What are your tips for keeping costs down

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

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

level-one

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2022
Messages
24
Reaction score
21
Location
Orange County, CA
I jumped into this hobby uncharacteristically with both feet without really thinking about it too thoroughly. I had friends say to me why homebrew, when you can just buy better beer for less money and hassle. I had my second brew day and that was running through my mind as I dropped $30 on ingredients at the homebrew supply shop and $30 on distilled water and ice to recirculate through the wort chiller.

So I'm curious what do you do to keep costs down?
 

Hoppy2bmerry

My hop trellis brings the boys to the yard.
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2015
Messages
9,162
Reaction score
21,394
Location
Long Island
Buying beer for less is relative to what kind of beer one buys. A 5 gallon batch is 2 cases of 12 oz beers. A 16 ounce 4 pk of craft brew is $16- $22. See where I’m going? Now if you prefer a commercial beer that’s $20 for a thirty pack then homebrew isn’t going to save you a thing. As far as commercial being better, that depends to. As you become a better more skilled brewer some of your homebrew will be equally as good, maybe better than what can be bought at the store. It’s a fun, satisfying hobby and a great conversation starter when meeting people.
 

Tacohockey50

Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2022
Messages
6
Reaction score
11
Location
Colorado
The only practical way to save money home brewing is drink less. Everything else is either more money in equipment or more time. But the most advantageous aspect of home brewing is self-sufficiency. Considering the way things are going in this world, the ability to make your own food, clothing & beer might become priceless.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,981
Reaction score
2,963
Location
_
I had friends say to me why homebrew, when you can just buy better beer for less money and hassle. [...] So I'm curious what do you do to keep costs down?
For me, at the moment, it's a hobby. With hobbies, 1) there are no "hassle"s and 2) "hobbies are supposed to be expensive".

Currently, with my hobbies, I'm able to use some money to free up some time.

What would I do if I had to keep [hobby] costs down?
Identify the most expensive thing. Replace it with a less expensive thing. "Lather, rinse, repeat".

In your situation, I would start with investigating 1) chilling without store bought ice, and 2) brewing with tap water.



With hobbies and 'spare' time, the cost of time can be zero. Without 'spare time', the cost of time is no longer zero (so, assuming it's not TEOTWAWKI, see what @Tacohockey50 wrote above)



Watch out for hidden and unexpected costs. As a consumable, a single pitch of dry yeast can be expensive. But there are costs for equipment for making a starter, costs for actually making the starter, costs for keeping that liquid yeast healthy, costs for avoiding a 'bad' batch due to 'bad' yeast, costs for making a bad batch, ...



Investigate lower cost ingredients. An inexpensive brewers malt + specialty malts + common hops can produce an enjoyable beer.



"brew like a craft brewery": minimize the number of base malts, specialty malts, hops, and yeast strains needed so one can buy in bulk.



Home made specialty malts (IIRC, @bracconiere does this).



edits for formatting
 
Last edited:

hotbeer

Opinionated Newb
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 10, 2021
Messages
1,256
Reaction score
876
30 dollars on distilled water and ice! Almost 15 gallons of beer... Wow. Extract brewer? Or is ice itself really expensive there?

If you are all grain, you should try your own local water just to see if it will make beer you like. For a long time I haven't liked our local water for coffee. So when I started brewing all grain I just started using the water we buy for coffee, which is just a spring water... supposedly. And it's only 1 dollar a gallon.

I suppose I should try my own local water too, but I always have several cases of the other.

Other things that keep my cost low are just not getting the idea that I have to have the best of equipment and make do with what I have. Though I am steadily adding on.
 
Last edited:

TheBluePhantom

Brewing for sport
Joined
Apr 10, 2016
Messages
260
Reaction score
201
Location
South Eastern Michigan
RO water system on eBay for $129, I get drinking water and plenty of water for brewing. It takes a while to recovver the investment, but i am happier with the drinking water as well.

Do not buy LME in bulk unless you are brewing enough to use it all quick. Buying DME in bulk helps save money and DME keeps over a year.

But yeah, buy cheap commercial beer if what you want is cheap beer.
 

marc1

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 19, 2010
Messages
1,623
Reaction score
1,217
Location
OH
What's your goal? If this is a hobby, then compare the costs to other hobbies. I'm sure it comes our pretty favorably to things like golfing, boating, or even regularly going out to the bar.
I really enjoy making the beer exactly that I want. I'm pretty deep into equipment costs, but the beer ingredients on their own are pretty darn cheap.
 

Teufelhunde

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2020
Messages
339
Reaction score
280
I jumped into this hobby uncharacteristically with both feet without really thinking about it too thoroughly. I had friends say to me why homebrew, when you can just buy better beer for less money and hassle. I had my second brew day and that was running through my mind as I dropped $30 on ingredients at the homebrew supply shop and $30 on distilled water and ice to recirculate through the wort chiller.

