If this is your first homebrew, you will likely be purchasing some new beer equipment. You can buy some or all of your equipment in a kit or you can buy it piecemeal. The following is a list of the equipment you may need, as well as descriptions and suggestions for what to look for.
Keeping your equipment clean and sanitized cannot be stressed enough. You will need to sanitize all of your beer making equipment prior to each batch of beer that you brew. Steps for sanitizing are explained in the technique section, but your options for sanitizing include heat, bleach, or a commercially available sanitizer. Most, if not all, brewing stores will sell sanitizing solutions (such as Star San or Saniclean), and this is the type of sanitizer we recommend for brewing. It is very easy to use, most are no rinse, and 1 minute of contact time with the equipment is generally sufficient.
We recommend using a 6-gallon food-grade bucket to mix your sanitizing solution in. While you are brewing, you can keep your brewing supplies in the sanitizing solution until you are ready to use them. If you buy a bottling bucket, you could also use this as your sanitizing bucket instead (more on the bottling bucket later).
Aim for a 3- to 8-gallon pot. The larger, the better, especially if you are doing all-grain brewing. If you have a larger pot, you do not need to worry as much about boil-overs. You can pick one up on Amazon.com for under $30. Either stainless steel or aluminum pots will work. You will need one pot if you are doing extract brewing and two pots for all-grain brewing (more on that later, but all-grain brewing is the more advanced version of brewing).
Look for one that has a temperature range of at least 40ᵒ-180ᵒF (4ᵒ-82ᵒ C).
Pick up a long-handled, metal spoon. It will help with stirring in the malt extract, and being able to hook your mesh bags of hops and crushed grains out of the boiling liquid when you are done with them.
These are handy for additions of hops or steeping grains. They can be cleaned and reused fairly easily, and make your beer much less messy.
This is optional equipment. A standing burner (which attaches to a propane tank) will heat your water much more quickly than a burner on your stove. It will cut down significantly on time, but it is an added (and optional) expense.
If you are using a carboy fermenter with a small opening (more on fermenters in a moment), you will most likely need a funnel. The last thing you want to have happen is to spill beer all over your kitchen or garage when attempting to transfer it into the fermenter.
If you choose not to put your hops in a bag, you may want to invest in a strainer, though it is not absolutely necessary. When you transfer all of your beer into the primary fermenter, a strainer will help to remove any hops or coagulated proteins (called hot break or cold break) from your beer. This isn’t necessary, as you will be separating all of the gunk (or “trub”) out later, but some home brewers will recommend it.
Your beer will ferment in either a 6-gallon food-grade plastic bucket or a carboy (which can be glass or plastic). You will probably need two of these (not including the bucket we recommend buying to hold sanitizing solution).
Buckets are easy to clean, are cheap, and lightweight. They are less of a hassle to work with. On the other hand, a glass carboy is completely inert (it will not leach chemicals into your beer), does not allow for oxidation, has greater durability, and you can see into it to check on your beer. Most experienced home brewers eventually move from fermenting in a bucket to going with a carboy, but you can always wait to upgrade your equipment. If you decide to buy a carboy, you will need to buy a cleaning brush so that you can clean out all of the hard-to-reach crevices (unless you get a “big mouth” carboy, which is quite convenient to use).
Carboys come in glass or plastic. Both are fine to use. The glass is inert (as mentioned above), though it is also heavier. If you choose to go with carboys, you will want a 6.5-gallon carboy for the first fermentation, and a 5-gallon carboy for the second fermentation. The first (or primary) fermentation creates a lot of foam, so you need more head space. During the second (or secondary) fermentation, we recommend the smaller carboy so that you have less oxygen in the carboy to minimize the risk of oxidation.