After receiving a home brew kit from my wife for Christmas, I got right to work making my first batch. Even though we have a very stocked up kitchen as far as pots, pans, and gadgets are concerned, beer making is a whole new demon when it comes to what equipment is required. Having brewing specific equipment is as important to a brewer as having the right knives and spatula are to a chef. Sure you can wing, as I did on my first attempt, but before the next batch you probably should go to a supply store to pick up some new
First thing On the list, A grain bag. Similar to what a tea bag does to tea the grain bag essentially takes using a strainer out of the equation. And when you have a small strainer like we do, it's difficult and messy as hell to strain your grains!
After that, a new thermometer. Although my kit came with one, the clip on variation was much easier to use. Adjusting the height and placement of the thermometer was obtained once and you didn't have to worry about it again with the clip on. Where the long clip less stick type one would float on top, sink to the bottom, or move around too much making it another task to take care of.
Third, a funnel. This was a must unlike the thermometer which we could have dealt with. The kit we got didn't come with anything to help you easily pour your beer into the fermenter. My first attempt was done using some creativity as we had no funnel on hand, and no stores were open since it was Christmas day. We took a 1 liter plastic bottle of water, poured the water into cups( don't want to be wasteful with our water now) and then cut the bottle in half making a crappy but usable funnel. It actually worked quite well considering what it was. But we picked up an 8 ince diameter one for the next time.
Another key item we got was a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot allowing us to make a double batch in order to submerge brewing equipment. Our first batch of sanitizer sat in a 1 gallon mixing bowl so any time you moved it, it dripped everywhere making it even messier. The 5 gallon HD bucket was inexpensive and just made it easier as well.
Those were our first upgrades in equipment. They made making our second batch go much smoother and more enjoyable as well. We weren't as stressed since we were now working with the right tools. And even though we got more tools than the kit came with, we now would like to get even more after our first bottling run, which was another "make it as you go" adventure due to the lack of proper equipment.