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Old 08-17-2014, 12:55 AM   #81
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Cooking and knitting scarves were two examples, maybe they don't apply to you. However, if you have time available and the desire is to use that time to save or earn money, there are MANY ways to do it. I suspect that homebrewing is one of the least efficient available to most people.

Agreed, however, look around at the threads on this forum, how many of them make ANY mention of saving money by brewing vs. how many clearly show love and appreciation for beer and the process of brewing?

There are a number of thrift oriented forums that talk about ways to save money. I don't take part in them personally, but they're out there. Do any of them have threads on homebrewing? My guess is that they don't. The initial investment of equipment and time involved in brewing just doesn't add up.

Why would that be? Probably because anyone who has seriously looked at it has decided that if you want to save money, the way to do it is drink less beer and drink cheaper beer, not homebrew.

If money is really tight, and you have several hours during which you can brew, I suspect you're much better off finding a way to earn money during that time than homebrewing. I haven't seen any evidence presented to convince me otherwise. Especially when a brewday is usually a several-hour affair, not something you can do with a spare 20 minutes each evening.
I respect your perspective. And you are correct that those who brew to save are in the minority vs those that brew for other reasons. There are lots of ways to save money, yet few have as quick and easy rewards as homebrewing. The initial cost investment is typically 200-300 dollars for all grain brewing. The time involved per batch is usually 6-8 hours total "active time." The money saved is usually around $.40/bottle. At 20 dollars a batch saved you are saving approximately 3 dollars per hour. That seems very very low as compared to other things. Here is where we diverge. I don't spend the 6-8 hours ONLY brewing. I am cooking/cleaning/watering garden/working the budget/being dad. All those things require time anyways so I am doing double duty. Instead of watching tv or reading or any other hobby where the time commitment is nearly 100% I am spending 20% of those 6-8 hours brewing and the rest is being put to good use elsewhere.

Just to clarify, I have nothing against people who don't care about the financial aspect of brewing. I do find it problematic that some people continue to act as though the savings of brewing at home are never actually realized by anyone. It would be tantamount to me saying you should never cook your own meals as a way of saving money because the cost of the stove, fuel, and groceries will mean you never break even. Especially when you factor in your time spent cooking and shopping. Maybe people out there actually think like that, but around here people have a strong DIY saves money mentality and I have adopted it and put it to, I hope, good use.
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Old 08-17-2014, 01:04 AM   #82
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Also, Talldan, I did a quick search for "money" on the forums and got 33k results. A search for "quality" only yielded 28k results. I didn't go past the first page of results for either but it was surprising to me none the less. Oddly even "ruin" only turned up 7k hits. While "help" yielded 180k hits. Sometimes the things we experience seem to take more precedence in our mind then the objective truths of the situation. Not a dig at you, just an observation on what we both assumed to be true.

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Old 08-17-2014, 04:48 PM   #83
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Also, Talldan, I did a quick search for "money" on the forums and got 33k results. A search for "quality" only yielded 28k results. I didn't go past the first page of results for either but it was surprising to me none the less. Oddly even "ruin" only turned up 7k hits. While "help" yielded 180k hits. Sometimes the things we experience seem to take more precedence in our mind then the objective truths of the situation. Not a dig at you, just an observation on what we both assumed to be true.
Well, here's how I account for my homebrew budget:

I've spent nearly $1,000 on brewing equipment. Carboys, pots, fermentation temp control cooler and all sorts of misc hoses, parts, etc.

I've spent nearly $1,000 on serving. Upright 4 tap keezer, kegs, hardware, regulators, etc.

I've certainly spent more than I had to for convenience and some things that I just thought were cool, but I'm still on the low end compared to many people here.

Now, before i started homebrewing, i was buying sixtels of craft beer for ~$110. On average, i figure I spent $50 per batch on my extract kit batches, and $25 per batch on my all grain (bulk buying base malt and popular hops, doing some yeast propagation.) In the 21 months since I started, I've brewed 4 extract kits and 17 all grain batches. Quick arithmetic says that I've spent $1685 less on ingredients than I would have on sixtels of craft beer. I need to do 4 more all-grain batches to break even on what I've spent on homebrewing equipment.

Now, a hobby that a net cost to me of $315 over almost 2 years is pretty damn cheap. If you figure I spent 9 hours per batch (reasonable, maybe even low estimate for all-grain given the time I'll spend from planning to yeast starter to kegging) that means it has cost me $1.66/hr to homebrew and that figure is dropping quickly. On top of that, I've had countless hours on this forum, and with local homebrew clubs.

However, to save money, two years to break even with this is terrible. Yes, I could certainly have spent less on my brewing equipment, but there's plenty of it that I spent just to save time on my brew day. Even if you reduce my equipment to what's needed to brew all grain with bulk purchased base malt, there's still at least $500 there.

