Hey all. I currently have the big mouth bubbler five gallon starter kit. The only addition I’ve made so far is a hydrometer. Wonder what the next upgrade for a better taste would be. I’m simply doing extract kits right now. Something as simple as a wort chiller?
Temp control… a fridge or chest freezer with a digital controller will help a lot.
Kegging, some say.
All grain equipment, if you like to tinker.
I’ve only done ales so far that I’ve been fermenting in the basement at a very steady 62 degrees, than when bottle conditioning I put them upstairs where it’s close to 70 degrees. I can see needing temp control if I was going to do a lager…I’m very new at this, so could use some clarification.
I would go for another fermentor and a bench capper if you aren’t having any problems chilling the wort.
I have a primary and secondary at the moment. I’m guessing you’re suggesting another primary?
Right, another primary. Start a new brew while one is finishing. Takes care of the urge to rush a beer into the bottle.
Ha, I hear you there. That was certainly a factor in my first couple brews. I’m happy to have two batches bottle conditioning, and will brew another one this weekend.
My first upgrade was a 10 gallon kettle so I could do full boils with extract. Thankfully, my uncle had a turkey fryer setup that he was no longer using so my propane burner upgrade was free. My stovetop struggled to boil 6.5 gallons. My second upgrade was a wort chiller because an ice bath for 5.5 gallons of boiling beer takes forever. I picked up This one off Amazon with free shipping and have been very happy with it.
10 gallon pot and some 5 gallon paint strainer bags and jump right into all grain. It’s a lot of fun.
For me, the best initial upgrade around 35 years ago was a switch to wet yeast as opposed to dry. Nowadays, dry yeasts are massively better than they were back then, so I’d say next best was my second major upgrade which was full wort boil (at the same time as a counterflow wort chiller).
Advancing to all grain followed that, and then kegging. All told, those upgrades back then cost a total of not much more than $125. And once I went all-grain, cost per batch dropped by 60% (even factoring in the cost of equipment, which was minimal).
Soon after that, I virtually stopped buying commercial beer (even “craft”), unless I ran out of homebrew (which is rare).
There are three kinds of upgrades:
- those that lead to higher quality beer
- those that lead to higher volume of beer production
- those that make the process easier and/or faster
And of course, some upgrades help in more than one category. Wort chiller will make the process easier and will slightly improve the quality. Same with kegging. And some are just fun to try. What are you trying to achieve?
Sounds like temperature control is not a big issue right now, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.
If you’re looking to improve your beer, I would say get a strainer bag and read up on partial mash brewing and BIAB brewing. That’s where I went with my brewing pretty quickly. Throw some base malt in with your steeping grains and extend the steep to get a partial mash, it will help with the flavor of the beer and get your feet wet with working with grain. I also got a large strainer to put over the top of my brew kettle to help drain off what I could from the grain.
A chiller does make a big difference for cooling the wort quickly too, but I put off that purchase until I upgraded everything - outdoor burner, 15-gal SS kettle (Spike Brewing), all-grain equipment, etc. Instead I invested in extra fermenters. I have three buckets, three plastic big mouth bubblers and one glass carboy that I try to avoid using right now.
And definitely get a bench capper if you don’t have one and don’t intend to start kegging soon.