so you will know exactly what the target temperature is when starting the next step in the brewing process. Having an accurate way to read the temps will make for a more consistent brew.
After many weeks, the long process of fermentation is over and it’s time to finally bottle your beer. While you can choose any type of beer bottle you wish, the preference for many homebrewers is a standard 12oz amber colored glass bottle.
If you would like a larger serving than just 12 ounces, you may want to check out the more expensive 750ml bottles that come with a swing-top cap.
Finally when it’s time to fill your bottles with your homebrew, you have a few options. Just like any time you have to transfer the beer from one vessel to another, you want to do that as efficiently as possible without making too much of a mess.
One simple way is to just use a transfer hose and connect one end of the hose to the spigot on the bottling bucket, and insert the other end of the hose into the bottle. Use gravity and the valve on the spigot to control the fill.
If your bottling bucket does not have a spigot, you can use your auto-siphon with an attached bottle “wand”. The bottling wand has a spring loaded filling tip that opens and closes when you press it against the bottom of the bottle.
It’s quite simple when you just insert the wand into the bottle and remove the wand when the beer reaches the top of the bottle. When you remove the wand, it will leave the perfect amount of head space in the bottle.
Of course if you want to use standard beer bottles, you are going to need crimp style bottle caps instead of the “twist off” style. Sometimes when using a bottle capper, especially a double-lever type, you might not get a good cap to bottle seal every time.
Since bottle caps are very inexpensive, always make sure you have enough caps if you need to redo a bottle. Remember, if you prefer to buy the extract beer ingredient kits, the crown bottle caps will be included.
Beer Bottle Capper
If you are racking your beer to a glass bottle for final conditioning and carbonation, you must make sure to cap your bottle securely with a choice of two different styles of bottle cappers.
One type of bottle capper is a hand-held double lever wing style, and the other is a bench style bottle capper. When you are just starting out, a standard wing style bottle capper is more than enough to do the job.
As you start brewing more often or decide to make larger 10-gallon batches of beer, you might want to look into purchasing a bench capper for easier and more efficient capping
Optional Homebrewing Equipment
Now that you have a couple of successful brewing days under your belt, you will have a much better idea of what you need to make your next batch of beer even better, so it might be time to start adding some additional equipment to your home brewery.
Every item below is NOT required to make your own brew, but they are definitely things that can help you with the overall brewing process, and can be purchased in the future.
Although a hydrometer is not a necessity and technically not needed when brewing beer, it is an inexpensive tool that every homebrewer should have if you want to know the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your homebrew.
More importantly, a hydrometer is really the only true way to know when your beer is completely finished fermenting. The hydrometer will give you a pretty accurate reading of the “original gravity” (OG) of the beer before primary fermentation takes place, and then a “final gravity” reading after fermentation is complete.
If you are new to homebrewing and following the directions of a beer ingredient kit, you probably can skip the hydrometer reading unless you really want to know the alcohol content of your beer.
But if you are doing all-grain brewing and creating your own recipes, a hydrometer is something you should definitely have in your beer brewing toolbox.
Another Vessel or Carboy For Secondary Fermentation
As you move along in your home beer brewing journey, it might be worth investing in a glass carboy for an optional second fermentation or conditioning phase.
Many homebrewers swear that transferring your beer after primary fermentation to a glass or plastic carboy makes a world of difference in the final outcome of the beer, while others say it is useless and doesn’t do any good at all.
The point is to transfer the beer to a “secondary fermenter” after primary fermentation is almost over. By doing so, the idea is that you are removing the beer from undesirable sediment that came from the grains, hops, and yeast.
Some brewers say this can eliminate potential off-flavors, and produce a “clearer” finished beer by allowing any yeast cells that are still in suspension time to drop to the bottom of the carboy.
A funnel is certainly not needed for brewing, but when using a carboy instead of a plastic bucket for fermentation, you might find a funnel useful and less messy.
