What are your tips for keeping costs down

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Miraculix

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Do you have to cook the flour?

How about Belle Saison yeast? (I have a packet of that in my fridge)
Nope, just throw it in the mash. Mix it with the grain prior doughing in and be prepared to stir a bit to resolve clumps.

Belle works but it's a bit bland imo. It will be quite neural.

Best is to do open fermentation for the first few days. Just cover against fruit flies with some cloth.
 

mendelec

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I'm an avid DIYer and an overall cheap bastard. But, I have ramped up and acquired toys over time. I'm now electric with a 3800 watt induction burner and that's a longer term investment to save over propane (though I did catch a sweet deal on that too), 3 tap kegerator, and more crap than I know what to do with. But, almost all of it was acquired used or DIY'd. 'Cause, cheap bastard...
Starting out, a lot can be saved by watching Craigslist, garage sales, and diy-ing simple things like a copper immersion chiller. As mentioned, there's always someone getting out of the hobby or upgrading and clearing out their old stuff. Keep your eyes open for bargains and think about where you hope to go in the hobby, so as to minimize buying things you outgrow (I failed badly at that part). I started with BIAB in a repurposed turkey fryer I got off Craigslist for 30 bucks, a 15 dollar rolling cooler for mashing, a glass carboy I nabbed for $5 at a garage sale, rescued beer bottles, and not a ton more.
Saving/culturing yeast and growing my own hops are big time money savers for me these days, but they do take a bit more time and equipment. I caught a deal on a stir plate, but you can diy one pretty easily too.
But, it all comes down to what you want out of the hobby. Personally, time isn't as much the issue for me and I get as much satisfaction making my own equipment and growing/culturing my own hops and yeast as I do brewing. If you only enjoy the brewing and consumption part, then watch for those sales and listings for used equipment and screw the diy part. You do you. There's no right or wrong way.
If you're trying to save ingredient cost, find a good supplier, go bulk, catch sales (but don't overbuy things with limited shelf life), and find recipes or beer styles you enjoy that rely less on specialty grains and use less (or less expensive) hops.
Your water expenditures sound crazy to me. Before I diy'd the immersion chiller, I was cooling my kettle by gently swirling it around a bathtub of cold water. And, I live in an area where our water is good for brewing with minor adjustments. Get yourself a water report if you live in an area with municipal water. Carbon filter and some inexpensive adjustments are a lot cheaper than investing in a RO unit or buying bottled. But, a decent RO unit isn't too bad and will probably save you over time. Do the math and figure out the costs over time once you account for the cartridges.
 

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well, i do malt my own... 40 cents/lb for base malt helps....

and you can get old hops cheap too....

@bracconiere The resident expert on home malting.
With his way you can save, if you are willing to invest the time to do it.
But hey, if you do, it makes the beer even more "your own" as you are involved in more of the process.
 

Dr_Jeff

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just the one with a simplified process... i used to be able to brew a 10 gallon batch of 8%ABV for $8-9.....now it's $12..... still pretty good though?


Yes sir, that's pretty good.
I'm in at about 25-30 bucks for a ten gallon batch at a similar ABV, if I don't factor in the propane, water or electricity, so I guess that I'm closer to 30-35.
 

bracconiere

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i brew on NG...practicly free. when i was using propane, it was an extra $4 a batch, that's why i started using NG. even electric brewing would be like $2 a batch.

but honestly $25-30 for a 10 gallon batch is impressive! that's $3.50 a twelver! way better then the $9-10 they want for 4.5% highlife!
 

Dr_Jeff

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I get my malt at a brewery in the city where I used to live, buy hops in bulk, reuse yeast.
I'll pick it up on a day that I have to drive into work for meetings, as I am able to telework most days.
The malt is usually about 75-85 cents a pound, however, I bought three sacks of Franco-Belages malt so it's about $1 a pound.
NG stops like a mile or two away. :-(
I need to use my electric system now that the temperatures are going up.
 

z-bob

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Nope, just throw it in the mash. Mix it with the grain prior doughing in and be prepared to stir a bit to resolve clumps.

Belle works but it's a bit bland imo. It will be quite neural.

