Do I understand this bulk grain thing correctly?

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Belgian Samurai

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Hi,

Okay, so I'm seriously considering investing in bulk grain, but I want to make sure I understand the logistics as well as "what i will still need".

Backstory:
I was working downstairs in my (bare-bones) "tap room" and left the storage cabinet door open and a couple mice got in there and made a mess. I didn't realize I had a mouse problem. I don't anymore. I ended up throwing away all of the ruined ingredients I had purchased for a specific recipe and now, to replace the grains is gonna run about $30, so I am now considering just biting the bullet and go for bulk grain. Also, buying ingredients per batch is costing me like $50/recipe.

What I've read:
Pilsner
US 2row
Maris Otter

Styles I'm likely to brew:
wheat, IPA, helles lager, ales in general
So, mostly ales, but I recently had a helles lager that was amazing and I want to brew that pretty soon. Over the summer I brewed a clone of KBBA. My brother-in-law wants me to make a clone of Einstok's White Ale. Down the road, I want to brew darker belgian ales.

What do I still need to know:
So, I will sort out bulk grain storage and factor that into the cost. I have already started a thread on that topic and have the info I need there. I can buy specialty grains from my LHBS as I write recipes. I have mentally figured in the cost of a grain milll. I've also found a decent vaccum sealer. Is there something else I need to consider being the first time I'm getting into bulk grains?

Thanks and cheers!
🍻
 

PCABrewing

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I use food grade buckets with gamma lids for storage. Each bucket holds 25-30 pounds of ground.

I average $20-$25 per six gallon batch on ingredients. It's worth it to me.

Some things like Caramel 80 I only buy in 5 or 10 pound bags.
I second the Buckets and Gamma lids as Beerstein suggests.

You can get them at Menards and likely other big box stores.
The buckets come in at least two colors white and green.
You should make sure the buckets say "Food Grade" but I bet the same buckets are sold without that declaration if the vendor doesn't want to pay the price of being able to claim that, pure speculation on my part. I believe they are HDPE which is by default food safe IIRC.

For the small bags of specialty grains I just squeeze the air out and store multiple bags in bucket. So all my grain is in buckets.

Those buckets are apparently very popular with "preppers" for obvious reasons.
They will likely last a lifetime and they're reasonable price.
 

TestTickle

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2-row, pilsner and Maris Otter are the three base grains I regularly buy in bulk. On occasion, I also will buy pale or white wheat.

I use these for my bulk, unmilled base grains. They hold up to 60 lbs - Pet Supplies : Gamma Vault Airtight Container With Measuring Cup (Super Storage 16 Gallons) : Pet Food Storage Products : Amazon.com
I mill and store up to 15 lbs of base grain in these - Pet Supplies : Gamma2 Vittles Vault Outback Food Storage Container, 15 Pounds : Pet Food Storage Products : Amazon.com

Like @Beerstein, I buy my specialty grain in much smaller quantities. I have smaller (and cheaper) airtight containers for those.
 

PCABrewing

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I get about 1 bag of whole grain to two buckets.
Some comes in 50 lb and some in 55 lb bags. I think the last bag of Maris Otter (Crisp) I bought came in a 55 lb bag, while Rahr and Briess were 50 lb.
Either way I'd guess you need 6 buckets to store base malts as you describe. You might also pickup one additional for specialty and one with just a snap on lid for a crush bucket (to catch the output of your mill.
At my Menards the lids (Gamma and simple snap-on) are sold within a foot or so of the buckets.
I would splurge on the Gamma's because they are a better seal in my opinion.
The buckets and lids will last almost forever.
 

Beerstein

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I second the Buckets and Gamma lids as Beerstein suggests.

You can get them at Menards and likely other big box stores.
The buckets come in at least two colors white and green.
You should make sure the buckets say "Food Grade" but I bet the same buckets are sold without that declaration if the vendor doesn't want to pay the price of being able to claim that, pure speculation on my part. I believe they are HDPE which is by default food safe IIRC.

