Brewbitz Essential Brewing Equipment Guide
If you’re new to brewing and you’re about to make your very first batch then you’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment that are essential to getting the best out of your homebrew kit.
Having a good collection of useful and handy equipment not only makes the whole process easier, but it will ultimately give you many successful brews for years to come!
What’s great is that it doesn’t even cost that much to get yourself prepared so you can be creating some wonderful concoctions in no time!
Kick start a great hobby on the right foot with our essential equipment guide!
Ok, so technically it may not be classed as equipment, but it’s extremely important and we consider it an essential item!
It’s imperative to properly sterilise all of your equipment before you use it to stop any contaminants from creating unwanted flavours and potentially making your beer, cider or wine undrinkable.
Even if your equipment is brand new, it doesn’t take long to give it a little clean! Sodium Metabisulphite or Steriliser and Cleaner powders are a great way to ensuring a successful batch.
There are a few times in the brewing process your wine or beer can become contaminated:
1 - Before the fermentation begins. At this stage, your ingredients are susceptible to bacterial infection. These bacteria will get to work eating the sugars and creating off flavours and possibly making it sour. Once the yeast have got going and are creating alcohol, the environment becomes hostile to the bacteria and they die.
2 - After fermentation has finished. Once there is no more CO2 being produced, the protective layer of carbon dioxide stars to diminish. This is usually around the time you are ready to barrel or bottle, and it is at this time your brew can become infected with vinegar making bacteria, this usually happens if you splash or introduce air. These bacteria love to eat alcohol and turn it to vinegar.
Brewing Bucket | Fermentation Vessel
The fermentation in the first few days can be very vigorous and so we always recommend to use a brewing bucket at the beginning of the fermentation and then for wine, transferring to a demi-john once the initial stage of the fermentation has slowed.
Buckets come in all different shapes and sizes depending on what you’re making! Always use a slightly larger fermentation bucket as you will get a yeast froth (krausen) form on the top and without sufficient headspace, this krausen can overspill.
For 40 pints (5 gallons or 23 litres) of beer, cider or 30 bottles of wine, a 25 litre brewing bucket is perfect. It’s big enough to hold all of that liquid and they’re really cheap!
If you’re making slightly less then you could go for a 15, 10 or even 5 litre versions.
Demi-John | Carboy
When brewing wine, after the initial fermentation in the bucket has slowed (which normally takes around 7 to 10 days), it is common practice to syphon the liquor into a Demi-John to allow it to ferment to "Dryness".
These, again, come in different sizes and materials. If you’re a beginner and you’re just looking to give it a try then a 1 gallon plastic PET version is a good choice.
If you’re a bit more serious and want one to last for years then a 1 gallon glass one could be ideal.
If you’re making a large batch of wine then you can also try the 5 gallon PET Carboy.
Certain kits will require a temperature range to be maintained at the start and during the brew.
Instructions usually give an indication of around 16-22ºc to make sure the brew finishes as the manufacturer intended.
Temperature also needs to be monitored before adding the yeast to make sure it gets going right as soon as you sprinkle it in!
Normally an airing cupboard or boiler room is ideal, if room temperature is a bit too low in the winter you can easily correct this using a brewing belt to warm it up.
It may seem obvious that you’ll need to stir your brew at some point, but don’t forget that sometimes you’ll be using a big bucket so you’ll need a spoon that will be long enough to get that brew stirring around nicely!
DO NOT USE A WOODEN SPOON - they have too many nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide and they could infect your brew and give it a musty, medicine taste or worse turn it to vinegar.
Air-Lock & Bung
Demi-johns and some buckets have holes in the top to let the gasses given off by the brew escape. So the gas inside the vessel needs to get out but we don’t want outside air getting in as this can contaminate and ruin the brew.
A simple solution is an air lock and bung. The airlock is partially filled with a sodium metabisulphite solution (the same solution as the steriliser) and is put into the bung. The bung is then secured in the hole of the vessel and you’ve then got a nice seal to keep the brew safe!
As it ferments you’ll see bubbles coming through the air lock which is fun to watch as you know the yeast are making their magic.
Once it’s stopped bubbling you’ll know that your brew is finished which is where our next item comes into play.
Hydrometer & Trial Jar
These weird looking glass things can be used to test the specific gravity (liquid density) of your brew.
It’s really handy to use as you can work out the approximate ABV%.
Take a reading at the start (Original Gravity (OG)) before you add the yeast and at the end once it’s finished (Final Gravity (FG)) fermenting.
Pop the two values into a special little formula and ‘hey presto’ you’ve got a nice approximation of your alcohol’s strength!
The trial jar is just a small sample jar where you can put some of the brew in to make it easier to test.
If you were wondering, the equation you can use for ABV is…
OG - FG = a
FG / 0.794 = b
1.775 - OG = c
a X 76.08 = d
d / c = y
y X b = % ABV
Moving the brew from one container to another must be done carefully to avoid disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.
The best way of doing this is by using a syphon. Just pop the bucket with the brew in on the counter top and put a clean bucket / demi-john on the floor. Pop one end of your syphon into the brew and then suck on the other end until you get the brew flowing through the tube (remember to have a quick taste ;) ). then put the end you just sucked into the bucket on the floor and let the brew flow.
Once the brew has finished fermenting you’ll need to store it somewhere so it can condition and become ready to drink.
Depending on what you’ve made that could be wine bottles, beer bottles or even a keg.
Be sure to check out the Brewbitz YouTube channel for in depth, step-by-step brewing instructional videos!