So I'm curious what do you do to keep costs down?
I can't buy better beer for less. If I were to drink Butt Light:barf:, then maybe.....Frankly, it's hard to buy better beer at all. I really like what I make better, well, most of it anyway, I have a flop now and again.

I buy my hops by the pound, not the ounce. If I decide to add a mill to my equipment, then I will start buying the base malts in bulk. My RO water comes out of my tap, not out of a gallon jug, and I collect and store (in my porch freezer) ice out of my fridge's icemaker.
 

Rish

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
455
Reaction score
3,041
Location
Near Birmingham
on distilled water and ice to recirculate through the wort chiller.
I buy store brand spring and distilled water here for about a dollar a gallon. If you can't or don't want to make your own ice, look into no chill brewing. I've done a few batches that way with good results.
 

InspectorJon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2018
Messages
817
Reaction score
729
Location
Placerville
BIAB with a home made bag, a turkey fryer setup and old Alhambra 5 gallon water bottle that you already own.

Buy hops by the pound from Yakama Valley Hops ($4 shipping for up to 4 pounds).

Use tap water. Mine is very soft.

Make a wort chiller from the cheapest Home Depot copper tubing you can find.

Inkbird temperature controller and a $35 second hand dormitory size refrigerator.

All in I don’t think I have $250 in equipment. If you like craft beers more than Macros you can’t beat the price unless you spend a lot on equipment (which you can) and you don’t put a price on the time. For me it is enjoyable creative time so I’m happy with that. I love pouring a nice brew that I made.
 

wepeeler

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 31, 2018
Messages
1,292
Reaction score
2,448
Location
CT
You'll only save money with this hobby once you've got all the equipment you want/need. So basically never...

Honestly though, I buy RO water for 39 cents a gal at Walmart, hops in bulk from Yakima Valley (to save on shipping), and malt from my local home brew shop. Otherwise, it's like any other hobby. If you get fully into it, it's not really about saving money, but more about enjoying it and producing quality beer.
 

IslandLizard

Progressive Brewing
Staff member
Mod
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
19,380
Reaction score
9,644
Location
Pasadena, MD
Those 2 batches you brewed, are they with extract or all-grain?

$30 on distilled water and ice
That's crazy expensive!
No need to chill boiling wort down with ice,. it's a waste of ice. Using your tap water you can bring the wort down to 20-40°F above your tap water's temperature. Recover (capture) and store the hot/warm water and reuse for other things, such as clean up or doing dishes, water plants, etc.
Then use ice to chill down to pitching temps.
If you brew extracts do a partial boil, and top up in the fermenter with ice cold water, pre-chilled in the fridge.

I buy RO water for 39 cents a gal at Walmart
Same here, bring your own jugs.
Just make sure the filter is working as it should: Use a $20 TDS meter. RO should read close to 0, but even 10-20 ppm is totally fine for brewing.

Now, before investing in your own RO filter, or buying water, call your water company and ask for the mineral content in your drinking water. And how stable those are over the seasons. The water may be soft and low on minerals, and thus fine for brewing (most or all beer styles).
Look in the Brew Science Forum (stickies) for the minerals we brewers are interested in.

RO water system on eBay for $129,
Good point. But be careful with those, replacement cartridges can be proprietary and thus expensive. Or very small.

@Buckeye_Hydro is a sponsor here and can set one up with a good RO system that's fairly cheap to operate and maintain. That's if you need one.
 

Velnerj

Simul justus et potator
Joined
Jul 27, 2017
Messages
580
Reaction score
970
Location
Czech Republic
These are some memes I have made regarding finances and homebrewing... Enjoy.
 

Attachments

  • Tell Me The Truth Im Ready To Hear It.jpg
    Tell Me The Truth Im Ready To Hear It.jpg
    72.8 KB · Views: 0
  • Im Never Gonna Financially Recover from This.jpg
    Im Never Gonna Financially Recover from This.jpg
    124.7 KB · Views: 0
  • save money.jpg
    save money.jpg
    79.4 KB · Views: 0
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
3,981
Reaction score
2,963
Location
_
Get a food saver and buy in bulk, both hops and grain, put the the in to repackage and freeze this will save you hundreds after the initial equipment costs
Where is the science that supports repackaging grains (vacuum sealing)? Or is there something (relatively) unique about your location that requires some amount of special handling?

