need not be fancy, but a few items are definitely needed to make life
easier. You can buy these from a home-brew store, or be creative and
find these at other sources like I did. The equipment is divided into 3
categories: brewing, bottling, and kegging.
This is where the mashing (cooking) takes place. I use a 5-gallon
aluminum pot, purchased from a restaurant supply store.
This is used to heat the water for sparging (straining) and to help
with boiling the wort (hot liquid). I use a Menudo pot purchased
Big spoon with long handle:
You'll need something to stir without burning your hands. My spoon has
an extra long handle, and was a special Christmas present from my
very special wife (I just earned 5 points).
This is the main part of the sparge (strain) system. I use a
container, similar to a painter's-bucket, purchased from a restaurant
supply store. I drilled a hole on the side at the bottom to let the
liquid drain out.
This is placed inside the sparge-bucket like a liner, and separates the
grist from the wort. It is simply a large bag made of cheesecloth, and
is one of the few things you have to get from a home-brew store.
This raises the grain-bag off the bottom of the sparge-bucket to
prevent clogging. I use a round fryer filter, purchased from a
restaurant supply store. I mounted screws to raise it off the bottom of
the sparge-bucket by about 1/2 inch.
This is a medium size bag made of cheesecloth used to hold hops during
This is where the fermentation takes place. I use a food-grade bin,
about the size of a kitchen trashcan. I got this from a home-brew
store, but you could probably find something similar elsewhere.
Cover for Fermentation-vessel:
This covers the top of the fermentation-vessel. I use a large size
elastic band food cover, similar to a disposable shower cap. In a pinch
I've even used plastic wrap.
You need a way to measure temperature up to about 200 deg. A meat or
candy thermometer is fine.
This simple device measures the weight of a liquid, or Specific Gravity
(SG). The SG level indicates the success of your mashing, and the
success of your fermentation. But more importantly, it allows you to
sound like an expert and talk about the "SG level" of your beer, and so
This is used to rack (siphon) the beer out of the fermentation-vessel.
It is a straight tube with a stand-off at the bottom, which keeps the
bottom of the tube away from the sediment. This was purchased from a
This is attached to the racking tube, leads to the bottle or keg, and
is about 6 feet long.
This is a neat little gadget that makes it easy to fill bottles. It's a
straight tube with a press-valve at the bottom. You attach it to the
flexible tubing, shove it to the bottom of a bottle, the press-valve
opens, and when the bottle is filled you remove it, leaving the bottle
with just the right air space. Nifty!
This presses a cap onto the bottle to seal it. Cappers vary in design,
price, and ease of use. The one I have is a small inexpensive
two-handle design which works great. Avoid the type which you bang with
a hammer - Bottles sometimes break.
Most home-brewers use 5-gallon kegs. These are about 24" tall, 9" wide,
and are commonly used by bars and restaurants to dispense soda pop.
There is a lid at the top to allow filling and cleaning. There are also
two fittings at the top of slightly different sizes: IN to allow CO2
in, and OUT to dispense the beer.
There are two pressure connectors that snap on and off the fittings on
top of the keg. The IN-connector is attached to a tube that leads to
the CO2 tank, and the OUT-connector is attached to a tube that leads to
a facet of some type.
This is a special tank designed to hold pressurized CO2
(carbon-dioxide). At the top of the tank is a valve, and a threaded
hole that accepts a pressure regulator. These tanks are filled at gas
supply outlets such as AirGas. Some outlets fill the same tank you
bring in, others replace your tank with a filled tank of the same size.
Some home-brew stores sell CO2 tanks, but most likely you'll have to
get it from a gas supply outlet.
This attaches to the top of the CO2 tank, and adjusts the pressure
coming out. You can attach flexible tubing to the regulator that leads
to the IN fitting of the keg.
In addition to a normal beer faucet, I've added a Guinness-style
faucet. The Guinness-style faucet has a restrictor disk with several
small holes that aerates the beer with tiny bubbles as it is forced
through, resulting in a Guinness-type head. When using this type of
faucet, the beer should be just lightly charged with CO2 and the
serving pressure should be kept to no more than 5 PSI, otherwise you'll
end up with a mug of foam!
The Myth of Nitrogen Gas:
Many people mistakenly believe that nitrogen is what causes that
famously rich Guinness-type head. Nope, it's the Guinness-style faucet
with the restrictor disk! Nitrogen is used simply to push the beer
through the faucet. Draft Guinness is actually flat - It is not charged
with CO2. And to keep it flat, nitrogen is used instead of CO2 because
nitrogen does not easily dissolve in water. It takes a lot of pressure to
force the beer through the restrictor disk at a reasonable rate and
produce a head - about 40 PSI. If CO2 were used for serving at that pressure, the beer
would eventually get charged with CO2, and only foam would come out of
CO2 Tank Safety:
When handled properly, CO2 tanks are safe. When handled improperly, the
1000 lbs of pressure can make it explode with the force of a bomb.
Always follow these rules:
* Never let
a tank fall over. If the regulator breaks off, it will be
propelled like a bullet.
* Never leave a tank in your car on a hot day with the windows rolled
up (duh). If a tank gets too hot, a safety valve will go off, CO2 will
out and suddenly chill the inside of the car, which drastically reduces
pressure and causes the car to implode.
* Always keep the tank upright. CO2 tanks have an internal plunger that
slows the release of CO2 after the safety valve goes off. This plunger
is less likely to work if not upright. To keep tanks upright, some
people strap their tanks to a wall or post. I built a simple platform
out of plywood that allows me to keep the tank upright wherever I take
* All CO2 tanks must be tested for safety every few years. The gas
supply outlet will tell you when your tank is due, and will test it for
a small fee.