Adventures of a Beginning Home Brewer

Starter Kits: Single Stage vs Secondary Fermentation

Let me start by saying I am a beginning home brewer. I have only been brewing a few years, so I’m not here to be your “expert” on home brewing. But, since I am still basically a beginner, I suppose I am an expert beginner home brewer! Adventures of a Beginning Home Brewer will be a place where I will offer guidance, share my successes, laugh off failures and struggles, and heck, maybe occasionally go off topic and just talk about beer stuff in general. So, crack open a bottle of your favorite craft beer and let’s get started!

So, you want to be a home brewer… Well, let’s start things off by talking about starter equipment as this is where any new home brewer needs to start. There are many pieces of equipment you will need to brew your own beer. The add-ons and upgrades are endless! But let’s not get confused with all that yet; we are beginners after all.
Here is what I suggest; buy a starter kit! Why confuse yourself with trying to get a pro kit put together with countless trips to the supply store? Depending on a couple factors, you could be set up and brewing beer for around 125 – 200 bucks. That is including the ingredients for your first batch, bottles, caps, everything! Most even come with an instructional DVD.
When buying your starter kit you basically have to make one choice; do you want a single stage fermentation set up or do you want to have secondary fermentation in your rig. So, what’s the difference?

 

(Single Stage Fermentation Start Up Kit)
(Start Up Kit with Secondary Fermentation)
In a single stage fermentation set up, you have one bucket that your beer ferments in. Like the name says, a SINGLE stage. In a set up with secondary fermentation you will do everything the same as in a single stage, but after the beer is done with the primary fermentation you transfer the beer into a glass vessel called a carboy for the secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is kind of a misleading name as the beer is pretty much fermented after the primary fermentation is done. The secondary fermentation is basically a place where sediment is removed to give your beer clarity and where your beer can age some. This is also where you would add hops for dry hopping when or if you eventually decide to do that.
My vote; go with the secondary fermentation. The whole brewing process takes weeks (mostly inactive time on your part though) and you have used quality ingredients. Not having the best beer you can in the end seems silly to me. It really doesn’t add much time as the only additional work is a little bit of equipment sanitizing and about 10 minutes of transferring your beer to another container. So pop for the kit with the extra equipment to make your beer as good as you can.
Here are a couple of kits you can buy that will have you set up and ready to go!   
Single fermentation kits:
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/brewing-starter-plus-kit.html
http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brewing/beer-equipment-starter-kits/essential-brewing-starter-kit.html (Does not include bottles.)
Kits with secondary fermentation:
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/brewing-starter-plus-kit.html (This is the set up that I started with and still use today.)
http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/deluxe-brewing-starter-kit.html (Does not include bottles.)
There are additional components that you can purchase to add to your starter kit to make things a bit easier, but for now I would say you should just start with a starter kit and brew a few batches to see if you like home brewing. After that you can start dumping money into pimpin’ out your home brewery with fancy add-ons… We will address those add-ons down the road.