I would have to say the immersion chiller I bought saves me a lot of time and anguish but the one thing I really like is the carboy washer I made. Haven’t had to scrub out a carboy yet! It was inexpensive to make and works like a charm.
6" bazooka tube for mash tun, quick-disconnect fittings, and silicon tubing for lautering. It’s the little things.
I’m gonna go to the opposite extreme of the little things. For me, the best thing I ever did was to buy a small chest freezer and temperature controller. The ability to accurately regulate my fermentation temperature was probably the biggest improvement in the ability to make consistent brews.
Best: Spray bottle for Star San, burner for outdoor boils, refractometer, cooler mash tun
Meh: I’m never going back to fragile hydrometers, and hate narrow mouthed carboys.
- Temp control
- temp control
- temp control
- temp control
- temp control
Get the picture? It doesn’t matter what equipment you have, how much you’ve spent on it, what your process is, or how good your ingredients are if you don’t have reliable temp control.
Yeah I understand how important temp control is… Overall I just wanted to see what other people had to say about their must-haves.
Blichman 10 gal boilermaker (I’ve never once regretted this upgrade)
Burner (started with a turkey fryer, just upgraded to the Blichman Top Tier)
Chiller (I started with and primarily use my CFC but also have an immersion chiller for whirlpool hopstands)
Kegerator and kegging knocked 2-3 hours out of every batch
Cheap 'N Easy mashtun and grain mill (I enjoy AG so much I’ll probably never go back to extract)
Importance of temperature control for the fermentation comes right after sanitation. I’m lucky. I can control fermentation temperatures with a swamp cooler. If I would ever get into brewing lagers then some extra cash may be needed for a temp controlled fermentation chamber.
Right now I prefer to keep it simple. Less to go wrong.
And @NBCustomerService is starting up two threads (Extract Brew Gear, All-Grain Brew Gear ) based on your curiosity. Gotta love that!!
[edit: fixed links]
Bigger kettle, IC, pump, silicon tubing with QD’s, temp control fermenting… And something you can’t buy, ability to read… A LOT ! Sneezles61
1.10G BK. After doing 6.5-7G boils in a 7.5G BK for 3 years(yes it is doable, but you have to watch it like a hawk, and fermcap is your friend), I picked up a 10G kettle. Much more relaxed during my latest boil.
2. Swamp cooler buckets. I have 2 and use them all the time- for chilling, for temp. control during fermentation, for cold crashing, for lagering. I might as well use them to give my dog a bath.
3. An accurate thermometer. Even more critical than an accurate hydrometer.
4. Books, books and more books. JP’s, Papa P’s, Snyder’s, Daniel’s, Denny’s, the brewing series, and more. Study them like you’re back in school. Be a little obsessive.
I’d say for me:
- Freezer/temp control
- Blichman burner/kettle (bought them at the same time)
- Brewing Classic Styles book
- Gamma lids for grain storage in buckets
- Fast rack for bottling
Been thinking about this and want to narrow it down to must haves to brew beer not want to have. Do you need fancy name brand stuff? Reading these posts it’s no wonder people think brewing is expensive. To brew all grain all you need is a pot ,burner, brew bag, thermometer, and bucket. Grain and hops of course and maybe a bin to make a swamp cooler. Do I have other stuff ? Sure. I would like to think I could walk into anyone’s kitchen and brew up some beer. I think I could.
You’re right, the absolute minimum set of equipment you need is pretty short. Also pretty well established and doesn’t make for a very interesting discussion. That’s not really what @mhall2013 was asking about in the opening post, though.
As far as the top 5 things that helped me out the most, that I wish I had gotten sooner, I’d like to expand my list to the top 5, in no particular order:
- Bazooka tube (man I hated that false bottom!)
- QD fittings
- Silicon tubing
- Grain mill
- Either a pH meter or water temp controller (can’t decide which has helped me more)
Can’t say I have too much stuff that didn’t live up to expectations, as I don’t really buy new gear until I have a need for it. More just stuff that I use less often.
- False bottom (that thing was truly a waste, hated it!)
- Pump (works great, but only use it for 10+ gallon batches so it’s only used a few times per year)
- CFC (also works great, but again only used for 10+ gallon batches)
- Hydrometer (only used for long-aged sour/wild beers for safety reasons)
- All the non-silicon high-temp hose and fittings I bought before biting the bullet for silicon and QD fittings (pitched)
This is sort of funny. I have had many hobbies throughout my life. It seems that each of the hobbies have had an endless supply of gear that you just wanted to get. And each piece of gear let you do something different. But this hobby is awesome. There is a very small list of things that you need to get going, and once you get the list, you really don’t NEED anything else. And the stuff on the list is not really specialty in most cases, and it’s not high class or expensive. Let’s face it, an IC is really a coil of copper pipe with some fittings. It’s nice that you can buy it already made, but in reality it’s something that is not special and that you can make rather easily. You can add fancy pants gear into the mix, but in most cases it’s not like this is going to make a big difference in your craft.
its funny I went backwards. I built a tun before I even brewed any beer. I have 6 pots 5 burners 2 tuns about 6 thermometers two chillers etc . I have at least two of everything. Now that I know how to brew with all that stuff im going backwards to one pot one burner brewing. simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. the one thing I wouldn’t give up is at least 2 of my kegs and my tap setup. Oh and my basement pub/brew room.
I’m kind of in the same boat. I had plans to make a fancy HERMS set-up with brew stand, but the more I brewed the less I liked setting up gear and cleaning it afterwords. Ended up with a standard 3-vessel tun and kettle set-up. I tried BIAB, but it was more of a hassle for me to deal with the grain bag, and I can mash in my kitchen and (mostly) have contained messes. The immersion heater is really nice, because I can put it in the strike water, set the temp, and it’ll beep when it’s at the right temperature. Don’t have to constantly check the pot waiting for it to get to 163F, just makes it easier for me. Everything I put on my list makes it just a little easier or less frustrating, or provides a needed function that I can’t get otherwise.
There are guys that like to geek out on the electric automated set-ups, and I don’t have any problem with that. Same thing with fermentation chambers, just more gear that you need to store and it doesn’t really fit my needs for what I like to make. But then there’s the folks that want to make world-class clean beers, and it’s absolutely necessary for that - more power to them. Simplicity for me is fermenting upstairs during winter because it’s 62 in the house, and fermenting in the basement in summer because the floor is a constant 60 degrees.
I bought a pump about a year ago thinking I would use it for post boil whirlpools and to alleviate the arthritic pain of stirring for 15 minutes to cool using my immersion chiller.
Great idea in concept. I used it once and found it way more of a hassle than I thought it would be. It’s since been sitting in my garage collecting dust. Worst purchase I’ve made to date. I have no plans to ever do 10+ gallon batches so it will most likely get sold.
First on my list is, my temperature controlled, freezer for fermentation. Is my must have. Before, my beers always got a polite, “Wow, that’s not bad.” After the reactions went to, “Oh Man, This is awesome, can I bring some home?”
Second on the list is the BIAB, bag. It opened the door to AG brewing for me, and broke my dependence on Recipe Kits.