5 Ways to Save Money Home Brewing

by Brad Smith on September 22, 2010 · 9 comments

Compared to some buying quality commercial beer, home brewing is still relatively inexpensive, but hop and malt prices have risen the last few years as a result of the hop shortage and shortage for certain malts. In addition the global recession has put some pressure on many homebrewers. This week I’ll give you 5 tips on how to save a few dollars home brewing.

Buy in Bulk or Join a Group Buy

One of the simplest ways to save money on your ingredients is to buy in bulk. If you are an all grain brewer, you can buy 50lb bags of pale malt locally for less than half of what it would cost if you bought it by the pound. A 50 lb bag of pale malt goes a long way – usually 10-12 batches.

You can do the same with specialty grains and hops. Hops by the pound is available from mail order houses for less than half the cost of retail hops by the ounce. Many stores offer you a substantial discount if you purchase hops by the pound.

What if you don’t need 50lbs of black patent malt or an entire pound of BC Goldings hops? Contact your local homebrew club or some brewing friends and do a group buy. Buy several pounds of hops and a few bags of commonly used specialty grains and divide them up. One of the best suppliers for large bags of grains is your local homebrew store – many of these sell 50lb bags of grains and also bulk hops. If they don’t have a 50lb specialty bag of grain, they can often special order it for you with their next order and save on shipping.

Cut Down on the Hops

Another money saving strategy is to reduce the hops you are using. A few years back when the hop crisis first hit and hop prices doubled and tripled overnight, I wrote an article on 10 Tips for Surviving the Hops Shortage. It contains some great tips for reducing your hop usage without sacrificing the taste or quality of your beer.

Little things like using a full batch boil, boiling your bittering hops a bit longer or using higher alpha hops for bittering can save money over time on your hop bill. Take a look at that article if you want some creative suggestions. Another offshoot I enjoy is growing hops at home.

Wash and Reuse Your Yeast

Liquid yeast (and the recent crop of high quality dry yeasts) have significantly increased the quality of home brewed beers, but they are not inexpensive. Next to malt grains, it is usually the most expensive component that goes into your home brewed beer.

One instant way to save money is to wash your yeast and reuse it for another batch. Washing yeast is a process that lets you save yeast from one batch and store it safely in your refrigerator to use it on another batch. Done properly, you can save yeast for several months using this technique.

Build Your Own Equipment

Instead of buying your brewing equipment from the store, consider making your own. Brewers are a pretty creative bunch and beer brewing gives you the opportunity to experiment with all kinds of interesting containers, pipes, pumps and other toys. Examples include making your own mash tun, building a chiller or making a hop back.

Go All Grain

Switching to all grain is another way to save money. All grain batches can be brewed at prices generally 30% less than extract beers. If you buy grains in bulk you can save even more. Grains cost less than extract, and you achieve higher hop utilization with a full batch boil, reducing your hop usage.

Brewing all grain does require an equipment investment up front, but if you are a frequent brewer you will pay for it in the long run. Also, brewing all grain gives you additional control over the brewing process and the ability to use a full range of specialty grains including some that must be mashed.

Those are the money saving tips for this week. I have some great new stuff coming soon including a collection of my blog articles in book form – look for it next month. Thank you for joining the BeerSmith blog - and please subscribe if you want to get regular weekly articles like this delivered to your inbox for free.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

JC October 9, 2010 at 9:03 am

Good article. And it’s also another great way to go “green”.

nick October 12, 2010 at 12:53 am

good article… but it suggests to use the yeast more often, which is, as far as I know, only possible with top fermenting yeast. Using bottom fermenting yeast you’ll get bad results after the 10th – 14th reusage.

Brad Smith October 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I agree – I usually recommend going only 4-6 generations of reuse before purchasing some new yeast. Even before the bottom fermentation kicks in, home brewers often get other contaminants after a 4-6 batches. — Brad

Ken Hilton November 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

One thing I do stay green and save money is to reuse chilling water: I have two 35 gal plastic trash cans I keep outside of my kitchen window, which are filled with water. I live on the Calif. coast so the water stays sufficiently cold, usually a bit colder than from the tap. I then use a sump pump to drive my wort chiller from this stored water and have been using the same water for my last 10 batches of beer. Given it seems to take 50 gals of water to chill a 5 gal batch (I know because that’s how I generated the water to fill the trash cans), this is a non-trivial savings, IMHO.

Brad Smith November 29, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Ken,
Thank you for the great tip – it is appreciated! — Brad

Sven Enterlein April 30, 2013 at 10:23 am

I was thinking about using an aquarium pump and ice water. Even if I don’t reuse the water for chilling (which I can’t until I have a pump) I collect the water in a large trash can and use it to water my hops. Still a win-win :)

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