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Beer Brewing Kit: Ale Pail Homebrew Beer Kit

To brew beer at home, you should first start with a basic beer brewing kit.

July 25, 2014 by Rick Morris:

And, the most common beer brewing kit is the "ale pale" starter kit, a plastic 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket, with the basic equipment and step-by-step instructions to successfully brew, ferment, bottle, and enjoy beer at home.  What isn't included is an actual brewing kettle/pot.  You'll need at least a 4 or 5-gallon pot, which is purchased separately.  Included are typically the following pieces of equipment...

Image of the Ale Pail Home Brewing Kit6.5 Gallon Fermenting Bucket with Lid
3 Piece Airlock
One-Step No-rinse Sanitizer
Siphoning Package (Racking Cane, 4 ft. Hose & Springless Bottle Filler)
Liquid Crystal Thermometer
Triple Scale Hydrometer
Bucket Clip
Quality Bottle Capper
Bottle Brush
"Home Beer Making" Book
Your choice of one Alpine Brew Kit

Fermenting Bucket with Lid

This is the actual holder of your brew while it is fermenting.  Is is usually 6.5 gallons in size.  Since most home brew recipes call for a 5-gallon batch (about two cases of beer, or 48 - 50 bottles of the 12-ounce variety), this larger size allows for space often needed as the wort expands during fermentation.  Fermenting really is nothing more than bacteria (yeast) eating its way through the sugars in your brewed "tea" - called wort.  The process produces two things... alcohol, which stays with the brew... and CO2 (oxygen) which must be safely expelled from the fermenting bucket.  The bucket is sealed tight, with an air-lock attached for offing the CO2 while keeping other harmful bacteria out.  As fermentation takes about a week, at minimal (more for some beers), the bucket is perfect for the job it does.

Airlock

This neat little device is a simple little piece of plastic that is attached to the rubber grommet/hole in the lid on the fermentation bucket (or glass carboy).  About an ounce of water (or distilled spirit) is added.  The airlock allows the CO2 to escape from the bucket while fermenting, and keeps the bad stuff out of the brew.  Some airlocks are "s" shaped.  The more common type is a two-piece that has an inner float that "bounces" up and down as CO2 is released.

No-Rinse Sanitizer

Sanitation is the most important element in the home brewing process.  Everything must be clean and sanitized.  Though you can use just about any sanitizer, the most common in the home brew hobby is a No-Rinse sanitizer by One Step. 

Siphoning Package

Siphons are for moving your homebrew from the primary fermenter carboy/bucket to the secondary, or from the primary/secondary to the racking bucket, and then to the bottles or kegs.  It basically consists of a 3/8" hose (6 feet), 3/8" curved clear racking cane (24" long), 3/8" plastic bottle filler, shut-off clamp, and a bucket clip.

Liquid Crystal Thermometer

A floating thermometer which usually is weighted at the bottom via steel shot.  They typically use an alcohol solution as opposed to mercury to measure the temperature.

Triple Scale Hydrometer

Used to measure the potential alcohol by volume and specific gravity of your home brew.  Usually calibrated at 155 degrees F (68.3 C).  Used to take samples from the mash tun or your brew pot after the wort has cooled.

Bucket Clip

Used to hold the racking cane steady while transferring wort/beer.  It attaches to the fermenting bucket or carboy.  Does not work with auto-siphons.

Bottle Capper

A device used to secure the caps onto the bottles.  In brew kits this is usually the "Red Baron" style with the double level action and magnet to hold the cap.  It is spring activated and easy to use.  Remember, don't use European and other imported bottles with caps you've purchased in Americanwhen bottling your home brew!

Bottle Brush

Used to clean old beer bottles.  Speaking of which, it's beyond my understanding why anyone would purchase new beer bottles for their homebrew.  Expect to pay anywhere from about .75 to .95 cents for each.  Why not just buy your favorite beer and use the empties?  You're not going to pay more than about $2 more for them, and you get the beer!  Just make sure you use American brand beer bottles, though.  European ones are a millimeter off in size and won't seal properly.

Beer Brewing Book

Every kit comes with a basic beer brewing instruction manual or book.  The popular one is Home Beermaking: The Complete beginner's Guidebook by William Moore.

Brew Recipe

People often confuse the kit with the recipe.  A beer brewing kit generally refers to the ale pale kit containing the basic equipment for brewing beer at home.  But the beer recipe kit is what you want to ask for when trying to brew your initial beers or for identifying clones of your favorite beers of the world.  Check out some websites that have excellent beer recipes.

So, now that you know what is included in a typical homebrew beer kit, you'll no doubt want to know where you can get your first kit.  Well, here are some of the more popular beer brewing kits...

Northern Brewer
Their two basic starter kits range in price from about $80 - $150.  With the Essential Brewing Starter Kit, you get a 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket with lid and airlock, a 6.5 gallon bottling bucket with spigot, bottle filler, and tubing/siphoning equipment.  It also includes a bottle brush, capper, 60 caps, instructional DVD and sanitizer.  You get to select from three brews as well (your first beer ingredient kit!).  The Northern Brewer Deluxe Brewing Starter Kit is what I would recommend.  IT contains a 6-gallon glass carboy primary fermentor, 5-gallon secondary glass carboy fermentor, 6.5 gallon bottling (racking) bucket, and the aforementioned equipment for bottling.  For each, I would recommend you invest the $70 additional for the wort chiller.

Midwest Supplies Homebrewing & Winemaking
A very nice selection of beer brewing kits, ranging from basics, starters, and intermediates.  For $65 you can get the Brewing Basics Equipment Kit, containing instructional homebrewing DVD, 6.5 gallon fermenter with lid, 6.5 gallon bottling bucket with spigot, cleanser, airlock, hydrometer (for determining alcohol content), bottle brush, bottle capper, caps, thermometer, bottle filler, racking tube and siphoning tube.  On the other end you can get the Master Brewers Kit with Kegging Setup.  This is a $350 kit perfect for those who are ready to expand to a basic kegging operation for their homebrew.  You get the 6.5 gallon plastic fermenter, two 5-gallon carboys, hydrometer, siphoning tubes, etc.  But, what separates this from other simple home brewing systems is the kegging from BrewLogic. 

Monsterbrew
A nice selection of basic bucket kits can be found here.  From about $70 for the Maestro Homebrew Kit, to $95 for the Gold Homebrew Kit with a 6-gallon Glass Carboy, and up to the $140 Maestro Homebrew Kit with 3 Ingredient Kits.  With all the usual brewing equipment, MonsterBrew also has a nice selection of beer homebrew ingredient kits.

Mr. Beer
Many people have started brewing beer at home using a Mr. Beer kit.  They are basic, inexpensive, and simple to use.  But, in our opinion, all the fun of brewing has been eliminated.  You essentially get a 2-gallon plastic "barrel" for fermenting, and an ingredient kit.  Since the hobby standard is a 5-gallon batch, we recommend Mr. Beer for absolute beginners.  Honestly, there isn't much in the way of brewing with Mr. Beer.  We also don't care for the plastic bottles.  Real brewers use glass bottles with some form of capping system (press or wire-top).  Also, the high cost for refill recipe kits places a batch of Mr. Beer at about twice the cost of the typical ale pale brewing system!

         
 

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