There was a request for difficult questions, but having never brewed, this is all I've got:

Can you describe the most basic setup (preferably one with a reasonably low difficulty and high success rate) for a first time brewer? Information on where to purchase and likely cost would also be useful.

This is not limited to a specific type of beer, so a variety of answers are welcome. Stout, ale, pilsner, IPA?

There are beginner's guides all over the internet, sure, but none of them are from This Trusted Resource. ;)

4 Answers 4


I just answered this question for a friend. Means I get to cut'n paste.

I don't know what your budget is... you can easily spend a few hundred dollars for a good kitchen setup.

The Minimum:

A large pot. Stainless steel is best, but aluminum is cheap. At least 2 gallons. The bigger, the better. Best is 6 gallons so you can do a full-wort boil where you don't have to top off the fermenter with tap water. Boiling 5 gallons of wort on a kitchen stove is a big pain though, consider getting one of those turkey fryer burner deals. The one I used to have was a 7-gallon aluminum pot and a burner. Never did fry a turkey.

A fermenter. Go for the 6 gallon variety. I used glass carboys, but I have heard very good things about the Better Bottle. If I needed another (cheap) fermenter, I'd try one out. The homebrew shop will probably tell you need a primary & secondary fermenter, but that's a myth. I do my fermentations in a single vessel and make pretty good (damn good) beer. Politely decline.

Transfer tubing, bottling wand and a racking cane. Not too much to say here - the homebrew shop will know what you need. I recommend a stainless steel racking cane over a plastic one. It's worth the extra money.

A bottling bucket.

Bottles. Five gallons of beer fills a little fewer than fifty bottles.

Sanitizer. Go for the "no rinse" variety. I switch between iodophor and 5-Star to keep the nasties on their toes. Buy in bulk.

Testing equipment. A floating thermometer or a digital thermometer on a probe. Also a hydrometer and a cheap graduated cylinder to take specific gravity readings in. Long ago I ditched the cylinder & hydrometer in favor of a refractometer. Really worth the extra money (but maybe only if you've been using a hydrometer for a while :-)

A wort chiller. After you're done boiling the wort you need to get it down to room temperature so you can toss in the yeast. The faster you do this the better. Immersion chillers are okay - they go in the kettle and you run cold water through them. Counter-flow chillers are good - they are a tube inside a tube where hot wort goes one way and cold water goes the other. Whirlpool chillers are also good, but you need an expensive pump. When I brewed in my various apartments I got a garden hose adapter for my sink because all the chillers use that fitting for the cold water. I made my first immersion chiller out of 50' of 3/8" diameter soft copper tubing, some tubing, clamps and garden hose fittings. In the very beginning I cooled my wort by immersing the pot in cold water, but that takes forever.


The best way to go would be with an extract kit. I find the best way to go is with a clone extract kit from AustinHomebrew.com. Why? Because if you do a clone of a beer you already know then you can evaluate how close you got. Make sense? Once you've done that once or twice then stop cloning and start adventuring.

You read all these stories about how quickly people went all-grain and all that stuff, disregard all that as it's mostly just bravado. Extract kits can make a pretty damn good beer.

The kits come with all the ingredients and ridiculously easy step by step directions. They run on average probably about $30 and make 5 gallon batches.

For equipment I think I bought a kit from NorthernBrewer.com and was very happy with it. A starter kit from a place like that will be good cause you know you will have everything you need. Drop them an email and outline what you want to do and they will even customize the kit for you, that's what I did!

The most fun in the beginning is what me and my buddies called "making bottles" and that involved drinking a lot of Sam Adams as those bottles seem to work the best.

Bottom line is relax and have fun, it's really not all that hard!

  • 1
    Just to clear up something I was confused about when I started, a "kit" can refer to the set of ingredients for a batch, and also to the initial package of equipment used to make the batch.
    – tbeseda
    Dec 16, 2009 at 22:20

I'll echo what Entrebrewer said and then add in that if you have a local homebrew supply shop, it is an invaluable resource not only for supplies, but meeting and talking to other homebrewers, looking at what other people are doing, etc. I find homebrewing to be a very fun and social hobby, and have spent hours in the shop just talking with people.


I got this starter kit as a housewarming present, along with an IPA extract kit. It saw me safely through my first batch, and I didn't run out of anything until my third batch. (When I did, it was sanitizer.)

I'm so glad someone made the executive decision for me and stopped me from assembling a setup piecemeal. Your time is valuable. Get a starter equipment kit and get brewing. Better that than getting in the middle of your first batch and realizing you don't have x piece of essential equipment.

The only thing this didn't come with (which I already had) was a three-gallon pot.

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