The Perfect Beginner’s All Grain Kit: What Do You Actually Need?

What you need to get to make your first, complete all grain brewing kit is definitely confusing if you don’t have a brewing buddy to actually go to the brew store with you and show you exactly what to get.

Most people start with extract brewing because it’s easier, faster, and you need less equipment. There’s less money commitment, and less of a chance that you’ll end up with a bunch of stuff sitting in your garage that you never use again or sell on Craigslist for 30% of what you paid after only using it twice.

For me, I knew that when I started brewing it was going to be a hobby for the rest of my life. I don’t know why. I wasn’t a huge beer connoisseur, and I had never been much of a cook either. I guess part of the appeal was that beer is something you can enjoyed at any age. It’s also the kind of hobby that you can never “finish”, you can just get better and better at.

So I skipped the whole extract thing and went straight to all grain. My buddy also brewed all grain, but I had never seen his equipment, and he had to explain everything over the phone and in emails. It was super confusing. I tried to look up pre made kids online, but they all seemed to be missing something, or include a bunch of stuff I didn’t need like labeling equipment, extra books, and what not.

Making Your Own Equipment

Lots of guys make their own equipment. My buddy did. I didn’t. I don’t have the tools, nor the know-how to do it. Plus, I didn’t really know what I would be making. I also didn’t have a local homebrew store to visit and ask. Nor did I own a car. End of story, I just bought everything I needed online and it was all delivered within a week (free shipping). I’m a homebrewer, not a handyman (yet)

How Much Will Everything Cost

My buddy that made his own swears that he spent only $300. I don’t really believe it, but who knows. He made his own mash tun, wort chiller, and a few other things to save money. I think the amount of gas, time, and energy spent making this stuff wasn’t worth it compared to how fast I could get started, how long the equipment would last, and how pretty it would look when I brewed (so sue me).

I spent $800 total. I bought a few upgraded items, none of which I’ve regretted yet. That’s not bad considering it included everything ready made and I probably won’t have to buy anything for the rest of my life. But you can certainly spend a lot more on brewing equipment, and essentially build your own microbrewery in your back yard if you like. Take a look at my equipment below and see where you stand.

Make Beer With Your Beginner’s All Grain Kit

There are thousands of resources online, many of which skip lots of steps, leave out important things, or include a bunch of instructions you don’t really need to get good beer out of your equipment. I’ll be making some video and writing my own simple guide soon enough, an I’ll post a link here when I’ve done that. One thing at a time, bro.

My Equipment List & Details

I’m going to list all my equipment below. Big items will be clickable, and you can go to the source where I bought mine for the same item or something similar. Prices and available change, so it might not be 100% exactly what I have. Also, at the bottom I will include a few complete all grain kits with my comments and additions or notes on what is extra (ie you don’t need it). This will help you compare prices

Notes & Options On All Grain Brewing Equipment

 

Burner Style 1 vs Burner Style 2: My buddy uses the cheap style, and I use the 2nd version from the pictures above. You can get a cheap one for between $40-$60 dollars from quite a few places. The style I use is called the Blichmann Floor Burner and then I got the leg Blichmann Burner Leg Extensions which were not included. The floor burner was $149.99 and the leg extensions were $39.99. Yeah, that’s about $200 versus the $40 of a cheapie, but it’s so much higher quality.

I almost regretted getting the Blichmann Burner when it first arrived because I felt like I had come to a party overdressed. It looked like way more than what I needed.

However, after finally brewing side by side next to one of these cheap burners, I realized I had made the right decision. The Blichmann Floor Burner was significantly quieter. The cheap style sounded like a jet engine (remember that you are boiling stuff for 1-2 hours). More importantly, I was able to put out more heat, with less flame.

The burner felt a lot more stable, and I know I will be using this same one for years in the future. The leg extensions give me some height for transferring boiling water (via ball valve in my boiler maker) to my mash tun and make stirring less of a chore.

Boilermaker vs Cooking Pots

You’ll notice that I have two ways to boil liquid. One has a ball valve, one not. The one with the valve and temperature gauge is the boilermaker and the other one is a regular cooking pot.

