Evolution of Homebrew Equipment with John Blichmann – BeerSmith Podcast #298

John Blichmann joins me this week to discuss the evolution of home brewing equipment from the late 1980’s to the current day.

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Topics in This Week’s Episode (55:07)

  • This week I welcome John Blichmann to discuss how homebrew equipment has changed from the late 1980’s to today. John is the President and founder of Blichmann Engineering, a premiere provider of home and professional brewing equipment.
  • We start with a short discussion of some of John’s new equipment and what has happened since he last appeared on the show.
  • John explains what his first stove-top brewing setup looked like.
  • We discuss how brewing with malt extract was the dominant form of home brewing from the legalization of brewing in the US in 1979 until today.
  • John explains how not only was the equipment limited but also the brewing ingredients and brewing knowledge was extremely limited in the late 80’s and early 1990’s.
  • He also tells us how home built equipment cobbled together with parts from the hardware store was the norm for the first two decades or so, and that professionally made equipment was rare.
  • We talk about John’s leap from working as an Engineer with Caterpillar to starting Blichmann Engineering in the early 2000’s and he also shares his first few breakthrough products that made his business a success.
  • During the early 2000’s we started to see more three tier gravity fed brewing systems that mimicked to some degree what you might see in a professional system, and also all grain brewing became much more common.
  • Around 2009, home brewing entered a period of double digit growth that lasted until 2013, and we saw the rise of a large number of commercial equipment providers as well as larger and more sophisticated systems.
  • Around the 2014 timeframe, all grain also became the dominant method in home brewing for the very first time, and now many brewers don’t brew extract at all but leap directly into all grain brewing.
  • John tells us about how in the middle of the last decade, inexpensive stainless steel systems, most of them imported from overseas began to enter the market.
  • Finally in the wake of COVID in 2019 there has been another sea change in equipment with the rise of much smaller all-in-one Brew In A Bag (BIAB) style systems, usually in the 5 gallon (19 liter) size or smaller.
  • We discuss some of the post COVID effects including brewers that are in general brewing less, a home brewing market that is perhaps half the size of its peak from a decade earlier, and also social changes such as smaller in-person homebrew club meetings and smaller social gatherings in general.
  • We briefly discuss where John sees home brewing going next and John gives his closing thoughts on the hobby.


iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

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