Best is to do open fermentation for the first few days. Just cover against fruit flies with some cloth.

Thanks. I may give this a try with K1V1116 yeast then. That should give it good attenuation and some esters. (maybe the wrong esters :)) I've used that yeast before in a SMaSH beer with just pilsner malt and I think Sterling hops. It started out good but didn't age well. (next time I'll drink it faster)

Edit: This might be a good recipe to try OYL-033 "Jovaru" yeast. (the yeast will cost as much as the malt, but then I can save and repitch it)
 
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acrowe

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This is a great thread, sort of entertaining. I live in Canada so the price of beer is different, although high end craft beer in the US is comparable or even a little more expensive than craft beer in BC, cheap beer in the US is really inexpensive and probably cheaper than anything but really thrifty homebrewing. In most places in Canada the cheapest beer is still 60-70% of the price of craft beer.
I try to keep costs down by keeping equipment minimal - I have mashed in various coolers, now I am back to BIAB. Our tap water is cool enough for cooling, usually even in the summer. When I was constantly fighting CO2 leaks CO2 was a noticeable cost.

I am with the hobby thing though, I enjoy it and I don't mind spending some money on it, after all, soon we will be dead.

I also really like fishing, flyfishing in streams and lakes, and also saltwater fishing. I am also pretty thrifty at that, but it still costs a lot with lots of gear, a johnboat for freshwater flyfishing,, a boat for saltwater, engines, fuel ...
When we moved from Manitoba to BC my partner started calculating the cost of fish dinner. Her friend told her BOAT really means "Bust Out Another Thousand$. Salmon and Halibut are expensive to buy but so is fishing for them.

One win, my partner and friends like cider a lot. I can produce cider they like a lot for 20 - 25% of the cost of commercial craft cider.
 
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I know this has been said by many, but...

I started out cheap with a BIAB kettle on the stove and a sink full of ice; plastic brewbuckets and gifted glass carboys. As I learned more about home brewing (and my beer stopped tasting like Corona/Heineken) I started making the wishlist of upgrades. In order to afford those upgrades, I sold off prior hobby(s) equipment, and then got into buying out folks getting out of home brewing. Then selling off/giving away the extra bits once I got the parts that I wanted out of someone else's brew setup. Some of the spare cash went to completely new items (induction burners, freezer for kegs, AC for DIY glycol chiller), but I would say I am at $0 or less for the equipment itself at this point. Buying in bulk means I can buy wine/cider kits and keep SWMBO happy, too. Yeah, I can make a pale ale/hoppy lager for about $0.25 a pint, and that's significant. But I still manage to spend at least $100 a month at Total Wine on beers (plus date nights at brewpubs) that I use as inspiration, or, ahem, research.

All that being said, like many on this site, my beers started getting good while I was still using cheap-ass, used equipment; the equipment upgrades didn't necessarily make the beer better, it made it easier and more efficient to produce.
 

beren

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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?"
Depends, but a good water test isn't cheap, and needs to be done at least every few months as your water changes a lot over time.
 

beren

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Buy base malts in 50 or 55 pound bags, and don't use a lot of specialty malts. Reuse yeast. Don't worry so much about the cost because this is a hobby. (it takes a lot of time, and what is your time worth? Presumably your time is spent because you enjoy it)
Reusing yeast is one of the easiest ways to save money. a $10 pack and $5 of vials and glycerin turns into 10 frozen yeast tubes. This is what I did: Maintaining A Healthy Yeast Bank Long Term
 

beren

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Anyone in NJ getting RO water in the .25/gal ballpark? The Walmart by me sells 5 gallons for $7.00. Same with HomeDepot and Lowes.
No I don't even see that by me in south jersey, it's only spring water in bulk or gallons of distilled/ro. I found a water distiller for super cheap used but no carafe. It's $0.30gal or so but i often run it overnight at my office (or during the day when it's cold out)
 
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Depends, but a good water test isn't cheap, and needs to be done at least every few months as your water changes a lot over time.
Tap water can have seasonal variations or come from multiple sources. It can also come from a single source or a private well (which doesn't vary).

A local home brew club or home brew supply store can often supply much of the needed tap water information for free.