For the small bags of specialty grains I just squeeze the air out and store multiple bags in bucket. So all my grain is in buckets.

Those buckets are apparently very popular with "preppers" for obvious reasons.
They will likely last a lifetime and they're reasonable price.

Don't use the colored Home depot buckets. Those have dyes and plasticizers in them that are not healthy.

I've been getting my buckets from Walmart lately and the lids from Amazon.
 

magno

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I also use plastic storage containers for my bulk grains... I use one marketed for dog food, and it holds a full 55lb bag.

1635883627948.png

I typically keep Marris Otter on hand, and get specialty grains for each recipe. Often I'll have a few bags of grains that I use a lot in with the marris otter.

I also buy hops in bulk and occasionally supplement with hops from the LHBS - these are kept in the kegerator though.

That and a grain mill...
 

Deadalus

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If you brew wheat a lot you could bump up to the big sack. I just go with 10 lb bags. Other 10 lb purchases are munich and vienna malts. So I have some Cambros that I bought for those, but it took two Cambros for each 10 lbs. Most everything else trickles down to 1-3 lb buys except maybe Crystal 20 I buy in 5 lbs.
 

PCABrewing

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I also use plastic storage containers for my bulk grains... I use one marketed for dog food, and it holds a full 55lb bag.

View attachment 747653
I typically keep Marris Otter on hand, and get specialty grains for each recipe. Often I'll have a few bags of grains that I use a lot in with the marris otter.

I also buy hops in bulk and occasionally supplement with hops from the LHBS - these are kept in the kegerator though.

That and a grain mill...
I have one of those for dog food they have the Gamma lid too.
They would be easier to get my scoop out of when the scoop is full. With my buckets I need to tilt them when reaching the lower levels. otherwise I can only pull about a level scoop at a time.
 

KBW PilotHouse

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As of a week or two go, those 60# Vittle Vaults were on sale for $26ea on Amazon.
Yep, and thanks for your posting the info here I have two of these coming. I also ordered two of the 30# Vittles Vaults and just sent them back this morning. They were great quality but an odd size for grain storage.

I‘ve been using the food grade buckets with gamma seal lids for years, and always seem to find a ”reason” to justify more. We’re in a hurricane area so they get double duty as fresh water buckets. Food grade buckets get two thumbs up.👍👍

The orange Home Depot buckets serve a purpose - for cleaning solutions and soaking parts. The color differentiates them from food grade, so my wife knows which ones she can use for landscaping- LOL.
 

Transamguy77

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I’ve got orange, blue and white 5 gallon buckets that I store my grains in. if your concerned about oxygen you could line the bucket with a trash bag.

When you buy specialty grains buy them in 5-10 lb increments, sometimes it’s cheaper than by the pound and also you have grains in case you have a spur of the moment brew and then you’ll have them “in stock”.

Buying grains in bulk is a game changer, it’s cheaper, they are on hand and you can brew when you want to.
 
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Knightshade

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Don't use the colored Home depot buckets. Those have dyes and plasticizers in them that are not healthy.

I've been getting my buckets from Walmart lately and the lids from Amazon.

So I’ve got some grain in a HD bucket with a sealing..I’m assuming gamma type of lid. The grains are unmilled in a taped paper bag as that is how the LHBS packages them for pickup. This…is okay right?

My tentative brew schedule is about two weeks out.
 

Beerstein

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So I’ve got some grain in a HD bucket with a sealing..I’m assuming gamma type of lid. The grains are unmilled in a taped paper bag as that is how the LHBS packages them for pickup. This…is okay right?

My tentative brew schedule is about two weeks out.

Im not sure I can tell you. Less risk the shorter term and if no direct contact. Less risk if the paper bag has a liner. A lot of it comes down to your risk tolerance.
 

bracconiere

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So I’ve got some grain in a HD bucket with a sealing..I’m assuming gamma type of lid. The grains are unmilled in a taped paper bag as that is how the LHBS packages them for pickup. This…is okay right?

