In the previous post, we took a careful look at the absolute essential gear needed to brew quality beer at home. Today, in part 3 of our brewing basics series, we take a gander at five less-than-essential bits and pieces that make the life of a homebrewer a whole lot easier. But don’t feel pressured into getting these right away. They can come later. Promise.

1. An Incredibly Large Whisk.

I know it sounds silly, but believe me, having a really big whisk is a godsend if you’re going to be using dried malt extract (DME) in your brews. DME is a whole lot cheaper than liquid malt extract, so it makes sense to use.

There’s only one problem: DME is a very light powder that easily forms lumps. Having a massive whisk handy prevents that.

It’s also useful in creating a whirlpool effect once your boil is finished: The whirlpool moves all the spent hops and other bits you don’t want in your beer to the center of the brew kettle, making them easier to discard later.

 

2. An Immersion Wort Chiller.

Cooling down your boiled wort to a temperature friendly to yeast is an important step in making your own beer. The speed at which you can chill down your wort affects the taste of the final product; basically: the quicker, the better.

But it’s not easy to take 19 liters of boiling wort and get it down to 22 degrees Celsius in a hurry.

An immersion wort chiller will help with that. It’s essentially a large coil of copper that you place inside the wort, and then run cold water through it. The water carries the heat away, and hey presto! you have chilled wort.

3. Grain Bags.

This one also made it to my essentials list. Grain bags are for keeping specialty grains that you will be steeping in your wort. The grains add a lot of flavor and complexity and give you access to a very wide range of beer styles.

These are best made from muslin cloth and are easy to make yourself (or have them made).

4. An Electronic Thermometer.

The temperature at which you ferment your beer is perhaps one of the greatest contributors to its taste but is also (largely) out of your control as a homebrewer. There are ways to control the fermenter’s temp, but they are often inconsistent, and expensive.

That means you will need to find a room or space in your home that can maintain a good fermentation temperature for the beer you want to make.

Using an electronic thermometer to track the ambient temperature of various places in your house is a good way of knowing where to ferment your beer.

5. A Beer Buddy.

Brewing beer can be a physically demanding thing, what with carrying big stockpots full of wort around and crushing grains with your bare hands (maybe not).

Having a buddy to help with all of that is a great idea (not to mention bottling day–a whole different enchilada that).

Of course, you can’t buy these at the homebrew supply store (that would be creepy), but getting a friend involved is really handy, not to mention that you’ll have someone who is very willing to taste your first creation!