I started homebrewing during my university days. Like everyone else, I started with malt-extract kits. My first batch was alright. The next few batches got progressively worse for some reason. Or my taste got more refined. I stopped brewing after a while, because I wasn’t really liking the beer I was making. Store-bought beer was much better.
But then, last year, I was invited to help with a brewing session at my cousin Adrian’s place. Adrian’s roommate, Gavin, had a lot of experience with all-grain brewing, even won some contests. And Gavin had the extra equipment required. Aside from the all-grain mash, we also opted for a liquid yeast culture from Wyeast. We got an couple American IPA “Pro-mash” kits (including precrushed grains and hops) from Paddock Wood, based in Saskatoon. The results: fantastic beer! And I’m hooked again. (Sadly, Paddock Wood no longer sells brewing supplies or equipment. They’ve converted into a full-time microbrewery.)
Personally, I think the pure liquid yeast culture is the biggest factor in making beer I actually enjoyed drinking. It costs more, sure, but it’s worth it.
Since then, I’ve acquired or built all-grain brewing equipment of my own. I’m not done yet. I’m definitely in the “gadget-head” homebrewer category. Building the equipment is almost as much fun as brewing. Much of my equipment was home-built on the cheap. I rigorously documented the construction of most pieces with my digital camera. Here are the pieces I’ve built myself:
- Gott cooler mash-tun conversion.
- Counterflow wort chiller.
- Brewery keg conversion into boiling kettle or hot liquor tank.
- Sight gauge for HLT.
- Heat shroud for boiling kettle.
- Aquarium-pump wort aerator.
- Keg refrigerator with two-faucet draft tower.
- Beer-line cleaning-fluid pump.
- Counterpressure racking device.
- Counterpressure bottle filler.
- Pneumatic pinch valve, as an inexpensive alternative to solenoid valves.
- Steam-injector for mash temperature control, based on this article.
Equipment I’ve bought:
- Phil’s Phalse Bottom, for the Gott cooler.
- Ranco ET101 Digital Temperature Controller.
- Three-tiered gravity brewing system.
- Some distant day, maybe a RIMS. That’s a project a gadget-head can really get into!