If you're looking to save money, 8 (5 gallon) batches a year should keep beer in the fridge. Much beyond that is brewing to drink more and not to save money for the purpose of this estimate. Let's say that you intend to get 5 years of use out of your $500 of equipment (reasonable).

Equipment: $500
Ingredients: $25 * 8 (batches per year) * 5 (years) = $1000
Time: 9hours * 8 * 5 = 360 hours
----
Cost for 5 years of homebrewed beer: $1500 + 360 hours

and for buying craft beer:
$80 (two cases of reasonable craft beer, equivalent to a homebrewed batch) * 8 * 5 = $3,200

So: ($3,200-$1,500)/360=$4.72/hr

That's much less than minimum wage. Here in Illinois, that less than tipped minimum wage. On top of that, I think my numbers are probably pretty generous and that rate would likely be lower. Everyone's situation is different, but personally, that's not worth my time if i didn't enjoy brewing. You can make more than that mowing lawns on weekends, picking up one shift a week as a bartender, or many other ways.

We're also ignoring that fact that brewing is a learned skill. With no time spent learning the process, you're likely to end up with a couple of dumper batches in the first year which will make your numbers even worse.

I'll admit, those numbers, with minimal upfront investment are more favorable for homebrewing than I thought. I'm sure people will argue many of the points above, but it seems to me to be a reasonable set of assumptions.

If you currently drink two beers a week at a restaurant or bar, you could save just as much by having those two beers a week at home instead. (Assuming a beer at a bar or restaurant costs $3 more than the one at home.)

So, I'll stick to my answer. As a hobby, homebrewing is phenomenal. You can do something you enjoy, learn more about beer and you can buy cool brewing toys with the money you save on beer. But as a method to strictly save yourself money, it's not great. Just drink less beer and drink cheaper beer and you'll save more.
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Old 08-17-2014, 05:22 PM   #84
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I like to look at it this way, I brew about 15 gallons a month. A lot of experimental beers but a few that are regulars. My regular beers, obviously my favorites, are brewed only by me. Can't by them anywhere in the world. So if only 10 gallons of a beer are made a year what would the price tag of that beer be.
I think I am saving thousands!!!

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Old 08-17-2014, 05:28 PM   #85
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This is a debate that seems to come up on here quite often. I'm on the side that says if you try, you can definitely save money.

Where I do what I can to keep costs down, I don't really concern myself with it all that much. It's my main hobby, so I treat it as such. Do people fly model airplanes to save money? How about buying a new set of golf clubs to save money?

Personally I'd rather cut other things out of my life, such as golf, eating out, buying other beer, to keep me brewing. I like the process as much as drinking it.

As I said, I really do believe it's possible to save money brewing your own beer, but I wonder how much enjoyment it really brings if all you are concerned about is saving money. At that point, are you really brewing what you'd like to drink or are you just brewing what you can for the cheapest amount of money? That's always my biggest issue with focusing on the "Cost of Brewing."

Although, with some craft beer costing as much as $10/sixer, I know I'm brewing good beer for cheaper than that. I have a pretty basic set up and haven't dropped a lot of cash on it. So I'm basically down to cost of grain, hops, yeast, gas and water at this point.

I know a lot of people like to say you have to figure in labor, but in my opinion, that's the whole point of DIY, to not pay labor. If the money doesn't physically come out of my savings account, then I saved that money. It's a hobby, not a business and should be treated that way.

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Old 08-17-2014, 07:15 PM   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TallDan View Post
Well, here's how I account for my homebrew budget:

I've spent nearly $1,000 on brewing equipment. Carboys, pots, fermentation temp control cooler and all sorts of misc hoses, parts, etc.

I've spent nearly $1,000 on serving. Upright 4 tap keezer, kegs, hardware, regulators, etc.

I've certainly spent more than I had to for convenience and some things that I just thought were cool, but I'm still on the low end compared to many people here.

Now, before i started homebrewing, i was buying sixtels of craft beer for ~$110. On average, i figure I spent $50 per batch on my extract kit batches, and $25 per batch on my all grain (bulk buying base malt and popular hops, doing some yeast propagation.) In the 21 months since I started, I've brewed 4 extract kits and 17 all grain batches. Quick arithmetic says that I've spent $1685 less on ingredients than I would have on sixtels of craft beer. I need to do 4 more all-grain batches to break even on what I've spent on homebrewing equipment.

Now, a hobby that a net cost to me of $315 over almost 2 years is pretty damn cheap. If you figure I spent 9 hours per batch (reasonable, maybe even low estimate for all-grain given the time I'll spend from planning to yeast starter to kegging) that means it has cost me $1.66/hr to homebrew and that figure is dropping quickly. On top of that, I've had countless hours on this forum, and with local homebrew clubs.

