The Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit is likely the easiest way to start brewing all-grain beer at home. However, as I noted in my review of the Beer Making Kit, it doesn’t contain everything that you need to brew beer. The kit is missing a couple of essential items, and also some items that are nice to have but aren’t needed when making beer. What do you need to brew with a Brooklyn Brew Kit? This is my list of useful add-ons to the Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit.
These are the items that you need to have. Without these, you will not be able to brew beer with the Beer Making Kit.
If you don’t already have one, you will need to get a pot to mash your grains and boil your wort in. Since you want to make 4 quarts of finished beer, an 8-12 quart pot will have enough space to fit all the water and grains that you need. This is the stock pot that I bought when I was giving a Beer Making Kit to someone for Christmas, but there is absolutely nothing special about it and you can use any pot that is big enough.
You will need a way to separate grains from the wort after your mash is finished. Brooklyn Brew Shop recommends a fine mesh strainer for this. The problem with the strainer is that you need two vessels, one to pour and one to receive. A better way to separate the grains is with a nylon bag. This way you simply lift the grains up out of the wort when the mash is over, and only one pot is required.
Once your beer is finished fermenting you need to bottle it. There are a few options:
- Glass bottles with caps. You can re-use any old beer bottles that aren’t twist-off, or you can buy new bottles. You will need a capper and some bottle caps for this option.
- Swing top bottles. These are a good option because if you get these you don’t need to buy a capper as well. These come in the standard 12 oz size and also in larger sizes.
- P.E.T. bottles. Like swing tops, these bottles don’t need a capper (but you will need caps). Another upside to P.E.T. bottles is that you can judge the carbonation level by squeezing the bottle; the more carbonated your beer is, the harder the bottle will be.
Sugar to carbonate
To carbonate your beer, you need to add some type of sugar to the beer as it goes into the bottles. Brooklyn Brew Shop recommends dissolving honey in water, but an easier way to carbonate would be with carbonation drops. With these, you simply add one of these into the bottle; no measuring or dissolving required.
Other Useful Items
These are the items that are useful to have, but are not needed to brew beer with the Beer Making Kit. These will make your brew day easier and improve the experience.
Mini Auto Siphon
Siphoning can be a pain in the ass. There are a lot of ways to start a siphon; most common are pre-filling the tubing with water to drop out, or using your mouth (hello infection!). The auto siphon is a painless way to start a siphon, with just a pump or two your beer will be flowing. Regular auto siphons won’t fit into your one gallon jug, but the mini version will work great. An auto siphon clamp is useful as well, you can use this to keep your auto siphon just above all the solids in the bottom of your fermenter.
You can bottle without a bottle wand, but it sure is a lot easier to use one. The wand has a spring loaded tip which only releases beer once it is pushed against the bottom of a beer bottle. With this, there is no need to continuously clamp and unclamp your tubing, the beer will only flow when it needs to.
Yes, the Beer Making Kit does come with a glass thermometer. But to read the temperature of your mash you would need to take it out of the hot liquid, which isn’t always easy. A simple cooking thermometer is much easier to use and doesn’t require you to fish anything out of your mash. Also helpful is an adhesive strip thermometer; put this on your one gallon jug and you can easily see if your beer is at a good fermenting temperature.
Star San No Rinse Sanitizer
There is a sanitizer included in the Beer Making Kit, but everything that soaks in the included sanitizer needs to be rinsed off afterwards. Not only is this a nuisance, it is another opportunity to introduce to your equipment the bacteria that you were trying to eliminate in the first place. Star San is a no rinse sanitizer, you can soak your equipment and then use it right away, with no step in between. An ounce of concentrated Star San will make five gallons of sanitizer, so a bottle can last a very long time. For even easier sanitization, put Star San into a spray bottle to get the larger items that are hard to soak.
Hydrometer or Refractometer
An important variable in beer brewing is specific gravity, for your beer it is a measure of the amount of sugar in it before and after fermentation. Knowing the specific gravities allows you to determine the alcohol content of your beer. You can measure your specific gravity in two ways: a hydrometer and a refractometer. A hydrometer is easier to use, but taking two measurements can use up nearly a whole beer out of your one gallon batch. You can always dump the beer back in after you measure, but you need to make sure that your sanitization is top notch to avoid infection. The refractometer can be a little trickier to use, but you only need a couple of drops any time you test. Either of these tools will tell you the alcohol content of your beer, no guessing required.
All of these items will contribute to the ease of the experience, ultimately making homebrewing more fun. Did I miss anything? Let me know what worked for you in the comments below.