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Best Home Brewing Kit [2019]

Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit
  • All In One Homebrew Kit
  • Two Glass Carboys
  • Includes A Recipe and A Single Batch of Ingredients


The Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit is one of the most comprehensive homebrew kits on the market. It also includes a recipe and ingredients for a single batch of beer to help get you started on the right foot. You will still need to source your own brew kettle and bottles, but this is the case with most high-volume homebrew kits. The two glass carboys speak to the overall quality and reusability of this kit.

If you’ve never made homebrew beer before, this kit might seem challenging. Yet the recipe is easy to follow. It’s a great option for someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves to learn a new hobby, or for a more experienced homebrewer who wants the equipment to take their craft beer to the next level.

Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Premium Gold Edition
  • Entry Level Kit For Novice Homebrewers
  • Uses Prepared Extracts
  • Produces Small Batches


If you are new to homebrewing, the Mr. Beer 2 kit is a great place to get started. It’s also a great gift for someone who loves small-batch craft beers and wants to try making their own. Other than some basic kitchen tools, it comes with pretty much everything you need, including reusable bottles.

The Mr. Beer 2 uses a concentrated brewing extract and comes with two prepared canisters to get you started. This is essentially a concentrated wort that spares you having to learn to make your own mash. The instructions are easy to understand and the procedure is easy. The kit is a great place to start with an easy price point.

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance
  • Easy To Use
  • Custom Recipes and Ingredients Available
  • Produces Small Batch Craft Brew


The Pico Pro uses innovative technology to bring homebrewed beer into the 21st Century. It takes the labor out of the process while still allowing you to control the ingredients that go into your chosen recipe. Their partnered “PicoPak” system lets you go online to develop to research ingredients and recipes, allowing you to create your own custom mash. It’s then put together by their staff brewmasters and shipped directly to you.

You simply insert the PicoPak into the Pico Pro and activate it. The machine takes over the process from there, which takes around two hours. The batch ferments over the course of a few days. When it’s ready you can attach the 6.6-liter ball-locking keg to your own kegerator system or use the Pico Pro CO2 party tap.

How We Picked

Homebrewing is an increasingly popular hobby embraced by millions of people all over the world. Some prefer to cobble together their own homebrewing kit from individual components sold online or in hobby stores. However, this approach is likely going to cost more money overall and it increases the chances of one component not working seamlessly with another.

Unless you need a unique tool or ingredient it’s best to source a comprehensive homebrew kit. A local hobby store might have a limited selection, at a premium price, but your best chance of getting the most for your money is to source one or more online.

Fortunately, homebrew manufacturers are sympathetic to these challenges. Many offer a variety of kits for just about every level of interest and experience. This ranges from easy to use extract-based kits, to more complex and comprehensive homebrew systems that let you prepare your own mash-based wort. There are even some kits that are highly automated allowing you to make a small batch craft beer with little effort.

Size is also an important factor when it comes to selecting the homebrew kit that’s right for you. With a high-volume kit, capable of making up to five gallons, allows you to create one large consistent batch of beer. Yet if something goes wrong at some point in the process, the entire volume could go bad, or develop an off-flavor.

Not to mention there are times when even the nicest batch of homebrew beer starts to get a little boring or leaving you wanting for some variety. Having a second, perhaps smaller batch available can help keep things interesting.

If you have two or more small-batch kits, you can also experiment with multiple recipes for greater variety. Should something happen to go wrong, it’s only a small volume wasted. Many accomplished brew masters will work with a high-volume batch, while also using smaller fermenters for variety and perhaps a little experimentation.

Northern Brewer Homebrewing 5 Gallon Starter Set with Testing Equipment

Northern Brewer Homebrewing 5 Gallon Starter Set with Testing Equipment

Specs:

  • Five Gallon Capacity
  • Includes Thermometers and Testing Equipment
  • Includes a Single Batch Of Quality Ingredients
  • Cleaning And Sanitizing Tools
  • Includes A Brew Kettle

Designed by a brewmaster to be an “All In One” homebrewing kit. It also includes special testing gear to help you accurately produce the wort with the characteristics you prefer.

Northern Brewer Homebrewing Bucket

It uses a plastic bucket as the secondary fermenter instead of a glass carboy. So, you want to be careful not to scrape the interior surface when cleaning. Still, the currently friendly price point would be much higher if it had a glass carboy.

