Homebrew Kits: How to Choose the Right Kit for You

Having the right equipment is crucial to a successful home brewing. Rather than attempting to search for all of the necessary components individually, choosing to get a comprehensive Equipment Kit is the best place to start. That way, you know you’ll have everything you need right there and won’t be scrambling for parts come brew time.

We’ve put together an assortment of equipment kits that range from basic to complete, all created with the needs of all types of homebrewers in mind. We’ll take you through each package to help you decide which equipment kit is the perfect one for both your brewing style and your wallet.

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How to Brew Beer

Home brewing beer has been said to be part science and part art. There is a precise and calculated aspect to the process but at the same time the “rules” and any possible confines can be hazy, presenting grounds for personal interpretation and the creation of a truly unique beer. Sounds like it could be difficult, right? Well, it’s not.

Brewing beer really comes down to a simple process that has roots as far back as 12,000 years. You essentially heat water and grain (and/or extract from grain), boil the mixture with hops, cool the mixture, ferment the mixture using yeast and then carbonate. Easy enough, right? Well, now we’ll go into a little bit more depth within each step.

The Main Steps of Homebrewing:

  1. Cleaning and Sanitizing
  2. The Brew
  3. After the Brew
  4. Fermentation
  5. Bottling and Kegging

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Beer Brewing Equipment: What You Need to Brew from Home

Making the decision to start brewing your own beer is an exciting one but can also seem quite daunting. With all the different pieces of equipment and ingredients out there, it’s hard to know what’s absolutely necessary, what’s recommended, and what’s completely optional.

To help you get started, we’ve broken it down into those exact three categories for you:

What You NEED to Get Started

If you’re a beginner, you’re probably wondering, “What do I need to get started?” At this stage, you may not want any of the bells and whistles but you do need the essentials. Here is exactly what you’ll need for your first 5 gallon yield brew:
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8 Helpful Homebrew Components You Should Consider Buying

So you have your homebrew equipment kit and you’re ready to make some delicious beer. Or so you think. Though equipment kits come with everything necessary to get you through your first few brews, after becoming more familiar with the process, you may want to consider grabbing a few extra components that can help make the process even easier.

1. Improved Temperature Monitoring

Bi-Metal Thermometer

Maintaining proper temperatures throughout the brewing process is critical. If your wort gets too hot or is not hot enough the entire batch can be ruined, and unfortunately, you wouldn’t know it until it was too late.

We recommend getting a trust-worthy brewing thermometer, such as a Bi-Metal Thermometer. This thermometer is able to give you faster readings than your average mercury or silver-based device, which is particularly helpful during the brewing and cooling stages.
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4 Essential Components of a Beer Brewing Ingredient Kit

Hops & Beer

Once you have your equipment and you’re ready to start brewing your own beer, you may be looking through the ingredient kits wondering, “What is this stuff?” With words like “extract”, “hop pellets” and “yeast” being thrown around, you may be feeling a little hesitant towards drinking a beer made from such things.

The truth is, all beer is made from 4 essential components, and these ingredients, or a variation of such, are what you can expect find in a typical beginner’s ingredient kit.

Main Ingredient 1: Malt Extract

Extract kits use either a dry or syrupy liquid malt extract as the base for the beer instead of grain. Both the dry and liquid malt extracts are developed from a process called malting. This process extracts sugars from the grains creating a concentrated extract. Liquid malt extract is often referred to as LME and likewise dry malt extract is often referred to as DME.

The major difference between the two is the amount of water left in the end product. Due to the difference in water content, dry and liquid malt extracts cannot be interchanged. If you’re using a recipe that calls for dry and you have malt, you can use this simple conversion to convert from one to the other: one pound of dry malt extract is equal to approximately 1.2 pounds of liquid malt extract.

