Is that a PicoBrew in your pocket…or are you just happy to see me?

I want to talk about brewing equipment for a bit here. One of my goals in helping to educate people on how to get into the hobby, is to really simplify the process. By simplify, I mean to really make it less intimidating. Less equipment and less steps to make it approachable and less expensive.

Don’t get me wrong, I love brewing from so many standpoints. You can make a beer that you and your friends/family can enjoy (hopefully). I love the step-by-step processes. The raw data and numbers you get from your brewing and fermentations. Even the cleaning gives me a sense of accomplishment. But (lest we forget) a lot of brewers appreciate the equipment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the shiny stainless, the polished copper, clean hose lines, sexy brewing pumps, conical fermenters, the list goes on and on. I geek out on the equipment.

So, you have to ask the question. Do I really need all of that “stuff” to make great beer? The answer honestly, is no. You can start out as easy as a pot on the stove and a plastic bucket to ferment in.

Its interesting to note that as the homebrewing hobby has grown, businesses have continued to innovate and offer equipment to homebrewers that was not all available 15 years ago.

When I first started, everything I used (for the most part) was homemade. There was no coffee maker size brewery that could make beer on our countertop (enter the PicoBrew, which sadly seems to be no longer in business). Hell, I remember the Sabco Brew-Magic being one of the first all grain prebuilt systems on the market. It was a thing of beauty. And for the jaw-dropping price of $10,000 you too could brew on a professional pilot system. The cost effective answer back then, was to craft and cobble together your system, especially since anything not off the shelf was very expensive.

Simplicity was what made the hobby less intimidating… but having to make all your own equipment really makes the hobby less accessible to those that are not handy with building things.

Now things have reversed. There are so many options to start brewing, that you don’t need to build your own equipment anymore. But the options now are SO overwhelming. The hobby is open to a wider subset of people because of the ease of the equipment, but there are so many options I imagine it might scare people off. You can get a stainless uni-tank (unheard of at the homebrew level not so long ago), that you can chill with a glycol chiller (again… where where these beauties 10 years ago!), all connected and controlled over Wifi by a rasberry pi computer board. I’m in awe of what some people have in their “breweries” now. BUT, if I was to start the hobby now, I would be over whelmed, as I’m sure a lot of new brewers are.

I like to remind people in our brewing classes that they are just starting out, they can keep it simple. They don’t need to scale up to the massive and complicated systems (you know… unless you want to… like me.).

Consider this. Human beings have been brewing for something like 4000 years. No way did they had any sort of fancy equipment to brew on. You should feel comfortable and confident in knowing that you can brew anything. As long as you have a good basic understanding of the process, and good brewing technique. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and nothing wrong with dumping a bad batch. Brew it again, learn, and improve.

Reach out to us if you have any questions on how to get started, or even where to begin. It’s fun, not difficult, and something you could make as simple, or as in-depth as you want.

Until next time, my friends.


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