BeerDude Homebrewing


Homebrewing equipment need not be fancy, but a few items are definitely needed to make life easier. You can buy these from a home-brew store, or be creative and find these at other sources like I did. The equipment is divided into 3 categories: brewing, bottling, and kegging.

Brewing Equipment

This is where the mashing (cooking) takes place. I use a 5-gallon aluminum pot, purchased from a restaurant supply store.
Boiling pot:
This is used to heat the water for sparging (straining) and to help with boiling the wort (hot liquid). I use a Menudo pot purchased from a department store.
Big spoon with long handle:
You'll need something to stir without burning your hands. My spoon has an extra long handle, and was a special Christmas present from my very special wife (I just earned 5 points).
This is the main part of the sparge (strain) system. I use a food-grade container, similar to a painter's-bucket, purchased from a restaurant supply store. I drilled a hole on the side at the bottom to let the liquid drain out.
This is placed inside the sparge-bucket like a liner, and separates the grist from the wort. It is simply a large bag made of cheesecloth, and is one of the few things you have to get from a home-brew store.
This raises the grain-bag off the bottom of the sparge-bucket to prevent clogging. I use a round fryer filter, purchased from a restaurant supply store. I mounted screws to raise it off the bottom of the sparge-bucket by about 1/2 inch.
This is a medium size bag made of cheesecloth used to hold hops during boiling.
This is where the fermentation takes place. I use a food-grade bin, about the size of a kitchen trashcan. I got this from a home-brew store, but you could probably find something similar elsewhere.
Cover for Fermentation-vessel:
This covers the top of the fermentation-vessel. I use a large size elastic band food cover, similar to a disposable shower cap. In a pinch I've even used plastic wrap.
You need a way to measure temperature up to about 200 deg. A meat or candy thermometer is fine.
This simple device measures the weight of a liquid, or Specific Gravity (SG). The SG level indicates the success of your mashing, and the success of your fermentation. But more importantly, it allows you to sound like an expert and talk about the "SG level" of your beer, and so forth.

Bottling Equipment

Racking tube:
This is used to rack (siphon) the beer out of the fermentation-vessel. It is a straight tube with a stand-off at the bottom, which keeps the bottom of the tube away from the sediment. This was purchased from a home-brew store.
Flexible tubing:
This is attached to the racking tube, leads to the bottle or keg, and is about 6 feet long.
Bottle filler:
This is a neat little gadget that makes it easy to fill bottles. It's a straight tube with a press-valve at the bottom. You attach it to the flexible tubing, shove it to the bottom of a bottle, the press-valve opens, and when the bottle is filled you remove it, leaving the bottle with just the right air space. Nifty!
This presses a cap onto the bottle to seal it. Cappers vary in design, price, and ease of use. The one I have is a small inexpensive two-handle design which works great. Avoid the type which you bang with a hammer - Bottles sometimes break.

Kegging Equipment

Most home-brewers use 5-gallon kegs. These are about 24" tall, 9" wide, and are commonly used by bars and restaurants to dispense soda pop. There is a lid at the top to allow filling and cleaning. There are also two fittings at the top of slightly different sizes: IN to allow CO2 in, and OUT to dispense the beer.

Pressure connectors:
There are two pressure connectors that snap on and off the fittings on top of the keg. The IN-connector is attached to a tube that leads to the CO2 tank, and the OUT-connector is attached to a tube that leads to a facet of some type.
CO2 tank:
This is a special tank designed to hold pressurized CO2 (carbon-dioxide). At the top of the tank is a valve, and a threaded hole that accepts a pressure regulator. These tanks are filled at gas supply outlets such as AirGas. Some outlets fill the same tank you bring in, others replace your tank with a filled tank of the same size. Some home-brew stores sell CO2 tanks, but most likely you'll have to get it from a gas supply outlet.
Pressure regulator:
This attaches to the top of the CO2 tank, and adjusts the pressure coming out. You can attach flexible tubing to the regulator that leads to the IN fitting of the keg.

Guinness-style Faucet:
In addition to a normal beer faucet, I've added a Guinness-style faucet. The Guinness-style faucet has a restrictor disk with several small holes that aerates the beer with tiny bubbles as it is forced through, resulting in a Guinness-type head. When using this type of faucet, the beer should be just lightly charged with CO2 and the serving pressure should be kept to no more than 5 PSI, otherwise you'll end up with a mug of foam!

The Myth of Nitrogen Gas:
Many people mistakenly believe that nitrogen is what causes that famously rich Guinness-type head. Nope, it's the Guinness-style faucet with the restrictor disk! Nitrogen is used simply to push the beer through the faucet. Draft Guinness is actually flat - It is not charged with CO2. And to keep it flat, nitrogen is used instead of CO2 because nitrogen does not easily dissolve in water. It takes a lot of pressure to force the beer through the restrictor disk at a reasonable rate and produce a head - about 40 PSI. If CO2 were used for serving at that pressure, the beer would eventually get charged with CO2, and only foam would come out of the faucet.

CO2 Tank Safety:
When handled properly, CO2 tanks are safe. When handled improperly, the 1000 lbs of pressure can make it explode with the force of a bomb. Always follow these rules:

* Never let a tank fall over. If the regulator breaks off, it will be propelled like a bullet.

* Never leave a tank in your car on a hot day with the windows rolled up (duh). If a tank gets too hot, a safety valve will go off, CO2 will rush out and suddenly chill the inside of the car, which drastically reduces pressure and causes the car to implode.

* Always keep the tank upright. CO2 tanks have an internal plunger that slows the release of CO2 after the safety valve goes off. This plunger is less likely to work if not upright. To keep tanks upright, some people strap their tanks to a wall or post. I built a simple platform out of plywood that allows me to keep the tank upright wherever I take it.

* All CO2 tanks must be tested for safety every few years. The gas supply outlet will tell you when your tank is due, and will test it for a small fee.

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