How can I save money on brew day?

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BeardedBrews

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Where could I focus on lowering costs, even if it requires equipment/time investment?

I like that this thread is still motoring along even though the OP seems to be gone :D Come on back Medic and help us understand why the hops for your 1.050 pale ale set you back $4/oz and who is selling the $1.50/gallon RO water.

The common theme is find a better source for hops, by the pound would be ideal and vacuum seal the extra. Then get water carboy and buy your RO in something other than 1-gallon jugs. Finally, you might be able to save a little money on grain in bulk, but $1.37/pound is not too terrible.

Good luck!
 

mousehunter

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If you live in a rural community, you may have friends who have good well water.

My wife occasionally buys bulk wheett for bread, going to try home malting.

I have kept liquid yeast strains alive, but eventually just went to dry yeists. That said, dry yeast is not as cheap as it used to be.

Once upon a time I was trying to break under $2/gallon. Last 2 batches (I have not brewed for forever), were closer to $10. From the LBS ( "local" about 100 miles away) all grain kits are not much cheaper than extract.
 

aprichman

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If I had more dedicated space for brewing I would go back to harvesting yeast.

I haven't been maximizing savings lately so my typical brew day costs:

~$15 grain
~$5 hops
$4 water
$7 yeast
~$5 caps, brewing salts, nutrients, campden, fining, priming, cleaning chemicals, sanitizing chemicals
~$5 electricity (hot cleaning water, fermentation chamber, boiling priming solution), propane

All said I'm probably making beer at ~$8/gallon. With equipment cost factored in its probably closer to $9, I've brewed more than a couple hundred gallons of beer and have spent around $1000.

If I had more space I would be buying grain in bulk and milling it myself and also reusing harvested yeast. I would invest in an RO filter so I don't have to buy from the machines at $2/5 gallons and also look into using my cleaning water more efficiently.
 

bucketnative

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Man, as someone who doesn't brew IPAs, I have to say that the hop bill was a shock to the system. My taste buds seem to have shifted me away from IPAs over the past few years (although Terrapin's Mosaic has come into my recent rota of beers), and I have really been focusing on wits and saisons, which typically have very restrained hop requirements.

I have been saving money by reusing yeast for a few generations.

I also started using Philly city water, which from everyone I have talked to, is pretty good for brewing. I haven't yet explored RO water and salt profiles.

Another savings for me... doing away with hop bags.
 

Magnus314

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Half a pack of dry yeast is enough for a 5 gallon batch pitch. Biermuncher has a thread about that here somewhere.

And if you save the slurry in a jar in the fridge, about a cup will get all but the highest gravity beers going fast.
 

CBelli

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Hops by the pound always
Bulk grain (50# sacks)
My water thankfully is good for brewing
Reusing yeast
Cant see any other way to save money aside from brewing light beer all the time

Agree with JonnyRotten.... save money buying in bulk


Crisp Pale Ale Malt (good stuff ) for $62 a sack of 55lbs LHBS
Plain 2 row domestic ~$50 for 50 pounds LHBS
Hops from $15-25 a pound labelpeelers.com
Check your tap water $20+ for water is nuts.
$4 for a pack of S05

Last time I priced a good hoppy IPA cost me $20.00-$25.00 for 5 gallons
 

easydays

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Hops are always expensive and sometimes unavailable. I grow my own! Lots of fun and lots of FREE hops! They grow like alien weeds and after the 2nd year you will reap the bennys. The first two years are slow, second year only got a few pounds, last year had so many was giving away what I didn't figure I would brew with, that is after I bagged and placed in freezer enough to brew for a year!
 

3puttpete

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Another cost saving area. Our Costco has propane refills for about $7.50 for an empty 20# tank. Also, they only charge you for what they put in, so you can bring partial tanks.

My brew day is 2- 10 gallon batches.

Water - I have a well for irrigation. Water is great for brewing.
Yeast - washed and re used
Grains for both batches shipped for under $75.
Bulk hops for about $20 per lb so, a bit over a lb for 20 gallons
two 20# tank will get me through 2 brew days = 2 * $7.50 = $15 for 20 gallons of beer.