Northern Brewer Homebrewing Starter Set ingredients

The Northern Brewer kit also includes the ingredients for the “Block Party Amber” which has been described as being “A deep garnet glow with friendly flavors of toasty bread crust, and caramel, with an herbal hop character.”

This kit was designed to be comprehensive and includes:

  • 6.5 Gallon Fermenter with Spigot and Lid
  • Rubber Airlock
  • 5 Gallon Stainless Brew Kettle
  • Block Party Amber Ale recipe kit
  • Herculometer Triple Scale Hydrometer
  • Lab Thermometer
  • Test Jar
  • Bottling Bucket with Spigot
  • Bottle Filler
  • 21-inch Stainless Steel Spoon
  • 5-Foot Long Clear Tubing
  • Cleaner & Sanitizer Featuring Oxygen Wash
  • Bottle Brush
  • Royal Crown Bottle Capper with 60 Caps

What We Liked

The Northern Brewer has pretty everything you want in a homebrew kit, which includes special testing gear. This lets you dial in things like temperature and specific gravity. It’s even large enough to let you make a large batch of around five gallons.

Overall

Overall this is a great kit for homebrewers who want to make large, consistent batches. It would be nice if there were a glass carboy and mesh steeping bags, but as long as you are careful not to scrape the plastic of the secondary fermenter it will produce tons of batches for years to come.

Northern Brewer Homebrewing 5 Gallon Starter Set with Testing Equipment

  • Testing Equipment For Consistently Accurate Batches
  • Can Make Large 5-Gallon Batches
  • Designed by A Brew Master

Home Brew Ohio RL-WKZ2-0IJS Gold Complete Beer Equipment Kit (K7) with 5-Gallon Glass Carboy

Home Brew Ohio RL-WKZ2-0IJS Gold Complete Beer Equipment Kit (K7) with 5-Gallon Glass Carboy

Specs:

  • Glass Carboy
  • Handbook and Instructions Included
  • Capable Of Producing Large Consistent Batches
  • Works For A Mash-Based Wort or Concentrated Extract

The Home Brew Ohio Complete Beer Equipment Kit is meant to fit into the niche of being affordably priced, while also including a glass carboy. It makes it easier to sanitize the secondary fermentation vessel, while also reducing the chances of microbial contamination.

This kit is great for someone who perhaps got their feet wet with a small batch kit and is ready to graduate to the next level of homebrewing. It includes:

  • The “True Brew Handbook” and Kit Instructions
  • A 5 Gallon Glass Carboy Secondary Fermentation Vessel
  • A 7.8 Gallon Primary Fermenting Bucket
  • A Lid with a Predrilled Hole and Grommet
  • A True Brew Rack and Fill Kit
  • A Fermentation Thermometer
  • A Small “Buon Vino” Drilled Stopper
  • Hydrometer
  • A Bottling Spigot
  • Emily Double Lever Capper
  • A Three-Piece Airlock
  • Bottle Brush
  • An 8-Piece C-Brite Sanitizer

This is pretty much everything you want to find with an affordable fermenter kit. There is a dedicated boiling kettle, but this isn’t much of an issue if you already have a stockpot in your kitchen.

What We Liked

The Home Brew Ohio RL-WKZ2-0IJS Gold homebrew kit comes with a glass carboy secondary fermenter, which is a nice touch. Especially when you consider the very friendly price point and not something you find with other kits in the same range.

Overall

Assuming you have a large stockpot in your kitchen cabinets and a spoon large enough to stir it, this kit will allow you to make some high-volume batches. It might be worth the money to invest in a wort chiller to spare you the time of cooling it in a kitchen sink ice bath. It doesn’t come with any reusable bottles, but that’s what you’d expect for the friendly price.

Home Brew Ohio RL-WKZ2-0IJS Gold Complete Beer Equipment Kit (K7) with 5-Gallon Glass Carboy

  • Glass Carboy Secondary Fermenter
  • Essential Thermometers and Tools
  • Friendly Price

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance

Specs:

  • Easy To Use
  • Custom Recipes and Ingredients Available
  • Small Batch Craft Brewing System
  • Two Hour Automated Process
  • Ferments Quickly
  • Small Countertop Footprint

Technology continues to find innovative ways to improve our lives. This carries through with the Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance. It’s designed to make it easy to brew your own beer at home, regardless of your experience level. Even someone who is relatively new to the science of homebrewing will find this kit easy to use.