However, to save money, two years to break even with this is terrible. Yes, I could certainly have spent less on my brewing equipment, but there's plenty of it that I spent just to save time on my brew day. Even if you reduce my equipment to what's needed to brew all grain with bulk purchased base malt, there's still at least $500 there.

If you're looking to save money, 8 (5 gallon) batches a year should keep beer in the fridge. Much beyond that is brewing to drink more and not to save money for the purpose of this estimate. Let's say that you intend to get 5 years of use out of your $500 of equipment (reasonable).

Equipment: $500
Ingredients: $25 * 8 (batches per year) * 5 (years) = $1000
Time: 9hours * 8 * 5 = 360 hours
----
Cost for 5 years of homebrewed beer: $1500 + 360 hours

and for buying craft beer:
$80 (two cases of reasonable craft beer, equivalent to a homebrewed batch) * 8 * 5 = $3,200

So: ($3,200-$1,500)/360=$4.72/hr

That's much less than minimum wage. Here in Illinois, that less than tipped minimum wage. On top of that, I think my numbers are probably pretty generous and that rate would likely be lower. Everyone's situation is different, but personally, that's not worth my time if i didn't enjoy brewing. You can make more than that mowing lawns on weekends, picking up one shift a week as a bartender, or many other ways.

We're also ignoring that fact that brewing is a learned skill. With no time spent learning the process, you're likely to end up with a couple of dumper batches in the first year which will make your numbers even worse.

I'll admit, those numbers, with minimal upfront investment are more favorable for homebrewing than I thought. I'm sure people will argue many of the points above, but it seems to me to be a reasonable set of assumptions.

If you currently drink two beers a week at a restaurant or bar, you could save just as much by having those two beers a week at home instead. (Assuming a beer at a bar or restaurant costs $3 more than the one at home.)

So, I'll stick to my answer. As a hobby, homebrewing is phenomenal. You can do something you enjoy, learn more about beer and you can buy cool brewing toys with the money you save on beer. But as a method to strictly save yourself money, it's not great. Just drink less beer and drink cheaper beer and you'll save more.
Fair points all around. It was interesting that as a hobby you were accounting for dollar/hr differently than most people do in this kind of debate. I hear ya on making more mowing lawns on weekends for 8 hours vs brewing if money was your only concern. The fact that you can save money at all is great. I think the biggest thing with the cash is that you can drink like a king on a peasants budget when you make it yourself vs buying it. I could never spend 180/month on high end craft beer and feel ok with that. But I can brew comparable beers for 50-80 bucks/month and not feel like that is getting out of hand money wise.
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Old 08-17-2014, 07:44 PM   #87
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Fair points all around. It was interesting that as a hobby you were accounting for dollar/hr differently than most people do in this kind of debate. I hear ya on making more mowing lawns on weekends for 8 hours vs brewing if money was your only concern. The fact that you can save money at all is great. I think the biggest thing with the cash is that you can drink like a king on a peasants budget when you make it yourself vs buying it. I could never spend 180/month on high end craft beer and feel ok with that. But I can brew comparable beers for 50-80 bucks/month and not feel like that is getting out of hand money wise.
Well, it was an eye opening exercise (before i started homebrewing) when I started using mint.com and it kept an "alcohol & bars" budget for me. Great beer isn't cheap. The downside is, while homebrewing cut down on some bulk craft beer buying for me, I still spend a fair amount of money on beer. Instead of going into a bottle shop and buying two $8-10 six packs and 2-3 more expensive bombers, i go in less frequently and buy one six pack and 5 bombers.

I think most homebrewers overestimate the quality of their beer, honestly. I've never had a batch that I've considered a dumper, but there have been at least a few that if I bought as commercial craft beer I would never buy again. A batch or two have been really great, but i'll bet in a blind taste tests my beer wouldn't fare all that well. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beerholder, so all that matters is that you enjoy your beer.

And in the big picture, I think a lot of people start these threads because they want to justify their hobby to someone else in their life (spouse, friends, parents, whoever). If you want to justify it as a fun hobby that is as cheap as you want it to be, i'm 100% on your side, I love it, and pretty soon all of my equipment will have paid for itself. (Just in time to buy more!) But if you are really on a tight budget and try to justify spending thousands on some of the cool brew stands and/or electric setups that you see on this site by saying that it's going to save you money, no. You had better check your spreadsheets after you've sobered up and then admit to SWMBO that you can just drink less and pick up a part time job in the evenings or put in some overtime.

So, to directly answer the title of this thread, homebrewing to save money is a terrible investment of time. No matter what you do, the beer still costs money, so to save money, drink less beer. To enjoy beer, homebrew!
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Old 08-17-2014, 08:08 PM   #88
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My setup has cost me exactly $117.23....so it has been an incredible cost savings. Also I've gotten to the point where my beer is good enough to trade for heady, commercial expensive beers

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