All told
$75 grains - shipped
$20 hops
$5 yeast (restock once per year)
$15 Propane (2 tanks)
$5 Misc - sanitizer, co2 etc
------------
$120 for 20 gallons. or about $6 per gallon

Also, Just planted 8 rhizomes. Bought 6 on ebay and they included 9 for $20. One did not sprout.
Used stuff around the house and bought about $20 in misc stuff to get the structure.

Should easily get 8 lbs per year (dried) starting 2017. So, yes, that should be a major ongoing cost saving.

It is a hobby. The time spent is not insignificant. But, then neither is golf
Somehow a great tasting $1.00 craft beer is more satisfying than a great tasting $6.00 craft beer.
 

Kiknjville

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Look for the RO re-fill water dispensers in your local grocery stores. .25 a gallon here. Just need to save the plastic jugs to re-fill
 

DrinknBuddy

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Don't forget the cost of the cooling water. Here in New Mexico it's my highest bill. $70.00/mth in the winter and over $100.00/mth in the summer. I send my hot water to the washer and do a load of laundry.

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nmenninga

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No one seems to have mentioned saving a jar of wort in the freezer for next batch, in place of buying DME for starters. I usually dump the cold break from the bottom of the boil pot into a cone filter into a jar on brew day, save maybe 3/4 qt, freeze it, and save the expense of DME every time I do a starter.
 

BeardedBrews

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Man, as someone who doesn't brew IPAs, I have to say that the hop bill was a shock to the system.

I don't think there are many people using $26 in hops for every 10-gallon batch they make, but it's not hard to get there when you're brewing an IPA.

I use about 10oz of Centennial in an 11g batch of 2-Hearted, $12+S/H if I buy it from YakimaValley, or $20 from the LHBS.
 

bucketnative

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Don't forget the cost of the cooling water... I send my hot water to the washer and do a load of laundry.

The other night I was running with a guy from San Diego who had a business developing water reclamation systems for commercial brewers. After running and talking with him, it got me thinking about my own process water... I like that idea. In the summer I might route it out to our rain barrel, depending on how wet the summer is in PA. But, the washer is an alternative. So is my mop bucket for cleaning the kitchen floor after brewing. Lot's of possible uses.
 

jmcquesten

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The other night I was running with a guy from San Diego who had a business developing water reclamation systems for commercial brewers. After running and talking with him, it got me thinking about my own process water... I like that idea. In the summer I might route it out to our rain barrel, depending on how wet the summer is in PA. But, the washer is an alternative. So is my mop bucket for cleaning the kitchen floor after brewing. Lot's of possible uses.

I run my cooling water to the garden sprinkler during the summer. The fist bit of really hot water from the chiller goes into one of the 3 brewing pots for cleaning, then I connect to the sprinkler.
 

GuruGerald

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I am an English Home Brewer so maybe I may be out of touch withyour systems. BUT water is surely water. Over here in England we just get it out of the tap. I know you guys like a lot of hops but $26 ! How can that be. Same with yeast . One needs only 20grams for ten gallons, I buy bulk yeast and store in a fridge. I also buy bulk malt extract to use with smaller ammounts of grain for easier brewing. Lastly why to all you guys bottle beer. I think it is because you are not used to good draft beer. Over in US of A you can buy great craft beer in bottles but all your draft is too fizzy and too cold. So why not put your brew in pressure barels?
I have been brewing for fifty years, but never better than now, thanks to American hops - love em. But $8 per five gallon should be enough for any hophead.
 

Wiscohio_brewer

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Hops by the pound and reusing yeast have saved me so much money. Get a water report and use tap water. Make it work for you with salt additions. You might find that your water could add some unique flavor to your beer.
 

Natdavis777

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Getting ready to bottle one batch and brew another today, and looking at my batch-specific costs—its sitting at about $9-12/gallon. I'd like to see if I can cut costs down some, so I have more money to spend on equipment investments to make better beer.

Here's my ingredient cost breakdown for today's 10 gallon pale ale:

Yeast starter: $11.58 (used one smack pack and spun it up with DME, thus saving $7.70 compared to last batch and getting an improved pitch rate.)

