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Best bang for the buck, all grain equipment?

Hey guys, new to northern brewer, but a little over a year as a homebrewer. So far I’ve done extract and partial boil batches but I’d love to get into all grain as well as kegging.

In your opinions what’s the best investment that can be made with $300-400 to help further those goals?

I currently have run of the mill equipment for extract brewing/bottling. I’m comfortable fabbing stuff if it represents a considerable savings as well. So spend my money for me!*

*on brewing related items, please

Thanks!

I would say you don’t need to upgrade to all grain just yet. Instead, upgrade to full-wort boils. I recommend a good burner, such as a Blichmann burner with its extend legs. You can also afford a nice 10 gallon pot with that budget.

Also, concentrate on your fermentation – temp control and proper yeast pitching rates.

With the budget you have in mind, you can definitely afford at least a turkey fryer system for full wort boils, and a digital fermentation temp controller system.

Make amazing beer first, then worry about all grain. These days, all grain really isn’t all that important…

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/ http://brewing.lustreking.com/gear/mashtun.html

These two links should get you a mash tun for <$75. Don’t go less than 48qts.

Then you need a turkey fryer. ~$50. Look for one with a 30qt + pot. And a flat surface on the burner so if you want to go with a bigger pot it will fit without fabricating something.

When doing full boils you will need a way to cool it. Pick up a 25ft coil of copper and make your own immersion chiller. Unless the cost is more than one in the stores. $50

So I’ve spent ~$175.

That leave $175 for a 2 keg system. :lol:

1st purchase: Definitely purchase the turkey fryer, the Denny Brew batch sparge cooler set up, and an immersion chiller. Those things are a no-brainer purchase to get 1st and foremost. BTW, if I was starting over I would probably build Jamil’s whirlpool chiller, but then you would have to add a March pump. http://www.mrmalty.com/chiller.php

2nd purchase: A beer fridge.

After that the other stuff will depend on your situation. If you want to make lagers, definitely fermentation control for that fridge. If you have a spot in your house/basement that you can ferment at 65F or less year round and you only make ales, maybe temperature control is not the next thing.

Kegging is the next step.

Yeast starters are next. However, stir plates and accessories are not necessary. Yes, others will 100% disagree with this, but I stand firm. My starter method is to make a 1 gallon extract batch of beer and use the yeast slurry as a starter. No wasted DME, enough yeast even for a 5G lager batch, and you get to try funky recipes for a small $$ risk. Downside to my method: Time. So advance planning is critical.

I agree with many of the above suggestions -

  • A big, nice, S.S. pot (with spigot).
  • Good burner
  • Immersion Wort Chiller

Those 3 things go a long way toward making your day successful and efficient.

One more thing I would recommend is to make your purchases count. If you are fairly certain you really like brewing and are going to stick with it and eventually go all grain . . . . don’t buy a “decent” 6 gallon pot. Get a NICE, 10 gallon S.S. pot (preferably with a spigot). Get something that you will be able to build around when you go all grain.

I (like many homebrewers) went the route of enamel canning pot, small S.S. pot, bigger S.S. pot, S.S. pot with spigot . . . .etc. If you know you want to pursue this hobby - skip the middle steps, save money and get a good pot. Plus, if you decide at some point you don’t want to brew - you will still be able to sell the good pot. No one will want the intermediates.

Least important thing to spend money on (in my experience) - Fermenters. I have brewed for 15 years and used buckets, carboys of various sizes, better bottle, V-vessel conicals, and looked at length at S.S. fermenters before realizing that it is really hard to beat plastic buckets for convenience, ease of use, cleaning, etc. I am 100% buckets now (8 of them) and don’t ever see my self doing anything else.

I should have listed the fryer among my equipment. I do have a turkey fryer burner with a 10 psi regulator I use for boils. Also a beer fridge in the garage, and I’m currently in negotiations to acquire a 7-8cu/ft chest freezer that would likely become a keezer/lagering chamber.

I’ll take the rest of this advice to heart and start makin a list. I (and so far everyone that’s tasted it) really enjoy the beer I’ve made so far, but I’m a gear/hobby nut and a chemist by trade so experimentation with some of the more complex beers/processes are as interesting and fun for me as drinking the end product!

Thanks guys, love the stuff I learn from Northern brewer and their customers!

Fully agree with this one. What that means for each person is different but I know I’ve got a fair number of things where I should have held off an picked up the nicer item. My kettles are the place where I’d have been better off saving and getting a nice one to start with.