Using a bucket for primary fermentation, it is just as easy to pour the wort directly from the brewing kettle into the bucket. But if you are using a glass carboy that has a small neck, using a funnel for the transfer can be a big help and eliminate a mess on the floor.
Fine Mesh Strainer
As a homebrewer, it is sometimes difficult to make a beer that is clear as a beer that was brewed in a commercial brewery. After you are finished making the wort and getting ready to transfer to your primary fermentation vessel, the more grains and barley you can leave behind in the brewing kettle, and out of the fermenter can make for a clearer and cleaner finished beer.
Having a stainless steel mesh strainer to catch unwanted grains and hop particles can make your brewing day much simpler.
A grain bag, or better known as a muslin bag, is a fine mesh bag that is used to hold all your grains when steeping and brewing. If you are using an extract beer ingredient kit, this will already be included in the box.
Propane Brewing Burner
When brewing 2 to 3 gallon or partial 5 gallon batches of beer, your kitchen stove should have enough capacity and be more than enough to boil the wort that is required.
Many 5-gallon beer ingredient kits will recommend a partial-boil of 2.5-gallons of water instead of the entire 5-gallon volume. This is why most stoves are just fine for home-brewing.
But if you are planning on making a larger batch of beer using all-grain with a full volume boil, your stove-stop probably won’t have enough oomph to boil that amount of water. Not to mention with many microwave ovens mounted above the stove, a large 10-gallon brewing pot might not even fit on the stove.
Another great piece of brewing equipment to have is a wort chiller. As a brewer, you know how important it is to get your boiling wort down to a safe temperature as quickly as possible before pitching the yeast.
Since the yeast will die if added when the wort is too hot, waiting for it to cool down to the correct temperature can be time consuming which comes with a risk of contamination.
Depending on how big of a boil you were doing, putting the brewing kettle in an ice water bath will eventually do the job as long as you keep draining the warm water and adding new ice, but can still take 30 minutes or more before it gets down to the right temperature.
There are three main types of wort chillers to choose from, and each one will do the job of cooling down the wort quickly. There is an immersion chiller, plate chiller, and a counter-flow chiller.
There are quite a few styles of wort chillers on the market and can range from relatively inexpensive to quite costly. A wort chiller is definitely not a requirement, but might be a good investment down the road.
A mash tun is vessel that home brewers use when brewing with all-grain. The mash tun is used to convert the starches in grains into sugars that the yeast will eat during primary fermentation.
If you are happy brewing with malt extract and have no desire to move on to full mash or all-grain brewing, then a mash tun is not needed. But, if you want to give all-grain brewing a shot once you become comfortable brewing with an ingredient kit with an extract syrup, a mash tun is something you will need if you are ready to try your hand with all-grain brewing.
While “mashing” will add more steps to the brewing process, it will allow you to have more flexibility and control over the characteristics of your beer.
As with most equipment, there are many different types and styles of mash tuns that are made from plastic or stainless steel, and many homebrewers even make their own from coolers and old kegs.
This is another step that a new home-brewer probably won’t be doing right away. But as you become more advanced, you might want to think about skipping the bottle conditioning phase and start kegging your beer.
There are a few advantages of kegging instead of bottling like being able to control the carbonation in the beer which is something that can’t be done consistently in a bottle. Also when you keg, you are limiting the chance of oxidation and protecting the beer from light exposure.
Quite a few of the supplies listed above might already be in your kitchen, but if not, can be bought from any local homebrew shop or online through a variety of distributors.
You can certainly choose to buy each individual piece separately and continue to add items gradually over time, or you can purchase a complete homebrew kit, which has most of the equipment needed to brew as soon as you open the box.
The majority of these beer kits will probably cost less than if you were to buy each item individually.
Depending on your budget and the amount of beer you want to make, there is a home beer kit that will work for you. Please check out our page on our top home beer making kits, and choose the one that will work the best for you.
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