Homebrewing: Where to start?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by JaymoNJ, Feb 22, 2013.

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  1. JaymoNJ

    JaymoNJ Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2013 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Hey all!! New to the Forums here and am looking to start homebrewing. But I am overwhelmed at the moment.

    I have a few questions to set me on the right path.

    First any suggested readings books or quality websites dedicated to the home brewer that you may have used?

    Secondly is there a website that may be better then the rest for buying your ingredients and equipment?

    Thanks for any assistance.
  2. CASK1

    CASK1 Disciple (334) Jan 7, 2010 Florida

    John Palmer's howtobrew.com The online version is good, but buy the (second edition) book. There are many good online stores. Can't say one is better than the other (I use my LHBS). Try Northern Brewer, MoreBeer, Midwest Homebrew, Williams Brewing. But read Palmer's book.
    DmanGTR and kjyost like this.
  3. inchrisin

    inchrisin Defender (654) Sep 25, 2008 Indiana

    Find a homebrew club near you. Show up with a 6er of commercial craft brew and make some friends. Someone will want to take you home with them. :slight_smile: You'll learn a lot firsthand and you get to see the process from start to finish.
    pinky469, LordFoul and CASK1 like this.
  4. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    The first time I ever brewed I went to someone's house who had 20 years experience and brewed 10 gallons all grain. We brewed a batch and he split it with me, sending half home in my fermenter. Huge learning experience even tho I started with extract. Partly due to his advice and teaching, my first solo batch came out great (extract with steeping grains).

    If you can't do something like that for whatever reason, search these forums for newbie threads, there are many. Write down your process and make a checklist before you start. I can't stress enough how important that is! You are likely to forget something if you don't have a checklist. Kit instructions often suck.

    And read how to brew.
    inchrisin likes this.
  5. od_sf

    od_sf Aspirant (265) Nov 2, 2010 California

  6. dpjosuns

    dpjosuns Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2009 Illinois

    I got a kit similar to the above ones and Papazian's Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Love it. Get a few kits, from brewers best at your local store or on northern brewer or morebeer. You'll be good to go. Also: clean
  7. messyhair42

    messyhair42 Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2010 Colorado

    Palmer's book is the best place to start.

    Brewers make wort, Yeast make beer. all the fancy equipment to brew won't help you if you mistreat your yeast. having enough healthy cells, and managing temperature and time are the changes that have had the two biggest effects on the quality of my beer.
  8. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (344) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    I have been piecing this together for such threads. Use what you would like and disregard the rest, but is all solid info and advice.

    Read: How to Brew, by John Palmer

    If you are still interested, then buy the book. Usually it is the other way around, but the book is more up to date than the site.
    Also check out The Joy of Homebrewing.

    Also check out: http://beeradvocate.com/community/threads/what-would-be-in-your-essential-homebrewers-library.55709/
    There is lots of good texts, links, and information.

    Also: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/

    Equipment: do a litte research then decide on what you will need. It will depend on what you already have that you can repurpose and also how deep you want to get into it.

    JimSmetana said:
    Cannot beat this!

    Ipas-for-life said:
    Got this kit for my brother for christmas. Thought it was a good price. I just added on a 8oz bottle of starsan and he can buy the bottle caps. https://bellsbeer.com/store/product...ewing-Equipment-Kit-w{47}-Better-Bottle®.html

    You can also do a beer advocate forum search for:
    Absolute noob
    Absolute beginner
    Best kit or best homebrew kit

    Beer advocate also has a decent search feature for whatever else you are looking for

    Or you can just post a question on the forum.

    Then when you are ready for recipe info:
    Listen for free to The Brewing Network's Jamil Show podcasts on iTunes. They are broken down by style, but they all have good information in them. Some of the shows are much more than just style guidelines and recipe information. You can buy the book "brewing Classic Styles" by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer

    Then if you need more in depth information there is also:
    Brew Strong podcasts for free on iTunes
    A subscription to Zymurgy and/or Brew Your Own magazine

    There are other homebrew forums, but bad advice is shot down pretty quickly on this forum AND backed up with solid information and/or experience. I have never found the need to go outside BA. And tons of good information online, just understand that not all of it is good, and some of it is really bad.

    Here are HB42's Extract Brewing Tips...(Courtesy of Vikeman)


    First of all it's important to realize that good quality, fresh extract alone can brew fantastic beer as long as your recipe formulation and brewing technique are good. One of the best beers I've ever brewed, extract, all grain, or otherwise, was an abbey singel that was nothing but pilsen DME, a little table sugar, a touch of hallertauer, and wyeast 1214. I've brewed show stopping English bitters with nothing but Muntons extra light DME, a touch of crystal, some goldings, and wyeast 1968. And nothing is more popular than my simple extract hefe, which is nothing but 6 lbs of wheat DME, an oz of noble hops, and wyeast 3068 (it doesn't get any easier than that, and it's a great beer).

    if you want to brew great extract beers, the following guidelines are imperative:


    I can't stress this enough. If you're doing concentrated boils, you're never going to produce flawless beers, no matter what else you do. If you're brewing 5 gallons of beer, you MUST start with at least 6-6.5 gallons of wort, and this is ESPECIALLY true for very pale colored or very hoppy beers. Late extract additions are helpful for those who do concentrated boils, but they're not a sub for a real FULL wort boil.

