If budget is the primary factor in your purchasing decision then stop reading here. I agree with everything above.
…ok…if you are still reading…here is my full-disclosure: I bought my kit about 3 months ago and I’ve got 2 batches fermenting but I’ve never even tased a drop of my own finished beer (so take this review for what it’s worth…from a total noob).
If budget is less an issue and you don’t want to have to ‘upgrade’ later (costing more $$$ in the long run), I’d recommend the Premium kit Premium Craft Brewery in a Box - Beer Making Starter Kit.
It’s quite a bit more expensive but it has what you need without having to upgrade in the near future. When I made my purchase the list of key features I wanted was pretty short:
#1 - I wanted a good boil pot (aka Megapot 1.2)
- Large enough to expand brewing options in the future
- I wanted a ball-valve to drain
- I wanted an integrated thermometer (had to sacrifice this one)
#2 - I wanted a primary fermenter that was easy to clean and easy to rack from (aka BMB)
- I really wanted glass but settled for plastic in order to get my other criteria without blowing the bank. In retrospect I’m REALLY glad I did not get glass - heavy/breakable.
- Carboys with the small neck are harder to clean - forget that skinny little brush (I’m lazy, I hate doing dishes, and cleanliness is critical, and that just seems like a lot of effort (I know myself and this is where I would skimp)
- I wanted it to have the coffee pot valve for easier racking (which I later learned is called siphonless)
Everything else was just gravy - I needed all the other little (but important) parts, Thermometer, Hydrometer, bucket, spoon, cleaner, etc. Everything was there! The included wort chiller was really something that I think could have been left out to save some money on the kit. I wanted to build my own so including in the kit was unnecessary for me. (however…I will tell you - buy one - build one - WHATEVER…just have one cuz it is awesome!).
In the end - the Premium kit was more than I was planning to spend but it was worth every penny and I’d do it again.