Newbie question about cost effective brewing

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

alphaplastico

New Member
Joined
May 28, 2008
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
merica
Hi I'm new here, so first I just want to say whats up to everybody..

.. and then I want to ask what everyone thinks is the most economic source of ingredients.. any store/site suggestions would be appreciated, or different techniques people use to save money... i know this is a bland question, but really, any advice is appreciated. thanks
 

OrangeCatBrewery

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 2, 2008
Messages
62
Reaction score
0
Location
Frederick, MD
1) Dry Yeast is cheaper than Liquid Yeast, that will save you 3-4-5 bucks right there.

2) Make longer-term purchases instead of "baby-step" purchases.

3) Use Bleach as a sanitizer instead of the special "home brew" sanitizers.

Just 3 quick thoughts on the subject, there are always ways to go cheaper.
 

ohiobrewtus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2006
Messages
7,762
Reaction score
74
Location
Ohio
I think the key is looking to be cost-effective and not be looking to make beer as cheaply as possible.

People ask me all the time if I save money brewing my own beer, then they ask how to go about making beer cheaper than they can buy it in the store. My answer is always the same:

If you're going to brew to save money then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. You would be better off to keep buying Coors Light at $14 per 30 pack of cans than you would be brewing your own. Brewing takes time and commitment, which both have value. Brewing requires an investment in equipment that, as you progress as a brewer, will always leave you wanting to buy something else to improve your processes. Brew if the idea of hand crafting a beer that tastes as good, if not better, than beer that you can buy at the store is something that appeals to you. Don't start homebrewing if you're looking to save money because when all is said and done the best you'll do is probably break even depending on how much equipment you purchase.

Dry yeast is cheaper than liquid. I use dry sometimes but you can also save money by buying liquid yeast and making a starter, then washing the yeast after you use it and saving it for future brews. I currently have at least 6 yeast strains in my fridge that I can use at anytime, all from liquid vials that I purchased at least 6 months ago. All of which have been used multiple times at only the cost of about 1 cup of DME and some of my time.

I can't attest to using bleach as a sanitizer, but I will say that this is one place that you absolutely do not want to go cheap on. Proper sanitation of your equipment may be one of the most imporant aspects of brewing. I use OneStep because regardless of how many times I hear it on here, StarSan foam is just wrong. I've never tried Iodophor either, but lots of people here use it.

The most economic way to purchase ingredients is in bulk, and the least expensive way to make beer is to go all grain. This requires an investment in equipment, however.

One of the best things that you can do when starting out is to purchase a boil kettle that will allow you to do full boils in the future. Get one that's at least 7.5 gallons (30 qt.).
 

ArcaneXor

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
4,502
Reaction score
127
Hi I'm new here, so first I just want to say whats up to everybody..

.. and then I want to ask what everyone thinks is the most economic source of ingredients.. any store/site suggestions would be appreciated, or different techniques people use to save money... i know this is a bland question, but really, any advice is appreciated. thanks
- Comparison shop the major online homebrew stores and your LHBS
- When ordering from stores that have flat-rate shipping, order multiple kits at once.
- Use high-quality dry yeast whenever possible
- When using liquid yeast, wash the yeast and save it for a future batch
- Don't buy bottles - save your craft brew bottles and ask friends, bars and restaurants for theirs.
- Use StarSan sanitizer - when properly stored, it lasts for weeks.
- Be excessively sanitary to minimize the chance of spoiled or infected batches
- Don't tell any friends you make beer, it'll last much longer that way ;)

If you can handle large up-front investments:

- Use long-lasting equipment (stainless steel instead of plastic, etc)
- Go all-grain
- Buy in bulk
 

missing link

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2007
Messages
650
Reaction score
4
Location
Highland, MI
For me the cost analysis was a little different than what others outlined above.

I almost always buy micro brew beer if I buy anything. That's $10 - $14 per six pack.

I started out brewing beer because it was fun, then I realized it was somewhat cheaper than buying micro brews. When I switched to All Grain, it is significantly cheaper. Micro's are about $1.50 - $2.00 a bottle, my beer costs me about $.30 - $.50 per bottle.

Granted, I have invested quite a bit of cash into my equipment, now that I have it I am slowly seeing a savings while enjoying beer that I made. You can save on the time invested by buying bigger pieces of equipment up front and doing 10 gallon batches as soon as you are comfortable with your skills.

So instead of buying the 5 gallon round cooler first, buy a 12 gallon square or rectangular cooler, don't buy a 7.5 gallon pot if you can afford the 15 gallon pot.

I read those recommendations over and over and I always said to myself "I'll never do 10 gallon batches because I like variety" well I can tell you that since I don't get to brew all that often, my 2 tap kegerator always had one that was dry. I am now starting to do 10 gallon batches so I can put one on tap and store one in the chest cooler.

