Inexpensive Starter Home Brew Kit

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Towny313

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Hey everyone,
This is my first post on here, as a matter of fact, any forum on the net, so if there is any etiquette I should know about, or I'm posting in the wrong place, let me know.

My missus just recently bought me the best birthday present ever, the new Coopers DIY Beer Kit. After tasting my first pale, after another couple of brews, I decided I need two brews on the go. This thread is basically a home brew kit that I peiced together tonight (after looking at a Tooheys Kit), that is essentially exactly the same as what you would buy in a Coopers (not the new style DIY beer kit) or Tooheys kit, except cheaper.

Please note, I am a new brewer, and that this is for the new brewers who may want another BASIC kit.

I will split this into items that, IMO, you need and items that, again IMO, are optional but will make things easier.

ITEMS YOU NEED:

FERMENTER
TAP
HYDROMETER
BIG SPOON
STICK ON THERMOMETER
BLEACH

OPTIONAL:

AIRLOCK
BOTTLING VALVE

Now a run down down on price, and where to find, each of these items. I will be posting images in the next post under this.

FERMENTER: $19.95 - I'll skip my story on how I found it and just say Aussie Disposals. I don't know if they are only in SA, but they are an outdoor/camping/old army stuff type of store. They have the EXACT containers that Tooheys, Coopers and several brew shops sell. 30lt, round, black screw on lid, with seal. Remove the installed tap, and if you look on the black screw on lid, you can even see where to drill if you want to use an airlock.

TAP: $4.95 - Found this in a Big W, Brigalow Brew Extractor. Now as I mentioned above, a bottling valve is optional, however I got this as a bargain. It comes as a tap, and bottling valve. I'm sure you can find a tap by itself, but at $4.95 for both you'll be hard pressed to find a better bargain.

HYDROMETER: $9.95 - Big W again, Brigalow again. One thing that I discovered with the Coopers DIY kit is it comes with a plastic hydrometer. I left it sitting in a brew sample one night, and I can't explain it, but it's stuffed, drops right to the bottom, even in water. I'm guessing the water seeped into it somewhere. The Brigalow is glass, and is accurate from what I can tell. 'Nuff Said.

BIG SPOON: $2.00 - Any 'cheapos' store. It's just a big, nylon, mixing spoon.

STICK ON THERMOMETER: $6.95 - While obtaining gear from Big W, I thought I might grab a Brigalow thermometer, however I remebered where they sold aquariums they had the exact same thermometers, however advertised for fish tanks. They have the same temp. range and everything, however they were about $2.00 cheaper. Any savings is better than a slap in the face.

BLEACH: $3.00 - Any supermarket, just use unscented bleach to sterilize all the stuff that comes into contact with your brew.

Now for the two others, one may help in the brewing process, and the other is what is highly recommended to avoid contamination.

AIRLOCK: $3.95 - Yet again, Big W and Brigalow. I'm sure there is cheaper out there, as these are fairly simple devices. From what I have been told, these devices are not required, however it is an easy way to tell if your brew is fermenting. That being said, I've heard they can be deceving if your vessel isn't sealed 100%, not that it's a problem, it's just that's not the only way to tell if it's brewing away. Another easy way, and it seems the new Coopers kit takes advantage of this theory, is cling wrap sealed over the fermenter, with a pin prick. This way you can visually tell if your brew is fermenting (froth, tiny little bubbles rising, the brew clearing etc.), and also you generally need a hydrometer, so your reading from this will tell you if it's fermenting. However, that being said, it's only $3.95 so it's not a big out of pocket expense if you choose to go with it.

BOTTLING VALVE: $??? - Like I said, it came with the tap, so I honestly can't tell you how much they are by themselves, or if they are even available by themselves (they probably are at brewshops, but I just haven't looked there for them). Now the next remark I make will probably get me electronically castrated, but they are not required....however you run a good risk of infected beer if you don't use one. Also, they make bottling day so much easier, they are invaluable. The only reason I can see not to have one is if you can't find one.