Take the advice on the brew kettle! Get the biggest pot you can imagine needing or used commercial kegs (15.5 gallon) and convert them. Keep in mind that a 5 gallon pot isn’t big enough for a 5 gallon batch of all grain. A 10 gallon pot isn’t big enough for a 10 gallon batch. Get the spigot and thermometer!

At first, your going to just want to jump in and start making an all grain batch. Don’t! After a few batches, the excitement will wear off and you’ll start thinking about things you should have done differently.

Take your time getting equipment and keep making beer the way you are. What you want is an effecient system that saves time and makes brewing enjoyable. You’ll love the hobby for years, if you make it easy on yourself.

The chiller is a must. Do research on which one and buy it. Ice baths suck and take too long. Period. Not negotiable!

No one has mentioned water. This is the center of brewing. I fill 1 gallon jugs at a Culligan station and have to carry these things around. Don’t do what I do. Make or purchase a water filtration system.

As others have said, buy a keg system. Bottling sucks and is time consuming. It can take several hours to make priming solution, transfer beer to bucket, clean and sanitize bottles, fill bottles and cap. Kegging takes minutes, not hours.

The point I am trying to make is, even if you are not worried about time and effort now, you will be. Lifting heavy equipment for 6-8 hours is work. Don’t make this work! It’s a hobby and it’s supposed to be fun.

Water supply, big pot with ball valves, kegs, chiller and brewing structure.

+1 to a turkey frier setup, big pot and temperature control. Turkey frier and big pot for full boils and a mini-fridge or chest freezer with temperature control to control your fermentations.

As for ‘not’ going all grain yet, I say hogwash. No reason not to. I started with about 5 extract beers then moved on to partial mash, which I brewed about 5 more beers with that method. I then realized the only difference between partial mash and all grain is a bigger pot. That’s really all there is to it. If your pot can hold the proper amount of grain/water, you can brew all grain. A 10 gallon pot would be a great start and would give you plenty of room for all grain. I use a 7 gallon pot and can do all grain. It’s a tight fit, but it works. I make pretty good beer, if I may say so.

A mini-fridge or better yet a chest freezer and a temperature controller will allow you to really make good beer and a wide variety of styles. To me, proper yeast handling (including pitch rates) and temperature control will improve your beer tremendously.

Congrats on jumping! Enjoy your purchases and brew days! Very exciting time!
:cheers:

I like the idea of focusing on the fermentation with extract while gearing up to go all grain later. Get a fermentation chamber, a large boil kettle, some PBW and some Starsan. I’d work on the basics of proper cleaning and sanitizing followed by proper yeast pitching rates and in range temperature control. Once you’re making great beer like that you can leap into all grain simply by getting Denny’s batch sparging system and a copy of How to Brew.

Don’t put-off the jump to AG. Despite what many would suggest, it’s not rocket science. I’ve done rocket science and trust me, AG aint it. You only need be able to read a recipe and follow it. So, here’s my recommendation

See denny’s site for easiest and cheapest mash tun (posted by nighthawk above)
get a big pot for the full boils
get a IC for cooling the hot wort
spend the rest on grain, hops, yeast.

cheers.

Keg system definitely, bottling sucks way too much fun and takes way too much time.
If there is any left over get a big pot and burner and start doing full boils, there are some fantastic deals out there on kettle/ diy kettles, just keep your eyes open.

I would recommend getting a cooler and SS braid set up as soon as possible to go AG. Going AG will pay for itself quickly and you’ll probably get it eventually anyway.

I’ve done full-wort boils from day one, so it’s hard for me to comment on how much bang that gets you, but an all-in-one turkey fryer with 30+ gallon aluminum pot can be had for pretty cheap if you look around.

I also had an immersion wort chiller from the start, but I would absolutely recommend that if you don’t already have a fast and convenient way to chill.

The nice thing about the above is that not only will they help your brew, but they’ll probably make your brewday shorter and easier because you’ll be able to get your boil hot and your wort cool substantially faster.

Beyond that, I think fermentation temp control is the single most significant think you can do. If you already have a fridge and a place to put it, you just need a Johnson temp controller and you’re good. If you don’t have a fridge, lots of people manage to find used ones on Craig’s List for pretty cheap.

Finally, get your pitching rates right, which will probably mean you’ll want to get a few items for making starters. I make my starter wort in a small pot on the stovetop, then once chilled (i just stick it in a bigger pot filled with ice without ever even removing the lid from the pot with the starter wort). The only thing I spent money on was a jug to ferment the starter in.

You can probably find all the info you’ll ever need about starters and proper pitching rates here:

www.mrmalty.com

Good luck!

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