Although homebrewing is becoming more and more popular nowadays, making alcohol at home isn’t something new. People have been making their own alcohol a long time before its commercial production.
These days, homebrewing represents a hobby for many, allowing them to spend their time wisely by making something that they’ll use and enjoy. From making your own beer and wine to making your own spirit, homebrewing is a versatile process. There are a few things that you need to consider in order to make your first brew, and deciding on what kind of equipment you need is a good start.
What Home Brew Fermenter to Choose?
Fermenters are the containers you need to pour the solution for your homebrew in so it can begin its fermentation. There are several different types of home brew fermenters to choose from to start brewing your first homemade alcoholic drink.
Conical fermenters for home brewing are a popular choice among brewers. Professional brewers use them as well but they are, of course, much larger than those for home use. They’re cylindrical at the top and conical at the bottom. This shape enables primary and secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is important for better clarity, less sediment, and better flavour. This usually requires transferring to another vessel which means that you expose your brew to contaminants, infection, and oxidation.
By using a conical fermenter, you perform both fermentations in one vessel because the bottom is able to separate and collect the sediment, making the brew ready for the second fermentation without any transfer. Also, these fermenters allow you to save and reuse the yeast by simply collecting it from the bottom. This saves you money because you don’t need to buy a new packet every time. Cleaning is also easier because you’re using just one vessel. These fermenters are typically made from either stainless steel or plastic.
- Stainless steel conical fermenters are known for their durability. They don’t allow oxidation, are easy to clean and sanitise, and they won’t break if you drop them.
- Plastic conical fermenters are a common choice among homebrewers, mainly due to their low cost. Plastic is less expensive compared to stainless steel but it’s susceptible to scratches. Its form makes it suitable for easy cleaning.
You’ll find many affordable fermenters for sale online, but buckets are used by most first-time homebrewers. Simple plastic buckets are easy to use, inexpensive, easy to clean, don’t take up much space, and you can fit spigots on them. Having spigots means that there won’t be any need for siphoning and they’re essential for bottling.
Keeping your brew in a bucket exposes it to air so you don’t want to leave it there for a long time. If you keep it longer, oxygen will penetrate the lid and the walls of the bucket. A stainless steel fermenter in the form of a bucket is a more long-lasting option than plastic. They won’t allow oxygen to go through and come with already installed spigots but they take up more space.
Carboys are the third option available for home brew fermenters and they look like large bottles with narrow necks. They’re also known as demijohn. Sometimes there’s a small difference between a carboy and demijohn, because demijohns are considered to have a woven basket around them to protect the glass from breaking and protect the brew from light.
- Glass carboy fermenters are widely used among brewers and come in different sizes. The bigger ones leave more space on top for krausen, which is the foam that forms and expands from the yeast. They’re pricey, heavier, require a strap for easier transportation, and will break if you drop them.
- Plastic carboy fermenters are a high-quality plastic alternative to glass. They’re light, inexpensive, and don’t break as easily as glass.
Other Essential Equipment for Home Brewing
A brew kit contains all the necessary ingredients for brewing. Advanced brewers may use their own recipes, but these kits are enough for starters. They can be “all-grain” and “partial-mash” that are a bit more advanced for beginners or “pre-hopped” that are simpler to use. Kits for beginners come with instructions to help you during the process.
Airlocks help carbon dioxide escape from the fermenter and stop contaminants from entering. They’re necessary for carboys but not for buckets, but are a better option than leaving the lid open a little bit for the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide needs to escape because it can cause the lid or the whole fermenter to explode.
Kettles are needed for boiling the liquid. You can start with a smaller one and later upgrade when you’ll need to boil more liquid. Make sure to have extra room to avoid accidents. It’s understandable, of course, that you’ll need a place where you can boil the liquid like a stove. Later on, a more powerful heat source will be needed.
A siphon is needed to move the hot brew from one vessel to another without lifting, spilling, and pouring. You can’t just pour the liquid because you don’t want oxygen spoiling your brew. If your fermenter has a spigot near the bottom, you don’t need to siphon. Just connect the tubing and gravity will pull the liquid. There are auto-siphons that create a vacuum to transfer the liquid. They’re easy to use and don’t let contaminants into the brew.
Cleaners and Sanitisers
The equipment needs to be thoroughly cleaned after you’re done with the brewing. A simple dishwashing cleaner will do, but make sure that it’s unscented. There are also cleaners specifically made for home brewing equipment cleaning that can be found in any homebrew shop.
After cleaning, sanitising the equipment ensures that no microorganisms that can spoil your brew are left. You could find a specific sanitiser for homebrewing or you can make it yourself.
Additional Equipment for Home Brewing
You’ll need a stirrer with a long handle to reach the bottom of the kettle. Stirring is needed at the beginning of the brewing process and maybe later for the priming. You can use a plastic or a wooden one although stainless steel is preferred. Sanitise it before use.
Strainer, Measuring Cup, and Thermometer
Before transferring the brew to the fermenter, you should strain it to make sure that the brew is smooth. A measuring cup is used for measuring the amount of water, and you need a good thermometer that can resist high temperatures. You need it so you can know when to pitch the yeast.
Kegs or Bottles
You need bottles to store your brew. Glass beer bottles will do the job but they need to be cleaned and sanitised. Alternatively, you can opt for kegs because they’re more convenient and produce a clearer brew.