My tentative brew schedule is about two weeks out.


i'd get little bugs if i let the grain sit too long......but if you have gamma lids, should be alright?
 
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I’ve got orange, blue and white 5 gallon buckets that I store my grains in. if your concerned about oxygen you could line the bucket with a trash bag.

When you buy specialty grains buy them in 5-10 lb increments, sometimes it’s cheaper than by the pound and also you have grains in case you have a spur of the moment brew and then you’ll have them “in stock”.

Buying grains in bulk is a game changer, it’s cheaper, they are on hand and you can brew when you want to.
Trash bags are often a bad idea. They are most likely not food safe and in some cases contain scents and/or anti microbial chemicals.
 

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I use Buddeez 12-1/2-Gallon Roll-Away Pet Food Dispenser. They are nice because they can be rolled around and a 55 Lb bag fits in them in the bag and smaller airtight containers for specialty grains. the buddeez are expensive on amazon right now, but can be found at Tractor Supply, Fleet farm, ect.
 

Shenanigans

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Not sure where you can source them in the US but I have about 5 of these blue chemical barrels in different sizes with an air tight closure ring.
I got them used over 5 years ago through Ebay from a guy working in the food industry for 10 to 15 euro each depending on the size.
They will probably last a lifetime and cost a lot more now than then.
They were spotless clean and oudorless when I got them but I still washed them out a few times.
Don't mind the mess, we are in the middle of cleaning out the basement :ghostly:

20211103_122918[1].jpg


The bigger ones (200 or 240 litres I think) can hold three 55lb sacks which I have filled with Pale Ale, Pilsner, Maris Otter, Munich, Golden Promise, Wheat and Vienna. The others are then full of 1 to 2 Kg bags of special malts and flakes of which I have about 30 to 40 different types.
Sometimes a bit of a pain when searching for one specific malt amoung them all :p
 

marc1

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Trash bags are often a bad idea. They are most likely not food safe and in some cases contain scents and/or anti microbial chemicals.

The giant (XL and XXL) Ziploc brand bags are food safe and easily line a 5 gallon or larger bucket.
 

Knightshade

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Im not sure I can tell you. Less risk the shorter term and if no direct contact. Less risk if the paper bag has a liner. A lot of it comes down to your risk tolerance.
i'd get little bugs if i let the grain sit too long......but if you have gamma lids, should be alright?

I put the paper bag into the bucket to keep away the bugs and varmints. Local Home Depot actually didn't have the regular Homer orange lids (plenty of buckets tho....kinda odd), so I got the black gamma lid the other week.

Just looked, and they also have white food safe buckets and lids w/seals at one that is fairly close by so I'll go pick one up and transfer to be on the safe side. I have one of those 55G Vittles Vaults, but I keep the more important dog food in that one.
 

Brewer Mike

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The mill is the biggest investment. I got a Cereal Killer (love some of the names they come up with) from AIH on sale for about $100, which I've been happy with.
Both HD and Lowes sell versions of the Gamma lids for $8.78 & $7.98 (respectively).
 

sicktght311

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I use the Vittles Vaults as well for all my base grain and bulk grain storage. They stack, adn they're easy to open and access. As for the grains, i typically purchase when on sale, but shipping on bulk grain sacks is often a bit expensive. I've found it cheaper to buy the 10lb bags from MoreBeer, up to about 50lbs, and that saves me with free shipping. It ends up costing less for 50lbs of 10lb bags with free shipping, than 1x 55lb sack paying for shipping. Done this for years so maybe i'm just outdated and theres another online vendor that sells 55lb sacks at reasonable prices with shipping.

Specialty grains i typically buy in 5lb bags and store them away in dollar store containers. They're fairly well sealed, and ive never had a problem. I have about 10-15 of those tucked away with common specialty grains like Crystals, Flaked items, and whatnot.
 

tennesseean_87

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If you're buddies with a local brewer and he'll get you wholesale pricing the savings are amazing. $45 for Barke Pils ain't no joke. Otherwise, shipping kills most deals online. LHBS where I am sells for OK prices, but not great. IIRC, it was about $80 after tax when I bought some German pils. American 2-row is cheaper, and both are cheaper than buying from him by the lb.