There have been a couple of people here who also maintain a salt water aquarium - and they claimed that processes / equipment to maintain the aquarium can be cheaply repurposed to understand brewing water.
 

madscientist451

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Sometimes trying to save money ends up costing more. I re-use yeast and sometimes go a little bit too many generations and end up with a batch a beer I don't like very much. Brewing hoppy beers can be very costly, and its also easier to screw up than you might think. Keep things simple, many really good beer (and food) recipes don't use very many different ingredients. I mostly supported my local home brew shops (all closed down now) but you can cut your costs by shopping around and looking for deals. Do you really need all distilled water? Have you tried using your tap water?
 

OakIslandBrewery

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Sometimes trying to save money ends up costing more. I re-use yeast and sometimes go a little bit too many generations and end up with a batch a beer I don't like very much. Brewing hoppy beers can be very costly, and its also easier to screw up than you might think. Keep things simple, many really good beer (and food) recipes don't use very many different ingredients. I mostly supported my local home brew shops (all closed down now) but you can cut your costs by shopping around and looking for deals. Do you really need all distilled water? Have you tried using your tap water?
I'll reuse yeast sometimes. I buy in bulk when it makes sense and that's what I do for packets of dry yeast. Dry yeasts have come a long way in specific ones for specific styles. As stated several posts ago I look at what recipes I want to brew at the beginning of the year then buy the ingredients I need. Also most of what I brew is the same styles or close to each other enough that they use most of the same grains just different amounts. Lots of ways to save money but as posted earlier, it's my hobby and I think it's still cheaper than fishing . . . .

As far as water goes, what comes out of the tap is what I use. Our water is filtered at the well, no chlorine and un-softened in the brewery.
 

renstyle

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Agree with many already here.

For water got an RO rig off Amazon. Not the best ($65) but it was good to start with. I have a pair of 5gal/19L car boys that get refilled during my brew day.

If this thing gives the bare minimum of it’s rated output I’ll have enuf water for 30 5gal batches, if I use 10 gal each time before stuff needs replaced.

The money savings isn’t much, 22 cents per gal vs 29 cents at a kiosk with your own jugs, but I don’t need to lug home 10 gallons of water on brew day either, so that time and effort savings is worth it to me.

Overbuilding starters is how I stretch my yeast stores. Only a few pint mason jars and lids plus fridge space needed there.

I don’t buy DME or LME for starters, I make up some 1037-1040 wort and freeze it in 1L portions cuz I don’t have a pressure canner (yet).

Does that save $$$$? I dunno but I have the mill and grain already as well as ample deep freeze space.

I buy 2 row and Pilsner malt by the sack, store them in 5gal pails with gamma lids (2 pails per sack).

you can also keep smaller quantities of specialty malts on hand as well, or just buy those per batch as there isn’t much % wise.

All this grain does necessitate a mill.

It seems most of the “savings” to be found are more in the time/logistics vein as opposed to cost, which makes sense for a hobby
 

renstyle

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Cooling: I do MIAB with a 5gal round cooler.

I also have a SS chiller (came with the kettle) and another budget Cu coil.

Making my own ice in the deep freeze, I repurpose the mash cooler (which has zero hardware inside thanks to the bag) into a pre chiller using my own ice and the SS coil.

Feed this chilled water to the copper in the kettle and it works pretty well, and isn’t much of a hassle really
 

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If this thing gives the bare minimum of it’s rated output I’ll have enuf water for 30 5gal batches, if I use 10 gal each time before stuff needs replaced.

The money savings isn’t much, 22 cents per gal vs 29 cents at a kiosk with your own jugs, but I don’t need to lug home 10 gallons of water on brew day either, so that time and effort savings is worth it to me.
Thank You!! I have been trying to collect real-world numbers like this. (Brain-damage..my math is axonally-broken) I'm another Canadian and one of those who won't even drink free beer unless it's one I like. This is the cheapest beer I like:
UPPER CANADA DARK ALE - The Beer Store ..if the link's out, that's $38.95 for 24 x 341ml bottles. I can make more than twice that amount for about $23, and that's just using extract. I'm still getting my feet wet with all grain, but it does pound my grocery budget as I'm on a fixed income owing to disability, which in Canada, is damn near poverty. For reasons of 'Accessibilty', I need to build a full 3V system so that I can have my mash tun on a hinged mount for cleaning it out. No space or money for an electric winch and tracks, and I'm not able to lift a bag or basket even with a pulley.
I really do a ppreciate this thread for adding a lot of confirmation to my choices. :)
:thumbsup:
:mug:
 

grampamark

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I think that there are two, distinct, brewing hobbies. There’s the beer brewing hobby and there’s the building a brewery hobby. It’s a matter of “you pays your money and makes your choices”.

