What are your tips for keeping costs down

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just john

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I figure my beer costs about half of what comparable beer would cost plus I don't have to schlep it home from the store.

And I've been surprised how many times now that I buy beer at the store or even the breweries and I and my friends prefer mine.

Oh, to keep costs down, don't brew NEIPAs. :)
 
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Cellar_Dweller

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And I've been surprised how many times now that I buy beer at the store or even the breweries and I and my friends prefer mine.

Homebrew can be vastly better than store-bought. I went to a homebrew club meeting once where everyone was sharing their current brews and most of them were far and away better than anything I was buying. Best barrel-aged stout I've tasted so far was made by a member of that club...like it's not even close.

We can afford to use the highest quality ingredients and take as much time as we need to finish our product. Not so much with a commercial brewery worrying about profit margins. I personally love when I'm on a brewing tear and go months only drinking and enjoying my own stuff. The beer at the store just elicits a disinterested shrug. Those are good times. 'Course, I have periods where I can't seem to make anything I like, so there's that too...
 
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I also like that inspiration for a new recipe can come from anywhere. I picked up a 4 pack of Revolution's caramel popcorn ale yesterday. It was sweet, syrupy, and flabby and I couldn't find much popcorn flavor. Dissapointing, but I immediately knew I can make a better one myself, and I won't skip the buttery aspect that Revolution missed entirely.
 
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Because of time and work constraints, I haven't brewed since May. That's a story for another time. What I have learned, though, regarding cost-savings, is that:
a. good craft beer is more expensive than I remember, pre-COVID.
b. a lot of my ex-fave local breweries have changed recipes for...reasons, and so I'm not buying at the taproom anymore
c. commercial/big craft breweries use waaaaaayyyyy too much crystal malt in their "clean" PA's and IPA's
d. I'm not going to save any freakin' money until I can make my own $%*@&%^@(( beer again
e. It doesn't matter how much I spend on beer, either making it or buying pre-made; if it doesn't taste like I want it to, it's a f'in' waste of money!
 

OakIslandBrewery

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The best way to keep your costs down is to drink your friends home brew. That seems to work with my friends, they are always drinking mine.

As I have stated earlier, I buy base grains in bulk. Zeroing in on styles you like will also help since you're not buying a bunch of different grains in smaller quantities for each batch. The same goes for hops. I use three different kinds for most of my brews so I buy one pound bags. They keep well in the freezer, just make sure you have a good sealed bag. A vacuum sealer is a good investment for both the kitchen and brewery. I also buy dry yeast in bulk and capture a savings there.

The savings are out there, sometimes you need to be lucky but mostly it's just good planning. And remember, all hobbies cost something to have all that fun.
 

flanmail

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I've asked breweries for a sample of their yeast. They usually give it to me in a souffle cup with lid. I put it on ice in a cup until I get home and either use it or step it up and store it. I collect herbs from our garden and yard that I use in a gruit bag and avoid hops. I also brew BIAB and have used "Tunas" (prickly pear fruit) with the spines removed and peeled in a mash or mini-mash. There are many fermentables, think outside the box; it's cooking and has been done for millenia.

The best advice I could give would be the advice that got me started over 20 years ago, 'find, and join a homebrewers club'.
 

Hoochin'Hank

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Yeast harvesting idea... would this work?

Shortly after active ferment starts (hopefully by day #2), take a small sample (say 2 ounces?) of the wort out of the fermenter, dilute the sample down to 1.040, put sample into jar with loose lid, and put jar in the fridge.
 

Upstate12866

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Yeast harvesting idea... would this work?

Shortly after active ferment starts (hopefully by day #2), take a small sample (say 2 ounces?) of the wort out of the fermenter, dilute the sample down to 1.040, put sample into jar with loose lid, and put jar in the fridge.
That will get you yeast that's viable for later use, but not very much I would guess--you would likely need to create another starter to boost your numbers.

Now, 2 oz of yeast cake after you rack out of primary will have many more cells. Any reason you don't want to take from the bottom of the ferm vessel? A pint of that stuff will get ya quite a few brews.

At some volume of active fermenting beer, you will have enough yeast. If you are certain there aren't other bugs about even small amounts of yeast can eventually do the job. And I'm always impressed with what yeast can do, so I can't say it won't work at all.

I put in about 2 tbsp yeast goo when reusing, maybe more for a lager. I bet I could do just one though. Maybe less if I'm certain my process is fairly clean. B it I find by reusing the truth that I have more yeast than I can use.
 

Hoochin'Hank

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Now, 2 oz of yeast cake after you rack out of primary will have many more cells. Any reason you don't want to take from the bottom of the ferm vessel? A pint of that stuff will get ya quite a few brews.
Mostly just because the yeast-cakes look nasty, especially on the darker beers I've made (note: I'm a complete noob still)!

