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Rinsing your grains properly for brewing

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Top Ten Must Haves for the Beginning Homebrewer

So, youre thinking about brewing beer.  You saw your buddy over at the fraternity house had a neat little kit, and you thought it might be fun to try your hand at makeing your own beer.   This is how most of us got into home brewing.  It is rare that one comes to this hobby from  the point of view that, “there just arent any good beers out there, I must be able to make something better than whats out there.”

That being said, once you do delve into this hobby, and it starts to consume any vacant Sunday afternoon, then you really can start to tweak and twist your recipes, until you do, in fact, have a better tasting product than some of the store bought varieties.  This level of skill, however, can only be obtained through practice, and failure (in my opinon).  I rarely remember what I did when something went right.  But I can tell you to the  quarter ounce, when Ive screwed something up.

To get your feet wet in this hobby, youll need a few basic items from your local home brew store.  If you dont have one nearby, the internet is teeming with homebrewsupply stores.  My local one (American Brewmaster Raleigh, NC) offers their store online as well. 

So here are your top 10 necessities for the beginner homebrewer: (most of these can be found in a “starter kit” at your local HB store)

  1. A fermenter.  This is typically a 7 gallon plastic bucket with a tight sealing lid that has been drilled to accept #2 on this list,  the airlock.  Your fermenter can be a glass carboy, if you prefer to keep an eye on the action.  However, light does need to be kept away from the fermenting wort, so if you go with a carboy, just wrap it in a blanket.
  2. An Airlock.  This is a small plastic device that sits on the top of your fermenter, and allows the C02 that the fermenting wort releases, to escape the fermenter, without allowing air to return into the vessel.  It is usually filled with a bit of water, and you can see it bubble as the fermentations takes place.
  3. Sanitizer.  CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN.  The most important thing about home brewing is sanitization.  Everything that your wort (post boil) touches needs to have been thoroughly sanitized first.  Most home brew stores carry a sanitizer that you mix in a bucket (see #1) with a few gallons of water.  From there you can sanitize all of your equipment at once.  Some brewers just use a small amount of bleach.  Myself, I prefer the store-bought version, Beer Brite, since it gives me specific ratios to mix, and it doesnt leave a bleach smell on the equipment.
  4. Rubber Tubing.  You will not believe the amount of rubber tubing you’ll end up using once you get fully active in the brewing hobby.  It is used for everything from wort chillers, bottling, racking, secondary fermentation, etc.  So a good idea is to go to your local hardware store and buy a 25′ roll for a few bucks.  But make sure it fits on theoutside of your bottling spigot (on the bucket from #1).  You can cut the tubing as you need it for different applications, but if it fits your bottling spigot then it will likely fit the rest of your brewing equipment as well.
  5. A Boil Pot.  When home brewing, most recipes are 5.5 gallons.  Which means you need a pretty big pot to boil in.  An inexpensive way to boil is to find a large 5 gallon stock pot at a walmart, or the like.  A turkey fryer will work as well since it comes with the cooker and you can do it all in your garage!  Look around though, you can usually find a pot this size for less than $30.
  6. A Hydrometer.   This is the candy thermometer looking device youll see at your homebrew store.  It will help you measure specific gravity, and thereby determine your eventual alcohol content of the brew.
  7. Bottles.  This goes without saying, you need something to put the beer in when its done dont you?  You can buy these from your homebrew store, or you can collect them yourself at home or from the neigborhood pub.  Just make sure they are not twist off bottles.  These will not work.  Personally, I like the 22oz bottles.  It saves time when bottling, and its less cleaning before hand.  Youll probably need about 2-3 cases (12oz) for one batch.
  8. Bottle caps.  These are un-used bottle caps that  you can buy in lots of about 50-100 for a few bucks.  They create the seal on the bottle that starts the carbonation process after fermentation has completed.  (Tip: These need to be sanitized also)
  9. A Bottle Capper.  hand held device that seals the crowns of the bottle caps when bottling.  Theres nothing around the house that will do this, so suck it up and buy this contraption for about $12-$15
  10. A friend who brews.  Brewing is fun, but its time consuming, and can get boring by yourself.  A brew buddy is recommended so that you have someone to drink with during the brew process, and someone to help you with the heavy lifting, recipe, etc.  It also helps if this brew buddy is more experienced.  He can lead you away from rookie mistakes!

There are hundreds of other things that you will need when you decide to brew, namely, ingredients!  However, this “top-ten” list will help you round out your basic supplies before you begin.  And again, most of this is available in a starter kit from any home brew store.  Just ask, theyll be glad to show you!  If anyone has questions or thinks I may have left something off this list, let me know!

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