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I was thinking about getting into Homebrew as I love my beer and thought it would be fun to brew some of my own.

I am from the UK and was just wondering what the best starter kit is that's available in this country, as there is so many different ones to choose from, so I was looking for some help in which ones to choose. They all seem to be pretty similar, so just wondered if any of them stand out above the rest, or if it's safe to go with any old starter kit.

I've seen these two sites, just not sure which starter kit to purchase.

Brew UK

The Homebrew Shop

I saw this post already Can anyone recommend a starters kit, available in the UK? but it's 5 years old so wondered if there was any more up to date advice

Any help will be much appreciated

Cheers, Gareth

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It depends on many factors, so let me summarize what you need to ask yourself.

  1. Will I make secondary fermentation in another fermentation bucket?

    If yes, you need a set with two buckets or bucket and barrel.

  2. Will I need a priming bucket or will I pour sugar directly to bottles?

    If priming bucket, then gain you need two. If you answered no to 1. and 2., you only need one bucket - but having two won't hurt.

  3. Will I do full-grain?

    If yes, you need big steel pot, either as a part of set, or something you will buy separately. Or you need a set with electric pot.

  4. Will I cap my bottles?

    I hope you will, choose set with crown corker. Don't go for plastic bottles unless you really, really cannot avoid it.

  5. Do I have a good disinfectant handy?

    If not, choose set with something included, it's bad to get stuck with fresh wort and nothing clean enough to pour it into.

  6. Do I have specific first beer in mind?

    If yes, chose either set with ingredients for that style, or one without any. Paying for something you do not plan to use is a pure waste.


It all boils down to one question:

What do I really need to brew, and which set contains the most of it, and least of other stuff?

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  • Why should a first time brewer avoid using plastic bottles? – Philippe Nov 16 '15 at 21:31
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Just about any kit will enable you to brew, but many kits aren't really designed with current brewing methods in mind. Most come with a "secondary" container which is really only useful for a pipeline (so you can have more than one beer fermenting at a time). [For further reading on the debate] You're better off to just have more than one primary fermenting vessel, and just simply swap vessels with each brew, rather than actually transferring each beer from the first to the "secondary" as it doubles your risk and cleanup. Also, most kits come with a smaller secondary, so you can't use it to primary, at least not effectively.

The questions you need to answer are, extract versus all grain, full boil or partial boil, and keg or bottle. It isn't unusual for brewers to start with extract, partial boil and bottles, and then switch to all grain, full boil and kegging, but not necessarily in any particular order. Extract, partial boil and bottling requires the least equipment. With extract, you don't need a mash tun, with partial boil, you only need a 4-5 gallon kettle and can often brew on a stove top and for bottling, all you need is a capper and some empty bottles. Full boil requires a larger (7-10 gallon) kettle, and usually a floor propane burner or an electric boil setup. All grain also can't be done partial boil, so all grain requires both a mash tun and a full boil setup. Kegging versus bottling can be done with any setup.

The simplest setup would be a 4-5 gallon kettle, at least two 7+ gallon buckets and at least one lid drilled for an airlock and a capper. You'll want to transfer the beer off the trub into the second bucket before bottling, so you don't mix your trub and priming sugar. With an extract kit, you can boil 1/2 the extract with the runoff from the steeping grains and ~2.5 gallons of water, then add the remaining extract and top up with water at flameout. To add to your pipeline, just add another bucket and airlock lid.

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  • In my personal experience pouring to secondary does make a huge difference and helps to remove unpleasant "yeastiness" from my beer. So here your mileage will vary. And even if for someone that's true, " only useful for a pipeline" is not true, because it is also very useful for priming. On the other hand, drilled lids are hardly needed at all, not with plastic buckets that can be left unsnapped for vigorous part, and are untight enough to just snap them for secondary. – Mołot Nov 16 '15 at 12:35
  • why irony? And theory that it does not make taste worse is just that, theory. For me single tank gives worse taste and that's a fact. You don't feel change, your problem or benefit. – Mołot Nov 16 '15 at 17:21
  • and it might even be true if negative flavors came only from yeast. On the other hand most beginners and some experienced brewers have a lot of other things in suspension. Not everyone gets perfect filtering and great breaks. So yes, sometime there might be no difference, or benefit. It just isn't any universal truth. – Mołot Nov 16 '15 at 17:27
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Wyrmwood Nov 16 '15 at 17:32
  • and these sources are better just because they are never and from someone with better self marketing... And that's why people shouldn't even know and have means to try both ways for themselves. Right... End of topic for me. – Mołot Nov 16 '15 at 17:35
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The choice really depends on how much you want to invest and what process you want to use. It is easier for a beginner to start with extract kits, so I will base my answer on that.

