This page gives a brief description of the
equipment necessary to homebrew using malt extracts or all
grains. To see how this equipment is used, see the Homebrewing
Airlock - Also called a fermentation
lock, a simple one-way valve fitted to a fermenter that
allows carbon dioxide to escape the fermenter while
preventing air outside the fermenter from getting in and
spoiling the beer.
Bottle Capper - Device used to crimp
bottle caps around the tops of the bottles. Cappers come in
a variety of styles and prices, but even the least expensive
Bottle Caps - Should be unused,
plastic-lined caps sanitized just prior to use.
Oxygen-absorbing caps are slightly more expensive than
standard caps but prevent air in the bottle from spoiling
Bottle Filler - A spring-loaded
device that, when pressed, starts the flow of beer from the
bottling bucket to the bottle. The flow of beer stops when
the bottle filler is lifted up. Easier to use than simply
siphoning the beer from the bottling bucket to the bottle or
pouring the beer from the spigot in the bottling bucket.
Bottling Bucket - A plastic
food-grade bucket with a spigot installed in the bottom.
Fermented beer is siphoned from the fermenter to the
bottling bucket allowing the brewer to leave behind the trub
at the bottom of the fermenter.
Bottles - Forty 16-ounce bottles or
fifty-three 12-ounce bottles are necessary to bottle a
5-gallon batch of beer. Bottles for homebrew should be
brown, non-returnable glass bottles or Grolsch-type
swing-top bottles, not screw-top or returnable bottles.
Green or cobalt bottles are acceptable, but not preferred.
Clear bottles are absolutely not recommended.
Brew Kettle - Any vessel used to boil
the wort. The brew kettle should be made of stainless steel
or enamel. Aluminum pots are not recommended for brewing as
they may impart off-flavors in the beer. The brew kettle
should also be large enough to boil as much wort as possible
- whatever can't fit in the brew kettle can be added to the
primary fermenter to achieve your desired batch size.
Bung - Cork that serves to seal kegs
Carboy - Large glass bottle, usually
5- or 6 1/2-gallons, with a narrow opening on top used as
fermenters. The opening is sealed with a rubber bung and an
airlock. Carboys are preffered over plastic fermenters
because they are much less susceptible to the beer-spoiling
bacteria that can hide in scratches in plastic fermenters.
Cask - A barrel, generally made of
wood, used as a fermentation or maturation vessel. Oak is
commonly used for barrels. Living yeast is usually added to
beer in casks for a secondary fermentation and conditioning
(carbonation) as opposed to kegging where the beer is
filtered and force-carbonated with carbon dioxide for
Grain Mill - Unless the grains are
pre-crushed, they must be cracked to allow the starches and
enzymes in the grain to reach optimum efficiency. Come in a
variety of models and prices.
Hop Back - A vessel used to strain
loose hops from the wort at the end of the boil. The hop
back is also used as a container where wort is strained
through unboiled aroma hops on the way to the fermenter.
Hop Bag - A muslin or nylon bag used
to hold hops during the boil or when dry-hopping during
secondary fermentation. Although hop bags definitely make
cleaning up easier when you're done, some experts feel that
hops bags decrease hop utilization. My personal experience
is that the limiting effect of hop bags, if any, is minimal
and their benefits outweigh their drawbacks.
Hydrometer - A device with three
different scales to take three different measurements: (1)
liquid density with the specific gravity scale; (2) the
percentage of sugar in the liquid with the Balling scale;
and (3) potential alcohol. Hydrometers measure accurately at
60º F, so adjustments must be made for temperature
variances. (See the Hydrometer Temperature Correction chart
measurements and conversions page)
Keg - Usually a metal barrel used to
hold beer that is force-carbonated with carbon dioxide.
Lauter Tun - A vessel with a slotted
false bottom above a tap to allow the wort to be drawn off
while leaving the spent grains behind.
Mash Tun - A large stainless steel
stock-pot or enamel kettle used to infuse the brewing grains
with hot water.
Mash Paddle - A long-handled spoon or
paddle for mixing the mash. Can be wood, plastic or
pH Papers - Used to determine whether
the mash is in the proper pH range (5-5.5) for optimum
enzyme activity. Variations from the proper range
Pound Scale - Necessary to weigh the
grains used in the mash to make sure they are added in their
Primary Fermenter - Any airtight
vessel wherein the cooled wort and yeast are combined for
fermentation. Although food-grade plastic fermenters are
acceptable to use as a fermentation vessel, when scratched,
plastic fermenters can become a haven for beer-spoiling
bacteria, so glass carboys or stainless steel containers are
preferred. For a 5-gallon batch, a 6-1/2 gallon glass carboy
should be used to allow for enough head space.
Racking Stem and Tip - Helps hold the
siphon tube steady and keeps from drawing too much trub from
the bottom of the fermenter while racking the beer.
Sanitizing Solution - Necessary to
thoroughly sanitize all brewing and bottling equipment.
Homebrewers can use either a specific sanitizer or a
solution of bleach (one tablespoon per gallon of water for
cleaning; one teaspoon per gallon of water for sanitizing).
Secondary Fermenter - Any airtight
vessel used after the primary fermentation for lagering,
maturation or the settling of suspended matter in beer. If
possible, a 5-gallon glass carboy should be used for the
secondary fermentation to limit the amount of head space.
Siphon Hose - Clear, food-grade,
plastic tubing used to siphon beer from one vessel to
another. Should be 3/8-inch diameter inside to fit most
bottle fillers and racking tubes.
Spoon - Used to stir beer at various
stages of brewing. Should be food-grade plastic or stainless
steel, not wood as wood is porous, almost impossible to
sanitize and, therefore, a perfect breeding ground for
Thermometer - Digital thermometers
are frequently ruined by liquid, so they are not recommended
for brewing. Floating or immersible candy thermometers are
acceptable but may have to be removed from the wort to take
a reading. Metal dial thermometers than can read from 32º to
212º F are preferred.
Wort Chiller - Ideal tool for rapidly
cooling the boiled wort to shorten the time the wort is
exposed after it is removed from the boil. Come in either
the immersion type or the counter-flow type. The immersion
wort chiller is several feet of coiled copper tubing which
allows cold water to flow in one end and out the other. Heat
always moves from hottest to coldest, and copper is an
excellent conductor of heat, so the heat in the wort
transfers through the cool copper tubing to the water
flowing within it. The water then takes the heat transferred
through the copper out the other end of the wort chiller,
thereby cooling the wort. The counter-flow wort cooler is
more expensive and complicated than the immersion type but
works on the same principles as the immersion wort chiller
and is more effective.