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance

This Pico Pro system has the ability to brew up to 5 liters of beer at a time this is equal to about a dozen 12 fluid ounce bottles. It comes with two 6.6 liter ball-locking kegs. This makes it easy to connect to a kegerator. If you don’t have a kegerator or some other type of carbonation system, there is a CO2-powered party tap included in the initial purchase.

The Pico Pro also helps you to fine-tune the alcohol by volume (ABV) and the bitterness level (IBU). There is an online PicoPak feature that allows you to create a custom recipe using your own grains, hops, and yeast. You simply go to their website, or an affiliated online vendor to place your order.

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance

To use it, you simply insert the PicoPak and the appliance will automatically recognize the recipe. You simply press the activation button and the appliance performs the brew cycle, which generally takes around two hours.

The fermentation process takes several days. You can then dispense it from the keg or connect it to your own carbonation system.

It’s also very easy to clean and sanitize. The Pico Pro comes with an integrated steam cleaning system and many of its components are dishwasher safe.

What We Liked

It would be hard to imagine a less labor-intensive system than the Pico Pro. The ability to use their already successful recipes or create your own lets you explore the diverse range of craft brewing, without having to burn up a lot of time and effort sourcing the ingredients yourself.

The fact that it has a very small footprint allows it to conveniently live on your counter. This is not true with more traditional homebrew kits that pretty much need to have their own dedicated storage and brewing space.

Overall

It would be hard to find a system that is easier to use than the Pico Pro, while also being able to turn out high-quality small batches. It all does it in a relatively short period of time. Of course, this is reflected in the rather high price point. Still, if you have the available budget, it’s hard to go wrong with the Pico Pro and their creative PicoPak system.

Pico Pro Craft Beer Brewing Appliance

  • Easy To Produce High-Quality Small Batches
  • Custom PicoPak Ingredient System Available
  • Easy Cleanup

Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Premium Gold Edition

Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Premium Gold Edition

Specs:

  • Easy To Use Starter Kit
  • Wort Is Made From A Concentrated Extract
  • Includes Carbonation Drops
  • Includes Reusable Bottles
  • Small 2-Gallon Fermenter
  • Includes Brewing Extract For Two Batches

This is a very popular and easy to use homebrew kit for a beginner who just wants to try their hand at brewing their own craft beer, without having to sink a lot of money into a major investment.

Mr. Beer 2 and bottles

It’s can also make a very nice birthday or holiday gift for someone who seems to already have everything.

The Mr. Beer 2 comes with pretty much everything you need, other than some common kitchen tools, which you likely already have.

Mr. Beer 2

The kit comes with:

  • A Compact, Lightweight 2-Gallon Fermenter
  • Eleven 25-Fluid Ounce Reusable and Shatterproof Bottles
  • Two Specially Formulated Can of Prepared Brewing Extract
  • Carbonation Drops For Two Batches
  • Sanitizer For Two Batches

If you like the first couple of batches that come with the Mr. Beer 2 you can order more through their website.

Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Premium Gold Edition

They offer a variety of attractive brew extracts. This kit makes it easy to produce your own flavorful batches of homebrew beer without having to delve deep into the art and technical chemistry of preparing your own mash-based wort.

What We Liked

It’s easy to use and Mr. Beer made every to streamline the homebrewing process. As long as you clean and sterilize everything, there’s very little room for error. The low price point is also very nice, and the reusable bottles included in the kit are a nice touch.

Overall

This kit is meant for people who want to get their homebrewing feet wet with little risk for buyer’s remorse. It lets you produce small batches with reliable consistency. A more accomplished brew master would be looking for something that offers more control.

Still, if you like the setup, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own wort once you get a little more experience.

Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Premium Gold Edition

  • Entry Level Kit For Novice Homebrewers
  • Uses Prepared Extracts
  • Produces Small Batches

BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit by Demon Brewing Company

BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit by Demon Brewing Company

Specs:

  • Conical Bottom Fermentation Chamber With A Spigot
  • FDA Approved To Be BPA Free
  • Includes Reusable Bottles
  • Easy To Dispense

The BrewDemon signature kit puts a slightly different spin on the homebrew experience.

BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit

With this kit, the fermenter has a conical bottom with a built-in spigot. It’s made from plastic that has been certified by the FDA to be BPA free. BrewDemon backs their kit with a two-year warranty as well as live customer support by telephone.