So instead of brewing every 3 weeks to keep up with consumption, I can brew every 4 and get ahead of consumption and get some beer aging.

Linc
 

BierMuncher

...My Junk is Ugly...
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jan 17, 2007
Messages
12,443
Reaction score
938
Location
St. Louis, MO
Sounds to me like the OP not asking an "economics of homebrewing" question...but rather is a noob to the hobby and wants to know the least expensive route for getting into it.

In the long run, bigger, better equipment and bulk purchases will have higher payback....IF, you end up brewing in quantity.

For introductory purposes, get yourself a basic brewing kit and brew up an inexpensive extract kit.

Everything you need to brew up your first 5 gallons for under $100. If you like brewing...then you can adjust upward.

If it's not for you...post your gear on Craigslist and it will be gone in a matter of hours.
 

Wrathbone

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2008
Messages
268
Reaction score
3
Location
Santa Monica, CA
I've created a spreadsheet - totaling up every dollar i've spent on equipment, ingredients, etc, and then dividing that by the number of oz's of brew i've whipped up, and then multiplying that by 12 to calculate the cost per 12 oz. beer.

I've also bought kits that are made up of items that I will be using as my hobby progresses.

Additionally, while watching how much it is costing me per beer, I will only buy a new piece of equipment once my cost per beer falls below a certain level, ensuring that the hobby is still costing me less than I would be spending on buying decent beer.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
25,655
Reaction score
4,943
Location
Whitehouse Station
Expecting that you're new and therefore will be brewing extract, it's probably a good idea to get your extract in bulk. Of course this only saves money if you use it all before it goes bad. It doesn't sound like another economics thread at all. The question seems to be how to brew as cheaply as possible or how to get the most bang for the buck. I can tell you that buying a stainless conical or new Blichman kettle is NOT the way to do that.
 

Hoosierbrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2008
Messages
811
Reaction score
19
Location
Muncie, IN
If you keep it simple you can keep it inexpensive. Most of us add things that we want and do not really need to our systems. I started with a brewing kit and the largest canning pot I could find at K-mart. I think the pot was $15. I used my stove and cooled using a bathtub or the snow in the winter. Slowly I have added equipment

I know it is more expensive for me because I have not been brewing as consistently as I would want and I have not purchased grains in bulk yet. If I would brew more, I would recover more of my money spent on equipment. My brother does only extract and PM and his beers are great. He uses a basic kit and brews on his stove in smaller batches and bottles. He now has a kegerator so he will keg.

Another key is the cost of the beer you drink. I like all types of beer and know that many of my favorites are $150 for a keg (Bells, 3 Floyds, Upland). I can brew 3 beers easily for that much. If you like BMC then I would not homebrew to make those beers. They are tough to make and in the end, you can buy them cheaper than you can make them.

If you have not brewed before, then find someone on this site near you and ask them if you can brew with them one day. You can buy an extract or brewers best kit and get some bottles and caps and then try the process without buying the equipment. Most brewers have a capper laying around.
 

ClutchDude

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2008
Messages
417
Reaction score
5
Location
Austin, TX
It's all about how much cash you have on hand. Keggles and other advanced equipment will go faster than a drop of the hat if you decide to sell them at a small loss.

One thing to do is GET ANOTHER HYDROMETER. You will break your current one right before posting a question here.

Buying a bulk amount of extract + airtight containers will get you the most. You can make another beer and pitch it onto yeast cake as well.
 

EdWort

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2006
Messages
11,894
Reaction score
446
Location
Bee Cave, Texas
It's not very cost effective at all. My beers are over $5 each by now for the next few years.
 

Awfers

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
2
Using bleach can help reduce costs. I use it as where I am for doing a pre-sanitizion of my bottles as it's hard to get ahold of much else "economically".

If you want to make really cheap beer, you can go all grain with a plastic lauter-tun, a really cheap stainless or aluminium mash tun / kettle, plastic fermenters, and use pre-geletanized (boiled) rice as a replacement for up to 40% to 60% of your total malt bill (apparently, this is what AB do. I think it's slightly more complicated than simple replacing the malt with rice when you are up to 60% rice, I could swear one of their floor managers that I met said they added additional enzymes as there was not enough from the malt).

Granted, a beer with 60% rice most likely won't taste "great", but it all depends on what you are brewing for... Fun or economics.. Or both...

You can also replace malt with corn sugar in the kettle (the same stuff you use for priming). This again won't be great, but will up the alcohol content.

Beg / borrow bottles (friends who drink craft beer and bars are good sources as has already been said).

