Home brewing equipment

Home brewing equipment

If you’re baffled about the range of home brewing equipment and what it’s used for, then here’s a guide:

Brewing Kettle

This is the container where the “cooking” part of brewing will be done. A stainless or enameled steel cooking pot of at least 3 gallons (12 quarts) will do.

Avoid aluminum or cast-iron pots since they might give your wort an undesirable off-flavor.

As long as you can afford it we highly recommend buying the biggest kettle you can fit on your stove or burner. A 30 quart will work nicely for extract brewing as well as all-grain. The smaller the pot the higher the chances for boil overs.

The few dollars saved on a small pot will be spent later on paper towels!

Cooler

A 5 gallon or larger Rubbermaid cooler will work well as an all-grain mash/lauter tun. A cooler’s built-in insulation provides mash temperature stability and its size allows mashing and lautering in the same vessel. It is as simple as pouring the grain into the cooler, adding hot water, waiting a bit, and then draining the sweet wort.

Fermenters

There are two main types of fermenters, the primary and the secondary. The primary is often a 6 gallon food grade plastic pail. It is fitted with a lid with an airlock. This will allow enough space for the foam head (Krausen) to form without blowing out of the container.

A primary fermenter is often sufficient for the entire process.

With a plastic container, you don’t want the beer to stay in it for too long. There is a large air space above that can have air that can spoil the beer. Plastic is also slightly porous.

Oxygen can bleed through the plastic and react with the beer to cause off favours, or even spoil the beer. Plastic also has a lot of nooks and crannies that can harbor bacteria and can be hard to sanitise.

A second fermenter (the secondary) is used when the beer is to be conditioned, or when there is not time to bottle the beer. The secondary fermenter should be a five gallon glass carboy since the beer will likely spend some time in the container, especially when brewing lager.

Glass is easier to sanitise since it isn’t porous.

Stopper

Stoppers are typically made of rubber or plastic and are used to temporarily seal the carboy opening while providing an exit hole for the gases produced during the fermentation process. The hole in the centre of the stopper should be just wide enough to accommodate the end of the airlock.

Airlock

Airlocks are important, because they let carbon dioxide given off by the yeast during fermentation to escape without letting air back in to the fermenter.

Spoon/paddle

You need a sturdy, light and long spoon or paddle to be able to stir your wort or mashes without burning the tips of your fingers. Spoons/paddles made of heat resistant plastic or stainless steel work the best. Many homebrewers discourage the use of wooden spoons since they can be difficult to sanitise.

Auto-Siphon

Auto-siphons are the easiest and most sanitary way of transferring liquids from one container to another. Connect some clear plastic tubing to the end of the piston, sanitise thoroughly, start siphon with a single stroke and watch you beer flow without any effort!

Tubing

Beverage grade clear vinyl tubing is commonly used as part of an auto-siphon system or also to create a blow-off fermenter – a technique that uses a single plastic hose to block the neck of the carboy and release the CO2 into a container filled with water.

Wort Chiller

Wort chillers are used to quickly cool down the boiling wort to be able to add the yeast to it. Quick cooling reduces the chances of developing off flavors, bacterial spoilage, and help you get the brew done in a shorter amount of time.

The most common type of wort chiller is the immersion chiller. This is simply a coil of copper tubing with connectors at each end.

A garden hose is connected to one end and a draining hose to the other. The cold water running through the copper coil absorbs the heat from the hot wort lowering the temperature of it.

Bottle Filler

A bottle filler is a plastic or stainless steel tube with an on/off valve at one end. It’s important to be able to control the amount of beer in your bottles – too much or too little head space in the bottle will influence the carbonation process and quality of the final product.

Hydrometer

The hydrometer is the instrument used to measure the specific gravity of a liquid.

This is what helps you determine the amount of alcohol in your beer.

By taking an original and final measurement of the specific gravity of your wort/beer you will be able to determine how much sugar has been converted to ethanol by the yeast during the fermentation process.

Thermometer

Temperature control is an important part of brewing. The most common thermometer used by brewers is the glass teardrop floating type, but a well sanitised meat thermometer will work fine.

You could go without a thermometer as an extract brewer but we highly recommend one for all-grain beer since you will need to set and maintain certain temperatures during the process.

Grain Straining Bag

A fine-mesh nylon or cheesecloth bag able to hold 4 to 6 pounds of grains. It is used mainly during the steeping or mashing process (soaking crushed grains in hot water). It works as a large tea bag, keeping the husk and grain inside the bag while allowing the transfer of sugars, enzimes and water that form the wort.

Bottle Capper

The two most common types are the bench bottle capper and the dual lever hand held model. The bench bottle capper is designed as a lever/handle that slides on a rail post. The dual lever type requires a little more effort and coordination, but is less expensive than the bench type and will work well once you get the hang of it.

Bottles

Beer bottles come in a variety of sizes. Since light can spoil your beer, dark glass (or less often plastic) are the material and colour choice of most brewers.

We recommend the use of bottles with a single flange top or pry-off. The “twist-off” type require special equipment for sealing and don’t provide as good a seal against oxygen, just one of many sources of beer spoilage.


“Home brewing equipment”, written by Terry J.

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