BrewDemon Signature Beer Bottles

It uses specialty malts that are combined with hops that have been specially selected by BrewDemon’s brewmasters.

BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit Packaging

The kit includes:

  • An Upgraded Bubbler Airlock With A Lid Gasket
  • An 18-inch Heat Resistant Mixing Spoon
  • Vinyl Hose
  • A Bottle Filler
  • Reusable Bottles With Caps and Labels

What We Liked

The spigot built into the fermenter makes it easy to dispense directly to the bottles without all the hassle and potential mess of siphoning. You can pour bottles right at the spigot, or if you prefer it is set up to accommodate a hose and bottling wand.

Overall

The BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit is that next step up from the no-brainer easy to use homebrew kits that rely on extracts. Yet it’s still simple enough that you aren’t going to get a headache tackling the science of brewing beer. Even if you are a total novice, this could still be a very good place to start learning.

BrewDemon Signature Beer Kit by Demon Brewing Company

  • Easy To Use
  • Wort Is Produced From Prepared Brew Extract
  • Spigot Lets You Bypass Potentially Messy Siphoning

Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit

Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit

Specs:

  • Uses A Mashed-Based Wort
  • Includes Ingredients And Recipe For Your First Batch
  • One-Gallon Glass Fermenter
  • Includes Blowoff Tube

This kit is for a more intermediate homebrew hobbyist who might already have some odds and ends of equipment for bottling. With the Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit, you are essentially creating a mash, which is somewhat reminiscent of making oatmeal. Only you simmer it for an hour at a controlled heat level.

Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit Packaging

At that point, you place a fine-mesh sieve or another straining device over a large pot. Then pour a gallon of water over the mash. The resulting liquid is your “Wort.” You then bring it to a boil, adding in hops and other aromatic components near the end.

Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit

The wort then needs to be chilled down in a sink ice bath or by passing it through a wort chiller, which isn’t included in the purchase. Once it reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you pour the wort into the previously sanitized glass fermenter.

The yeast is added, or “Pitched” directly into the fermenter. You then gently shake the fermenter and attach the screw cap stopper. A hose is then attached and the other end is kept in a bowl of water. This serves as a “Blow Off” system in case fermentation causes wort to evacuate the fermenter. If you just put a traditional airlock on top and the wort did blow out excess liquid it could make a severe mess.

You then store the fermenter in a dark place for three to four days before attaching a traditional airlock. Fermentation should be completed in around two weeks.

What We Liked

With this kit you are making a true mash, which will inevitably give the wort, and the final beer more depth of flavor as well as character. You will certainly notice a difference compared to the prepared extract kits. The one-gallon glass fermenter is easy to sanitize and allows you to produce small batches of craft beer at a time.

Overall

The Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit sort of assumes that you already have some homebrewing equipment on hand, or that you are willing to buy some accessories. For example, it does not include any bottles or bottling equipment.

If you are comfortable with this fact, then this kit is a great way to take your home brewing game to the next level. If anything, it’s an inexpensive option for adding a small glass carboy to your home brewing arsenal.

Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit

  • One Gallon Glass Carboy
  • You Prepare A Mash To Create The Wort
  • Very Affordable

Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit

Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit

Specs:

  • Includes All Necessary Equipment
  • Two Glass Carboys
  • Ingredients and Single Batch of Ingredients
  • Very Reasonable Price

This kit is near the top of the Northern Brewer line. Its as close to an “All-in-One” comprehensive homebrew kit that you are going to find.

Parts of the Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit

Though there are a few bells and whistles that you still might want to buy extra. Right out of the box this kit includes:

  • A 6 Gallon Glass Carboy Primary Fermenter with a Bung and Airlock
  • A 5 Gallon Glass Carboy Secondary Fermenter with a Bung and Airlock
  • A Blow-off Hose
  • A Funnel
  • Adhesive Thermometers
  • An Auto-Siphon and Tubing
  • A Bottling Bucket and Spigot
  • Bottle Filler with Tubing
  • A Bottle Capper and Caps
  • A Carboy Brush as well as a Bottle Cleaning Brush
  • Brewery Cleaner
  • Carboy Dryer

There are a few specialty items missing from this kit that keep it being a truly comprehensive homebrew kit.