Main Ingredient 2: Yeast

Yeast will be included in each of the extract recipe kits as well. Yeast is crucial to the brewing process as it converts the sugars into alcohol. The yeast may come in either a dry or liquid form. Since yeast is a living organism, it is arguably the most important ingredient in terms of care and attention. You must be sure to not allow the yeast to get too warm or too cold.

Main Ingredient 3: Hops

Hops

Each kit will also include the hops, which is one of the four main ingredients in beer. Hops contribute bitterness to the beer and balance the sweetness.

Bittering hops are used in the beginning of the boil process. Flavoring hops are also included and are added in the early stages of the boil. As the name suggests, these hops add flavors to your brew. Depending on the style, aroma hops may also be included. They are added later in the boil process and contribute an extra layer of aromas to the beer.

Main Ingredient 4: Water

This may seem obvious, but water is arguably the most important ingredient in your beer. It is best to use filtered water rather than just water from the tap. We go more in-depth about different types of water for brewing in this linked article.

Situational Needs: Priming Sugar, Grain Bag

Priming sugar is an ingredient that will always be included in extract kits, but isn’t always needed. Priming sugar is added to your batch prior to the bottling process. Adding the priming sugar ensures that the bottles will all be carbonated the same. The amount of carbonation can be controlled by the amount of sugar used.

Careful, though, too much priming sugar can lead to a bottle full of foam or even bottle bursts. If you plan to keg your beer instead of bottling, then no priming sugar is necessary.

Beer Ingredients

A muslin bag may also be included in some specialty kits. This bag is used for holding the hops or special ingredients during the boil. The bag ensures the flavor is captured without the ingredients being completely submerged into the brew.

Special Extras: Specialty Grains and Powders

In addition to the malt extract, some kits may also include specialty grains, which can be actual crushed grains or milled grains. These grains allow you to add depth and complexity to the color and flavor of the beer that you won’t get from the extract alone.

A few examples include chocolate malt, biscuit malt, malted rye, etc. Some of the kits will also include additional special ingredients such as oak chips or oak powder, which add even more depth to your beer’s flavor profile.

We hope this provided a good overview as to what you can expect from your ingredient kit. Good luck and happy brewing!

More About Homebrewing:

How to Upgrade Your Blowoff System

The three-piece airlock features a very simple yet ingenious design. It was created as a one-way airflow system that allows CO2 to exit the fermentation vessel without allowing outside air to enter. It’s always done a more-than-satisfactory job at what it was designed to do but things have changed. You’re brewing more seriously now and the three-piece airlock is no longer suited for your needs.

Three Piece Airlock with a Floating Bubbler

Like many, you found this out the hard way. It all started when you realized the importance of yeast health and made the move to yeast starters. You did everything right, except what you weren’t prepared for was an extremely aggressive fermentation.

In fact, this was the most active fermentation you had ever witnessed. It wasn’t just CO2 gradually finding its way out of the fermenter. No, this was something different where the cradle within the airlock looked like it was about to explode.

Before you knew it kraeusen started to flow up into the airlock and because you didn’t want to risk contamination of your batch by removing the airlock you were left to sit back and watch it all unfold. The headspace within the fermenter simply did not provide enough room for the mass amount of kraeusen that was forming.

As the kraeusen worked its way out over the next day or so you noticed that it had not only completely filled the airlock but had also run out through the holes of the cap out onto the fermenter lid and even onto the floor. Then, you were left with a huge sticky mess that was rather difficult to clean up.

So, you reconsider your use of yeast starters altogether knowing that it may end up like this every time. Well, don’t do that because going back to life without a yeast starter is just plain silly. Instead, there’s a much better solution that happens to be very simple — changing your blowoff system.
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Carboys: Why They’re Better Than Fermenting Buckets

Pre-packaged homebrewing kits are created to include everything you need to get started on your path to brewing your own beer. However, some are also compiled for the purpose of affordability. In order to keep price down, the first component that these types of kits elect to omit is the carboy, instead substituting a fermenting bucket in its place. While the fermenting bucket can get the job done, there are certain advantages to using a carboy instead.