The total if you buy absolutlely everything (if you have an existing kit, you will obviously save a lot)
THE ESSENTIALS: $46.80

THE 'OPTIONALS': $50.75 (plus the cost of bottling valve)

PLEASE NOTE:
I know this does not come with bottles, caps etc, and from what I have seen the only kit that does is Coopers.

I am a new brewer, I am not assuming I know everything about homebrew, but this is just what I have learnt so far, and is mainly me sharing my more economical experience buying a kit

These are prices in SA, and I'm sure prices vary from state to state, but I'm guessing it will be for, rather than against your financial benfit in other states.

If I am incorrect in anything I have said above, please correct me, or even offer a better suggestion. I am new to the scene and open to suggestions.

Thanks everyone for your time to read this, like I said I will have photos of my purchases up very soon, as well as some innovative temp control ideas from my electronics background.

Please share your thoughts on this post
PEECE...
 

Bribie G

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Welcome to the forum, little grasshopper :icon_cheers:

You have cottoned on very quickly to some of the lurks. Actually taps are even cheaper at Bunnings, around $2 - I buy them six at a time when passing so I always have a few in stock to replace regularly. Taps can get a couple of brown rings building up inside after a lot of use and, rather than try to take them apart it's just pennies to replace them.

As you say, fermenter vessels aren't the preserve of Coopers or Tooheys.

A lot of angst from new brewers revolves around the airlock not bubbling. The airlock is a device that beer brewing inherited from winemaking over the last 50 years, because until recently home brewing was the "poor relation" of home winemaking and they wrote a lot of the rules. Wines have to be sealed off for months if not years while fermenting and maturing, but beers only take days to ferment and an airlock, although pretty, is not really essential. Most of my brews nowadays I just sit a new crown seal over the top of the grommet/hole with a pad of paper kitchen towel over the top of that. If any bacteria can fight their way past that into the beer while it is actively producing CO2 I'll take it to IMAX and a spaghetti dinner afterwards. :icon_cheers:

My first kit was a fermenter, a tap, an airlock :unsure: and a stainless steel kitchen spoon from woolies.


:beerbang:
 

petesbrew

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Welcome aboard, Townie.
Not bad research there, but those Brigalow Hydrometers only go up to 1040 or thereabouts. Utterly useless if you want to measure alco content over 5% ABV.
Best spending the extra and getting a proper one from a homebrew shop. Yep they're around $15, but worth it.
Have fun.
 

Maheel

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your going to need bottles, lots of bottles :)

since your in SA you best get some nice fresh coopers tallies :chug:
 

unrealeous

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...but those Brigalow Hydrometers only go up to 1040 or thereabouts. Utterly useless if you want to measure alco content over 5% ABV.
Best spending the extra and getting a proper one from a homebrew shop. Yep they're around $15, but worth it.
Wouldn't rush out just yet - hydrometers don't bounce - I go though about 3 a year. Something to do with brewing and drinking and coordination don't mix. The main issue for new brewers is knowing when the beer has finished (and thus safe to bottle) so your current one will do just fine. Anything over 1040 you'll label the alcoholic content of 'high'

And welcome aboard.
 

Bribie G

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Clingwrap.
Sorry missed that one.

Yes, I currently have a Bohemian Pilsner (all grain) fermenting at the moment under clingwrap because it's going to be fermented for two weeks at 10 so the crown seal + paper towels that I use for ales isn't going to give the best protection. And I don't prick the clingwrap - as said those molecules and atoms are tiny and will work their way out - guaranteed :icon_cheers:
 

Towny313

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Thanks for the replies and the advice guys, I really appreciate the feedback, and also it's the only forum on the net I've actually wanted join in on and contribute. Now that you mention it, knockin back a couple of Coopers red cap tallies right now, for the benefit of my brews I assure you...

Unrealous - I'm onto my third hydrometer now, the Coopers one didn't do the trick, and then the 1st glass one, I realised you shouldn't turn the fermenter tap while holding it in the same hand, they snap easily. Also, my last brew, the vintage ale 'style' (please note the emphasis on 'style', as I know it is nothing like a Coopers) only read about 1040 OG, I didn't even notice the Brigalow don't go higher, so thanks for heads up.