Northern Brewer Deluxe Ingredients

If you truly want to have everything at your fingertips, you might want to also purchase a wort chiller, mesh bags, and a dedicated brewing kettle. If you have a large stockpot or a clean stainless steel pot from a turkey fryer, you can improvise around the kettle issue.

How to brew beer with the Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit

The kit also comes with a recipe and ingredients for their Chinook IPA. If you follow it to the letter it will yield around fifty 12-ounce bottles.

What We Liked

You get a lot of quality homebrew equipment for a very reasonable price with the Northern Brewer Deluxe kit. It also comes with the ingredients for a nice IPA, and all the components are completely reusable for years of creative craft beer making.

Overall

There are only a few minor things that keep this from being an absolutely comprehensive homebrew kit. If you want to buy pretty much everything but the bottles with your first go-round this is probably your best option to get it all in one big purchase.

Northern Brewer Deluxe Homebrew Starter Kit

  • Pretty Much Everything You Need In One Kit
  • Includes Ingredients For A Five Gallon IPA
  • Two Glass Carboys Included

Buyers Guide

There’s a very broad spectrum of homebrew kits available online. For some people, a simple kit or one that lets them produce small-batch craft beers is all they ever want and need. This could be a kit designed to use a concentrated extract to create the wort, or a sophisticated system that automates the mash, wort, and fermenting process.

Other homebrew enthusiasts want to have more control over the recipe, ingredients and fermentation process. For people in this large segment, a more comprehensive homebrew kit is usually more attractive.

What’s In A Comprehensive Homebrew Kit?

A comprehensive homebrew kit has a lot of important parts. If anyone of them is missing or broken, it could ruin the batch or make it impossible to complete the fermentation process. The following is a list of things you might find in a “Comprehensive” homebrew kit. Yet you likely won’t find all of these in a single purchase.

Fermentation Equipment And Vessels

Fermentation vessels and equipment play a critical role in the homebrew beer process. They need to be large enough to handle the volume of beer you want to create, with a little bit of extra headroom for the natural expansion that often happens early in the fermentation process.

A Primary Fermenter

This is essentially a large 5 to 6-gallon bucket made from heavy-duty food-grade plastic. It should also come with a lid that seals tightly, yet also give you the ability to let the batch breathe, or release any built-up gas.

Carboy

A carboy is designed to hold the wort during the long process of fermentation. Most are made from glass which makes them easier to clean, and less likely to harbor bacteria. Though there are a few that are made from high-quality, scratch-resistant plastic.

The hole at the top is called a “Bung.” A rubber stopper is installed and a special airlock device is then set in place. This allows gas to escape while preventing bacteria from gaining access to the wort.

An Airlock With Rubber Stopper

This is a relatively simple plastic device that you add water to, and secure a small release dome and breathable cap. It’s attached to a rubber stopper that is inserted into a carboy. During the fermentation process, it allows the CO2 and other gasses produced by the metabolizing yeast to escape, without letting external microbes affect the internal volume of fermenting liquid.

Hydrometer

A Hydrometer has the ability to read the sugar suspended in a liquid solution. It identifies the “Specific Gravity” rated in points, which you can then factor into other aspects of the fermentation equation, to make early adjustments. It can also help you accurately determine when the yeast has consumed and converted the sugar into alcohol.

A Hydrometer Jar

This is essentially the tube you fill with wort when you measure the specific gravity with the hydrometer.

Thermometer

Temperature plays a critical role in the brewing process. A wort that is too cold may not ferment at the correct rate, or fermentation can stall. A wort that is too warm might ferment too quickly, or the yeast could potentially die. It’s a good idea to keep a separate thermometer that is only used in the fermentation kit to limit cross-contamination.

Cleaning Equipment And Sanitizing Materials

Effective cleaning and sanitation are absolutely critical for homebrewing success. Even a small population of unwanted microbes can interrupt the fermentation process or impart an unpleasant flavor to the final product.

Sanitizer

Ideally, a comprehensive homebrew kit will also include some type of high-quality sanitizer, which is specifically formulated for carboys and fermenters. There are several different brands and active ingredients. Sodium percarbonate, concentrated acid, and iodophor are some of the more popular, effective options you might see.

A Bottle Brush

This is a small wand that also has a stiff yet flexible brush head on the end. It’s especially helpful for cleaning reusable bottles.

