Best homebrew kits TechnoBuffalo 2021
When we talk about home brewing and the tools required, we're really talking about a few simple chores. We need to boil a lot of liquid. We need to transfer liquid between large containers. We need to sanitize a heap of pipes and parts. Finally, we need to store everything, first in large quantities, then in smaller bottles. Every good home brewing kit should account for these steps and nothing less. Some kits offer more control with fewer shortcuts, requiring more equipment, but basic home brewing should include a kettle, transfer tools, sanitizing gear, and bottling.
- Best overall: Northern brewer deluxe home brew starter kit
- Best mash starter: Brewer's edge mash and boil with pump
- Best conical: Craft a brew premium homebrew starter
- Best splurge: Clawhammer supply complete homebrew beer brewing system
Some brewing shortcuts will be acceptable for your first few tries, and some that you should avoid entirely. At a minimum, beer should be made from a malt syrup and grain flavors, then fermented with yeast and allowed to age naturally to achieve flavor and bubbles. Kits that skip the flavoring steps and just have you boil a concentrated syrup, or kits that add carbonation tablets instead of allowing natural fermentation, those are kits I would avoid since they're really making boozy soda, not beer.
Best overall: Northern brewer deluxe home brew starter kit
The Northern Brewer Deluxe kit gives you enough equipment to take your first brew seriously, but not so much that you'll probably screw it up. The kit relies on malt syrup and extract, and you also get a grain bag for extra flavor, as well as nicely packed hops. You'll need to supply your own kettle (a big pot for boiling), but Northern Brewer gives you all the equipment you'll need to transfer your beer to one of the two big glass fermenter bottles provided. Having two six-gallon carboys means you can try second-stage fermenting, or you can brew a second batch to ferment at the same time.
You also get brushes and cleaning tools for all the tubes and bottles, as well as a capper and all the equipment you need for your first fill. Northern Brewer started as an enthusiast storefront in St. Paul, MN, and they brag about their seven-day customer service and support. When you are ready to graduate to more complex brewing, the company offers everything from cooling coils to grain mills and more, and your starter kit will still be a top-notch part of your process.
- Two glass carboy fermenter bottles
- Simplified recipes that don't sacrifice real ingredients
- Solid customer support
- No brewing kettle
- Glass is more expensive and needs careful handling
Best mash starter: brewer's edge mash and boil with pump
Simpler kits will give you a malt syrup for your yeast to feast upon, but real brewing takes grain and extracts the malt sugars through a boiling process. This process is very precise and controlled, usually not something you'll find in a brewing kit. Still, the Brewer's Edge Mash and Boil give you precise temperature control and a circulating pump to keep a consistent temperature throughout the 7.5-gallon kettle. There's an adjustable run timer with a delay setting so you can get your water heated before you add your mash grains.
This is a kit meant for making wort, the liquid that is fermented to become beer, so you'll need to buy your own carboy bottles for fermenting and your own bottling system, as well as some tubes and siphons for moving the liquid around. The benefit is getting the flavor and control of an all-grain brew, instead of relying on syrups and extracts. It's more expensive, but if you want to take your brewing seriously from the very start, it's worth the price.
- Uses an all-grain mash instead of syrups or extract
- Mash your wort and then boil in the same kettle
- Controlled temperature and timer for precise brewing
- Only the first step of the brewing process
- No wort chiller or fermenter included
Best conical: Craft a brew premium homebrew starter
With most starter kits, you'll ferment your initial wort in one large vessel; then, once it has fermented and the sediment has fallen, you'll transfer the liquid to a second carboy. With the conical fermenter in the Craft A Brew kit, you don't need to transfer your brew after you move it from the kettle. The sediment falls down the cone into a jar. After the first fermentation, you remove the jar and replace it with a fresh one. The same idea makes bottling easier, as you don't need a pump and siphon to bottle.
Craft A Brew gives you a beer recipe kit with the Starter, a malt syrup kit with grains, and hops added for flavor. The company has a compelling beer lineup, including partnerships with established craft breweries Stone and SixPoint that let you brew recipes from those breweries at home. You also get a capper and caps, as well as a sanitizer, but with no tubes or siphons to worry about cleaning and sanitation should be much easier with this kit.
- Cool conical fermenter.
- No need for multiple carboy bottles.
- Fewer parts to clean.
- Can only brew one batch at once.
- Expensive for a kit with fewer components
Best splurge: Clawhammer supply complete homebrew beer Bbrewing system
Clawhammer Supply started as a home distillery maker, then broke into brewing in a big way with a big all-in-one brewing system that has some innovative features you won't find on less expensive kits. The Clawhammer system is a mash and boil pot with its own pump so that you use an all-grain mix to brew. It has a few clever basket systems that let you drop in and pull out grains, hops, and other flavor additives. Because temperature and precision are so important when brewing your wort, the Clawhammer also has a neat cooler plate that pumps water through a chiller to bring the wort down in temperature quickly.
You'll need a secondary container to ferment and proceed past the boiling point. Still, if you're looking at the Clawhammer system, you probably already have a carboy and some form of bottling from your first homebrew attempts. The Clawhammer gives you much more fine-tuned temperature and timing control for more nuanced brews. The company also has an excellent reputation on social media for its videos and guides, and reviews on Amazon praise the company's support for its helpful and quick response.
- Advanced all-in-one system for mash and boil
- Innovative cooling plate
- Still requires fermenter and bottling
Homebrewing can be fun for all levels of aspiring brewers, from novices looking to make a jug of India pale ale to experts looking for a brew-in-a-bag indoor setup to brew all-grain pilsners. The system we recommend, the Northern Brewer Deluxe Starter Kit, comes with just about everything you need for a complete brew, aside from a big stockpot, which most people have. You get high-quality equipment, including two glass carboys and capping tools, to bottle your brew when you're done. The Deluxe kit should keep you satisfied while you learn how to step into the craft brew world, or it can help you upgrade from a basic plastic kit.
Once you've spent some time with the Deluxe system, you might want to step up to an all-grain brewing system like the Brewer's Edge Mash and Boil with Pump, or the mightier Clawhammer Supply Complete Homebrew. You'll be able to use the glass carboy and the equipment you already own to complete the fermenting process while building on your knowledge to make advanced recipes. The process is more complicated, starting with creating a wort from an all-grain mash instead of skipping the mash step and using a syrup. This is closer to professional brewing, though, but still convenient as a kit.
If the Northern Brewer Deluxe kit looks like too much equipment for you, consider the conical Catalyst fermenter from Craft A Brew, which lets you skip the transfer steps and perform primary and secondary fermentation in one vessel. The benefit of having two carboys with the Northern Brewer kit is that you can brew two batches in quick succession, rather than waiting for one to finish. After you've tried your own craft beer, you might want to keep a batch brewing.
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