The beer makers can’t figure out how any homebrewer could possibly spend more brewing craft quality beer at home than it costs to buy it in the store. The brewery builders insist that it’s impossible to save money by homebrewing.

You pays your money and makes your choices. :cool:
 

renstyle

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For reasons of 'Accessibilty', I need to build a full 3V system so that I can have my mash tun on a hinged mount for cleaning it out. No space or money for an electric winch and tracks, and I'm not able to lift a bag or basket even with a pulley.
Definitely would still recommend a bag to use in the mash tun if your design ideas can accommodate. Would be that much easier to clean up, especially if you can hinge the tun to help get the grain out.

Since it sounds like your kit will likely include a pump, you may be able to get by with a kettle (ideally with a drain port) and just a decent cooler for the mash tun.

What kind of kettle are you thinking of going with, electric or gas? Propane?
 

Broken Crow

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Definitely would still recommend a bag to use in the mash tun if your design ideas can accommodate. Would be that much easier to clean up, especially if you can hinge the tun to help get the grain out.
Thanks! I hadn't considered that. I have an Igloo 10G mash tun with a false bottom that I got used for only $40 and a RIMS tube to add to it. I just need my body and brain to cooperate long enough to assemble them. I've been using a keggle that took me too long to build, but I've used every detail I found others using on this site that have made it very easy to work with.
Here's a pic of it's maiden voyage a couple years ago:
IMG_0962.jpeg
 

Broken Crow

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Oh... I should add what I've found to be the absolute best way to keep costs down;
Read Everything on this site every day!
If a barely functioning guy like me can still chose, source, and assemble a cost-efficient and working brew-rig, based entirely on the work of others on this site, then anybody can.
 

IslandLizard

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I'm on a fixed income owing to disability,
So sorry to hear that.

so that I can have my mash tun on a hinged mount for cleaning it out.
Aside from "tippy-dumps" being outrageously expensive, they are a PITA to operate without spills. And very heavy and bulky. I've never seen one for 5 gallon batches, either.

I have an Igloo 10G mash tun with a false bottom
Those are probably among the easiest to work with. You can scoop the spent grain out, into a bucket, no need to ever lift the heavy full tun.

Similar to your setup, I use a rectangular cooler, but it's sitting on only a 1 foot high bench. I lauter into a short 3.5 gallon bucket, 1-2 gallons at a time, and pour the collected wort into the kettle which sits on my induction plate on the countertop. It's an easy lift that way. I could use a pump if I ever needed too.
I do batch sparging, which I really like for ease and efficiency: 82-85%.
 

Broken Crow

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Aside from "tippy-dumps" being outrageously expensive, they are a PITA to operate without spills. And very heavy and bulky. I've never seen one for 5 gallon batches, either
I'm planning on building one once my garage roof is fixed and I can safely use my welding and other tools again. I was going to make it to tilt only to 45° or so, with mechanical assistance, but now I'm thinking that with a bag in it, I can just dump the whole thing into a tub to wait for my friend with the chickens to come get it. (Minus the 2 cups I take out to make cookies...and yes; I get hulls stuck in my teeth but I don't care...they're really good when made with oats, raisins, and broken up hazelnuts added to the mix.) ;)
 

mendelec

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Depends, but a good water test isn't cheap, and needs to be done at least every few months as your water changes a lot over time.
That depends a lot on your water source. Ours is from Lake Michigan, is very stable, and I can pull up a more than sufficiently detailed water report from the city that is measured at least a few times a year. Number drifts border on the margin of error when you account for all the variables that go into it.
 

mendelec

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Tap water can have seasonal variations or come from multiple sources. It can also come from a single source or a private well (which doesn't vary).

