What are your tips for keeping costs down

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Dancy

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I doubt very few brew their own beer to save money. That sounds boring to me. It is done becuase one enjoys THE PROCESS. Granted, there are budget processes up to extravagant, equipment-heavy methods for brewing your own beer, all determined by one budget or personal values.
 

corkybstewart

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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.
I really haven't added any equipment for almost 20 years. I guess the last big build was my temp controlled fermentation box for my conical and even that cost under $300($200 for the AC). I bought kegs at a junkyard, cut the tops off and use them for kettles-$100 plus another $200 for fittings, thermometers, and valves.
I built my system when I had a great job, now that I'm a retired senior citizen on a fixed income I understand how hard it is to get the setup you think you need but the reality is that technique(paying attention to details) is far more important than equipment or recipes. My first mash tun was a 5 gallon bucket with about 200 holes drilled in the bottom sitting inside another 5 gallon bucket with a spigot. Very low tech, dirt cheap but the beer was still good.
 

kmmuellr

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For me the biggest money savers are:
1. Buying base grain in bulk
2. Re-using yeast (or separating and storing)
3. Not buying the latest and greatest, marketed piece of equipment. Just get good using what you have.

I've been brewing since 1996, and started extract w/ a carboy fermenter and bottling bucket. I moved on to all grain w/ a mash tun of a bucket w/ hundreds of holes, to building my own 3 tier system for my ME senior design project; to now a single keggle, eBIAB system that I built. All told since 1996 I may have $1500 in equipment purchases. Probably amortized to nothing now.

Most recently I got a mill for Christmas two years ago, and want to get more active w/ my yeast harvesting/storing, so will be getting some glycol for freezing in test tubes.

You can save money vs. buying expensive beer, at the same time as having a cool hobby. It just takes a long time to amortize the savings (and NEVER factor in your time, since its a hobby!)

K
 

corkybstewart

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You can save money vs. buying expensive beer, at the same time as having a cool hobby. It just takes a long time to amortize the savings (and NEVER factor in your time, since its a hobby!)

K
My other hobbies are photography and rock collecting-nothing comes close to the money I spend looking for rocks.
 

Mr. Vern

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Relative to how much you drink, savings could be realized over time, batches still cost roughly $1/Beer for some high quality IPA with 6-ers comparing at 2x price if not more.

- Watch your local FB groups & marketplace (I got a grainfather on Southwest Michigan Home Brewers, Refrigerated chamber too).
- Group buys such as a local homebrew club, sometimes the hosting brewery will allow you to piggyback on their bulk grain orders.
- Be very fast on facebook offers, the good ones go very quick.
- Also homebrew club, often at a local brewery, the brewer might notify you when they are dumping yeast. Yeast has been well covered re: washing and overbuilding

For equipment, I have scored a $40 large fermenting chamber (must be $100 in wood and casters alone), I also scored 2 GrainFather G30's FREE from a local brewer who had a basement flood (unsanitary flood) and already had replacement by insurance. All rubber has been replaced LOL

You have to be dedicated to be this cheap
 

bleme

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When I first started, I talked to the owner of a local sushi restaurant and they would give me all their bottles if I showed up at closing time Friday and Saturday. I was getting 100 bottles every weekend, with probably a third of them 20-22oz bombers.
 

Dr_Jeff

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I likely have in excess of 10k worth of equipment, but have minimal invested in it as I bought out other people getting out of the hobby, kept what I wanted and sold the rest making money on the rest of the equipment. Traded for some of it as well.

rinse and repeat

Now this has happened over ten years and I'm pretty happy with what I now have, so I've slacked up, also with COVID, it complicates things as well on dealing with folks.
 

PberBob

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I started in college on the cheap. Found a used 5 gal. plastic spackling bucket and set the kettle in the snow to chil. (seasonal brewing only).

Moved to better climate and made an immersion chiller with copper tubing, which paid for itself in ice savings in about four batches. I use tap water to get below 100 F, then circulate ice water with $15 drill pump through it to get to pitch temps. Freezer can make enough for that, about 10 lbs.

Our tap water is pretty good and I use campden, little gypsum, and lactic acid to get very good results.

I moved up to a plastic conical fermenter that I can bottle from. (~$100) and I save and repitch yeast from primary. This cuts about about $5 off per batch.

I rationalize equipment costs by figuring I would be paying about $80 for commercial beer, so I can “justify“ spending on average about $35 per batch on equipment.

Of course the ”research“ at all the craft breweries comes out a separate ”education” fund. ;)
 

Brewdog80

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I've made good money over the years by being a homebrewers. Wife had friend working for Pepsi a couple of decades ago. When they discontinued their kegs, I bought around 300 or so of them and sold them for good money for a year or so. Bought for about $2 each and sold for $15 to $25. But those were the days.
I use tap water, hard water, and just run through carbon filter to remove chlorine. Water the yard and plants with cooling water, changed to electric Brewer as propane is so expensive, yeah, will take 50 brews to save on that expense, but is way easier. Have reused and harvested yeast in past, is a good learning experience and does save $10 to $15 per brew, grain in bulk, use in a year or so if you can store in cool location.
 