When I was in North Dakota, there was a guy in the club who would regularly travel to the Twin Cities for work and he'd stock us all up at Midwest or Northern Brewer since he didn't have to pay shipping. Also, Ritebrew was up there and had a cheaper shipping service that was alright on orders that were within a state or two. These are OK options if you're remotely local to a good supplier.

I do all 4-5 gallon buckets. Base malts go into the buckets, specialty malts in their bags in buckets. I'll often grab the specialty malts from the LHBS 30 min away if I'm in the area, or sometimes I'll order if I need enough and don't want to drive.

As others have mentioned, if you do lots of wheat beers some bulk wheat may be in order (just mill it tighter than your other grain because it's smaller). If you have a brewing buddy that'll split a bag with you that's a great option.
 

Transamguy77

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Trash bags are often a bad idea. They are most likely not food safe and in some cases contain scents and/or anti microbial chemicals.
Didn’t know that, I do not use bags but I know other guys that do and have for years. I’ve had grains in buckets for a couple of years at times and never had an issue.
 

lumbergh

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+1 for Vittles Vault. Sometimes Costco has the big ones for $20-25.

My LHBS has a deal where you pay for 55 lb bulk price for grain up front and they deduct each time you go to the store so you don't have to store it.
 

PCABrewing

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Trash bags are often a bad idea. They are most likely not food safe and in some cases contain scents and/or anti microbial chemicals.
And they won't slow a mouse down for a second.
At least buckets will make them work for it.
 
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Didn’t know that, I do not use bags but I know other guys that do and have for years. I’ve had grains in buckets for a couple of years at times and never had an issue.

Do what works for you. I tend to be on the conservative side with chemicals in my body. (Other than alcohol of course!) I favored glass and now stainless for my fermenter for instance.

I’m no biologist or chemist, so I tend to just stay on the safe side. I know in could eat off of a lot of unsafe things for a long time, but I would hate to regret that some day down the line if it made me sick.

But, you do you.
 
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Haven't read all the replies but looking at your list , just add the wheat in bulk as well. Man if you plan on brewing wheat beers you're going to need bulk wheat. And I haven't met many recipes that couldn't use a little wheat ;) also when I had my homebrew store we used the vittle vault that you could get from Costco. We had roughly 80 of them in our Grain room at one time or another. They work absolutely fantastic and will hold a 55 lb bag of grain with no problem.

Good luck with it! Have fun having a boatload of grain on hand. I see a few 2AM brew sessions in your future :)

Cheers
Jay
 

Everhard

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I also buy my base grains in bulk but haven't tried specialty grains - for those of you who do, how long have you stored speciality grains and have you noticed and degradation after a period of time? (What timeframe if that's the case?

Thanks,
E.
 

Spivey24

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Those vittle vaults are great for full bags, but can take a lot of space when you have several half bags. I use the Lowe’s white food grade buckets which are pretty cheap. They are a bit more versatile for me for storage and I can dump them and weigh out and grind back into them easily. Depends on your storage space. Anything extra goes in 2 gallon zip locks which can hold 11 lbs.

I usually get 55lb / 25Kg bags of pils, marris otter, and Vienna. The Vienna lasts longer but I like it in a lot of recipes rather than darker malts.

For the grinder I have the Monster 3 roller which I love. It’s a beast. So much better than the 2 roller I had that I had to do a double pass on and would always get stuck. I hook it up to my Dewalt 20v drill and it tears through grain and is nice and portable.
 

Spivey24

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And one other thing, the best thing about having bulk grain is I can brew when I get a chance and don’t have to run to the LHBS each time. Just keep some yeast and hops around and I can crush and go anytime. Improvise a recipe for whatever I have on hand.
 

Chuckbergman

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Check with your local grocery store that has a bakery, or a local bakery/donut shop. They get many of their ingredients in white food-safe buckets with lids that hold about 20# of grain. They often give them away or charge a minimal fee.
 