    2) Use only high quality, extra light, light, or pilsen extracts, and I much prefer dry extracts over liquid, as they tend to be fresher and lighter in color.

    Every extract beer that you brew should be based on either extra light DME, or pilsen DME. When an all grain brewer builds a recipe, they start with a pale base malt and work from there, even for the darkest beers, and a great extract brewer should do the same. Extra light extract is nothing but basic good quality 2-row, and a touch of carapils, while pilsen extract is 100% pilsner malt, and either of these are a fantastic slate on which to build any amazing beer. If you want to brew beer like an all grain brewer, then you need to think like an all grain brewer and build your recipes from the ground up.

    3) Use only FRESH extract!

    Don't buy extract kits that have been sitting on a store shelf for who knows how many millennia. This is especially true with liquid extract, which has a much shorter shelf life than dry and tends to darken and taste stale over time. This alone is a good reason to completely avoid liquid as far as I'm concerned. And try to find a retailer that moves their product and always has fresh inventory. For example a larger online homebrew supply may be better at providing fresh products than your stagnant local shop.

    4) Do NOT scorch your extract.

    This is yet another reason why I prefer DME over LME, as DME floats while LME sinks to the bottom of the kettle. If you decide to use LME however, remove the kettle from the burner and FULLY dissolve your extract before putting it back on the heat.

    5) Know which grains can be steeped and which can't.

    The only grains that can be steeped are crystal/caramel/cara malts, and roasted grains like chocolate malt, roasted barley, and black patent malt. EVERYTHING else really needs to be mashed. Doing things like trying to steep oatmeal or munich does nothing but load up your beer with unconverted starch, which is not doing your beer any favors. If you want to include other grains in your extract beers, then do a mini mash, NO exceptions.

    5) DO A FULL WORT BOIL! Partial boils kill beer. Seriously.

    6) Keep your yeast happy at all times.

    It's very important to pitch healthy yeast in adequate numbers, and use yeast that's appropriate for the style. Many extract kits come with a packet of generic "ale yeast" that is typically of low quality. You're never going to brew a fantastic English bitter with an old, stale packet of characterless "ale yeast". Get familiar with handling liquid yeast strains and making starters, and pay attention to proper pitching rates and proper fermentation temperatures, as both are extremely important for producing high quality beers devoid of off flavors.

    7) Never ever rush your beer.

    Great beer takes time, and most beers will benefit from spending some extra time in the fermenter and in the bottle. This means at least 2-3 weeks in primary before either bottling or moving to secondary, and if you're bottle conditioning give your beers at least 6-8 weeks in the bottle and you're sure to see a great improvement.

    And for shit sake, get yourself a bigger kettle! That, along with getting some decent ingredients, are the best things that you can do for your extract beers.

    And don't let anyone tell you that you can't brew great beer with extract, because that's BS. Some of the best beers that I've ever brewed were extract beers, no question.
    by: Homebrew42

    By: reverseapachemaster

    If you have a local homebrew shop they usually carry starter kits of all the basic equipment and then you just need to buy a suitable kettle. You can buy those at the same place but you might have something at home/parents have something that is suitable to start with and you can upgrade later.The basic equipment kits are mostly all you need other than the kettle. I've been brewing for 3.5 years and still use the same stuff as my primary equipment.

    If you don't have a local shop, midwest supplies frequently runs groupons for the starter equipment kits for I think $60. You probably have to pay shipping on top of it but it might be a little cheaper than ordering at other places online or even locally.

    Lots of people are getting into the hobby and deciding they don't like what they are making or don't want to put in the work and unloading equipment on craigslist. Look around locally, you might be able to find a basic kit with minimal use dirt cheap. There's usually some Mr. Beer kits that people use once or twice after getting them as Christmas gifts and then try to unload on CL a couple months after the holidays. That's also an option to start with but the ingredient kits are not the greatest beers and are expensive for what they are. Still, you might be able to get the Mr. Beer equipment kit for like $20 and that equipment is all perfectly useful in the future. There are people with 10+ years of brewing that use the Mr. Beer equipment from time to time.
  9. JaymoNJ

    JaymoNJ Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2013 North Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Thank you all for the input. This is great info to start with. Thanks again!
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (2,971) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There is lots of good input here!

    Permit me to discuss one item: if you have a ‘good’ LHBS nearby I would strongly encourage you to buy your homebrewing kit there and establish a relationship with the folks at the store. Keep in mind that the LHBS has a BIG interest in getting you educated and making good beers. If your first batch is a ‘success’ you will come back to the store and buy more ingredients. Don’t be shy in interacting with the store personnel; ask them lots and lot of questions. Brew your first batch during store hours; that way you can call them up if you have any questions while brewing your first batch.

    OK, I will discuss a second item: remember to Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew!

    AlCaponeJunior and scurvy311 like this.
  11. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (344) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Great point. I'd like to include this in my collection.
  12. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    brewingnetwork.com had a lot of good podcasts. Brew Strong for how-to-brew and the 'why' you need to do certain things. The Jamil Show for info on styles, why they require different grains/yeast/hops and it gives you both extract/AG recipes.

    But most important: join a local club. Tip #1: taste a brewers beer, if it tastes like shite don't listen to their advice.
    pinky469 likes this.
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