Last year, I have bought the Coopers DIY Beer Kit that is listed on both websites you linked (about 65 Pounds). Here is what I think of it:

  • The primary fermenter has a spigot, wich is great because it can later be used as a bottling bucket.
  • The bottling wand I got was leaking a lot, I could not really use it (fortunately I had another one).
  • The plastic bottles are great (740ml), I have been reusing them for about a year now.
  • The rest of the equipment is ok (hydrometer, thermometer, spoon and beer extract itself).

The main reason I bought this Kit was because it was on sale on amazon and that I needed additional bottles and a bottling bucket (I already had all the equipment). I do not consider it to be of excellent quality, but it's ok to start because you have everything you need to make a first batch.

The HomebrewShop Beer Starter Kit With Barrel, seems ok, but I have never used a pressure barrel so I can't really recommand it or not...

I would stay away of the Mr Beer 8L Starter Kit, because you will definitely want to bew more than 8L at the time...

Another option is to purchase everything separately, if you can find good prices try to find:

  • A 32L primary fermenting bucket
  • A 20L or 23L glass carboy (optional but useful)
  • An hydrometer with the test jar
  • A thermometer (perhaps a floating one)
  • A racking cane with plastic tubing (or an autosiphon)
  • PET plastic bottles with twist caps (or glass bottles and a capper)
  • A bottling wand
  • A long plastic spoon or paddle
  • A good no-rinse cleaner/sanitizer (I use aseptox powder, much cheaper than starsan)
  • A first extract kit, yeast and dextrose (or any other priming sugar)

If you can find all this for less money than a pre-built kit, you will be ok to brew you first batch. Of course, brewers never stop expanding their equipment, it's our curse ;-)

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Following your links it seems that the kits seem to cost 60 to 70 pounds which does seem like a lot. Whether you think that is worth it will depend on your personality. Let's just give a brief overview of what you need and then you can decide for yourself.

Ingredients

hops

The main bittering agent. You can buy old world hops like Saaz but they seem to be twice as expensive as the less high brow alternative and I doubt you will taste the difference. I Usually just buy what the beer supply shop has on special.

grain

If you are following a recipe then buy the grains as need be. If you are going to explore your own taste then buy one kg of some grains that sound good to you and start to experiment. You only have to satisfy your own taste buds.

Just one thing you should be sure is to use a primary grain that has suitable diastatic power that is to say enough sugars will be expelled from the grain during the boil as to give the yeast something to convert into gas and alcohol. Do some research or contact your local supplier and see what they recommend.

Yeast

Here again you can go deep and try liquid yeast but as what is the case with expensive hops you really have to have an immensely refined taste for it really to matter. One thing that does matter is to make sure you buy brewers yeast and not bakers yeast. Bakers yeast is much more potent but is also much less tolerant to alcohol which makes your brew much more likely to flop.

water

Yet again here you can go deep and try purified or mineral water but as a general rule of thumb if you can drink your tap water you can make beer with it.

**Equipment **

Stock pot

Any 10 liter stainless steel pot will do.

Bottles

Usually glass but any non plastic bottle that shuts tight can be used.

Grains bag

Beer shops should sell this but any cheese cloth or muslin bag will also do.

Hop bag

I like keeping grains and hops in separate bags during the boil because then I can use the grains for bread making.

There is also things like an auto siphon. Something that is used to get the
fermented wort from the fermentation vessel to the bottles without any chance of aerating.

You can use one I guess but I have poured my wort into the bottles post fermentation and have yet to see any real negative effects on the end product.

There is also things like a grommet and a airlock. This is used in your fermentation vessel to let the gas escape but not let any air in. This is good practice to use but there is other alternatives.

Instead of buying an airlock you can use a grommet in the lid of your fermentation vessel and also some food grade plastic tubing that goes from the vessel into a container of water. This is also a good way to let the gas out and not let any air in.

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