The advantages of having a temp gauge and ball valve are twofold. The temp gauge means you don’t have to measure water temps by adding a thermometer to your boiling water or wort. It also means that it’s super easy to get water or wort out of the pot. This is very useful for any hot liquid transfer, but it’s most appreciated when transferring cooled wort into the fermenter.

A boiling kettle with these two things is not required, but highly recommended.

The regular pot I use to boil and  hold water while lautering. This is the process of washing wort from the grains. If you are unclear what this process is, basically what I want to say is that it simplifies your job to have one pot for wort, and one for water during this process. Any old 2 or 3 gallon pot will do, but I prefer having one dedicated to brewing.

Mash Tun Styles

My mash tun is upright, but many use the rectangle, flatter style mash tuns. I have read that using those styles can actually mean you get better efficiency from your mashes (more sugars, more accurate beer) because of the dimensions of the grain bed. I haven’t had any serious problems with my style. In fact, this style is commonly sold already converted, so it can’t be that bad. I also find that it’s a lot easier to move from place to place because of the size, shape, and position of grips. This may be personal preference.

Another thing you need to consider is how to filter the wort from the grains. Mine came with a pre-installed false bottom which has worked out great so far. Other styles of mash tuns may require you to build your own false bottom, or use other methods to aid with filtering the liquid from the solids after mashing. There are plenty of online resources for how to do this. I’m not handy enough and too lazy. I’m happy with my pre-built one.

Thermohydrometers VS Thermometers + Hydrometers

I originally bought a thermohydrometer to kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure to a high enough temp to measure strikewater or hot wort temperature. It is, however, useful because there are a few times when you will need to measure the gravity of your beer. Temperature affects gravity, so you need to plug in temperature + gravity into an online calculator to get an accurate reading.

But I still needed a way to measure water, wort, and mash temp so I had to buy a separate thermometer. I got a really handy stem thermometer. It’s awesome, accurate, and I recommend you buy one.

One pitfall to avoid is to get a hydrometer with a lopsided weight. They come with a bit of metal or something inside the glass that is supposed to properly weight them. How they float will show you the gravity of your beer. Mine is lopsided, so it always leans against the side of the container, giving me a slightly inaccurate reading. It’s very annoying, so I don’t use mine any more, I just borrow one from a friend.

Glass VS Plastic Carboys

There are plenty of arguments on whether glass or plastic carboys are better. I use glass. My friend uses plastic. I prefer glass because it looks professional and I feel more comfortable having my beer in glass. The scientific reason is that beers that have to ferment or age for a very long time can be affected if oxygen seeps through the plastic (it can). Also, plastic can be more susceptible to scratches during cleaning, which can lead to storing bacteria, and possibly infecting your beer.

But glass can break. It’s really heavy, and hard to transport. Many folks say that it isn’t worth the hassle, especially for a beer that ferments in 2 weeks and then goes to the bottle or keg. I still like using glass. The picture you see above is a 6.5 gallon which is too big for a 5 gallon batch, but it works for now. Eventually I should buy the accurate size carboy to fit my 5 gallon batches.

Yeast Starter Equipment

I have featured my yeast starter equipment here. You might not need this at all. My first beer was done with dry yeast. You do not need to do anything with dry yeast except sprinkle it onto your wort to start fermentation. Liquid yeast can be used pretty much the same way and still produce awesome beer.

But once you get into serious brewing, when using liquid yeast, you should consider making a yeast starter. 24-36 hours before brewing your beer you make a solution of sugary stuff for yeast to eat and grow in. This gets them grow in number and ready themselves to efficiently make your beer. A happy yeast starter means better tasting beer.

I made 2 successful beers without a starter. For my pumpkin rye and chocolate bock I used a starter for both. It was fun, and I think it contributed to a quicker, better fermentation.

2000 ml Flask

Most likely you won’t need this for your first all grain kit, but it will depend on what type of beer you want to make. When I made my “Chocobock” Sam Adams Chocolate Bock beer recently, I had to learn how to make a bock yeast starter for the first time. A bock is a lager, and lagers ferment differently from ales. You need more yeast, which means the starter is made a little differently. You need MORE yeast starter and a 500 ml flask is not going to be big enough.

[social-bio]

What do you think?

*