A Carboy Brush

As the name implies this is a brush meant specifically for cleaning the carboy. It has a bent end which makes it easier to clean the curved top of the carboy to prevent bacteria from exploiting the area in between batches.

Bottling And Transfer Tools

After the wort has fully fermented, you will need to transfer it in the proper volume to your bottles of choice. At that point the bottles will need to be sealed.

Vinyl Transfer Tubing – Vinyl tubing, or siphon tubing attaches to different tools to move your brew from one place to another. Most transfers use gravity to create a siphon to continuously transfer your beer or wine.

A Plastic Bottle Filler

A bottle filler is far more efficient and less messy than a funnel. It’s essentially a spring-loaded plastic wand device that is attached to the end of the siphon tubing. It allows you to accurately control the stop and start of the flow. It is a very efficient way to fill bottles and reduce spills.

Bottle Caps

These are simple metal caps or “Crowns” with fanned-out edges. They are places on the mouth of each bottle.

A Bottle Capper

This is typically a manually operated device with 2 levers. Once a cap or crown is placed over the bottle you push down on both levers at the same time. This will crimp the cap onto the glass lip. Lower-end bottle cappers can be a little bit of a challenge. More sophisticated bottle cappers might cost a little more, but they are easier to use, and less likely to damage the lip of a bottle.

A Bottling Bucket And Spigot

A Bottling bucket with a built-in spigot at the bottom is especially handy when it comes to filling bottles. You can also use this vessel to add “Priming Sugar” before bottling, which will give the beer a mild carbonation effect. The spigot helps with volume control and reduces potential spills.

An Auto-Siphon

This is a 2-piece plastic device that makes it easier to transfer your beer. It’s essentially a tube with a bent plastic rod on the end. This allows it to siphon out the beer from the bottom, yet it’s also at a slight angle which reduces the amount of sediment that makes it into the tube.

A Siphon Starter

This device needs to be sterilized and resembles a racking cane. It’s designed to work with the bung and the rod is long enough to reach the bottom of the carboy. There is also a secondary port that can be used to increase the pressure on the liquid.

It’s important to note that some homebrew kits don’t have a siphon and come with a funnel, which you can get by with. Still, you are more likely to have a spill or need extra cleanup with a funnel.

Bottles

A homebrew kit that includes bottles is a very nice touch. For some people, this is a priority. However, you are more likely to find this in small batch kits as opposed to large ones. You shouldn’t let it be a deal-breaker if you have your eye on a high-volume kit. There are plenty of online retailers who sell bottles and growlers for homebrew enthusiasts at a very reasonable price.

Important Brewing Tools

There are some tools and equipment that you just can’t improvise around when it comes to homebrewing your own beer or wine.

Mesh Steeping Bags

Many popular homebrew recipes call for making a “Mash” with solid, loose ingredients. This includes things like crystal malts, roasted malts, specialty grains, and oats, just to name a few. They are typically simmered in a large brew kettle or stockpot to release their flavor and other characteristics into the “Wort” which will eventually be brewed into beer.

Being able to keep these ingredients in a mesh bag instead of trusting a colander, will spare you the hassle of trying to fish them out again when its time to “Pitch” the yeast. If too much stray matter makes it to the main fermentation vessel, it could complicate the process, or potentially clog the siphon later on.

Still, a mesh steeping bag isn’t a deal maker or breaker. If one a kit comes with a few, it’s a nice feather in their cap. Even if an attractive kit doesn’t have a mesh bag, they are relatively inexpensive to purchase separately.

A Brewing Kettle

This is the vessel you will boil in. It’s far better to use something other than your kitchen pots. Especially when you consider the volume you might need to boil if you are working with a large batch around five gallons or more.

If you do happen to find a kit that you like, but it doesn’t come with a brewing kettle, you can still probably get by with a kitchen stockpot. Just make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before you start preparing the mash.

A Wort Chiller

With many homebrew beer recipes, you need to cool the wort to a specific temperature range before “Pitching the Yeast.” A wort chiller is a tubular device that circulates cold water to extract the heat out of the wort after boiling. This is a much more efficient method than setting the hot pot in an ice bath in your kitchen sink.

Most manufacturers will sell a wort-chiller separately as it is a little bit of a specialty device. Though there are some sophisticated automated kits that have a similar type of wort chiller built into them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is A Glass Carboy Better Than Plastic?

