Once you have chosen how you want to make your beer, it is vital that you figure out how much beer you’d like to make each recipe. There are a few factors, but basically it comes down to available space, where you can brew, and also cost.
For available space, you need to figure out what size kettle or other items will fit on top of your stove or workspace area. Take, for example, my brewing on my 1 bedroom apartment’s gas stove. I read about the various batch sizes, such as 1 gallon, 3 gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon, etc. Even if I wanted to make 10 gallons at a time, I took some measurements of my area above the stove, and found the largest kettle I could possibly fit there was a 15 gallon one. And that was really cutting it close. So, I knew I couldn’t do 10 gallon batches, since the strike water + buffer room for avoiding boil overs + space for dropping an immersion chiller in (more on that later) meant the huge kettle just wouldnt’ fit. But anyway, the key takeway is to make sure the equipment can fit before you go buy it!
After space considerations, the area you plan to brew is also very important for several reasons. First, and closely related to my batch size, is since I’m cooking on my stove top, my heat source is not very powerful. Even if I could fit a monster 20 gallon kettle and fit 15 gallons of water in it….. my stove would die trying to heat all that! So if you’re brewing in your driveway or garage, and plan to have a powerful propane burner, then you can totally revisit the batch size. But for us urban kitchen warriors, space and stove strength also will keep the size down, and also help you plan for what equipment you’ll need to get started. The “downside” of having to cook on my stove and not use advanced equipment also can be seen as an “upside” since that means less spending.
Speaking of spending, you should come up with a ballpark amount of cashish you are willing to part with to get into the hobby. You can grow into it gradually and get things along the way, but to have your first brew day there are some things you just will have to have. You’ll have to do some research, and also consider this piece of advice (which I read on the reddit.com forums). Many folks pointed out that if you start small, and want to upgrade… you end up buying everything twice and spending a lot more money. It’s a balancing act, but an example is buying a 5 gallon kettle and doing 2.5-3 gallon batches… only to quickly realize you want to brew 5-6 gallon batches and need that 10 gallon kettle now. You end up buying the kettle twice. So the key takeaway here is “measure twice, cut once” if possible. But back on topic: cost is a factor because larger batch sizes means bigger equipment means higher price tags. Just look up a few stainless steel boiling kettles and compare prices as you go from 5 to 10 to 15 gallons.