I've seen the science for hop storage so there's no need to revisit the idea of vacuum sealing hops.
 

corkybstewart

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Messages
3,588
Reaction score
5,308
Location
Silver City
I agree with almost everything already said except the concept that homebrew can't save you money. Learn to brew with grain as fast as possible. BIAB seems to be fairly inexpensive way to go all grain. Malt extract kits are stoopid expensive compared to the price of a sack of malt, so ditch them as fast as you can.
Use simple recipes-you don't need 6 different malts and 5 different hops in your pale ale.
Find a brewing partner and split equipment cost-whoever stays with it longer keeps the equipment.
Buy bulk hops, bulk malts, learn to reuse yeast.
Why in the world would you use distilled water? Brewing requires minerals, using distilled water to "build" specific water for a particular beer is a pretty advanced technique that you'll probably never actually need to get into. I've been brewing 30 years and have never used distilled water. I frequently use 50/50 RO and tap water, but that still only costs $1.25 for a 5 gallon bottle of RO water.
And watch craigslist and marketplace for deals-somebody is always bailing out of this hobby, it's not for everyone.
 

An Ankoù

Active Member
Joined
May 25, 2022
Messages
28
Reaction score
23
If it's a question of keeping costs down, spend your money on ingredients rather than equipment/ Beer mashed in a cooler box (igloo?) strained through a bag held in a big colander and fermented in a food-grade plastic bucket with a lid will make equally good beer to that made in state-of-the-art stainless steel. Up to a point, good beer depends on good ingredients and good technique rather than costly kit. Use a lab thermometer (glass) dead cheap and very accurate, and a glass hydrometer. In 30 years I've only ever broken one glass thermometer. Why are you spending loads on water? Get some Salifert test kits and check the CaCO3 equivalent of your tap water and some CRS (AMS) to correct it if necessary. If the corrected CaCO3 equivalent is within range, the pH will fall to the correct value and you don't need to by a pH meter- papers are a bit of a waste of time. Salifert also do a Calcium test kit and you'll need some gypsum and some calcium chloride to correct the minerals in your water if it's lacking. This also brings the mash pH down to the correct value. Use dry yeasts and crop the yeast for future batches. Check out a company called Crossmyloof in Scotland. They sell excellent dried yeasts at a fraction of the cost of well-known brands, with big discounts for multiple orders, and their postage costs are minimal.
Someone above suggested buying full 25Kg sacks of malt. Doing that will reduce your cost for that ingredient to less than half. BUT you need large airtight containers to store the sacks of malt and these can be pricey. Malt- especially milled malt is hygroscopic.
What do you need ice for, by the way? I don't use ice in any of my processes.
Hope that helps.
Edit:
I've never done this, but your comment about ice gave me an idea. I often brew overs-strength on the cooker top in a 15 litre pan and I end up with about 12-13 litres which I then liquor back to 20 litres of beer, which will have a final abv of 4½ to 5½ abv. We coming into summer here and we've just had a bit of a heatwave reaching the low 40s (degrees C over here) in short, it's hard to get the wort down to pitching temperature. I liquor-back with bottled low-mineral mineral water costing pennies, which I'm going to put in the freezer from now on until they're just above freezing. That should cool the wort down.
 
Last edited:

hottpeper13

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2013
Messages
1,491
Reaction score
624
Location
Mequon
Before homebrewing I was an obsessed gardener. Moved to a shady spot and became an obsessed homebrewer. Both hobbies netted awesome returns on investment and enjoyability.

I am thankful I'm not a model railroader!
 

OakIslandBrewery

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 19, 2011
Messages
261
Reaction score
275
Location
DePere, WI
Buying in bulk can save lots of money but be careful not to buy bulk items when you're not able to use them in a reasonable amount of time. At the beginning of each year, I select recipes I want to brew then I can buy what I need and hopefully use them up. I still end up with leftovers like grain but with proper care grain will keep. I buy hops by the pound but almost all of the recipes I like use the same 2-4 varieties. The same goes with the grains I use; I try to stick with a couple base grains. Even with the specialty grains I try to buy what I need for several recipes.

Bulk extract can save money too if you don't want to get into all grain brewing just yet. Extracts won't last as long as grains but there are ways to extend them like storing them in the fridge. Since extracts are almost pure sugar they tend to mold up if left around opened. A layer of vodka inside on top will hold off mold. As I said above try to use it up.
 

corkybstewart

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Messages
3,588
Reaction score
5,308
Location
Silver City
The data to back the claim shouldn't be hard to collect and publish.
My favorite ipa is Elevated by La Cumbre in Albuquerque. A four pack of 16 iz cans costs $12.99, or $26 per gallon.
For a 10 gallon batch here are my costs, generally speaking.
25 pounds of malt @$1.00=$25
1 pound of hops @$25 pound =$25
2 packs of dry yeast or 1 liquid+starter=$12.
Water, ice, propane, other cost $30
My brewing gear.$5 per batch over 30 years *paid for many, many years ago)
Total for 10 gallons of IPA is under $100, and what I quoted is more than I pay.
So I get $250 worth of ipa for $100. Even if you double my costs it's still cheaper to brew my own.
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,913
Reaction score
3,219
Location
Visalia
My tap water is usually fine for my beers. I use a cheap carbon filter to get rid of chlorine. If I am brewing at a friend's house, I use Campden tablets. Occasionally I will want to build my own water, in which case I get RO water from the supermarket machine, $.25/gallon. My work has a commercial ice maker but I have been using kveik yeast lately and my Cuss TriCoil goes from boil to 100F in 3 minutes with no ice.

