Note: This is an overly simplistic overview of home brewing.
Most brewers start with extract kits and, over time, progress into all grain brewing. Simply put the extract kits allow a brewer to skip the grain process and save a day or two of work. Extract kits are simply boiled and have key ingredients added during the boil then cooled and fermented. This is a great way to start or continue if you have limited space (apartment brewing) or limited budget. A few years ago extract brewing offered smaller options/flavors but now there are an amazing amount of choices and even clones available. Most extract beer kits range from $50-70.
Starter kits begin at around $100 and go up to several thousand for advanced stainless steel, all grain brewing with computer controls and more. There is no one way to do anything, craft brewing is an amazing adventure that brings the artsy and the scientific together. You can be as precise as you want to be; measuring and creating the best water for your all grain brewing or simply create a this would taste good together brews.
Simple starter kits usually provide 2 buckets. One to ferment in and a second to assist in transferring into bottles. This style comes in around $100 (plus shipping) and is a great way to start, it usually even comes with a beginners beer kit (usually and ale). This is how we started.
One step up from that would be the replacement of the buckets with something like a carboy or (what we prefer) the Big Mouth Bubbler. This fermenter and transfer jug is super easy to clean and will allow an entire arm to be placed inside. They also allow for complete visibility which may not be necessary but it is fun. These can usually be found as part of an advanced kit for about $150-200.
The extreme end of beginner (extract) brewing would be going with a stainless steel conical fermenter with a temperature control system. The conicals with temperature controls range from $600-1000. Who would buy one of these when a perfectly good $100-200 kit would do? First off the temperature control is amazing critical for perfecting brews…and mandatory for lagers.
Our current setup involves a mixture of items from the most basic kit (cheap 7 gallon pot and large spoon to stir) as well as these advanced items:
- copper wort chiller
- oxygenation / aeration system (100% O2)
- 7 gal stainless steel fermentor with FTSS temp control
- The BeerBug hydrometer and temp
- corney kegs
- Blichman QuickCarb
- Blichman Beer Gun (for bottling our beers to share with friends)
- glycol chiller
If you are looking to buy some equipment there are too many places available to list all of them. So we will list our “go to” suppliers.
For a detailed explanation on why we like these sellers check out our resources page.