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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.
When trying to minimize costs when brewing, distilled water probably doesn't make sense.

Starting out with all-grain brewing, using distilled, RO, or other low mineral water can simplify water adjustments for a proper mash and for flavor enhancements. See Water Chemistry - How to Build Your Water (link) from 2012 (twelve, not twenty two).

Different goals - different techniques. That's "Why in the world would [one] use distilled water?"
 

mashpaddled

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I doubt very few brew their own beer to save money. That sounds boring to me. It is done becuase one enjoys THE PROCESS. Granted, there are budget processes up to extravagant, equipment-heavy methods for brewing your own beer, all determined by one budget or personal values.

I believe a lot of homebrewers who got into the hobby around college got into it to save money. A $100 starter kit and $50 recipe kit for five gallons is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying $15-20 4pks of IPA. Not cheaper than buying racks of light lager but if you want craft beer and can't afford it, well that is an option.

I'm sure there are still a lot of homebrewers with minimal access to good homebrew who brew at home in part because it's cheaper and better than the $10/6pks they can find locally.
 

bwible

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Depends on your goals and what you like to drink. Some guys start out because they love craft beer that is $20 for a four pack. In that case you can definitely do better. As time goes by some of us find ourselves gravitating back to more basic beers like Landshark or Miller High Life for the summer. I consider it a technical challenge just to be able to brew beers at home that approach those. And you’re not going to make those for less than you can buy them for just because of the giant scale big breweries operate on.

You can save some buying in bulk. But the trick here is to not let your eyes be bigger than your appetite. Its easy to buy alot of stuff and forget you have it and not use it in a reasonable time. On one hand I want to have what I need on hand when I want to brew but on the other hand I don’t want to be throwing away hops that I never used that are 5 years old or tossing old dead yeast after I spent more money to try to revive it with a starter.

Storage is also key. If you buy grains in bulk you need airtight storage and to protect them from bugs and critters. Hops should be frozen. Yeast can’t be frozen and has a limited life.

The best way to know if your water is good is to have it tested. Once you know the results you can adjust it with minerals. Depending on the results maybe you use some RO or distilled water to cut back the minerals that are too high. I don’t see any reason to brew with 100% RO or distilled. You need some minerals. I buy gallons of distilled water at Walmart for about $1 each. Not a big deal to me, I’m brewing 3 gallon batches and I only use a couple at a time. 2 or 3 usually.

Re-use yeast. Especially with my small batches, this is one of my biggest costs. Because I’m using liquid yeast which ends up being about $10 shipped. So if I get 3 beers out of it makes it about $3 per. If I get 5 beers out of it, that makes it $2 per. Its not hard - just plan your beers in order. Light to dark, weak to strong. Try not to have flavors from one beer carry over to the next. For example, blonde ale, pale ale, ipa, barleywine. All you have to do is brew another beer and put it on top of the yeast cake from the previous beer after you transfer it off.

BIAB is the easy way to get into all grain today without spending a fortune on equipment. There are plenty of threads on here.

Remember it is a hobby. What you do with it is up to you.
 

bwible

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I’ve been brewing for 25 years this year and I’m not going to lie. I still buy beer even though I brew. I still buy quite a bit. So it’s not really “I’m brewing instead of buying beer.”

C6DB07BF-DD17-44E1-9B1C-CA469F5B92D0.jpeg
 
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hopjuice_71

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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.
Off topic, but what is the science of hop storage? I used to vacuum seal and freeze, but that was just too tedious - expensive in terms of my time and materials. Now I'm sloppy and just take what I want from the 1lb bag and toss the bag back in the freezer - closed but not flushed or vacuum sealed. My laziness kind of bothers me, but maybe the science says its totally OK?
 

bwible

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When I first started, I talked to the owner of a local sushi restaurant and they would give me all their bottles if I showed up at closing time Friday and Saturday. I was getting 100 bottles every weekend, with probably a third of them 20-22oz bombers.
When I first started I talked to a bartender at Bennigan’s. He would save me their empty Grolsh bottles (swingtops) that to him were trash. And he would give them to me with the box and all. And I would tip him about $5 a case. Was more than worth it. I had about a dozen cases and somewhere along the way of moving and stuff I got rid of them. I’m sorry I did.
 
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I used to vacuum seal and freeze, but that was just too tedious - expensive in terms of my time and materials. Now I'm sloppy and just take what I want from the 1lb bag and toss the bag back in the freezer - closed but not flushed or vacuum sealed. My laziness kind of bothers me, but maybe the science says its totally OK?
There is some information from the late 2010s [start here (link)] that may or may not be relevant for NEIPAs and hazies. Table 5 seems to support 'close it tightly and store it in the freezer'. But there may be newer information 'out there, some where'.

One interesting approach I've read for bulk hop purchases is to buy packages sizes (2 oz, 4 oz, 8 oz) that match the sizes in the recipe; any partial packages are stored for future bittering additions.
 

corkybstewart

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When trying to minimize costs when brewing, distilled water probably doesn't make sense.