BribieG - Awesome info man, I like the history of brewing just as much as the finished product of brewing, so the explanation of the use of an airlock was quite informative. Also your idea of the crown seal and kitchen towel is awesome. I'm going to try this on the next brew (a honey wheat of sorts), and I'm sure if it comes out well, you are going to have to take some credit for that idea. I've always been a bit paranoid about the cling wrap method, although it works, your idea seems damn good.

Maheel - Bottles are a key factor I've realised, and you have just affirmed my theory that if I work hard to make a brew, then it is only justified to invest in suitable final vessels to keep and serve the beer. If that means having to 'empty' several red and green cap longnecks, then so be it, actually, it shall be a pleasure. I couln't agree more with you.

Thanks again everyone, like I said I'll have some pics up soon of the new 'rig', and also some ideas I have been using to keep my brew at the right temp.

Cheers
Towny

also

michael_aussie & BribieG - cheers for that heads up, like I said I'm a bit paranoid with the cling wrap method, with my minimal high school physic and chem knowledge that the C02 is going to far outweigh the pressure on the outside of the vessel, so it will most likely escape through any means possible. Thanks guys, you have been a lot of help in clarifying this basic kit setup
 

Towny313

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Forgot to mention the cheap taps, what are they? I only had a quick look a Bunnings, do you know the brand? Cleaning a bottling valve is easier than a tap, and like you said at the price they are a consumable :)
 

myles_3000

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Im sure there will be people that do not agree with me....But instead of a hydrometer to see if brewing is finished, i used to just push down on the fermentor to expel gas untill the water in the airlock neutralised and was the same in both sections....And then if the water had pushed back to the pressure side within an hour or two, it is still fermenting.

Disclaimer:
**I understand that beer will still expel Co2 after fermentation as completed, but i think it is a good rule of thumb to go by, and perhaps even a better way than using a $5 plastic hydrometer. Most of all, for a new brewer it is keeping well on the safe side**
 

Bribie G

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Forgot to mention the cheap taps, what are they? I only had a quick look a Bunnings, do you know the brand? Cleaning a bottling valve is easier than a tap, and like you said at the price they are a consumable :)

The taps are in the same section as the water carriers

willow_can.jpg

Standard tap as used with home brew vessels, in fact if you get into all grain brewing those Willow containers become part of the repertoire, with various roles :icon_cheers: :icon_cheers:
 

Sinfathisar

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The taps are in the same section as the water carriers

Standard tap as used with home brew vessels, in fact if you get into all grain brewing those Willow containers become part of the repertoire, with various roles :icon_cheers: :icon_cheers:


I found that the Bunnings tap didn't fit the beer bottle filling thingy :-(
 

ben_sa

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Welcome aboard fellow adelaidean!

Being that im on my phone, I dont have the address handy, but google brewadelaide amd join the local forum too!

*i take no responsibility for the backlash.from gf/wife/partner to your new obsession to homebrew forums*

Where abouts are you located in adelaide? Plenty of awesome brew shops around, as a matter of fact, my alarm is set for about 6 hours from now so I can get dowm to beerbelly lol.

Note: apologies for any misspelling, CPA going.dowwn a treat :D
 

Silo Ted

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FYI, Bunnings water barrels are even cheaper, at around $16. Save $4

Bunnings Taps. Save $3.

Stick on thermos are rubbish, and long term reliability is questionable. Save your $7

You dont need an airlock. Use cling film. Lots of brewers actually prefer this (I'm one of them, and I own three airlocks that gather dust. The rubber O-ring that comes with the Bunnings water barrel to hold the plastic in place. Save $4

So that's $18 youre ahead. Chip in an extra $6 and get yourself an STC 1000 temperature controller. While you might not have anything YET to control temperature, it will at least be put to use as a fantastic and accurate digital thermometer, and you'll then already have invested smartly for when you get a dedicated fermenting fridge.

