...or the list of things I would still buy "if I had to do it all over again"

Home Brewing Starter kit

This is without a doubt the one thing every person wanting to start home brewing should buy. It seems like a no-brainer, but people ask me all the time if the kits are 'worth it'. The basic home brewing starter kit will come with just about everything needed to brew a batch of beer, and you'll continue to use everything in the kit, for years to come. Carboys look cool, but they aren't necessary (hell, I still use buckets). The capper, hydrometer, and bottling wand are all super handy. And most importantly, buying a home brew kit will start you down the road of home brewing; best money I've spent on this hobby.

Mini-fridge (Used)

Having control of the temperature your wort ferments at is huge. If you're like me, and live somewhere without a 60* basement, you need some method to control the temperature of your fermenter. Swamp coolers and water baths work alright, but there's nothing like refrigeration.

Temperature control will most likely improve your beer more than any other single thing. I ended up buying a used, beat up, $25 mini-fridge on Craigslist. It gave me a few years of faithful service in my hot Arizona garage before it finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. We're now in a new house with a bigger garage, and a full-sized fermentation fridge, but needless to say, I got my $25 out of that mini-fridge. Rest in peace little mini fridge, rest in peace.

I didn't realize how dirty this was...
A DIY Stir Plate

Continuing on the fermentation front: A computer fan + a plastic box + a strong magnet + a cell phone charger = a stir plate. This is easily the next most important thing I've purchased/made. A stir plate will grow roughly 3x more yeast than a simple starter, and healthy, happy yeast are a big key to great beer.

Stir plates can be quite expensive if you buy one already assembled, but a DIY plate can be made for under $20 (often free if you have the parts lying around.) You can make great beer with malt extract and healthy yeast, but even the best all-grain wort will taste like crap if it's fermented poorly. 

Not the best picture
Igloo Cooler

Making the jump to all-grain brewing can look pretty daunting, but it can definitely be done on the cheap. 50qt rectangular coolers can be bought for around $20 in the summertime, and make excellent mash tuns. I think I ran approx 40-50 batches through my cooler before I upgraded to a stainless MLT.

Lots of great beer has been brewed by lots of home brewers using beverage coolers as mash tuns. They're cheap, durable, dispensable, they're insulated, and best of all, they offer an affordable way to start brewing all-grain batches.


I could write an entire post on reasons I love my Thermapen, but I'll try to condense it down to a paragraph. First, it's crazy fast. There's no slow moving dial, or waiting for the temperature reading to stabilize. The thermapen gives you near-instant readings. Secondly, it's crazy accurate. Thermapens are the 'gold standard' in the food service industry, and are accurate to a tenth of a degree. You can use it to calibrate all of your other thermometers, which is nice. It's durable, and reasonably water-resistant. Very welcome features for someone that's hard on equipment like me.

Finally, aside form brewing, I use my thermapen everyday. From brewing to cooking to whatever, It's in my hand at some point during the day. I was constantly second-guessing my cheap thermometers, so if for nothing more than peace of mind, my Thermapen was worth the price.

One Comment

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