If you’re a beer enthusiast with a love for DIY projects, there are few things as rewarding as brewing your own beer. And brewing beer yourself doesn’t take a huge investment or a wealth of pre-existing knowledge, either–with some of the kits detailed below, you’ll have everything you need, and you can consult countless free or inexpensive tutorials online. Here’s what you need to know about getting started in home brewing.
What Do You Need to Brew Your Own Beer?
Before you decide which kit to buy, it’s helpful to know about the essentials you need to start. Knowing what you need also serves as a good general introduction to home brewing, since you’ll be getting a sense of what the process entails.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started with brewing your own beer:
- A large pot: Choose one that’s at least four gallons. Many home brewing advice sites recommend a lobster pot. They’re large and fairly inexpensive.
- A six-gallon bucket with spigot: This bucket is for bottling and sanitizing equipment.
A fermentation bucket with an airlock. You can purchase airlocks separately, but make sure the bucket you choose has a pre-drilled airlock hole.
- Small nylon bags for adding hops: These bags are inexpensive, and they’re a must when you need to add more hops to an existing brew.
- A racking cane: This piece of equipment siphons out beer when it needs to be bottled. You can purchase auto-siphon ones if you want to have an easier time.
- Food-grade sanitizer: This helps keep everything clean, and it won’t impact beer quality.
Hydrometer with jar–This tool measures the density of liquids, and it’s a must for measuring your brew’s progress.
- A waterproof thermometer: Make sure you choose one that goes up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
While you can save and wash old beer bottles for bottling your own, many homebrewers purchase new bottles, as they’re fairly inexpensive. Here’s what you’ll need to bottle each finished batch:
- Beverage line: This is tubing that lets you transfer beer to the bottles.
- Bottles and caps: Home brew suppliers usually carry a variety of bottle types.
- Bottle capper and bottling wand: This lets you make sure your beer is safely sealed in the bottles you choose.
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What Is the Timeline for Home Brewing?
Making your own beer requires a significant time commitment, although much of that time only requires you to wait. Generally speaking, brewing your own beer takes about five weeks. Here’s a very brief rundown of the process:
- Step 1: Initial Brewing
This is the step that gets everything started. You’ll combine grains and water into a mash. This form a sugary liquid that will be used to feed the yeast that ultimately produces alcohol. This mash will then be rinsed, letting you thoroughly strain out the liquid you’ll need. The liquid is called wort, and you’ll then need to boil it with the hops. This mixture is then cooled down. Once it hits room temperature, you just need to add brewer’s yeast.
- Step Two: Primary Fermentation
This is the stage of fermentation when the yeast is most active. It takes about a week. The yeast consumes sugars from the grains, and it forms alcohol and carbon dioxide as by-products.
- Step Three: Secondary Fermentation
This step should take about two weeks. This is when the yeast finishes consuming sugars. While it’s tempting to start bottling sooner, make sure that you’ve given the yeast plenty of time to consume any remaining sugars–this will result in a better-tasting beer. After two weeks, the beer will almost certainly be ready to bottle. In some cases, a brewing kit will allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen in the same vessel. If you want to brew a beer that needs a separate secondary fermentation vessel, you may need to purchase an additional one.
Once you bottle your fermented beer, though, you typically will want to wait another two weeks. This gives the beer more time to become fully carbonated, and most brewers note that a beer opened immediately won’t usually taste as good as one that’s been allowed to sit for a couple of weeks.
The Top 5 Homebrew Kits for Beginners
As we mentioned above, many homebrewers choose kits when they’re first starting out. Getting a kit saves you time and hassle, and it also ensures that you have each item that you’ll need. These are our picks for beginner homebrew kits.
1. Mr. Beer 2 Gallon Complete Starter Kit
This affordable, attractively-packaged kit has a couple of unique features. To start, it’s owned by an actual brewery–the components come from Cooper’s Brewery, one of Australia’s largest craft brewers.
