You may have read our recent article on the essential home brew equipment that you need to get you started home brewing. If not then you can find the article here. In the article we detail what we think are the essential pieces of home brew equipment that you need if you were starting out as a novice home brewer. Inevitably when getting started in home brewing there is an initial outlay in purchasing some basic equipment but we think that this should not cost you a fortune. There are countless examples of home brew equipment that we have brought only for it to sit and gather dust at the back of the cupboard. Therefore we are strong advocates of only buying the equipment that is required and no more. After writing the article on home brew equipment we decide to do a quick sum up of the cost of the items on our homebrew equipment list and it came to just under £30. However, when we started looking on the internet we found some excellent value home brew equipment starter kits which we think are definitely worth the money.
What should you expect to get in a home brew equipment starter kit?
In terms of the basics that you should be looking for, a home brew equipment starter kit should contain at the very least a fermenter, fermentation locks and bungs, thermometer, trial jar, hydrometer, siphon tube with racking cane and stirring spoon. This is sufficient to get you started on your first batch but does not include things like bottles, crown caps or capping tool. It also will not have the malt extract that you need to start your first brew. Most home brew equipment starter kits contain these basics and no more. The trouble is that as we were browsing the internet we found that there were an awful lot of home brew equipment starter kits available.
Therefore which, of the many, home brew equipment starter kits do we think look to be good value for your money?
To help you decide we thought we would look at the options available and find the best kits that we could find at three different price points that is something that represents the budget end of the market through to something a bit more premium and an option in between the two.
First up we took a look at a basic home brew equipment starter kit. The one that we looked at was the Balliihoo basic homebrew equipment starter kit. This can be purchased through Amazon for £22.75 but the equipment comes from Balliihoo Homebrew who are the UKs largest independent home brew retailer. The Balliihoo home brew equipment starter kit comes complete with a fermenter, hydrometer siphon tube and racking cane, plastic stirring spoon and a pot of steriliser. They even throw in a pint glass for sampling your finished brew. The equipment is basic but it does exactly what it says on the product description. It provides all the home brew equipment that you need to get started. So is it worth the money? The fermenter is a lidded bucket style fermenter which is adequate but I would prefer to see it fitted with a fermentation lock so that you can seal the fermenter securely. The fermenter is also fitted with a basic LCD temperature indicator which is ok for basic monitoring of the fermentation temperature but it is not a patch on a proper thermometer. The rest of the equipment is of a good functional standard. At £22.75 this is a very in-expensive home brew equipment starter kit but if you are looking for something that is cost effective to get you started then you can do a lot worse than this. Therefore, as the budget option, we give this basic home brew equipment starter kit a firm thumbs up.
Moving on to the mid price range home brew equipment starter kit we looked at the Balliihoo Complete home brew equipment kit.
My main issue with the Ballihoo Basic home brew equipment kit was the fermenter design, which does not allow you to securely seal the fermenter. This issue has been rectified in the Balliihoo Complete home brew equipment kit. It is more expensive, weighing in at £64.99, but we think the extra expense entailed is well worth it for the improvement to the fermenter and the additional pieces of equipment that you get. The Balliihoo complete home brew equipment starter kit comes with everything that is included in the basic kit but you also get a pressure barrel, which is great for racking your finished beer into, as well as 3 plastic funnels and a 2 pint plastic jug. The fermenter in this home brew equipment starter kit is, in my opinion, a lot better than the one in the basic kit. The reason that I think that the fermenter is a shade better is that it comes fitted with a fermentation lock. This allows you to seal the fermenter securely preventing possible contamination of your precious brew by airborne microbes.
The inclusion of a pressure barrel gives you the option of racking your beer into a barrel to condition rather than directly into bottles. Once your beer has finished primary fermentation you can rack it off directly into the pressure barrel where it can be primed and conditioned. The beer can then be served directly from the pressure barrel thus saving all the hassle involved with cleaning beer bottles. For me if I was getting started home brewing, and I wanted to spend a little bit more, then this would be the kit that I would buy. For that reason this would be our star buy of the three home brew equipment starter kits in this review.
The final home brew equipment starter kit sits firmly at the premium end of the market. Once again it has been put together by our friends at Balliihoo homebrew and can be purchased through Amazon where it will cost you the princely sum of £94.99. The Premium home brew equipment starter kit contains all the equipment that you get in the Balliihoo Complete home brew equipment kit but also includes a glass thermometer, CO2 injection system for the pressure barrel, 10 x CO2 gas bulbs and a heating jacket. The addition of the CO2 injection system allows you to pressurise your pressure barrel with CO2 rather than having to prime and condition your beer. Therefore if you want to reduce the yeast sediment in your beer by filtering then you can add some CO2 sparkle to your brew without having to go through a natural conditioning stage. The addition of a heating jacket in the Premium home brew equipment kit allows you to gain better control of your fermentation temperature. This can be important in the depths of winter if the room that you use for storing your fermenters gets cold. The Premium home brew equipment kit is certainly a good deal more expensive that the other two kits that I have looked at but you get a lot of equipment for your money. Would I buy it? Well if I was starting again I certainly think that the Premium home brew equipment kit represents good value for money so is worth the extra £30, but is only worth it if you want a heating jacket and CO2 injection system for your pressure barrel.
All the Balliihoo home brew equipment kits that we have looked at deliver exactly what you would expect from a home brew equipment kit. All the basic equipment is provided and is done so at a brilliant price. As to whether you need the basic, complete or premium home brew equipment kit comes down to what value you place on the additional pieces of equipment that these kits provide.