A: When it comes to the fermenter vessel a glass carboy is technically superior to plastic. Glass is easier to clean and sanitize. The microscopically textured surface of plastic can potentially harbor unwanted microbes which could throw off the batch or create unpleasant flavors.

However, you’ll pay a lot more for a kit with a glass carboy. You can certainly get by for years with a plastic fermenter. You just need to make sure that you are thorough with your cleaning and sanitizing while making sure not to accidentally scrape the interior plastic surface.

One nice thing about the kits that have a bucket, is that you can store the kit inside, and seal the lid when you aren’t using it. A glass carboy just takes up space in your storage space, they also tend to be rather delicate and can crack catastrophically when they contact another round object.

Q: What’s The Difference Between Cleaning And Sanitizing?

A: It’s also important to note that there is a difference between “Cleaning” and “Sanitizing.” Cleaning is the act of removing physical debris which might harbor bacteria and other contaminants. Sanitizing is the act of killing bacteria and other unwanted microbes.

You might be tempted to experiment with home cleaning agents. Unfortunately, most leave a film behind or have some type of lingering perfume that could later show up in the finished product. Even something like bleach could leave lingering contaminants behind or trace amounts could kill important yeast cells during fermentation.

A sodium percarbonate sanitizer is essentially a granular product that is a blend of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. There are some brands that put other active ingredients in the mix for their own proprietary reasons. It’s easy to use and very effective at killing microbes, while also being environmentally friendly.

Q: What’s The Difference Between A Mash, and A Wort?

A: A mash is essentially grains and other ingredients that have been prepared to release their flavor as well as some of their natural sugars. The liquid that’s produced by the mashing process serves as the base for the wort, which will eventually be fermented into beer.

The mashing process itself and the recipe behind it can be a little bit challenging for novice homebrewers. Yet you shouldn’t let that put you off on a kit. Many homebrew manufacturers offer premeasured sample recipes, and ingredients to help get you started.

Advocates of preparing your own mash-based wort praise the process for the depth of flavor it produces as well as the ability to accent aroma in the final product. It’s a more labor-intensive approach, and you need to make sure the temperature is right before pitching the yeast.

Q: What Is An Extract?

A: Some homebrew kits that are set up to work with a prepared extract or a concentrate, to produce a wort. This is typically a canister with a thick syrup, which is essentially a concentrated wort. You add it to the fermenter with a specified amount of water and yeast, then mix thoroughly.

Extract-based homebrew kits handle a lot of the work for you. In the past, homebrew enthusiasts criticized beer made from extracts claiming they lack the depth of flavor you get by preparing your own mash-based wort. Extract manufacturers are aware of this and do their best to maximize quality.

The beer produced by an extract or concentrate is certainly drinkable. It’s also a great place to start if you are new to homebrewing.

Q: How Do I Carbonate My Beer?

A: Most homebrew beers start out with little in the way of carbonation. There are a few different ways to put bubbles in your beer.

One of the least expensive is to add priming sugar to your beer right before bottling. Then wait for 7 to 10 days to allow for the trace amounts of active yeast to do their thing. What you end up with is a beer with a little bit of fizz and perhaps a slight amount of head. The other problem with this method is that if you are just a little bit off with your measuring, you could end up with a beer that is a little sweeter than you want it to be. There also tends to be a fair amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

There are also some manufacturers who sell carbonation tablets. You place them in the bottles right before pouring. Then cap them and wait at least three days. This will give you better bubbles than priming sugar. Though there might still be a little sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

Kegerators and other carbonation systems are also a popular way to put bubbles in beer. Though these are separate devices which you rarely find even with the most comprehensive of homebrew kits.

Conclusion

These days aspiring homebrewers are spoiled for choice when shopping for a homebrew kit that meets their needs. Take the time to consider just how much labor you want to put into the process, as well as how big of a batch you intend to make.

If you just want to enjoy a craft beer that’s better than the generic offers at the store, you might be interested in something like the Mr. Beer 2 or the BrewDemon, which use an extract. If you have the budget available and you don’t want to spend a lot of time brewing beer, an automated system like the Pico Pro might be the sweet spot.

If you want maximum control and you like the idea of rolling up your sleeves, there are several other homebrew kits that have all the tools and equipment you need. Even if you are relatively new to homebrewing, many of these kits have ingredients and recipes included in the purchase to help get you started out on the right foot.

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