Upgrade Priority List

All brewers have different priorities with their upgrades. Some go for increased capacity immediately. Others go for temperature control. Some ignore temperature control and just brew specific styles like Belgians and sours that can benefit from higher temps.

The priorities with Goldilocks Homebrewing are particularly pronounced. I recommend a starting kit worth about $200 – $250 for all-grain brewing, and closer to $150 for extract brewing. Once you get a few batches under your belt and make sure that you actually like the hobby and understand the process, it’s natural to want to spend more on it. But as I’ve mentioned before it’s important to resist the temptation to just buy your way to better beer.

A lot of these upgrades aren’t totally necessary but they can be nice. And it’s fun to treat yoself once in a while.


For example, I recently picked up a digital thermometer on Amazon. I found that the Thermowand sells for about $25, which is a pretty nice discount compared to the Thermapen. I’ve only brewed a single batch with it, so I’m still adjusting my process a bit (turns out my manual thermometer reads a little warmer than the actual temperature), but I think it will save me a little time and allow me to be more accurate.

So I thought I’d put together two different lists. A list of my own upgrade priorities, and a list of what I think the upgrade priorities are for the homebrewing community at large (based on my admittedly limited knowledge). These are only major pieces of equipment, not things like tubing (which you’ll replace regularly) and bigass tubs of PBW and StarSan (which should definitely be on the top of the list before upgrading your equipment).

Goldilocks’ Priorities

1. Immersion Chiller (assuming you have no chiller)
2. Fermentor
3. Fermentation Chamber
4. Thermometer (manual to digital)
5. Refractometer
6. Boil Kettle
7. Gas Burner
8. Mash Tun
9. Pumps (assuming no pumps)
10. Plate Chiller (assuming you have an immersion chiller)

My list prioritizes a chiller, which can save a ton of time on brew day and ensure higher quality beer. Having a nice fermentor comes next. Buckets are great, but I have to say that I’ve loved my Spiedel. Temperature control is next, if you have the space and money, because it’s going to improve your brew and allow you to lager.

Anything that would increase capacity comes toward the bottom because I don’t think I’ll be getting off the stove anytime soon. And I just don’t think increased capacity is a priority. I guess it would be nice to brew slightly larger batches, maybe 8 gallons or so, since that’s the size of my fermentor, but I can’t imagine ever doing 15 or larger. I’m sure it’s not all that much extra work with the right setup, but it seems like a big investment, more stuff to clean, and more that could go wrong. I may eat these words in the future, but not until I’m out of apartment living.

Homebrew Community’s Priorities

1. Immersion Chiller (assuming you have no chiller)
2. Boil Kettle
3. Gas Burner
4. Mash Tun
5. Hot Liquor Tank
6. Pumps (assuming no pumps)
7. Plate Chiller (assuming you have an immersion chiller)
8. Fermentation Chamber
9. Fermentor
10. Refractometer

From what I’ve seen of the homebrewing community, batch size is the biggest immediate priority, which means building a set that can brew at least 10 gallons, more likely 15 to 20. This requires a gas burner (which itself requires a tank of propane) or an electric element, upgrading your kettle and mash tun to those sizes, and adding a hot liquor tank to your setup to save time on the whole process. And if you’re dealing with that much hot liquid, better pump it through a plate chiller into your fermentor.

The one area of similarity that we share is the immersion chiller. This is almost a basic necessity for homebrewing, and I include it in my list of equipment that gets up to $200.

Writing out a list like this might be a good idea for new brewers. It will help give you an idea of what your priorities are and how you might budget for the hobby in the future. Feel free to follow my lead, take the advice of others in the community, or to go your own route.

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