One thing with brewing your own beer is that you can spend a little or you can spend a lot. Beer making kits can be purchased for under $50, or you can spend up to $300 or more.
Yes you can make a great batch of craft beer with one of these homebrewing starter kits, but as you brew more often and become totally addicted, you might want to think about adding some of these upgrades to your homebrewing equipment toolbox.
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Homebrewing Equipment Upgrades You Wish You Had From The Start
Here are 10 equipment upgrades that will help you brew better beer, in no particular order.
Larger Brew Kettle For Full Boils and All-Grain Brewing
A larger or upgraded brewing kettle is often the first piece of brewing equipment that many homebrewers invest in. Brew kettles come in many sizes and also come with additional options, like ball-valves and thermometers.
If you are only an extract kit brewer and don’t plan on brewing all-grain or BIAB, a small 5-gallon/20qt stock pot is perfectly fine as it will allow you to do partial 2 or 3 gallon partial boils.
But if all-grain brewing is in your future, you will need a much larger brewing kettle, so get one big enough so you don’t end up buying another one later.
An eight gallon kettle will allow you to do a full-boil for a 5-gallon extract batch of beer. However, if you want to do a 5 gallon BIAB recipe, a 10-gallon pot would be recommended instead. Then if 10 gallon beer batches are what you are looking for, you will need at least a 15 gallon kettle.
A high-quality brewing kettle can practically last a lifetime if taken care of. To help you choose the right option, check out our guide on the best brew kettles for homebrewing.
Propane Burner For Brewing Outside
there are 2 main reasons why you may need a propane burner.
Brewing outside or in a garage, or because you bought a larger brew kettle.
A larger brew kettle and a propane burner often go hand in hand with each other. While most kitchen stoves can easily handle a 2 or 3 gallon partial boil, they just don’t have the juice or capacity to boil a full-volume of water.
In fact, doing 10-15 gallon batches is close to impossible on a regular stove top because they flat out won’t fit. And if they did, it’s going to take forever and a day to come to a boil.
Propane burners are relatively inexpensive, and can get your wort up to a rolling boiling very quickly. They are also portable and keeps your kitchen clean and free from messy boil-overs.
A decent propane burner will range from 50,000 to a whopping 200,000 BTUs. Have a look at our review pages for picking out the best propane burner.
Wort Chiller For Rapid Cooling
To make a great beer, the yeast must be pitched when the wort is in a specific temperature range.
Submerging the brew pot in a sink filled with ice water is one way to cool the wort, but this method can take up to 45 minutes or more before you hit the preferred temperature zone. Unfortunately during this time is when infection and contamination can set-in and ruin the wort.
A wort chiller will chill the wort down to yeast pitching temperature in a fraction of the time compared to using an ice bath. Depending on the type of wort chiller you use, cooling can be done in 10 minutes or less.
Besides lowering the risk on infection, using a wort chiller can provide a cold-break and reduce chill haze, which can result in a much clearer beer.
An immersion, counter-flow, and plate chiller are the 3 types of wort chillers you can use on brew day. Each one has their pros and cons, but if you need some help, check out this page here.
Grain Mill For Crushing Your Own Malt
One of the many great things about brewing your own beer is having the freedom to brew and design your own recipes from the many different types of grains.
Buying your malt in bulk and crushing your own grains with a grain mill is a great way to save a little money.
Whether you are brewing in a bag or all-grain using the traditional 3 vessel system, having control over the crush size of your grains can make all the difference with your efficiency of your mash.
Also, keeping your grains stored in airtight containers and crushing the grains on brew day will ensure you are always brewing with the freshest ingredients possible.
Do you want a 2 roller or a 3 roller grain crusher? Go here, if you need a little help deciding what type of grain mill to get.
All-In-One Brewing System
Although some brewers want total control over the brewing process by using their kettles, coolers, and propane burners, others are exploring the all-in-one brewing systems.
These electric all-in-one brewing systems use an automated brewing solution for the mashing, boiling, and the cooling steps, with just one single vessel. These automated beer making machines can reduce the typical human errors sometimes associated with the manual brewing process.