Grain bill: $25.49

Hop bill: $26.63

Water: $24.50 for RO water from store

Incidentals: $7.83 (caps, other one time use items)

Where could I focus on lowering costs, even if it requires equipment/time investment?

Grain bill cost seems fine...

For the hops, I would suggest investing in hop extract (I bought a 220g can last year for 20$ and still have 20mL left) and buying most frequent hops used in bulk.

Water.... Do you have a Kroger or WalMart near? They have Glacier RO systems @ 37 cents/gal. Check with a TDS meter to verify quality, but mine tests fine and costs me 5$ for 15 gal RO.

Water seems to be the biggest money gouger. If you dont have the store bought RO water available, Id go with others and get a home RO system.

If you arent around 80-90% efficiency, try and get there with better techniques/processes. This will cut down grain cost.
 

Natdavis777

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Forgot to mention yeast. Check out Brulosopher and yeast harvesting.

I have a 5L and a 2L flask for yeast. Initially, I doubled a vial of yeast and store 100B cells in 2 different jars. Now, I use (1) 100B in the 2L flask (to create another 200B cells to divide in two jars, my harvest) and the other (1) jar of 100B cells in the 5L flask to make enough yeast to pitch in a 10 gal batch. It is all 1st gen yeast, unstressed, etc. I have 002, 007, and 090 saved in the fridge. Havent bought yeast in a long time.
 

thaymond

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Many excellent points made so far. I will echo many of them.

1. Test your water. RO was one of my $10 per batch expenses. Once my water was tested, I found that my tap water isn't bad for brewing. I just treat with camden to remove chloramines. It was 3 buck for 100 tabs at my lhbs. 1 tab treats 5 gallons. That's a no brainer.

2. Grow your own hops. I love IPAS and the cost of commercial hops is cost prohibitive when brewing IPA all the time. I bought and grew 4 plants, all yielding about a pound. About $180 in initial materials (trellis, oast for drying), and time spent harvesting. I have not had to buy hops in nearly 2 years. I've made probably about 120 gallons of beer with the hops I grow, and still have several pounds left over. My trade off is I guess on my AA and IBUs. Oh well. Plus I sell rhizomes to recoup my initial cost. I have made my money back I put into the initial plants. This was a great money saving move.

3. Bulk grain buys. I bought 50 lbs for $60 at my lhbs. I've made 20 gallons with it so far, and still have 16 lbs left.l, enough for a couple summer blondes. My lhbs also has discounted mix matched grains. I can usually dig through and find what I need for cheap.

4. Reuse yeast. Find what you like, and keep jars of it. I have about a gallon of us05. I'll use a jar, and not feel bad if I end up not saving the yeast after I rack. I still have much more to use. If it gets old, I'll use starters.

5. Save a little jar of unhopped boiled wort from a batch of beer in a mason jar and dilute with water until 1.020. Starter wort on the cheap.

I'm still working on finding a cheaper way for propane fills/exchange. I can get 18 dollars per refill on my tank.

So, at 1.20 per lb, a typical 5 gallon IPA would cost me:

Grain - $17.60/13 lbs base malt and 1 lb of vienna/munich @ $2 per lb
Hops - $0 (already recouped initial cost) using 8-12 oz of homegrown for boil and dryhop.
Yeast - $1 (3rd or 4th generation uso5)
Water - $0.40 (whatever water costs out of my water bill...)
Propane - $6 per batch

Other incidentals, like gypsum, cacl, whirlflock, misc tubing, co2 for kegs, etc. Let's call it $3 a batch, but it's not.

Total would run $28 per 5 gallons, or just over $5.50 per gallon.

Compare to lhbs store bought equivalent

Grain - $25.75/13 lbs base malt and 1 lb of vienna/munich @ $1.75 per lb base malt and $2 lb specialty.
Hops - $10 for 8-12 oz, conservatively
Yeast - $3 us05
Water - $0.40 (whatever water costs out of my water bill...)
Propane - $6 per batch

Other incidentals, like gypsum, cacl, whirlflock, misc tubing, co2 for kegs, etc. Let's call it $3 a batch, but it's not.

