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Home brewing essentials

Home brewing is a rewarding hobby that's skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. A 2017 survey from the American Homebrewers Association found that 1.1 million in the United States brewed their own beer at home. Incredibly, 40 percent of them had started doing so in the previous four years.

Perhaps due to the craft beer boom, which has seen professional brewers experiment with new styles and ingredients, many people have discovered a passion for beer they never knew they had, ultimately motivating them to try to make their own beer at home.

As prospective home brewers gain more experience, they might want to expand their horizons and purchase more advanced equipment. But the AHA notes that the following are the basics that novice home brewers will need to get started.

• Fermenter: Fermenters hold the wort as it ferments into beer.

• Airlock and bung: The airlock inserts into the top of the fermenter, allowing carbon dioxide to escape without letting contaminants in. Some fermenters will require a bung to secure the airlock.

• Brew pot: Sometimes called the "kettle," the brew pot is where the boiling process takes place. The size of the batch will dictate the size of the brew pot, but the larger the batch, the larger brew pot brewers will need.

• Heat source: The pre-boil volume needs to be heated up, and a kitchen stove might suffice as a heat source for small batches. But the AHA notes that, as batch size grows, a more powerful heat source might be necessary to ensure timeliness of the heating process.

• Siphon/tubing: Siphon/tubing makes it easy and less messy to move hot wort and the finished product around. It's possible to lift and pour the hot wort and finished product, but that increases the risk of spillage. The AHA notes that auto-siphons are an option some home brewers might want to consider.

• Cleaner: Home brewing materials need to be cleaned thoroughly after each batch. The AHA recommends avoiding scented products, as scents can linger, potentially affecting the flavor and aroma of the finished product.

• Sanitizers: Sanitizers prevent microorganisms from adversely affecting brewing equipment. Brewers can create their own sanitizer by adding one ounce of bleach per gallon of water, or they can purchase sanitizers at brew shops.

• Hydrometer: The AHA notes that hydrometers, which measure the gravity and sugar density in water, are not technically necessary to brew beer at home. However, hydrometers allow for close monitoring of fermentation and let home brewers calculate specifications like alcohol content.

These are the essentials necessary to begin a home brewing operation. More information about products necessary for home brewing, including mashing equipment and the bottling process, is available at www.homebrewersassociation.org.

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