So you’ve graduated from Budweiser and Coors onto maybe Sierra Nevada or Stone and possibly your own local microbrewery.
You’ve come to realize there is so much more out there than just your basic lager and pilsner, and by this point have realized what styles you like, what flavors you fancy, and possibly what hops you like.
A next step for many beer enthusiasts is to brew their own beer and craft a beer that caters not only to their tastes but also make beer their friends and family can enjoy.
But where do you start?
Do you head down to your local brew store and buy everything they say you need? Do you hop online and buy an expensive high-end pilot system?
Or do check out Craigslist and hope to find a fellow enthusiast who is either upgrading their current system or has run out of time to brew and needs to get rid of their current one?
All of these options have their pros and cons and it really all depends on how serious you think you’re going to get about this.
The first option is to head to craigslist or your local classifieds and see if someone is selling their set up. There are pros and cons to this but it is a very good option if you have an idea what you want and at least a little knowledge of the brewing process.
- Generally cheaper as it will be used
- Many times they can walk you through how to use it and what they have determined works best.
- Added customizations to make your brew day easier
- Usually will have everything you need and extra parts
- As this is used you do not know how well everything was taken care of nor necessarily if you are paying a fair price.
- Just like with all customizations if the workmanship is poor then you will most likely not see much benefit from them while adding to your overall cost.
- You can also piece out a system this way, and although this may take a long time can yield a great brew system at a fraction of the cost of a new one.
- Time: as mentioned above it can take a while for the right pieces or complete setup in your price range to become available. You also have to hope you are able to buy it before anyone else buys a piece of it or the whole thing. If you are as impatient I am when it comes to wanting to do something this can be excruciating, but thankfully you have other options.
Buying From a Brew Store
Your local brew store or online shop will have everything you need from a basic starter set all the way up to an all-grain system.
They have designed these to be as user friendly as possible and many workers in the store are more than willing to walk you through how to use it, what you will need, and even a recipe or two to get you started.
Your local brew store will be full of knowledgeable employees who are also brew fanatics and want nothing more than to see another hobbyist succeed and start a pastime they will love.
- Good simple system to get you brewing beer right away.
- Support you can easily reach out to.
- No waiting to start your brewing.
- Help customize a system to what you want and the space you have.
- The kit will be new.
- Low cost.
- Tend to be lower quality to keep costs down for the beginning enthusiast.
- Very basic and lack upgrades such as thermometers and ball valves.
- Not very upgradable to grow with your skills and you most likely will grow out of it
Buying a High Grade Pilot Grade System
A pilot system is what professional brewers use to create a new recipe or try dialing in a current recipe on a smaller scale than testing on their larger kettles.
This is also what many competition level home brewers use as these systems are very consistent and once you become more adept you can consistently brew the same high quality beer.
These systems are designed for efficiency and full customization of your beer.
They will have thermometers and ball valves on every kettle, at least 2 burners, high temp water pumps to circulate your wort and hot water, and most importantly will be on a well-designed easy to use rack.
- Extremely high quality equipment.
- Very little upgrading required if any at all.
- Brewing potential only limited by the user.
- Expensive: generally run several thousand dollars if not more.
- Can be overwhelming to use for the common brewer.
- Require a garage for storage.
Places to Check for Home Brew Kits
You can always do a simple google search for your local homebrew shop but if you do not have one nearby Morebeer.com is a great place to look.
The have an upgradeable brew kit that starts as the bare bones extract brew kit that can be upgraded in stages all the way to an all grain system.
The next step up from here would be to check Blichmann Engineering. They make high quality equipment and very well thought out systems that don’t take up much space.
Blichmann is highly regarded as one of the best quality equipment in the business.
For a good pilot system you may have to do some searching around to see what works best for you and find the right cost. A great place to start is Synergy Brewing at synergybrew.com.
They have a couple complete systems that have everything you need to have a complete pilot system and they allow for upgrades to make for the best fit for the space you have.