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Old 12-04-2007, 02:21 PM   #1
AZ_Brew_Dude
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Default Do you REALLY save any money by brewing your own beer?

I know the primary reason to get into homebrewing shouldn't be to save a few bucks on beer. But that's one of the frequent "advantages" I hear, and it doesn't really seem any cheaper. One website I visited even said it's possible to brew a 5 gallon batch of beer for $10-12... maybe 10 years ago???

I just completed my second batch which was EdWorts Apfelwein. The total cost for all the ingredients for that came to only about $16 - so that breaks down to about $8 per "case" of 8.5% hard cider which is great.

But that seems to be the exception. Many of the beer kits I've seen online and at the LHBS go for anywhere from $30-50 (including shipping), and then if you factor in the additional cost of the electricity to run a fridge to keep the fermenter at a constant temperature (lager even more expensive than ale), the cost of the sanitizer solution, etc... it probably comes out to $25, $30, or even more per "case" of homebrew.

So is it really a possibility to brew your own beer for cheaper than commercial beer? Anyone have any good recommendations on either recipe kits, or their own recipes which are cheaper? Again, this isn't my main objective for homebrewing, but it just seems unrealistic to expect to save money by brewing it myself.

Thanks for the advice!

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:22 PM   #2
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well....


being that most six packs around here are 7-8 bucks. And us AG brewers can do a batch for under 10 bucks.


Yea, I'd say so

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:26 PM   #3
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nope..........

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:27 PM   #4
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Are we talking amongst friends here, or are SWMBOs looking over our shoulders?

It's probably a wash at this point (I'm in the hole if you factor in that I drink more now ). The basic gear is one thing, and you CAN save money - but to do things the way I want to do them, I've dropped coin on a fridge, on temperature controllers, on burners, copper for chillers, all kinds of "fixed" costs. Now, the variable cost element is fairly cheap ($15 - $20 of grain, maybe $4 - $5 of propane), but it'll still take a while to pay off all the overhead.

With that said, it's a HOBBY, it's not about the money. Had I taken up restoration of antique cars, for example, I would be much deeper in the hole. It's not the most expensive pastime, but overall, I don't expect to save a lot.

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:32 PM   #5
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And it really depends on what you're comparing it to. I could buy a 30 pack of Old Style for around $10. I can make 5 gallons of homebrew for $20. All grain is much cheaper than extract brewing. Two-row grain is $.89/pound where I shop. I usually use 10-12 pounds per 5 gallon batch, and then add some specialty grains and hops. I reuse yeast, or use dried. Sometimes the recipes use more ingredients, depending on what I'm making. But I don't think I've ever spend more than $30 for the ingredients for a "regular" batch. So, figure around $.50/bottle for homebrew.

Some of the commercial beers I buy are more expensive, like $7 a six pack. I like good beer, and drinking good beer. I'd rather have two really wonderful beers than 6 of something that I don't love. So for me, I save money by making my own beer. But that's not why I do it. I do it because I'm a beer snob!

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:32 PM   #6
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We've done a lot of cost analysis here over the past year. If you factor in ingredients, depreciated fixed equipment cost, energy cost, and even a minimum wage labor rate, you're right (way more expensive than buying). However, this is a hobby and we enjoy doing it even at a loss. It's like saying, "is it really cheaper to go to Mexico to play golf than it is to watch it on TV?" Of course not.

That being said, if I stop buying equipment, stop tweaking the brewery, and keep brewing 10g all grain batches for the next couple years, I'll have broken even on equipment costs. That's when it starts REALLY saving at about $20 for 4 cases of premium beer.

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:33 PM   #7
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In order to really improve your margins you need to do some or all of the following:

  • Go all-grain. Malt Extract is tremendously expensive.
  • Get a grain mill (Barley Crusher).
  • Get a Foodsaver vacuum packaging system.
  • Buy grains in bulk.
  • Buy hops in bulk, and Foodsave them.

Kits are pretty expensive, but if you buy individual ingredients in bulk, you can save a ton. Now, bulk grain is useless without a grain mill, so that's a bit of an investment...and bulk hops will go bad relatively quickly if you don't vacuum seal them and put them in the freezer, so there's another investment. But these are the steps. I can brew a standard OG ale or lager for around $14.

Of course, few people are doing this to actually put money in the bank. For most of us, any $$ saved by buying in bulk and brewing AG is turned around again to pay for new equipment.

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:38 PM   #8
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OK, thanks for the information. I'm brand new to homebrewing, so I haven't even started to read up on AG brewing yet... didn't realize it might be cheaper than extract. But that makes sense.

Although I still think the electricity factor could be significant - especially if brewing a lager which needs to sit for what, 4-6 weeks?

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:41 PM   #9
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Well, again, there are ways around this. Instead of sticking my lager in the fridge, I have a modified cooler in my basement (see my gallery for pictures). I put water in this cooler, and then two ice bottles. In the winter, I change out the water bottles every 3 days and it keeps the temperature at 34 degrees for as long as I want to. (It is a little tougher in the summer, but do-able. I did the Octoberfest the same way)

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Old 12-04-2007, 02:45 PM   #10
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Yeah, I guess that's one of the disadvantages of living in Phoenix, AZ - very few houses actually have basements out here, and it doesn't get too cold to help with lagering. Oh well.

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