The other unique feature is that this kit is designed to save time. The manufacturer claims it allows you to brew a batch in just 30 minutes. It features specialized ingredients like hopped malt extracts and carbonation drops. While you’ll still need to ferment your beer, these special features take a significant amount of guesswork and room for error out of the equation.
Another unique feature is the included fermenter. This two-gallon, barrel-shaped fermenter has a built-in airlock and a sediment collector, which simplifies fermentation and gives you clear, great-tasting beer faster–many reviewers have said the end result tastes better than most store-bought beers. Plus, you can purchase refill kits when you want to brew more. While this kit may not teach you as much as making your own mash will, it’s a great, streamlined introduction to brewing.
2. Northern Brewer Brew. Share. Enjoy. Starter Kit
While it’s a little more expensive than the Mr. Beer kit, this kit includes all you need to make an impressively-sized five-gallon batch. And if you’re a fan of Northern Brewer beers already, you can choose a kit that will make Block Party Amber, Hank’s Hefeweizen, or Chinook IPA.
If you want to develop your craft as a brewer, this is a kit worth looking at. You have the option of purchasing a kit with testing equipment to verify quality, and each kit comes with a detailed starting guide. And if you prefer to learn by observation, you can access Northern Brewer’s detailed video guides, too.
Like the Mr. Beer kit, this one is designed for one-step fermentation. If you want to make a beer that requires a separate container for secondary fermentation, you can purchase a separate vessel. However, Northern Brewer offers an advanced kit that allows you to make beers with a two-step fermentation process.
3. Brooklyn Brew Shop Everyday IPA Beer Making Kit
This affordable one-gallon kit gives you everything you need to make Brooklyn’s well-loved Everyday IPA, although you can also purchase kits that let you make Afternoon Wheat, Bruxelles Blonde, Chestnut Brown Ale, or Jalapeno Saison.
This kit includes very high-quality ingredients, which you don’t often see in a beginner homebrew kit. For instance, many manufacturers cut corners by using malt extracts, which are full of sugar and can negatively impact your beer’s flavor. By not including these extracts, this kit gives you better beer while also teaching you about the process.
And like many kits on the market, everything that comes with this one is reusable. The manufacturer has teamed with respected breweries around the nation to make scaled-down brew kits so you can make the beers you love at home. Of course, once you’re ready to create your own recipes, you can use all the included equipment for that, too.
4. Craft a Brew Home Brewing Kit
This is another affordable kit that lets you choose from a range of beer types to get started–you can make Oktoberfest Ale, hefeweizens, IPAs, stouts, honey ales, and even hard ciders. Each kit is hand-assembled and reusable–like most kits on the list, you can brew multiple types of beer with refill kits or with your own ingredients.
Because this kit isn’t affiliated with an existing brewing company, you’ll get to experience new flavors. And with the included detailed guide, you also can learn more about the brewing process as you go. The one-gallon size is ideal if you’re short on space or if you only want to make very small batches each time.
5. Brewer’s Best Home Brew Kit
If you’re looking for a high-volume kit on a budget, this kit is very much worth a look. While it’s the least expensive option on the list, it makes five gallons of beer with the included ingredients. And like many options on the list, you can purchase refill kits if you want to try brewing something different.
This is also a kit that’s great for the adventurous homebrew enthusiast–the included instructional guide also mentions several fruit and spice additives you may want to consider including. However, part of the reason this kit is relatively inexpensive is the fact that it only includes ingredients, instructions, and bottle caps–you’ll need to supply a fermenter and other bottling equipment. However, given the many ingredients it includes, this is still a high-quality brewing kit, especially if you want to venture into creating your own specialty beers later on.
In closing, brewing beer at home isn’t for the impatient, but it often yields impressive results. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can work on brewing different types of beer and experiment with additives. Plus, after a few batches, a homebrew kit essentially pays for itself. Take your time, do your research, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with cracking open a home-brewed beer.