Jan 27, 2012

The Research: Part 2

In the progression to all grain equipment, it is important to do some research.  Your fellow homebrewers are excellent resources when you are making any transitions or have any questions.  Another place to do some investigative research is online (in the comfort of your own pajamas with a beer in your hand is a fabulous way to do this).

There are many, many websites out there that have to deal with homebrewing.  I guess I am just adding another to the mix with this blog... But I digress.  With homebrewing these days, you can buy everything from pre-made to do-it-yourself.  There are websites that deal with that whole spectrum.  

On the pre-made side, you have some of the bigger homebrew sites:  Northern Brewer, More Beer, Williams Brewing, just to name a few.  A simple Google search will bring up hundreds more.  These sites are great for those who just want their equipment.  As with any typical online retailer, there are reviews, hundreds of products, and the range from simple to complex.  And, maybe the best part about this is you have the option of buying a fully put together piece of complex equipment, ready to use right out of the box.

A downside to the online sites is shipping costs.  Many of the larger sites have "flat-rate shipping," which sounds great on the surface.  But to help with that, the retailers build shipping into a lot of the larger items.  For example, a 10 gallon cooler - shipped for only $7.99! - costs about $90, twice what I could get at my local Home Depot.  Why so expensive?  Because it costs much more than 8 bucks to ship a cooler.  On the other side of the coin, if you are only spending a couple of bucks on a small item, shipping is still going to be $7.99.  So, to be frank, that kind of blows.  

Somewhere between the large online retailers and DIY is the specialty online stores.  They usually specialize in one particular aspect of homebrewing.  A couple of examples are cornykeg.com and bargainfittings.com.  They are not trying to be everything to everyone; they will only sell a select kind of product.  This is helpful because their prices are usually cheaper than other online sites and their shipping typically changes depending on what you buy.  It is great for getting the specialty stainless steel items that are hard to find around Lowe's and Home Depot but still involve a little bit of handiwork on your part.

And that may be the downside for you if you are not handy.  You can really screw some things up, either on your equipment or on your body, if you are not careful.  So, if you go this route, be safe and be smart.  

The last is option I will mention is the complete DIY route.  The internet has really helped all these little fringe hobbies to get a solid community and one of the best places to see that is HomebrewTalk.com.  The forums are a great place for you to go if you really want to do everything on your own.  There are member's pet projects and many tutorials to help.  Sometimes there are even shopping lists so you can swing by your friendly neighborhood hardware store and pick up everything you need.  

Of course, there are many blogs which will also teach and show you how to do or make certain things.  Ain't the internet grand?  I have already talked about the downside of DIY: if you screw up, you could hurt yourself or others, or, at the very least, waste some good money and good equipment.  

So, that is a brief summary of some of the online places to find equipment and/or information.  With any luck, maybe one day someone will include the Homebrewing Monk on a list of helpful homebrew sites.  But let's not drink the beer before it's carbonated...