Buy used homebrewing equipment (be careful here, try and buy stuff that you can inspect first. I've been burned by this in the past)
 

tranceamerica

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
441
Reaction score
2
Location
seattle WA! WA! WA!
Probably the cheapest way to get started would be to:

1) buy a cheap kettle - 3 gal or so - from the thrift store or garage sale
2) ferment in a plastic bucket - see if you can get a food grade one from a resturant. get 2 while you're at it, so you have a bottling bucket
3) do extract brews. they cost more for the ingredients, but you make it up by not buying AG equipment. check out my basic pale ale recipe - it's cheap, and you buy just bulk liquid malt extract, hops and dry yeast. good one to start with. makes decent beer too.
4) buy the rest of your equipment from your LHBS, or online - shop around to get a good price.
5) yes, get bottles from friends

you'd probably save about $30-$50 over the cost of buying a starter kit if you do it this way.

FWIW - I now do AG, but it'll be awhile before I see the savings. Even when you go AG, it's not necessary to get all the equipment (keggle, burner, etc). I do AG with a 5 gal round cooler, and split pot boil on my stovetop. This allowed me to get into AG w/only buying the 5 gal cooler, a good thermometer, and a false bottom.

my false bottom is an expandable vegetable steamer. it works great.
 

A4J

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
34
Location
the Desert, CA
This hobby, just like any other hobby doesn't really "pencil out", especially if you add in the cost of water, fuel to boil the wort, etc. Heck, part of the fun is buying unnecessary gadgets. :D

I just did an excel spreadsheet and the only place I can really save money is by washing the yeast. It drops my cost per bottle by as much as 20cents.
 

WBC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
2,164
Reaction score
10
Location
La Puente, CA
Start brewing if:

You like really good beers and ales
You want a hobby so you can improve beer and ale recipes
You like to look for good deals on equipment
You would like to impress friends and family that you can brew good beer
You like making a mess and cleaning up
You are not afraid of failing at something
You don't mind working towards a goal
You can take advice without being touchy about it
You don't mind sharing your beer
 
Joined
Jul 24, 2006
Messages
14,262
Reaction score
778
Location
Southwest
In terms of sanitizer cost:

96 oz of Clorox Bleach costs about $15. A concentration of 2 oz per gallon makes 192 gallons of sanitizing solution at 8 cents per gallon.

32 oz of Star San costs about $16.99. A concentration of 1 oz per 5 gallons makes 160 gallons of sanitizing solution at 11 cents per gallon.

If you sanitize with bleach, you ABSOLUTELY NEED to rinse VERY thoroughly. This costs time and water. It's not recommended to put a bleach solution into a spray bottle, so you'll need to use some sort of immersion technique for sanitizing, potentially requiring a large amount of sanitizer.

If you sanitize with Star San, you don't need to rinse. Actually, you shouldn't rinse. You can sanitize by simply spraying the solution from a spray bottle onto the surfaces you wish to sanitize, so you will potentially use very little solution for an entire batch.

So, assuming you use a gallon of sanitizer for a batch (that's A TON of spray bottle usage, or the bare minimum for immersion sanitizing), if you want to save 3 cents and do a ton of rinsing, have fun with the bleach. Star San gets my vote.
 

tranceamerica

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
441
Reaction score
2
Location
seattle WA! WA! WA!
+1 on star san.

I was a bleach guy until I ruined a batch by not rinsing the bleach enough.

I tried one-step, but was using it fast, and throwing most of it out - because it doesn't really keep, and you have to immerse things anyway.

StarSan can be reused, and doesn't have to be rinsed.

I use it in a spray bottle to sanitize most everything, including bottles at bottling time.

I make up 3 gallons or so, every month or so, and save most of it to use for a month.

I use anything left over to fill spray bottles around the house too, to use for other cleaning tasks. It's nicer to use than most other household cleaners, and works just as well (for me at least!!!)

EDIT: I do like one-step for cleaning bottles the first time, because it will take the lables off with just a bit of soaking.
 
OP
A

alphaplastico

New Member
Joined
May 28, 2008
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
merica
thanks to everybody, I got a lot of good advice here.. I'm gonna do a little homework on AG brewing and get a hold of my equipment in a starter kit I think. I'll let you know how it goes, thnaks again
 

LeftyMcGee

Active Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2008
Messages
44
Reaction score
0
Location
Maricopa, AZ
If you are not in a hurry to jump right in, I would check out Craigslist. I searched Craigslist for a month and found my equipment kit for 60 bucks at a garage sale. Got all the basic kit stuff, 6.5g glass carboy, 5g glass secondary and a homemade fermentation box with temp control. If you take your time and look around, you can find some really good deals.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2006
Messages
7,535
Reaction score
1,491
Location
Redding Ca
Hi I'm new here, so first I just want to say whats up to everybody..

