Advanced Home Breweries
You don't need a huge amount of equipment to brew beer, even if you decide to step up to brewing all-grain.

Of course, need and want are two different things - many home brewers are tinkerers at heart, and part of the fun of the hobby is in designing and building systems and equipment to make the process easier or more consistently repeatable.

One of the first things that many brewers will do is to move out of the kitchen and construct an area or a stand specifically for brewing in the garage or basement, or outside on tha patio.

Once you have a bit more room and better facilities, often the next upgrade is to increase the batch size. By this stage in the hobby, brewing is usually a full-day exercise, involving lots of cleaning, sanitising, boiling, waiting, moving crates around, tinkering with second-hand fridges and all other sorts of fun stuff. Many brewers will choose to economise their time by doubling (or more) their batch size.

The next gadget (after the fridges, bigger pots, and gas burners) is sometimes a pump. Pumps make life a little easier when transferring hot liquids, and while gravity does an excellent job of moving liquid from a high place to a low place, pumps enable us to circulate it. This gives us a couple of advantages - the circulating liquid can be more easily kept at a specific temperature or adjusted to a desired one; also wort which is circulating through the grain bed will run particularly clear after a minute or so, and starch conversion will often happen sooner due to the increased mixing of enzymes and liquid.

computers and microprocessors

There are a number of computer programs available which enable a brewer to see how recipe and procedure changes during brewing will affect the resulting beer. They also enable him to fine-tune his processes by calculating the effects which his brewery system has on the brew, such as extraction efficiency or evaporation rate during the boil. Some include sections which deal with water chemistry and its effect on the brew. There is a link at the bottom of this page to a list of some of the most popular brewing software, as well as some reviews of the software by those that have used it.

After this it all gets really crazy, with a small number of techno-brewers building computer-controlled systems which are very similar to those found in a commercial brewery. While some more 'traditional' brewers will say that this removes the 'hands-on' skill of the brewer, there is an argument that the more scientific and automated the system, the easier it is to evaluate the effect of small changes on recipe or procedure.

Personally, I get a kick out of the fact that brewers can vary from the bearded back-yarder who refuses to use a hydrometer, to the fully internet-enabled techno-geek whose hydrometer has its own IP address.

In the end, however, it's all about the beer...

My system

Dan's system
More links Description John Palmer's excellent online book for those looking to get brewing. The Home Brew Digest, a massive resource for home and small-scale brewers. On-line forums section of the HBD, where more experienced brewers gather to chew the fat.
brewing software A look at some of the most popular brewing software available