Right, you've decided (very wisely I might say) to brew your own beer. What basic equipment do you need? As in many processes the equipment can be varied, and indeed complicated. But to start with you do not really need much in the way of equipment. The first thing to aquire is a large container (mashing vessel).
This can be as small as a large soup pot, or as large as you can comfortably handle. A large preserve or stew pan is good. Try a second hand catering supplier, you'll get a good deal. At the same time, although by no means essential at this stage, see if they have a free standing gas ring which you can use with bottled gas.
This means you can brew out in the yard or in the garage. Trust me, your partner will be much more forgiving if you are not underfoot in the kitchen, and the smell (although I love it) can be a bit of an aquired taste. The other advantage of using gas is the instant controllability of temperature.
Electricity can be a bit hit and miss as it's not instant. Unless of course you have a halogen hob. But you don't really want to be in the kitchen unless you have no other choice. You are also going to need a thermometer, temperature is fairly critical in the brewing process. Again, go to a brewing supplies store and you will find quite a variation, but I would go for one at least 12 inches in length, or even larger if you can.
Especially if you have bought a large mashing vessel. They are easier to read anyway. By the way, a spare thermometer is always useful. They can be dropped and broken! You will need a fermenting vessel for the brew after the yeast has been added. It should have a decent fitting lid and handles for lifting. When I started I used a plastic dustbin (garbage bin) from my local hardware store.
It was bright yellow and I thought it was cool. Only later did I discover that the yellow colour was due to the use of the heavy metal cadmium, pretty toxic to humans. This cadmium would leach out into the brew due to the effect of the process. Well I got away with that one (I think). But the lesson here is to only use containers guaranteed to be brewing friendly.
I would favour a five gallon plastic container sold by a reputable brewing supplies store. A length of plastic tubing around quarter inch diameter and about a yard or so long will be wanted to siphon off the brew when ready into whatever containers yopu have decided to use. Probably a plastic cask or bottles. Ideally the tube should have a glass siphon tube fitted (with a trap like a sink u- bend) so as not to draw up sediment when siphoning. These are pretty cheap from the brewing supplies place. All bottles used should be in good condition, and free from any flaws.
If you can get screw top bottles all the better. It goes without saying that they should be scrupulously clean. O.K. That's it.
That's really all the basic equipment you need. Of course there are other items that I would call optional, that may make the job a little easier, and I'll cover those in another article. But if you're working on a budget you can start with just these items. Just go for it, and good luck.
Chris Haycock is an information publisher. One of whose many hobbies is home brewing. Preferring the taste and variety of his own product to those commercially available. For more information go to: http://www.secretsofhomebrewing.com