We don't have a local homebrew supply but 3 local breweries support the club by offering full bags of base grains at their wholesale price and mill my own grain. My last buy was 55lbs of Bairds Pale Malt for $44.

I usually buy my hops by the pound from someone like HopsDirect or YakimaValleyHops and often shop their sales.

I've never used propane. I brewed BIAB on my stove top for years but picked up an Anvil Foundry last year. It costs a bit but it was worth it to get out of the kitchen!

I usually reuse my yeast and ferment in buckets that I bought from a local food manufacturer for $.50 each. For a long time I used water bath to maintain temperatures. Then I was given a chest freezer by a friend when I helped them move and am SO glad that I don't have to mess with that any more.

I've always been a penny pincher and part of the fun for me is seeing how cheaply I can make awesome beer! Often times, that requires an upfront cost but I make 1 or 2 changes to my system every year so it isn't a budget crunch.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Mar 12, 2014
Messages
1,571
Reaction score
826
Location
The Ozark Mountains of Missouri
Where is the science that supports repackaging grains (vacuum sealing)? Or is there something (relatively) unique about your location that requires some amount of special handling?

I've seen the science for hop storage so there's no need to revisit the idea of vacuum sealing hops.
gas and or delivery costs for many trips is more than vacuum bags, my answer is about cost not labor, this is what I've done for 10 years, that's the science
 

eric19312

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 5, 2012
Messages
3,789
Reaction score
2,366
Location
Long Island
when my pipeline drys up due to life getting in the way I will go up to the local beer store and buy a quarter keg of something reasonable like lagunitas. Runs about $160. That is half a batch of my standard brew day...so would cost $320 to buy instead of make.

My ingredients for most recent comparable batch (15 gallons 7% IPA with nice hops)
42 pounds of grain ... $55
26 oz hops average $18/lb ... $30
dry yeast ... 4 packs (usually I will be able to use harvested yeast which is free but wanted to try recipe with SO4) $20
salts/whirlfloc/capden/sanitizer/pbw $5

i Brew and chill with tap water, the brewing water goes through an RV filter I replace once a year
Fuel is household natural gas...not free but I never notice the cost

That gets me to $110, but only if I use new yeast, $90 with harvested yeast.

So on paper, variable cost is much less than buying comparable, even when buying the comparable by the keg. Obviously I don't count hours I spend brewing, that is hobby time and if I wasn't brewing I'd be doing something else to entertain myself...

Buying brewing equipment however is the expensive part of the hobby for me. I just can't resist it. Over last five years I've probably in at least $4k on equipment counting 2 freezers, a Spike conical, a couple blingy pots, a third pump...list goes on.
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,913
Reaction score
3,219
Location
Visalia
Where is the science that supports repackaging grains (vacuum sealing)?
I buy my specialty grains in 10lb bags and just use my vacuum sealer to reseal the bags when I use them. A few years ago I brought home a pantry moth infestation in a roll of dollar store paper towels. It was bad enough that they wrecked my pantry but if those moths had been able to get to my 150lbs of grain storage, I might have cried.
 

eric19312

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 5, 2012
Messages
3,789
Reaction score
2,366
Location
Long Island
Hmm .two batches in your beer is probably decent but I expect it is going to get progressively and dramatically better over next few months. There is a learning curve here and irrespective of how much or how little you spend on ingredients and equipment a little bit of experience really makes a difference.

The progression for me went something like,
batch 1-4 well, I guess it's beer
batch 5-10 hey, this is not bad
batch 10-20 wow, this is really pretty good
batch 40...getting hard to find commercial beer at typical restaurants and bars that like as much as my homebrew...

And if anything my cost per pint on ingredient basis went down over time as my experience increased. Initial batches were kits, then some more extract experience, then all grain but buying 1# and 5# sacks and hops by the ounce, finally buying full sacks of grain and hops by the pound...
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,913
Reaction score
3,219
Location
Visalia
Hmm .two batches in your beer is probably decent but I expect it is going to get progressively and dramatically better over next few months.
Definitely! My homebrew club pours at about 10 beer festivals a year, mostly populated by well known craft breweries, and I can always count on several people at each saying that we have the best beer there. Breweries are stuck trying to please the masses but you will eventually be able to fine tune your beers to your palate.
 
Top