Carboys vs. Fermentation Buckets

Perhaps the biggest advantage there is to using a carboy instead of a bucket for fermentation is that it is transparent. Having a fermentation vessel that you can see into enables you to more easily monitor the fermentation process. Being able to see when fermentation begins and ends helps take out the guesswork and also helps you better understand what it is that you should be looking for and the specific phases that should be taking place during any given fermentation.

With a bucket, you have to remove the lid, which not only increases the chances of introducing outside contaminants but can also disturb the trub or krauesen, resulting in a lower level of clarity in your beer.

Carboys tend to be a bit smaller volume-wise than fermenting buckets and reduce the amount of unnecessary headspace that can create an opportunity for oxidation of your beer to occur during the conditioning phase when active fermentation may not be forcing the air within the fermenter outwards.
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Hops & Homebrew: How to Use Them When Brewing

Hops add bitterness, flavor and aroma to your beer while acting as a natural preservative. They come in a wide variety of types that originate from regions all over the world. Some are used predominantly for bittering while others are prized for the flavors and aromas that they impart. Regardless of which type is used to make a particular beer, it wouldn’t be beer without the hops.

Hops

All styles of beer contain hops, however the type of hop and the amount used is a big part of what makes that beer. Additionally, the way in which the hops are used in the process of making the beer can vary widely and play an equally important role as the type and amount used.

The Chemistry of Hops

The hop plant contains three main components: alpha acids, beta acids and essential oils.

Alpha acids are important to the bittering capabilities that hops can have while beta acids and essential oils are integral in adding flavor to a beer. The essential oils can also play a big part in contributing to the aroma.
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Why Every Homebrewer Should Own a Faucet Adapter

A faucet adapter is a very small and simple piece of equipment that can make a huge difference in homebrewing. It is designed for one purpose, which is to allow the attachment of garden hose threads (GHT) to a standard kitchen faucet.

Faucet Adapter

Most homebrewing equipment that is designed to attach to a water supply is built for use with utility sinks or fittings that have a male thread with a 1-1/16” outer diameter (OD), like that of a standard GHT fitting.

Unfortunately, most indoor kitchen faucets are equipped with a smaller female thread to allow for connection of an aerator. The faucet adapter bridges the gap by syncing up the two different thread types.

There are two big ways in which the faucet adapter can save you a lot of hassle in homebrewing: chilling wort and cleaning bottles, carboys and tubing.
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How to Force Carbonate Your Beer

You’ve got your homebrew in the keg but there’s just one more step before you can pull the tap handle—carbonation. Though, unlike carbonating beer in bottles, you can carbonate beer that’s in a keg at a much faster rate. Instead of feeding the leftover yeast additional sugars to naturally create CO2 within the bottle, you can directly infuse CO2 into the beer from a gas cylinder. This is referred to as force carbonation or the act of “force-carbing”, and is an overall faster process than bottle carbonation with less room for error.

What You Will Need:
1. Gas cylinder filled with CO2
2. Gas regulator
3. Proper keg post liquid & gas line fittings
4. Unpressurized, homebrew-filled keg
5. Kegerator

There are two main methods for force carbonating a homebrew keg, both of which are very similar with the main difference being the amount of time it takes to carbonate. With both methods, we’ll assume that you are using a standard homebrewing-type Cornelius keg that is fitted with ball lock-style liquid and gas posts. This type of keg is by far the most common and recommended serving vessel for homebrewers when it comes to kegging their own beer.

Preparation

First, you must install a ball lock conversion kit to your existing kegerator lines. This is a simple procedure that allows you to connect the liquid and gas lines to your kegerators existing lines without sacrificing the ability to connect to standard ball bearing style kegs. Once you have installed the ball lock conversion kit, you’ll need to prepare the gas line for attachment to the keg.
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