.. and then I want to ask what everyone thinks is the most economic source of ingredients.. any store/site suggestions would be appreciated, or different techniques people use to save money... i know this is a bland question, but really, any advice is appreciated. thanks
I swear he asked "what everyone thinks is the most economic source of ingredients.. any store/site suggestions would be appreciated, or different techniques people use to save money"
You want to save $$ brewing??? there is a way to make $1000 by brewing your own beer at home.... "start with $2000" ha ha just kidding
Welcome to the darkside of HBT!!! to answer your first ??? I like B3 for grain, hops and such (Sorry Austin) I like that most everything is on hand and seems to be cheeper day in and day out, and spend $59 (your gonna spend $59) your shipping is free... and for me its next day ***just lucky I guess***

To answer ?? #2 as most said AG is the least $$ per batch ove all. But also as said the equip is spendy, if your not able to make it your self... (How handy are you and what tools do you have at your disposal?) you will read a tun on Bleach VS Others... I like the others (I just dont trust Bleach) when it comes to sanitation thats not the place to skimp IMHO.
Brewing your own beer is.. for most of us a hobby and our passion, so cost really isen't the first ?? on our minds.


just some tips to follow here on HBT (I'm toasted :drunk:)
Use the search functions

hang out in the beginner thread (if your a beginner)

dont be affraid to ask the same ???'s 20 times if you didnt get an answer.

enjoy the journey

and most of all be able to laugh at your self (even if you cant spell ***me not you*** LOL) long story....its funny though... yes i've been drinking :tank:

find a friend close that wants to take the journey w/ you and split the $$$

this is a fun place to hang out @ 11:30 at night when the SWMBO is gone to her boyfriends house (he really is a nice guy:p) and the kids are asleep.
again welcome to HBT we have a good time here
Cheers
JJ
 

Awfers

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2008
Messages
115
Reaction score
2
In terms of sanitizer cost:

96 oz of Clorox Bleach costs about $15. A concentration of 2 oz per gallon makes 192 gallons of sanitizing solution at 8 cents per gallon.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but your Clorox actually costs 15 cents per ounce. Meaning it actually costs you 31 cents per gallon of sanitizing solution. (cost, divided by ounces = $0.156 per ounce X 2 ounces to make 1 gallon = $0.3125 per gallon)

I get two litres (+/- 67 ounces) of generic bleach from a local supermarket for about $1.40 (not an exact exchange rate), this means it costs me 2 cents per ounce, and only 4.19 cents per gallon (cost, divided by ounces = $0.0208 per ounce X 2 ounces to make 1 gallon = $0.04179 per gallon). And that's a strong bleach solution ( see http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter2-2-3.html). It's cheaper to go "generic", with Clorox you're probably paying for advertising.

With Starsan, the cost is $0.5309 per ounce ($16.99 / 32 ounces), but since 1 ounce makes 5 gallons of sanitizer, the cost is $0.106185 per gallon.

Since for the Bleach solution one should only need 1 tablespoon (half an ounce) per gallon to be an effective sanitizer, the bleach should really only cost $0.0104 per gallon of sanitizing solution if using generic bleach.

If one "overdoses" the star san as has been done with the bleach in your example (2 ounces per gallon) the price will quadruple to $0.42475 per gallon.

It's still cheaper to use generic bleach, but I'm not saying it's more convenient..
 

EdWort

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2006
Messages
11,894
Reaction score
446
Location
Bee Cave, Texas
I used to use bleach (20 years ago), then Iodophor, but switched to StarSan for a number of reasons. First, it is environmentally friendly and won't harm my septic tank or yard. Second, my beers do not suffer from Band Aid taste & Smell. Third, I don't have to rinse my StarSan where as bleach you must rinse rinse and rinse and sometimes you still will get Band Aid Brew. Fourth and final for me is the amount needed to rinse and contact time. I only use a Tablespoon to mix up 2.5 gallons of solution at a time and can sanitize my carboy with a quart by putting in a solid stopper and just rotating it around to make sure all sides are coated before pouring it back into my bucket. 60 seconds later, I'm good to go. You can't beat StarSan for a safe, easy, quick, and AlGore approved.

From John Palmer's How to Brew
[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]These flavors are often described as mediciney, Band-Aid™ like, or can be spicy like cloves. The cause are various phenols which are initially produced by the yeast. Chlorophenols result from the reaction of chlorine-based sanitizers (bleach) with phenol compounds and have very low taste thresholds. Rinsing with boiled water after sanitizing is the best way to prevent these flavors.[/FONT]
I now can spot a beer that had chlorine somewhere in the process very easily. The Band Aid aroma is very pronounced.
 
Top