For the aspiring homebrewer, the initial equipment expense is often the most expensive part in getting started homebrewing. All homebrew stores carry equipment kits, but the contents and prices vary considerably. Online stores can start as low as $60, and go over $200, where local stores often have kits starting at $80, and go up from there. While these kits are often include the majority of items needed, most do not include everything. In addition, for those interested in brewing but on a tight budget, even the entry level kits can be expensive.
The list compiled below gives examples of many different items that can be had for free or very inexpensive. Both extract and all grain equipment is listed for both unsure of which route to go. Extract will require less equipment in the beginning, but all grain beer is cheaper to make, so the decision is yours based on needs and finances.
BREW POT - A minimum 4 gallon (16 quart) is recommended for extract brewers, and 6 gallon for all grain brewers. For all grain, a 7 gallon is better. Pots can be enamel coated aluminum, stainless steel, or copper. For a lifetime product, stainless steel is a better choice, but it also costs more. Look into garage sales, online classifieds, thrift stores, or even in your own kitchen for these. Sometimes a brewer decides to get out of the hobby and sells old equipment for a fraction of the cost. Some used aluminum pots go for under $10.
MASH TUN - ONLY REQUIRED FOR ALL GRAIN BREWING. Picnic coolers or buckets, outfitted with copper tubing and a spigot is all that is required to build these. A video for a bucket mash tun is available on this site. Mash tuns can be built many different ways. Again, these are only required if you wish to brew all grain beer.
FERMENTERS - Buckets and carboys (glass water jugs). Buckets make great fermenters, but carboys are better because your beer can last longer in them without risk of chemicals from the bucket manufacturing. Ask a deli, bakery, restaurant, or other food service place for their old bucket with a lid. Often times they are thrown away, so usually these places will just give you the bucket. If unable to find them, check into Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, or other places carrying buckets. Check the stamp on the bottom. HDPE 2 is usually food grade. As for carboys, garage sales, auctions, online classifieds, and water distribution companies might have some old glass bottles.
AIRLOCK & STOPPER - Used to keep air out of the fermenter and let inside gas escape. These are very cheap, usually $2-3 for both. If you are unable to get these cheap, a rubber grommet and 3/8" food grade plastic hose coming from the fermenter into a bucket filled with water is fine too. The purpose is simply to keep air out of the fermenter.
THERMOMETER - Checking temperatures during the brewing process. You probably already have one in your kitchen. If not, the dollar stores carry these. It only has to read from 60F to 212F.
MEASURING CUPS - Used during numerous aspects of brewing. Even a plastic cup will work. Dollar stores have these.
HYDROMETER - For measuring alcohol content. You will need to get this from a homebrew supply store.
BOTTLE CAPPER & CAPS - Unless you are kegging, you will need these items. A capper tends to run between $12-15, caps are cheap. A few dollars for large bag.
BOTTLES - Rather than buy them, ask friends and coworkers for their old bottles. Give them free beer in exchange for returning the bottle to you when the beer is gone.