Now that folks have gotten brewing a couple of times and know that it is something you'll continue to do, now seems a good time to recommend some equipment upgrades from the bare-bones setup we've been teaching with here. Your local homebrew shop would be happy to sell you any or all of the following, or you could order online from any of the web shops I recommended back in lesson 1.
First in importance- a plastic fermentation bucket with a lid and an airlock. A 6-gallon bucket should be fine for most homebrew purposes, and shouldn't set you back more than about $10. Improvement in process: bigger size, sealed environment, airlock is a good meter of fermentation activity.
Second in importance- a plastic bottling bucket with a valve at the bottom, so that gravity powers the beer's final trip into the bottles. Usually just a fermentation bucket with a hole drilled in the bottom and a valve stuck into the hole. You hook your siphon tubing to the valve and your beer goes just where you want it without any crazy straw antics. Again, shouldn't run more than about $10. Improvement in process: easier bottling, you only have to siphon the beer once, you can buy an airlock lid and use it as a secondary fermentor if you want to brew two beers at a time.
Third in importance- a big pot with a thick heat dispersing base, as has been discussed above. Process improvement: eliminates excess caramelization of wort during the boil, allowing you to make lighter colored beers.
Fourth in importance- something more stylish than used seltzer bottles to store and age your beer in. You will need some glass bottles. You might also want a kegging setup. The two solutions are remarkably similar in price if you know where to look. I've just decided to get myself a kegging setup, and all of the equipment has come in at less than $100 for a 2 5-gallon keg setup. I know I've spent more than that on my four cases of flip-top grolsch-style bottles. I do, however, very highly recommend the flip top bottles... they're all thick and sturdy, and they don't need a bottle capper. And they come filled with some nice beers. Don't buy empty bottles for $30/case, when you can buy full ones for near the same price. Breweries that offer nice flip tops I've run across- Grolsch, Fischer d'Alsace, Leikeim, Hirsch... Let me know if you run into others.
That's it for now... those are the things that will make brewing a simpler process for you, and allow you to make bigger batches.
Edited by cdh, 07 June 2006 - 09:17 AM.