A local home brew club or home brew supply store can often supply much of the needed tap water information for free.

There have been a couple of people here who also maintain a salt water aquarium - and they claimed that processes / equipment to maintain the aquarium can be cheaply repurposed to understand brewing water.
Absolutely. I no longer have the reef aquarium (I do love my expensive equipment heavy hobbies), but I used to be on really awful well water and used a basic 5 stage RO unit I got off ebay for a very decent price. Not sufficient for a reef, on its own, but another diy stage with ion exchange resin and I was down to tds good enough to keep a reef vey happy. Total overkill for home brewing. Pretty much any unmodified RO unit out there ought to get your tds down to the point you can build back brewing water. Your palate isn't anywhere near as sensitive to what is in the water as live coral. If I was still on a well, I'd totally have an RO unit for the house and use it for brewing water.
 

EthanH

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I think that there are two, distinct, brewing hobbies. There’s the beer brewing hobby and there’s the building a brewery hobby. It’s a matter of “you pays your money and makes your choices”.

The beer makers can’t figure out how any homebrewer could possibly spend more brewing craft quality beer at home than it costs to buy it in the store. The brewery builders insist that it’s impossible to save money by homebrewing.

You pays your money and makes your choices. :cool:

That is a great way of putting it.

And in that context, the question "why worry about saving money on a hobby?" is nonsensical to the beer brewing hobbyists because it sounds like "why do you care about paying more for grain than you have to?" But to the brewery building hobbyist it's "why are you bothering with this if you're going to deny yourself the best equipment you can afford?"

Or something like that.
 

bracconiere

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I stuck my Foundry on a Kill-A-Watt and it came out to $1.07 in electricity, which kind of surprised me. I was guessing lower.


yep, i brew 10 gallon batches, when i do a long boil 5-6 gallon batch. i use a kill-a-watt and fan speed controller for temp control. how i know what it adds up to.

and that's with a 1500 watt hot plate.
 
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Wow, I really sparked a massive thread here! Thanks all for the tips and feedback. Some really great ideas here for me to think about. Just wanted to answer some of the questions that kept popping up:

1. My benchmark currently is I can buy two packs of my favorite beer from my local craft brewery which works out to $40/gallon. No I'm not drinking Bud or anything like that.
2. I'm doing all-grain, no extracts. However, one thing I should have mentioned is because I'm just starting out, and wasn't sure about my recipes or techniques, I didn't want to commit to full batches, so I scaled recipes to half-batches. Currently yielding about 2 gallons per batch which is coming out to about $35 per batch, give or take. Not counting equipment investment.
3. My first batch didn't turn out well, it was super astringent, and I've been researching what could have caused that. We have terrible water where I live. Off the scale hard, and extremely caustic. But I used filtered tap water for my first batch and wanted to absolutely eliminate water as the possible cause of the astringency, so for batch 2 I used distilled (at 2.99 per gal) and built it back up, which I realize is pretty advanced for where I'm at as a brewer. I don't expect to always use distilled.
 

Miraculix

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Wow, I really sparked a massive thread here! Thanks all for the tips and feedback. Some really great ideas here for me to think about. Just wanted to answer some of the questions that kept popping up:

1. My benchmark currently is I can buy two packs of my favorite beer from my local craft brewery which works out to $40/gallon. No I'm not drinking Bud or anything like that.
2. I'm doing all-grain, no extracts. However, one thing I should have mentioned is because I'm just starting out, and wasn't sure about my recipes or techniques, I didn't want to commit to full batches, so I scaled recipes to half-batches. Currently yielding about 2 gallons per batch which is coming out to about $35 per batch, give or take. Not counting equipment investment.
3. My first batch didn't turn out well, it was super astringent, and I've been researching what could have caused that. We have terrible water where I live. Off the scale hard, and extremely caustic. But I used filtered tap water for my first batch and wanted to absolutely eliminate water as the possible cause of the astringency, so for batch 2 I used distilled (at 2.99 per gal) and built it back up, which I realize is pretty advanced for where I'm at as a brewer. I don't expect to always use distilled.
Just use the correct amount of acid to neutralise the alkalinity and your water will be probably fine. Astringency is usually a matter of a mash ph being too low because of too much alkalinity of the water. Acidulated malt is an easy fix. Just add about 2% of the grist by weight as acidulated malt and that's probably already it.
 