Golddiggie

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I'm using a combination of 13 gallon (IIRC) blue barrels (locking lids with o-rings that I bought several years back) and 6 gallon Vittles Vaults for the sacks of grain I've purchased. Last week I received four sacks of Crisp No. 19 Maris Otter grain. Each of the blue barrels easily holds a sack. Two of the 6 gallon VV's can hold a 55# sack with a bit of room to spare. I have a total of four of the blue barrels, but one is holding sealed (vacuum sealed) backs of specialty grains. I also have a couple of large totes with more vacuum packed bags of grains (different weights, broken down into increments I typically use).

With the buckets and barrels I've never had any issue with things getting into the grains. Even with the totes, since I also vacuum pack the grains. I do have the last of the first sack I bought (a couple of months back) of MO in additional sealed containers.

I'd advise not getting more grain than you expect to use in the coming 6-12 months. Mill/crush on brew day and you'll not have any issues.

I'm looking into getting some 3.5 gallon buckets (white, food grade) to hold some of the grains I buy more of at a time (typically getting 10# at a shot). I have four Gamma lids waiting for buckets to go onto. I had planned to use those on 6 gallon buckets, but the VV's were a good rate (on Amazon) and made enough sense to go with.
 

Elric

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You can always check with your lhbs or brewing club to see if they ever do bulk buys on grains. We have ones organized here, usually one in the spring and one in the fall. No shipping charges and the prices are usually a good 30-40% off the regular full bag price. Just have to be able to pickup in a specific time window.
 

DavidWood2115

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I also buy my base grains in bulk but haven't tried specialty grains - for those of you who do, how long have you stored speciality grains and have you noticed and degradation after a period of time? (What timeframe if that's the case?

Thanks,
E.
It is somewhat counterintuitive (To me at least), but according to Briess’s product detail pages many specialty malts last longer (e.g., slight flavor degradation after 18 months) than base malts (best by 6 months). Apparently the diastatic enzymes degrade faster than the flavors oxidize.
 

Deadalus

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I like to advance scout the LHBS in the areas I travel to and will pick up the big sacks if they are available. Always a pleasure to wander around the store too.
 

Golddiggie

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You can always check with your lhbs or brewing club to see if they ever do bulk buys on grains. We have ones organized here, usually one in the spring and one in the fall. No shipping charges and the prices are usually a good 30-40% off the regular full bag price. Just have to be able to pickup in a specific time window.
IME, it depends on the grain and the LHBS you visit. The LHBS I use sells full sacks of Crisp No. 19 for $70 (~$1.27 a pound). End cost for the group buy was $1/#. Not a huge difference, but enough when you get enough sacks at a time. ;)
 

tennesseean_87

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Haven't read all the replies but looking at your list , just add the wheat in bulk as well. Man if you plan on brewing wheat beers you're going to need bulk wheat. And I haven't met many recipes that couldn't use a little wheat ;) also when I had my homebrew store we used the vittle vault that you could get from Costco. We had roughly 80 of them in our Grain room at one time or another. They work absolutely fantastic and will hold a 55 lb bag of grain with no problem.

Good luck with it! Have fun having a boatload of grain on hand. I see a few 2AM brew sessions in your future :)

Cheers
Jay

Yeah, I like throwing wheat in stuff, too. IPAs, Hazy IPAs, Saison, and then of course wheat beers.

You can always check with your lhbs or brewing club to see if they ever do bulk buys on grains. We have ones organized here, usually one in the spring and one in the fall. No shipping charges and the prices are usually a good 30-40% off the regular full bag price. Just have to be able to pickup in a specific time window.

Is your club buying direct from a distributor? I'd love to save more than what I can get at the LHBS on base malts.
 

porterguy

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A lot of cities have organized group buys. Not sure a list exists, but a lot of them you can find on this site by searching "Chicago Group Buy" for example. They can really save you a lot of money, and you may very well be able to split bags with other people of grains when you don't need a full bag.
 
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