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I've seen a lot of kits and adds online to brew your own beer, but they don't seem all that easy or great.

And any suggestions on what kit(s) to start with?

How much should I plan to spend to get my a brew that will actually taste good to me and friends I share it with?

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When you say "kit", are you referring to hardware or ingredients? –  baka Jul 14 '11 at 19:21
    
I was hoping for both. Are ingredients not commonly available as a "kit" or do I just need to buy an "ingredients kit" and a hardware kit separately? –  Michael Merchant Jul 15 '11 at 16:18
    
Ingredients are often called a "recipe" (or, less commonly, a "batch") not a "kit." A kit is usually the equipment. –  Graham Jul 15 '11 at 17:07
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Recipe kit is more common way of saying ingredients I think. Brewing kit is that first set of brewing gear. Semantics I know but whatever. –  brewchez Jul 15 '11 at 17:13
    
I asked because I was thinking "recipe kit", but everyone seemed to be answering "hardware kit". I just wanted to make sure you're getting an appropriate answer. –  baka Jul 15 '11 at 18:48

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Skip the Mr. Beer kind of kits and go to a local Home Brew Supply shop. They'll sell you a brew kit for $75-$140 depending on how nice you want it. My local place had a deal for a while where you got your first recipe either free or deeply discounted when you bought a full kit, so that was nice. The actual kit you need isn't all that important, believe it or not. They are pretty much all the same: 6gal carboy, bottle capper, big carboy brush, tubing (sometimes), airlock & bung, etc.

The biggest issues with making your first batch something that your friends will like are:

1) Recipe selection. For a general crowd pleaser, I'd go with an American Wheat beer. Every homebrew shop has a recipe for this and they're pretty easy.

2) Fermentation temperatures. 65F is a general rule for the proper temp for your standard ales. And remember, 65F air temp outside the carboy is not same as 65F inside the carboy. Meaning you can't just set your A/C to 65F and think it's all ok. Fermenting beer can reach 5-10 degrees above the temp of the room its in. Make sure you get a thermometer strip to stick on the outside of your carboy. That will tell you the beer's temp much better than just the temp of the air in the room. Put the carboy/bucket into a big beverage cooler or tub, fill it halfway with water, and throw some ice packs in there once a day. That's the best way to start off brewing.

Other minor points: Make sure to get non-expired brewer's yeast in a dry packet from the homebrew store, it will look like a pack of bread yeast. Liquid yeast gives you more options, but for your first batch, its just too much of a hassle. Also, give it 3 full weeks in the carboy to ferment before touching it at all. Don't follow any advice that tells you to "rack to secondary after a week." That's old brewing dogma that has been proven unnecessary.

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Thanks Graham! This answer is really appreciated. I didn't realize that local breweries also sold brew kits, so looks like I'll have a great start. –  Michael Merchant Jul 15 '11 at 16:13
    
No, the "local Home Brew Supply shop" is not a brewery, just a supply shop. In fact, its probably VERY illegal (depending on your state) to mix these two businesses. I'm in Florida, and the ATF would probably kick in the brew shop's door with tear gas and police dogs if they thought he was selling actual alcohol. –  Graham Jul 15 '11 at 17:09
    
Interesting, this place I found near me in Southern California seems to be a local brewery, distributor, and supply shop –  Michael Merchant Jul 17 '11 at 23:03
    
That does happen but its certainly not the norm. Many states prohibit the selling of ingredients and the sale of alcohol in the same place. Its two different licenses. –  brewchez Jul 19 '11 at 18:31
    
Really happy about your other minor points. Dry yeast and no need to rack. –  Rich Armstrong Sep 21 '11 at 21:46

You don't need a kit, just go to a homebrewing store and buy all the equipment, it's about $100 for all equipment etc.

look here: What equipment do I need to buy to start making beer?

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any suggestions on which kit to buy? –  Michael Merchant Jul 14 '11 at 18:29
    
@ Michael That's a personal decision based on cost and enthusiasm. But the link in this answer is pretty good place to start. –  brewchez Jul 15 '11 at 17:15

If you don't have a local homebrew shop, then I recommend watching Groupon for a nice starter kit. They frequently feature a Midwest Supply starter kit that's quite cheap and will get you brewing.

Aside from that, I bought the cheapest kit from Northern Brewer, and it's a great kit too. Everything you need to get started - except a recipe kit. They sell good ones of those there as well.

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The Northern Brewer kit is great! the cheapest kit is $80 and has everything you need to get started (minus ingredients) and they do $8 flat-rate shipping. And it comes with a bottle capper which I now use for everything - and I might not have bought it if I had assembled my own kit. (I swear I don't work for them!) –  Sarah Aug 12 '11 at 15:26

I would recomend Brubox as a good starter kit. Its cheap and has all the equipment you need to get going with simple instructions. I wouldent recomend it for long term though, the batch size is fairly small and the price per pint works out quite a lot.

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Thanks Tom.. I'm actually in the US though, so the shipping would probably make buying from a local brewery a better bet. –  Michael Merchant Jul 15 '11 at 16:19

I know that Mr Beer kits get downplayed here. But for $25 you can get complete kits (equipment and ingredients) that will allow the beginner to see if they really want to mess with brewing. I started with one and still use the keg as a secondary at times. After I realized that bottling wasn't as big a chore as I thought, I bought a hardware kit at the local brew supply for $80 (they gave me credit for the bottling tools that I had purchased from them previously), and was set up to do priming, primary, and secondary brewing.

BTW - instead of buying Mr Beer ingredient kits after the first batch that was included, I bought the ingredients separately for a couple more batches before taking the plunge into advanced equipment.

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