A word on bleach - you need to strictly follow a recipe of bleach/vinegar. Too much residual bleach will certainly leave an unpleasant tasting presence. Although the initial outlay is higher, of you look at Iodofor for $35 per litre, and consider that 1ml/1L water is all you need to make a safe, no-rinse sanitising solution, it really is a longer term cheap alternative, and you can be confident that youre using a product specifically intended for food industry standards, without the dangers of bleach.

Don't skimp on the hydrometer. Get to understand the range that you require as a brewer, and you'll realise that those Brigalow ones aren't good value at all. Alternatively, if you are going through hydrometers at an alarming rate, you could instead buy a refractometer designed for beer/wine making. Cost you $30 delivered, and if you ever get into all-grain 9where you need to measure pre-boil gravity quickly with small wort samples, you will have already made the wise investment in the first place.

As for a bottling wand, if you bottle straight from the tap, you'll be aerating your beer. Not a good idea. Buy a bottlng wand !

Ok, so I realise that my suggestings have you digging further into your pocket, but with the advantage of hindsight, the suggestions are what I would do if I was starting from scratch again, and had the benefit of a massive online community to help advise me on the wise investments to make. I'm sure Im not the only one who has lots of useless equipment that now gathers dust in the shed.
 

brad05

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I'm just going to agree with what everyone else pointed out. Don't prick the clingwrap, it isn't required. The bottling wand is required to minimise aeration during bottling. Preventing aeration will help increase shelf life of your beer and prevent cardboard like flavours.

I think the stick on thermometer is required when starting to brew. It gives you a good indication of fermentation temp. Let's face it, a first time brewer is not going to wire up an stc 1000 and have a dedicated fermenting fridge.

Welcome to the forum.

Cheers,
Brad
 

Xarb

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I must be weird cause I keep going back to my airlock after trying cling wrap.

Sure I'd never rely on it to indicate fermentation, but there is something about the bloob bloob I find comforting!
 

Silo Ted

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^^ this

is a discussion that's been done to death. For the benefit of new brewers, I will say that whatever way you go, your beer wont suffer from either method.
 

Florian

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Don't skimp on the hydrometer. Get to understand the range that you require as a brewer, and you'll realise that those Brigalow ones aren't good value at all.

OK, I will defend those Brigalow hydrometers. Unfortunately mine is dead but I found it very useful for two reasons:

1. Yes, you will not be able to measure your original gravity if it's above 1.040, but (flame suit on) you don't really need to do that if you're just mixing up a kit with water, at least not from a safety aspect. It will only help you to determine your exact alcohol content. I understand that it is very helpful when it comes to all grain brewing. So, the advantage is that, due to the limited range, it is very easy to read, as the marking lines are actually rings that go all the way around, so it doesn't matter how the hydrometer sits in the tube, as opposed to other hydrometers that I have used.

2. The sample tube is very small, meaning you only have to drink a very small amount of your sweet unfinished beer, and leave more for when it's finished.

So, in short, I probably wouldn't go out to buy a new one, but if you have one anyway or don't really care about your OG, they are indeed useful. I used to have both, a long one for OG and the Brigalow one for SG close to end of fermentation. Nowadays I just use a refractometer if I can be bothered.
 

Bizier

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Towny313, you are on the right track.

And as Silo Ted was getting at, save your pennies until you know that you need to spend them, and ask here before you do. I think there would be very few brewers here who did not buy superfluous items when they started out.

And... when the time comes, there are GREAT things you can spend money on, like ferment temp control, mashing setup (if you go that route) and a kegging system - and let's face it, that is just straight porn to pour draught beers at home.

In the meantime make good use of the upcoming mild Autumn temps to clock some valuable extract experience.
 

stux

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I must be weird cause I keep going back to my airlock after trying cling wrap.

Sure I'd never rely on it to indicate fermentation, but there is something about the bloob bloob I find comforting!

My beer came out too carbonated whenever I took a hydrometer sample when I was using glad wrap. I had to wait ages for the head to subside!

Now, I've heard that pressure conditions are bad for yeast... dunno any specifics... but there ya go. The beer is less carbonated under 2 piece airlock than under glad wrap.

But the grad wrap does work in a pinch.

At least it saves a little bit on kegging gas I guess ;)
 

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