Step 1: Acquire Brewing Vessels

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Let’s face it – most brewing vessels are expensive, like this Blichmann BoilerMaker for $395!  While these pricey kettles are really nice, you can actually build something very similar for a fraction of the price.  We are home brewers after all, why not “home brew” our equipment?  In the next couple of steps, I will walk you through the process for acquiring and building your brewing vessels.  With a bit of effort and elbow grease, you will be able so save a significant amount of cash!Keg vs Kettle

Most all-grain brewing setups, will require three brewing vessels:

  • Hot Liquor Tun – Used to heat water
  • Mash Tun – Used to extract wort from the grain
  • Brew Kettle – Used to boil the wort and add hops

While each performs a different function, they can be constructed from a common set of materials.  They can also each be built from the same original “canvas” – a sanke keg.  I personally love using my “keggles” (keg + kettle… you get it), because it’s so cool to brew beer in a recycled keg!

Ok, so, how do you find kegs?  I DO NOT suggest that you keep a keg that you picked up from a liquor store.  Sure, you would forfeit your deposit, but this is STEALING.  I assure you that your deposit does not come close to covering the cost of the actual keg.  I suggest posting an ad on in the closest city to your home.  I had great success picking up cheap sanke kegs with this method.  For example, my ad read:

15.5g Sanke Straight Sided SS

Wanted – 15.5 Gallon Beer Keg – $20

Want to buy a few 15.5-gallon stainless steel beer kegs for a homebrew setup. I’m trying to keep this as affordable as possible, so please let me know if you have some extra beer kegs! I prefer the ones with flat sides (see picture.) Call Jesse at 555-555-5555 or send an email.

This ad was extremely effective for me.  The offer price is well below a standard keg deposit (generally $50+), which does not incentivize theft for resale.  I set the original offer price at $20, and was willing to pay as much as $30 for a keg.  If $20 does not get any response, renew your ad and increase the offer by increments of $5 until someone bites.  Ads with a picture get much more attention than ads with text only.  Additionally, ads with phone numbers solicit more responses.  If you’re not comfortable listing a phone number, that’s fine.  I still got quite a few offers via email.  For your personal safety, I always recommend meeting at a public, well-lit location to make the purchase.  This may require a bit of patience, but I was able to purchase many cheap kegs through this method!  Try to pick up 2-3** kegs for your all-grain setup.

If your craigslist ad is unsuccessful or you don’t have a nearby craigslist, you can pick up these 9-gallon stainless steel pots.  They come pre-drilled and welded for a ball valve and thermometer (you can skip step 2 if you choose these)!  Check back in for further instructions once you have completed this step.  Cheers!

**Some people prefer to use a cooler for a mash tun.  These can be purchased cheaply at Big Lots or on Amazon.  I recommend a 48-quart cooler
for 5-gallon batches and a 70-quart cooler for 10-gallon batches.  These sizes will allow you to brew “big beers,” which require larger grain bills.  More on cooler conversion in Step 4(b).

Continue to Step 2…

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