The Controversial Way To Start Homebrewing

This may ruffle some feathers, but I think that starting all grain could be a great approach for those just starting their homebrewing journey.

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Good morning. The Starks are famous in Game of Thrones for reminding everyone that “Winter is Coming”. Thankfully, winter is almost over - just two weeks left until we make it to spring.

-Brandon Copeland

The Controversial Way to Start Homebrewing

Most of us probably started homebrewing in the same way; you buy an entry level homebrewing kit that includes an extract recipe, 2 buckets (one for fermentation, one for bottling) a 5 gallon brew kettle and a bottle capper. This is really all you need to make beer, and it was enough to get us all hooked.

There is nothing wrong at all with this setup - you can make great beer extract brewing with a bucket fermenter. However, as an engineer and someone who gets obsessive with hobbies, I knew the second that brewing beer at home was a possibility that I wanted to push it to the limits and get a setup that allowed for total control over the production of my beer.

Over the last 11 years, even while being thrifty, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on brewing equipment - this is because I went from extract brewer to 3 tier cooler HLT - cooler Mash Tun - Brew Kettle to now an all-in-one brewing system (Brewzilla Gen 4). This kind of technology was barely out when I started brewing, but I think it may be a great place to start.

My Brewzilla Gen 4 in action on a recent brew day

The Controversial Starting Kit

This starter kit assumes that you are fully committing to the hobby and are willing to spend up to $1000 to purchase a setup that will give you full flexibility over your beer with an all grain setup and kegged beer. You will have temperature control during fermentation, and be able to avoid the frustration that comes with bottling all of your beer. Here is the kit:

  1. An all-in-one electric brewing system ($289 for Digiboil Gen 2 for budget, $599 for Brewzilla Gen 4 for better specs/performance)

  2. Kegging system - $299 for a Torpedo keg with picnic tap, CO2 tank + regulator

  3. Kegerator - $169 for a refrigerator that can fit 2 corny kegs and a CO2 tank. Can later convert it into a true kegerator like in this article.

  4. Fermenter - $97 to buy a used corny keg and a gas line that can serve as your blowoff tube. Can use the refrigerator as a fermentation chamber.

Total: $854 with Digiboil, $1164 with Brewzilla

These costs can even be reduced if you happen to already have a mini fridge that can fit a corny keg, or pickup a used corny keg + CO2 regulator. This gives you some room left to grow, like getting a yeast starter kit or converting the fridge into a true kegerator, but it gets you started with all the essentials you need.

Here’s the best part - if you’re nervous and don’t want to jump right into all grain brewing, you can still use an all-in-one unit to make extract beer. Just start with the malt pipe removed, and you have a brew kettle with built in temperature control and in the case of the Brewzilla, an onboard pump. However, you have a system you can grow into if you want to make the leap into all grain brewing.

Would You Recommend This Starter Kit to a Friend?

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Beer Trivia Question

🍺 Why do traditional German beer steins like the one pictured below have lids?

Read to the end to find out if you're right!

Traditional German Beer Stein

Homebrew Equipment of the Week

Brewzilla Gen 4 (Affiliate Link)

We have highlighted the Brewzilla Gen 4 before, but I can’t stress how much value this unit is for the price it sells for. For $599 (less if you can find it on sale), you can a well made, reliable all-in-one electric brewing unit with an onboard pump and PID temperature control. There are great ad-ons like the whirpool arm and the neoprene jacket that will make your brew day even easier.

I know it sounds like I’m a KegLand salesman, but I proudly brew on a Brewzilla Gen 4 and recommend it fully.

Brewgr Recipe of the Week

Here’s one for the extract brewers - this is a great stout recipe, you just would need to do some Googling to find a good homemade spiced syrup recipe to add to the boil.

And the Answer Is...

🍺 The Bubonic plague. Lids did not start appearing on beer steins until the 1300’s after the Bubonic plague had swept through Europe. The government decreed that all drinking establishments had to have lids to cover their stoneware to stop insects from getting in and spreading the disease.

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Happy Brewing!

- Brandon, Brew Great Beer Team

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