There exist many different products on the market for home brewers. While some are vital, there are some that are frivolous, just as with any hobby. When starting off with the home brew hobby in particular, it is not generally necessary to get all of the necessary equipment all at once. In fact, there are a number of instruments that a beginning home brewer does not really need at the start.
For example, the home brewer who is just starting out will not require a hydrometer. They will not require the false bottom brew pot with a spigot, unless they wish to brew using the all grain method. Additionally, a newcomer will not need soda kegs, carbonation tanks, or even half of the supplies that a local homebrew supply store would sell on a daily basis.
One thing that is vital, however, are glass carboys with airlocks. These protect batches of brew from evil spirits such as rogue yeasts or bacterial infection. Make sure not to skimp on the cost by buying plastic, because they can harbor microbes within tiny scratches embedded in the inner walls of the plastic carboy. Additionally, they can provide an undesirable flavor to the ale. Glass, on the other hand, is more fragile, heavier, though it is safer for beer to develop. They can be cleaned meticulously, where plastic carboys are far more difficult to properly clean.
It is also important to have a decent large spoon and a large brew kettle, as no set of equipment will be complete otherwise. If possible, get a stainless steel brew pot of five gallons, though if necessary, one could get by with enameled steel pots until it chips. The spoon should also be of stainless steel and should be long enough to stir the wort as far as the bottom of the bot. Otherwise, the malt is prone to burning at the bottom of the cauldron, which could take hours of scrubbing to remove.
Instead of bench cappers, consider hand cappers for bottling beer. Also, if one is the recycling type, consider finding some Grolsche style bottles with built in caps that can be cleaned and sanitized in order to reuse it. These style of bottles are especially useful as they are very durable. In order to ensure proper cleaning and sanitation occurs, think about purchasing a high pressure beer bottle spray attachment. Once the brew has been drunk, a simple rinse with the nozzle will be very useful in cleaning and sanitizing the bottles.
Another useful piece of equipment to invest in is something to keg the beer in, such as soda kegs. This will make the brew easily accessible, in addition to helping with saving time. Some soda kegs come with ball lock systems that are generally of easiest usage. Purchasing a few extra fittings can enable one to make one’s air pump out of a tire pump. Additionally, having a CO2 system for the purposes of carbonation will make this process far more convenient.
There is a simple reason why there exists such a wide variety of different bits of equipment available on the market, and this is because home brewing is quite multifaceted. In order to make a different kind of homebrew, one would need to have a different set of equipment. For example, wine makers would require wine bottles as well as different tools to shove corks into place, where beer brewers require caps for their bottles. Those who make hard cider require utilizing a cider press in order to brew from fresh apples. Beer brewers who work on specialty Belgian ales require yeast which is carefully temperature controlled.
Lastly, one would require a variety of different tools for different levels of production. For instance, one who is only beginning with homebrew will need to have one set of equipment than that of one who has been brewing at home for several years. At that point, word will travel, requiring a person to increase production to meet with consumer demand, and at that point, the majority of brewers will shift to all grain brewing, unless they already have. This would require a whole new list of equipment. In the end, however, as with most homebrew equipment, the investment ends up paying off rapidly.