Last month we focused on home brewing and covered various methods as to how to brew your own beer. One of the most important facets of brewing at home – besides you the brewer of course – is your homebrew equipment. That being said, where do you go for such items? When you first start out, most people use various kitchen appliances in lieu of dedicated home brewing equipment and rightly so. It often takes some time – and a pretty good amount of money – to get the gear you really need to reach the level of master brewer you are aspiring for. Many have found the best way to move forward is to start small, get the hang of it and understand the process, then incrementally build on what you already have. Before long, you can have a brew day setup that will wow your friends. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can get the gear you need without bankrupting yourself.
1. Utilize Everyday Home Goods!
You might be surprised to know that if you have a good sized pot in your house that you can use that as a brew kettle. You don’t have to have the latest and greatest contraption that you spent hundreds of dollars on to get the job done. If it holds water and you can heat it up with a flame, it will most likely work in a pinch. Going to hardware stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or even Target or Wal-Mart can yield you with the tools you need to get a brew day together. Sometimes you don’t even need that. I have seen people who have opted to use 4 or 5 gallon empty water bottles – the ones that normally go on water dispenser stands – rather than spending money on a dedicated fermenter/carboy. The only thing you would need in that case would be a bung to fit on the mouth of the bottle to hold your airlock. And voila! You now have an instant carboy for your fermenting wort/soon to be beer. Doing a little homework and looking around retail/wholesale stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Target can give you options on kitchenware that can also be used for brewing purposes. Think about it, do you have to spend hundreds of dollars for a stainless steel Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) to hold your sparge water? Nope, a medium-to-large sized aluminum pot will do just fine. That being said, many a home brewer will go with another affordable option and opt to buy a 5 or 10 gallon Igloo or Rubbermaid cooler for their mash tun and HLT rather than going all out on something fancy from a home brew retail store or catalog. All that’s left is to buy a ball valve cooler kit with barbed hose fittings – available at most HBS (Home Brew Shops) and online stores – and put some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease into it.
2. Check the Web!
You can always do the typical thing – check eBay or Craig’s List for their “for sale” items, then do a search for home brew equipment. However, like anything on the web, be smart about your purchases and make sure you don’t get a bad deal. Sites like HomeBrewFinds.com offer a wealth of savings in various brewing related goods. Some deals are really good, some are okay. Point is, you’re not paying the retail price on gear you need. Immersing yourself in the home brewing community forums will also give you an avenue to connect with other home brewers and see what they do to make or purchase their gear on a budget. Don’t have the cash to splurge on a plate chiller? Buy an immersion chiller. Don’t have the extra scratch for that, but have access to everyday home plumbing equipment? Find some copper tubing and build your own. It’s amazing the wealth of knowledge that can be gained by surfing the web and doing a little searching around. At least one site I’ve listed below offers a discount for first time home brewers towards the purchase of their products. Boom, hello?
3. Collaborate with Friends!
What better way to save a few bucks on making a batch of beer than by not paying full price? Teaming up with your friends who want to brew as well will give you the opportunity to not only save some cash on purchasing the items you need to brew, but can also build a sense of teamwork or camaraderie between you and your mates. What can be better than enjoying a nice cold home brew when you hit the hot break and begin your boil? Enjoying a nice cold home brew with friends while you begin the boil. On that note, why not go straight into joining a local home brew club? See below.
4. Find and Join a Local Home Brew Club!
Since the rise of the craft beer movement decades ago – and the relative ease of access to homebrewing equipment now – home brew clubs have been springing up all over the country. This is a great place to meet new people with similar interests and share ideas on beer while sharing some that has already been made by your new friends. You can make arrangements to collaborate on brewing with other club members or bring your own into club meetings to share with others who came to do the same. This should also give you an opportunity to find out what gear the others are using and how you can get access to it. If nothing else, collaborating means you may even get to use someone else’s gear that time out. The possibilities are limitless. Check the American Homebrew Association website for a homebrew club in your area.
5. DIY – Do It Yourself
This is self-explanatory and basically the impetus behind this article. Home brewers are inherently DIY types by nature. If you’ve got any know-how on putting things together, you can get this done. Go out to your local hardware store, get the cooler you were eyeballing the last time you were there. Then go over a section or two and search for the fittings you will need. It’s not going to take an act of congress to find a valve to fit into this cooler. Get that and then get the washers/nuts you will need to secure it. I would also suggest some thread seal/plumber’s tape to help secure your fittings. The only thing you may have to rely on a Homebrew shop for, is the false bottom. That is of course unless you use your creative side and make one on your own. I’ve seen various screens and mesh items used in conjunction to create a false bottom. Check out Irving’s Cooler Mashtun Conversion Video! The power is in your hands and your sense of ingenuity and creativity. Give it a go!
Hopefully this will give you some idea as to how easy it really it is to get your brewing butt in gear and start on the path to becoming a regular home brewer. It is a fantastic hobby that for many becomes a passion and some, a career. It is something for which you can really reap the rewards of your labor. What are you waiting for? Let’s go! Cheers…
Equipment photo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimray/16310916
BrothersBrewing photo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/lamivo/4444315836
All Grain Beeer Brewing photo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/taratara69/4574340221
1st Runnings photo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hotelcoffee/2863158197
All Grain Sparging photo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/taratara69/4574967868