That's $48.15 for 5 gallons of the same beer, @ just under $10 per gallon.

Of couse none of this includes initial equipment costs or time spent. Your results may vary.
 

imasickboy

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Save on propane by getting your fills at Costco or BJ's. I can't say for certain that Costco will fill for non-members, but I know BJ's does. The member price at my local BJ's is $9. The non-member price is $12. It's cheaper than anywhere else around here.
 

55x11

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If you live in a rural community, you may have friends who have good well water.

My wife occasionally buys bulk wheett for bread, going to try home malting.

I have kept liquid yeast strains alive, but eventually just went to dry yeists. That said, dry yeast is not as cheap as it used to be.

Once upon a time I was trying to break under $2/gallon. Last 2 batches (I have not brewed for forever), were closer to $10. From the LBS ( "local" about 100 miles away) all grain kits are not much cheaper than extract.

$10 per batch or per 1 Gallon?

$2 per gallon is crazy!!
Maybe for some low ABV, 3-4% beer without much hops, then I can see it.
Grain is about $1 per lb, maybe 0.80$ per lb if buying in bulk. With hops it is easy to get to $1 per oz if buying in bulk, but for specific hops perhaps even as low as $0.50 per oz.
There may be some light beer recipes - like american lager maybe? - that (for 5 Gallon batch) require only maybe 8-9 lbs of grain - assuming very good mashing efficiency, and maybe an ounce or even slightly less of hops.

With bulk purchasing this could be about $7 in grain bill and less than $1 in hops. Yeast can be reused and get well below $1 per batch. If not using RO water, just tap water, and cheap propane, you can probably get under $10 for 5 Gallon batch.

For more "regular" beers it may be more difficult. For IPAs the hop bill is a problem (I guess growing your own hops can reduce the cost to zero, depending on how you look at it). For stronger ABV beers, I usually expect 13-15 lbs of grain, including specialty grains. My LHBS charges only 99 cent per 1 lb of US 2-row, which I never realized is pretty low and close to what one could get from bulk purchases. Still, with specialty grains the grains typically end up costing $15, up to $20 per batch. I use $1 per oz of hops from my bulk purchases (some less popular hop specialties cost me less, but I do need Amarillo's, Centennials, Cascades, Chinooks, Styrian Goldings, etc. - so average is about $1 per oz). So for standard recipe that may call for 2-4 oz of hops, thats another $2-4. My water is pretty good already but I do purchase RO water to cut it in half on occasion - I fill Glacier water for 25 cents a gallon, so thats about $1.25 per batch (need 5G of RO water plus ~5G of regular tap water for 5G batch). Propane cost is where I could reduce it a bit. I am guess it cost me $3 or so per batch with my burner. But depends on how long the boil is.

So typical cost per average batch is probably $25 per 5G batch, or $5 per gallon. Then there is starsan, electric bill (fermentation chamber and keeper), water bill, CO2 tank refill, yeast nutrients, whirlflock, gelatin, DME for starters, termcap, gypsum etc. Real cost is probably at least $30-35 per batch, and that doesn't include equipment amortization rate for fermenters, kegs, keepers etc. - which get cheaper the more you brew of course, since those are not recurring costs.

I estimate that I spent about $2,000 on equipment, but I also brewed about 200 Gallons of beer over the past year, so that's $10 per gallon. At the more rapid rate I brew now (and using 10G batches), and assuming I don't need much equipment anymore (ha!) except for minor replacement of worn out or broken stuff - it could be down to $5 per gallon in equipment cost by the end of the year. Still, its a hidden cost that we all forget. And then there is your own time!

Having said that, it's a hobby, and relatively inexpensive at that! AND you get fantastic beer out of it.
 

Firewalker11

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Lets see, I made a 5 gallon stout this winter, grain was $0.64 an ounce or $5.76 for #9. #2 of specialty grains @ $1.55 a pound or $3.10. 2 oz of Fuggles @ $0.87 an ounce or $1.74. Safale S-05 for $1.99. Water was less than a nickle.

$5.76
$1.55
$3.10
$1.74
$1.99
Tax, $1.12
=$15.26

That's about as low as I can go.
 
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