Starting out with all-grain brewing, using distilled, RO, or other low mineral water can simplify water adjustments for a proper mash and for flavor enhancements. See Water Chemistry - How to Build Your Water (link) from 2012 (twelve, not twenty two).

Different goals - different techniques. That's "Why in the world would [one] use distilled water?"
Which is why I mentioned that adjustment for minerals is an advanced technique that most brewers will never use. But when I have done it I've used RO, not distilled.
 

ScrewyBrewer

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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.
Under current New Jersey law, it is illegal for our homebrew club to pour beer at beer festivals.
 

Jim R

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I remember asking this exact same question once when I was younger about one of my other hobbies (fly fishing as I recall). I remember the guy telling me to improve myself so I didn't have to ask this question about my hobbies. Maybe that is the best answer of all although that is a whole other conversation.
 

Spivey24

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Ha, I can brew for about half of what it costs to buy. Not why I do it, but good justification. I keep thinking I will catch up but then buy some new equipment. I am probably 4k+ into it but someday will make it up. lol

[edit]
Crap, make that 5k+. I forgot about the bank of chest freezers in the basement and the 4 Tilts. Oh well, add another year before I break even.
 
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Dancy

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I remember asking this exact same question once when I was younger about one of my other hobbies (fly fishing as I recall). I remember the guy telling me to improve myself so I didn't have to ask this question about my hobbies. Maybe that is the best answer of all although that is a whole other conversation.
Best post of thread, IMO.
 

Miraculix

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Cheapest good beer ever:

40% Pilsener malt, 60% wheat flour. 45 minute mash, 65c.

Og 1.04 - 1.042

Generic hops, bittering only, 25 ibus.

Saison yeast of your choice (I love Imperial yeast rustic for this).

Only caveat, you have to biab because sparging would be a problem with that much wheat flour.
 

Alan Reginato

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These are some memes I have made regarding finances and homebrewing... Enjoy.
Wrong. I got my homebrew beer, with energy and equipment includes for 5 years depreciation time, for R$ 20 per litre, overestimating it. If I would buy equivalent beer, it will cost around R$ 40 per litre. Everything is f*** expensive in Brazil.
 

Velnerj

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Wrong. I got my homebrew beer, with energy and equipment includes for 5 years depreciation time, for R$ 20 per litre, overestimating it. If I would buy equivalent beer, it will cost around R$ 40 per litre. Everything is f*** expensive in Brazil.
Good on you! I live in the Czech Republic where beer is probably $2/L so....
 

Alan Reginato

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Good on you! I live in the Czech Republic where beer is probably $2/L so....
Screenshot_2022-06-22-07-42-34-304_com.android.chrome.jpg


Can you believe it?

I tried once and it's very nice, completely different than any commercial beer around. I may try brew a saison with a heavy flameout load of saaz, because of it.
 

Velnerj

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View attachment 772649

Can you believe it?

I tried once and it's very nice, completely different than any commercial beer around. I may try brew a saison with a heavy flameout load of saaz, because of it.
1 Brazilian Real = 4.5 Czech koruna
1L of this would cost less than 5BR.
 

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ScrewyBrewer

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Ha, I can brew for about half of what it costs to buy. Not why I do it, but good justification. I keep thinking I will catch up but then buy some new equipment. I am probably 4k+ into it but someday will make it up. lol
That is true, minus the initial outlay for brewing equipment. :coff1:
 

Alan Reginato

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1 Brazilian Real = 4.5 Czech koruna
1L of this would cost less than 5BR.
I know! The import prices just jumps when cross borders, it's absurd.

Fuller's London Pride costs nearly BR 30! ESB BR 35!

Regular comercial beer BR 6, for a crap tasteless thing. So homebrew is very interesting, specially if you are in a small town, like me.
 

wsmith1625

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Another way to save cash and to challenge your brewing skills is Small Beers. There's a lot of history behind them and there is certainly a place in our society for them today.
Very interesting. I didn't even know they existed. I imaging I will have to give it a shot some day.
 

Alan Reginato

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Another way to save cash and to challenge your brewing skills is Small Beers. There's a lot of history behind them and there is certainly a place in our society for them today.
I made some diluted beers, with hop tea (not boiled, just hopstand). Three times, one bottle splited in Two, at each test. I even try add some mint leaves. And turns out pretty good. ABV 3%.

Now I'm going to do a large batch. I like the taste of beer, not get drunk, neither hangovers. So it's a good idea
 

z-bob

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Cheapest good beer ever:

40% Pilsener malt, 60% wheat flour. 45 minute mash, 65c.

Og 1.04 - 1.042

Generic hops, bittering only, 25 ibus.

Saison yeast of your choice (I love Imperial yeast rustic for this).

Only caveat, you have to biab because sparging would be a problem with that much wheat flour.
Do you have to cook the flour?

How about Belle Saison yeast? (I have a packet of that in my fridge)
 

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