Many of electric systems make it easy to brew your own beer with a more “hands off” approach, which might be perfect for someone who wants to make their own beer, but without needing to know the science behind it.
With an all-in-one brewing system, you don’t need much space or large equipment. In fact, some of these systems will fit rightly on a kitchen counter or the corner of a room.
Depending on how much or how little you want to be involved with the brewing process, there are quite a few different all-in-one brewing systems available on the market.
More times than not, a new homebrewer will use a plastic bucket for primary fermentation, and then transfer the beer to a glass carboy for an optional secondary fermentation.
There are numerous advantages when you ferment in a conical fermenter. That’s why commercial breweries use these mammoth stainless steel fermenters in the brewing of their beer.
A conical fermenter will allow you to do a primary and secondary fermentation in a single vessel. Plus its easy to add fruit, dry hop, harvest yeast, and transfer the beer to bottles or a kegging system without exposing the beer to air and risking oxidation and infection.
In the past, conical fermenters were not always an affordable option for most home brewers, but now there are conical fermenters that are available in various sizes and a more budget friendly price.
For a look at some available options, we put together a review and buying guide of the most popular and best conical fermenters for homebrewing.
Keg Your Beer Instead of Bottling
Homebrewing means following a step-by-step process.
If you ask someone who brews their own beer to tell you what they hate the most about the complete brewing process, 9 times out of 10 they will tell you it’s bottling.
Because bottling your beer really does suck!
Although kegging your beer requires more equipment and more upfront cost, kegging your beer is much better than bottling. Bottling is just more time consuming and makes more of a mess than putting your beer in a keg.
A crimp bottle cap that wasn’t sealed properly or not enough sugar will make for a flat and under-carbonated beer, but too much sugar can create an exploding bottle bomb. You will be able to control the level of carbonation, and the keg will also protect the beer from light which can cause oxidation.
You will also need a kegerator, refrigerator, or keezer to dispense your beer and keep it cold.
Kegging your beer is not as difficult as you may think. Check out our post on “how to keg your homebrew” if you are ready to keg your beer next time you brew.
There isn’t anything much better than serving and drinking your own draft beer that you brewed yourself.
Stir Plate For Making a Yeast Starter
Every proper fermentation process begins with happy and healthy yeast feasting on the sugars in the wort, which is what produces the alcohol in your beer.
Some home brewers will even say that making a yeast starter for every batch of beer they brew is the single best improvement they can make to their beer. Making a starter allows the yeast to thrive and grow, making sure you pitch enough healthy yeast cells for the best fermentation possible.
That’s where a stir plate will come in handy.
Stir plates are used to easily make yeast starter. A constant stirring on the stir plates produces oxygen, keeping the yeast under constant suspension.
Any one of these stir plates can be used to make a yeast starter for your next brewing day.
Tilt Hydrometer For More Accurate Gravity Readings
A Tilt hydrometer is a device that floats in the wort and is specifically designed for homebrewing. It will measure and read important data while the beer is fermenting.
The tilt is paired with a computer or smart phone, and allows you to monitor your beer’s temperature and gravity during the fermentation process without the need to open the fermenter.
The Tilt hydrometer will give more accurate readings compared to using a triple scale glass hydrometer to read your starting and final gravity.
Brewing Software To Create and Brew Your Own Recipes
Brewing software like Brewer’s Friend will give all levels of homebrewers the tools, calculations, and information you need to brew a consistently better beer.
These helpful programs will allow you to easily design your own beer recipes and share them with other brewers. All-grain recipes require precise calculations for the correct water volumes and temperatures.
Having brewing software available will help you stay on track during the brewing day and help avoid common human mistakes.
None of these suggested brewing equipment upgrades are necessary to make good beer at home.
But any or all can help you make a better beer.
Ready To Improve Your All-Grain Brewing Process, and Take It To The Next Level?
This course includes 29 indivdual videos that cover techniques and processes for water chemistry, yeast health, mashing, fermentation, dry-hopping, zero-oxygen packaging, and more!