Getting Started: Brewing Equipment Needed

  • Stainless Steel Stockpot: Try to get one that can carry 16-20 quarts (15-19L). It is also advised to purchase one with sturdy handles that are attached to the actual pot itself.

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  • Thermometer: Try to get a glass thermometer because they float upright in your must so you can read it easily. Just be careful when losing it because if it breaks while in your must then the whole batch is ruined. A good idea is to get a thermometer that ranges from 50 degrees F to 200 degrees F in increments of 10 degrees F or less.

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  • Hydrometer: This instruments reads how much sugar is dissolved in the solution using specific gravity. “Pure water at a temperature of 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) has a specific gravity of 1.000. Adding sugar makes the density of the solution-and therefore the specific gravity-rise. When this occurs, the hydrometer floats higher in the solution changing where its scale will be read” (Schramm 28).

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  • Plastic fermenter: The plastic fermentation buckets ranges from 5-8 gallons. There should be a hole on the top of the lid for the stopper and airlock. The reason plastic is desired because plastic fermenters won’t break or melt when the hot honey is added. However, if the interior is scratched then there is a potential for bacterial growth.

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  • Glass carboy: The carboys come in 5-10 gallon glass bottles that do not scratch easily but if dropped, can break and ruin your batch as well as harm you. This is why some people use rubber carboy handles to ease the lifting and transferring process. Plastic carboys like Better Bottles are made from clear, stain resistant, non-porous PET plastic that’s impermeable to oxygen. Just be careful when cleaning to prevent scratching.

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  • Airlocks: These locks provide the barrier that prevents contaminating bacteria or wild yeast from entering the fermenter and mead while allowing carbon dioxide to escape from the actively fermenting mead. The two most common are the Bubbler Air Lock and the Three-Piece Airlock. The Three-Piece Airlock is generally used for primary fermentation because if there is an overactive batch that foams all the way to the top of the fermenter to the airlock, it is easier to clean the separate pieces. In addition the Three-Piece is resistant to “suck-back” where negative pressure in the fermenter causes the third piece to suck down on the gas tube. With the Bubbler, the “suck-back” will draw all the airlock fluid into the wort. The Bubbler is used in the secondary fermentation because it allows a more accurate visualization of carbon dioxide escaping. If you don’t feel like purchasing an airlock or if you’re from the ghetto, insert a hose into the rubber stopper in your fermentation bucket and place the other end into a sanitized jaw filled with fluid (this method is most helpful when you are making a large batch or if your batch has vigorous fermentation). Another tip is to purchase an airlock brush to clean the fermentation residue out of the airlocks.

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  • Drilled Rubber Stoppers: This is used to adjoin your fermenter with the airlock. Stoppers No. 6 and 7 work well with 5 gallon carboys. If you are using carboys of a different size consult with the homebrew shop about the stopper size you need.

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  • Siphon Hose: You need clear, food-grade vinyl tubing with a 5/16 inch and 3/8 inch inner diameter. It is best to get one that is six feet long so there is leeway when re-racking. It is good to replace the siphon every 6 months to ensure sanitation.

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  • Racking Cane: This is a “clear, hard plastic food-grade tubing bent at an angle near one end. The siphon hose fits snugly over the end and the cane is lowered into the mead to be racked, to provide you control over siphoning. This allows you to avoid the sediment pack or fruit residue…” (Schramm 29).
  • Sanitizer: I prefer Star San for the sanitizer. You can buy it in any hombrew shop or website. I tend to buy the 32 oz because I know I will always need this. If you have a deep kitchen sink (preferably two), clean one sink thoroughly (and I mean scrub all that food residue) and then use the drain stopper. Add the Star San and fill that sink with water. You then have a basin designated to sanitizing your equipment.

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  • Cleaner: After re-racking your mead, there will be a thick layer of sediment in your carboy. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) is an alkali cleaner which if left overnight in the carboy, will require no scrubbing the following morning. It is also advised to purchase a carboy brush, preferably 24” long and bent at a 90 degree angle to reach all the corners of the carboy’s interior. There are also brushes that attach to a drill bit to ensure a faster more efficient cleaning method.

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  • Bottle Tree: Although you won’t need this when brewing your mead, you will find this useful when it comes time to bottling. Buy one that comes with a carrying handle on top. It makes drying your bottles easier and more efficient.

References:

  1. GotMead
  2. Northern Brewer

Getting Started: Finding the Equipment

I’m not going to lie to you. Your first purchase towards homebrewing will cost you at least $100. But don’t worry, once you have the equipment every purchase after that will be significantly less. Just think of this as an investment to your future of drinking delicious, crisp, and perfect beer and mead. Because Jason and I live in Orange County, CA we tend to go to the following three homebrewing shops. (But during our SD brewery hopping excursions we have stumbled upon a few homebrewing shops that we liked).

Stein Fillers:

I really like this store. It is in Long Beach and I found the staff very helpful and courteous. You can also buy grain where they mill it for you without any additional cost. They are well-stocked and well-priced. They also have a beer prayer that I must share with you all…

“Our lager, which art in barrels, hallowed be thy drink. Thy will be drunk, I will be drunk, at home as in the tavern. Give us this day our foamy head, and forgive us our spillages, as we forgive those who spill against us. And lead us not to incarceration, but deliver us from hangovers. For thine is the beer, the ale and the lager, forever and ever. Barmen.”

Oshea’s:

This store is located in Laguna Niguel. My experience in this store varies. I stopped going on weekends because the line tends to build up. I have had bad and good customer service here depending on the staff. Also a lot of their items tend to go out of stock so I suggest calling them before trekking to the store.

Addison Homebrew Provisions:

Located in Fullerton, this store is hidden from the public eye. It is a small homebrew shop but it does carry the necessary items for brewing. They also offer grains that can be milled in the store at an additional cost (I think it may be $1 or so, which isn’t bad at all).

I also tend to purchase things online because sometimes there are these crazy deals that are just too good to pass up. For instance, there was a buy one, get one free sale for a Better Bottle that was $20! I would just sign up to receive their catalogs. Remember to consider shipping fees as well. The following are some websites I frequent:

  • Northern BrewerBefore checking out, remember to google Northern Brewer coupons or promotion codes to get the most deal.

Northern Brewer - Homebrew Supply - Beer Making Kits, Hops, Beer Bottles, Beer Ingredients, Beer Brewing Equipment and More!

Midwest Supplies

Austin Homebrew

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