Beholder

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Just to summarize some ideas from above.

1. RO water instead of spring / distilled
2. Buy (base) malt in bulk and store in gamma seal buckets
3. Buy hops by the pound and vacuum seal with a food saver
4. Use a counter flow or immersion chiller for cooling to avoid any need for ice.
5. Brew “light” beers (4% range ABV, low IBUs) and / or SMASH

The last one is up to your tastes, but advantages that they are sessionable and using all the points from above, a half barrel batch costs me ~$40 all in with primary contributors of base malt cost and DME cost (for the yeast starter).

If you want to hone your process, they have the added bonus of no where for flaws to hide, so perhaps you can strike a middle ground and not go super light.

Other suggestions like electric (which I have as well) can save on fuel, though the investment is quite a bit more than a chiller here or RO filter there.
 

z-bob

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Wow, I really sparked a massive thread here! Thanks all for the tips and feedback. Some really great ideas here for me to think about. Just wanted to answer some of the questions that kept popping up:

1. My benchmark currently is I can buy two packs of my favorite beer from my local craft brewery which works out to $40/gallon. No I'm not drinking Bud or anything like that.
2. I'm doing all-grain, no extracts. However, one thing I should have mentioned is because I'm just starting out, and wasn't sure about my recipes or techniques, I didn't want to commit to full batches, so I scaled recipes to half-batches. Currently yielding about 2 gallons per batch which is coming out to about $35 per batch, give or take. Not counting equipment investment.
3. My first batch didn't turn out well, it was super astringent, and I've been researching what could have caused that. We have terrible water where I live. Off the scale hard, and extremely caustic. But I used filtered tap water for my first batch and wanted to absolutely eliminate water as the possible cause of the astringency, so for batch 2 I used distilled (at 2.99 per gal) and built it back up, which I realize is pretty advanced for where I'm at as a brewer. I don't expect to always use distilled.

The water here (Rochester, MN) tastes good but is very alkaline. pH is something like 7.6 which isn't a big deal, but the bicarbonate level is ridiculous; I don't remember but I think it's 350+ ppm. It's only suitable for making very dark beers, and it's actually good for that. By adding phosphoric acid, I can brew anything I want. A liter of 85% H3PO4 will last me for years because I only use a few milliliters at a time. I bought it on Amazon a couple of years ago for $20-something with free delivery.

I've also used hardware store muriatic acid (31% hydrochloric) and a little gypsum to balance out the chloride with some sulfate. That work well and is *really* cheap, but I don't really like using non-foodgrade chemicals. (it's such a small amount of HCl it's probably fine, the main contaminant is likely iron, and there's not much of that)

If you're into chemistry, the cheapest way to treat your water is by adding calcium hydroxide to decarbonate it. You add a calculated amount of slaked lime, let the chalk that precipitates out settle, and decant the softened water off the top. By doing it in 2 steps you can also remove magnesium. Someday I want to try that, mainly because the chemistry intrigues me even tho' I'm not very good at it.

For moderate alkalinity reduction, you can make your own lactic acid (about 2%) by fermenting malt wort with the lactic acid bacteria on a handful of malt. It's called Sauergut. I tried making a sour beer that way a few years ago and it worked really well. But I don't brew often enough to keep a Sauergut reactor going. You'd add a maybe a half a liter of Sauergut to your mash to acidify it, then before you add the hops you pull off half a liter of the wort to replace it.
 

mashpaddled

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The #1 cost in homebrewing for almost everybody is equipment. The more you upgrade or chase new equipment the more expensive the hobby gets. You'll never reuse enough yeast or buy hops in bulk enough to make up for the hundreds of dollars in equipment that ends up in the back of your brewing storage. Most of us will make upgrades over time or change the way we brew which comes with the territory but for brewers who buy the new gadget or brewhouse every couple years you're not brewing for the cost conscious. It's fine to buy because you want but if you want to keep costs down really think about those purchases before pulling the trigger.
 
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