Recently I was talking to Paddy about how far our home brewing abilities have come since we started, and it did get me thinking about the equipment we use, and how big of a difference it makes.
The ability to boil at full volume was probably the biggest game changer for us. Before that, all we did was mostly brew with extract kit cans, with a few adjuncts added and some additional hops. These beers came out pretty good, and I’m a firm believer that if we had have applied the standards we use now back then, we could have got even better results.
But is it the equipment that really improves our results, or is it the time and care taken once we outlaid a little coin to actually try and guarantee the beer we brewed was the best it could possibly be? I think it’s the latter personally.
Over the years, the best guess I can come up with is that there were at least five attempts to start home brewing from about age 20 onwards, each resulting in the plastic fermenter being passed from mate to mate to mate until it was lost forever and no one remembered where they ended up. When we were doing this with a bunch of different guys, it really mattered very little, as the outlay was usually around $25-$30 a head. And the level of care taken was about the same.
The worst attempt I can recall involved one guy (lets call him Joel) putting the freshly sanitised fermenter on his head and yelling he was a lego man while dancing the robot. Another time, one of our other mates (lets call him Mark) was eating a chicken subway directly over the full fermenter while we trying to pitch the yeast. As you’d expect, both these brews came out awesome…Or was it shit? It was probably shit cause in both cases, we heavily infected the brews with wild yeasts and the end product got tipped down the drain.
While these were fun times hanging out with the lads, it was not the most conducive approach to brewing great tasting beer. When Paddy and I started to take things a little more seriously, much to our surprise, the beer we were able to produce came out a lot better.
There are a lot of steps you can take to improve the beer you produce before you start spending money. Following very diligent cleaning and sanitation processes is one. Controlling fermentation temperature fluctuations is another. Actually maturing your brews for a few months before cracking them open is a great approach with a lot (but not all) of beer styles.
If you do want to splash a little cash on some shiny new equipment, our take away is if you do your research, it’s usually worth it. Learn how to properly maintain this equipment and you’ll get even more out of it. But also, don’t overlook the quality of the ingredients you’re using, the approaches you’re using, and the knowledge you have when it comes to selecting or creating recipes.
Home brewing is one of the greatest hobbies we’ve ever embarked on, but it does take some learning and it will involve a few bumps along the road.