So far, the only yeast re-use I've attempted, was to pour a new wort on top of the full yeast-cake of an 5.x% abv amber ale that I had just transferred to a bottling bucket -- it worked out great (S-04 yeast)!

I was hoping that, using the "grab a bit of wort just after a bit of krausen had formed" would work, no matter how high the wort's OG or IBUs were, as long as things got diluted soon there-after. I am DEFINITELY scared to re-use the yeast-cake from a chocolate porter I recently made, tho hopeful that if I'd captured some actively fermenting wort from said batch, would be able to re-use yeast that way.
 

Upstate12866

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You can give it a try, it better yet toss it direct into another batch of wort.

The trub is certainly unpleasant but basically "wholesome" and you will find in the amounts used, makes virtually no impact on the flavor or color of the next beer. I've used 04 English ale yeast for porter and then cider (partly to see what would happen) and that extreme example convinced me not to worry. This is mainly because you can use so little of it since it's so concentrated. It settles tight in the jar and you can pour off the liquid, leaving mostly yeast itself. I take a dinner spoon and put two blobs in a typical 3 gallon batch.

Finished beer will also have more yeast than unfinished beer, I would guess... So for density of starting yeast cells and for minimizing the last beer's color and flavor, it seems like the worst choice would be 2oz unfinished beer, then 2 oz finished beer, then 2 tbsp yeast cake (which is just tons more finished beer with the liquid mostly poured off).

Another small bonus: by waiting till transfer from primary, you get more of a chance to see if something got infected and a little less likely to spread an infection, which is one of the major downside risks to reusing yeast. But infections are usually pretty rare anyway.

Give it a try once with a common yeast type (05, or whatever you like) that you can reuse a few times. It's like having a backup storehouse for 3 months instead of just a starter for the next batch--very handy.
 
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Miraculix

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You can give it a try, it better yet toss it direct into another batch of wort.

The trub is certainly unpleasant but basically "wholesome" and you will find in the amounts used, makes virtually no impact on the flavor or color of the next beer. I've used 04 English ale yeast for porter and then cider (partly to see what would happen) and that extreme example convinced me not to worry. This is mainly because you can use so little of it since it's so concentrated. It settles tight in the jar and you can pour off the liquid, leaving mostly yeast itself. I take a dinner spoon and put two blobs in a typical 3 gallon batch.

Finished beer will also have more yeast than unfinished beer, I would guess... So for density of starting yeast cells and for minimizing the last beer's color and flavor, it seems like the worst choice would be 2oz unfinished beer, then 2 oz finished beer, then 2 tbsp yeast cake (which is just tons more finished beer with the liquid mostly poured off).

Another small bonus: by waiting till transfer from primary, you get more of a chance to see if something got infected and a little less likely to spread an infection, which is one of the major downside risks to reusing yeast. But infections are usually pretty rare anyway.

Give it a try once with a common yeast type (05, or whatever you like) that you can reuse a few times. It's like having a backup storehouse for 3 months instead of just a starter for the next batch--very handy.
This is serious underpitching. You were very lucky that it worked for you. I would not recommend this to anybody except he is using kveik.
 

Upstate12866

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This is serious underpitching. You were very lucky that it worked for you. I would not recommend this to anybody except he is using kveik.
It definitely works. Also it looks like about 3 tbsp hits 50 billion cells which is manufacturer recommended cell count for 3 gallons of regular strength brew. The two spoonfuls I toss in my 4-5% ales are probably closer to that, honestly. You can always add more easily since it is likely be free from a big jar. That's all I'm saying, didn't mean to recommend 2tbsp but merely demonstrate that a bit of slurry is more volume efficient than wort.
 

bwible

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You can also skim some of the foam off the top and either dry that out to use later or grow that up in a starter.

The only caveat about collecting yeast from your active fermentation is opening your fermentator and adding the risk of contamination. Everything has to be sanitized well.
 

bwible

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A word about re-pitching directly on top of yeast cake from a previous batch: You don’t necessarily want flavors from the previous batch to come through to the next batch. For example if you just made a chocolate stout then you probably don’t want to decide to brew a blonde ale or a cream ale and put it on that yeast cake. Or if you just brewed a double ipa then you probably don’t want to put an Irish Red or even a stout on top of that.

Re-using yeast requires a little planning. First I look at what yeast I have and what the manufacturers recommended styles are for that yeast. Then I plan to brew beers working light to dark, weaker to stronger - the same way beer judges judge beer.

When I brew big beers I always like to brew a smaller beer first to build up the yeast anyway. If I’m going to brew a barleywine I’ll brew a pale ale or an ipa first. If I’m going to brew Imperial Stout I’ll brew a dry stout first.

I brew smaller batches, usually 3 gallons, so I always try to get a few uses out of my yeast. What with a liquid yeast costing $10 or more now with shipping and a cold pack.
 
