Money Saving Homebrewing Tips

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Compared to a lot of other hobbies we could be spending our money on, homebrewing is fairly cheap. Still, money is, well . . . money. So here are some suggestions for lowering your homebrewing bill.

Malt

Malt extract typically costs at least twice as much as a comparable amount of malted grain. If you are an extract brewer, switching to partial mash formulations can save you money. In a partial mash beer, some of the malt extract is replaced by base grains. (See our articles on “colander” partial mashing and countertop partial mashing — as well as our article, “Why Partial Mash?” — for more info on partial mashing.) Best of all, switching to partial mash formulations not only saves money, it makes better beer. By adding base grains to an extract recipe, you add the aroma of base malt to your beer. In addition, with partial mashing, you can also continue to brew on your stovetop, using your same brewing equipment.

If the idea of moving your brewery to your garage or driveway is fine with you, consider switching to all-grain brewing. You will have some upfront costs to bear — such as buying a mash tun, propane heater, and larger kettle — but the savings in ingredient costs will pay for them over time. (And you can still brew inside, on your stovetop, if you use a simple 3-gallon (11-L) all-grain brewing setup.)

 

Hops

You can sometimes save money on beer ingredients by switching hop varieties in your recipes. If your recipe calls for a large amount of low alpha hops as the bittering charge, replace some or all of them with a smaller amount of a neutral high-alpha hop variety. Using less hops also means you yield slightly more wort.

When brewing a beer without a lot of hop flavor and aroma, or a beer that features relatively neutral hops, shop around for different hop varieties. Sometimes a similar hop variety will cost substantially less, and not make much of a difference in the final beer. Be aware, however, that hops on sale may be last year’s crop. Even though they are cheaper, they may have lost some bittering potential.

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Hops don’t grow on trees, they grow on vines.

You can also reduce the amount of aroma hops added to the kettle by treating your beer after fermentation with an aroma extract, or kräusening it with very hoppy beer. These are essentially the same idea — you add hops at a point in the brewing process where the volatile hop compounds will be retained at a higher rate.

In addition, if your boil time is longer than 60 minutes, you can move a 60-minute bittering hop addition to earlier in the boil. This will increase hop utilization and allow you to add a smaller amount of bittering hops.

The bittering potential of hops declines with time, even if the hops are properly stored. However, hops that have stored properly can still smell great even after a few years. If you have any old hops in your freezer, don’t automatically throw them out — they may be usable as a late addition or whirlpool hop. You don’t expect to yield much bitterness from late kettle or whirlpool additions, so it doesn’t matter if the hops’ alpha acid content has dropped. To check if they are usable, just give them a sniff. Stale hops smell cheesy. However, if the hops still give off a pleasant hoppy aroma, use them up.

The biggest hop-related money saving tip is, why buy hops every year when you can grow your own? Using homegrown hops not only saves money, but adds a personal touch to your beer.

 

Yeast

You can get more from liquid yeast by brewing more than one batch of beer per tube or snack pack. One way to do this is to brew two or three beers that use the same yeast strain in succession and simply repitch yeast. Some pitching rate calculators will tell you how much slurry you need for a batch of beer. Harvest this volume of yeast from one batch when you rack it out of the primary fermenter, and use it to pitch your next batch. You can store harvested yeast for at least three days in your refrigerator. (Don’t store yeast in a sealed glass container. If it’s in a jar, leave the lid slightly cracked. Keeping the yeast in a sanitized zip-lock baggie works well. If a small amount of fermentation does take place in the harvested slurry, the bag will just bulge a bit.) If possible, brew the lowest gravity beer first in the sequence, and then step up to next biggest beer.

You can also make a yeast starter large enough to raise the yeast for two or more batches that use the same yeast strain. For example, let’s say you’re planning on brewing a pale ale with an English yeast strain on Saturday and an old ale that uses the same strain on Sunday. You need the yeast from 2 quarts of yeast starter on Saturday and the yeast from 3 quarts on Sunday. Simply make a 5 quart starter and use two-fifths of the resulting yeast on Saturday and save the resulting three-fifths for your Sunday brew day.

Also, keep an eye out for other homebrewers or commercial brewers in your area who may have used yeast available. If you know a friend who is brewing, say, a bitter, ask if you can show up on the day he kegs it and grab some yeast. You of course will need to trust the sanitation practices of this brewer. Also, be aware that yeast harvested from strong beers maybe less viable than yeast harvested from lower gravity beers. Getting to know your local brewpub brewer can be a big help in this respect.

 

Water

If you use bottled distilled water to make up your brewing liquor, this can get expensive. Fortunately, under the sink RO water filters are fairly affordable. If you live somewhere where the water is “extra chunky,” this can be a good investment.

 

Buy in Bulk

You can frequently save money by buying nonperishable items in bulk. If you buy any perishable ingredient — for example, liquid malt extract — in bulk, be sure you will use it all before it expires.

If you live far away from your nearest homebrew shop, or order your supplies online, you can save time and money by thinking ahead and buying the ingredients for several batches of beer at a time. This will save you either driving back and forth from the store multiple times or from paying multiple shipping charges. Additionally, if you have a friend who brews, you may be able to compare your brewing plans and find opportunities to buy some ingredients in bulk.

 

Grain Mill

IMG_2946If you are an all-grain brewer, buying a grain mill can save you money in the long run. With a grain mill, you can buy malt by the sack and store it for about eight months before it goes bad.

As I mentioned before, homebrewing can be approached very inexpensively, as hobbies go. And, homebrewing itself is already saving you money on beer. Still, it’s nice to know you’re getting the most bang from your buck, as they say — and if there’s one thing better than good beer, it’s good, cheap beer. Cheers!

 

 

Related articles

Use Those Homegrown Hops!

Why Partial Mash?

Boost Your Hop Aroma (III: Aroma Extract)

Comments

  1. The best money-saving item I have bought is an RV Filter that has a standard hose fitting for filtering my water. Cleveland water is really good for brewing, but this takes the chlorine out. I think it was under $25 bucks at amazon and should last many, many brew sessions.

  2. Herb Meowing says:

    CC wrote:
    “If the idea of moving your brewery to your garage or driveway is fine with you, consider switching to
    all-grain brewing.”

    Surely you jest. All-grain brewing can’t be done inside?
    Is this b/c the 5G batch-size is sacrosanct?

  3. This blog provides best homebrewing tips, Thanks for sharing informative article.

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