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Brushwood Brewing

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My best tip for brewing frugally: contentment.

Don't fall for all of the shiny conical ads when a plastic bucket will do just fine. Don't get envious of all the guys posting photos of their automated recirculating systems when your propane turkey fryer is still making tasty beer.

Yes I need to remind myself of this too.
 

Closet Fermenter

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propane is the most expensive way to boil! i use my NG stove to brew! ;) :mug:

(sure, it's a bit messy, but i'm single!)
Propane is expensive, so I use a wood stove in my brewing area to heat my strike and sparge water. I only turn the propane on for the boil because I need a lot more heat and control.
Also, the wood stove is beside a roll up door, so it’s tolerable in warm weather.
 

Brushwood Brewing

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propane is the most expensive way to boil! i use my NG stove to brew!
Propane is expensive, so I use a wood stove in my brewing area to heat my strike and sparge water.

Natural gas is great if you have the hookup, and wood is even better if you have the stove. I've been toying with the idea of ditching propane and going electric, but I'd be lying to myself if I said it were for cost savings. I'm sure for someone who brews every weekend it would make sense, but at my brewing frequency I don't think the math adds up right now. It doesn't help that my electric rate in NJ is 50% higher than national average. I'm sure I'll make the switch at some point, but hopefully a good quality eBIAB setup will continue to decrease in cost (relative to inflation, of course) into the future as they become more common.

Point being, the most affordable setup is probably the one you already own.

@Closet Fermenter That does give me the idea of pre-heating my strike water with electric though...
 
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OakIslandBrewery

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Natural gas is great if you have the hookup, and wood is even better if you have the stove. I've been toying with the idea of ditching propane and going electric, but I'd be lying to myself if I said it were for cost savings. I'm sure for someone who brews every weekend it would make sense, but at my brewing frequency I don't think the math adds up right now. It doesn't help that my electric rate in NJ is 50% higher than national average. I'm sure I'll make the switch at some point, but hopefully a good quality eBIAB setup will continue to decrease in cost (relative to inflation, of course) into the future as they become more common.

Point being, the most affordable setup is probably the one you already own.

@Closet Fermenter That does give me the idea of pre-heating my strike water with electric though...
Everyone uses what they have - electric, propane, NG, wood, solar or nuclear for their heating needs. What works best is the one to go with. Propane offers portability that electric, or NG might not so there's an advantage there.

With my system I use a twenty gallon electric water heater (HLT) with a temp controller to heat my mash water and all boiling is done with natural gas. I like the electric HLT as I can fill it a day or two ahead of my brew day and it's ready to go. Of course, this might not work for the kitchen or garage brewers. I have a dedicated spot in the basement.

We all try to keep costs down but with every hobby there's some money that needs to be spent. Be creative and you'll find ways to carve away some costs and still enjoy the joys of home brewing!
 

renstyle

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Best tip I can offer is to read. Read forums like this, or the other fine caches of homebrew enthusiasts.
Read magazines, blog posts. Listen to Podcasts or live streams for ideas.

I started out relatively recently (2020) and didn't have a bunch of hardware to steer my path. So I read. Either go the pot/propane burner/stand route, or go electric AIO.

Biting the bullet initially and spending $400 on an Anvil Foundry gave me pause, but I did *ALOT* of reading and days of pondering with items sitting in shopping carts unpurchased, so that helped make jump easier.

Now that I have a system that works well for me, I find myself returning to the forums for ideas on fermentation, different ways to complete a process. It's always a learning experience.
 

z-bob

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Everyone uses what they have - electric, propane, NG, wood, solar or nuclear for their heating needs. What works best is the one to go with. Propane offers portability that electric, or NG might not so there's an advantage there.

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Rocco303

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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?
My favorite beer is Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue), which retails for $18 per 750 ml bottle. A 5-gallon brew yields about 25 bottles, which would otherwise cost me $450 (before tax!). I just ordered a Chimay clone recipe kit, and I think total ingredients will be less than $100. Of course there are some fixed equipment costs, but they were not really that much. Of course, as with most hobbies, you can go overboard and spend tons on fancy equipment, but you don't really need that. I have a friend who just spent close to $1,000 for a fly rod/reel. My rod/reel costs less than $200, and we catch the same number of fish.
 

IslandLizard

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My favorite beer is Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue), which retails for $18 per 750 ml bottle. A 5-gallon brew yields about 25 bottles, which would otherwise cost me $450 (before tax!). I just ordered a Chimay clone recipe kit, and I think total ingredients will be less than $100. Of course there are some fixed equipment costs, but they were not really that much.
Just a heads-up. These styles of beer are not easy to brew. There's much process involved that determines the outcome, well beyond just mixing ingredients and following some recipe instructions. That does not mean you won't make beer, it may even taste good, but it won't be comparable to a bottle of the original.

How much brewing experience do you have?
 
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