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Keeping the cost down

I caught the brewing bug but unfortunately I’m on a tight budget. I’ve got enough equipment to brew all grain 5 gal batches. I’m not making my own recipes yet so I order recipe kits. Would it be more cost effective to just order the ingredients separately ? Wondering what you guys do?

Order your base grain in bulk, use the recipes on the ingredient lists from the kits and replicate them without having to order the kits, and harvest and re-use your yeast.

I just calculated if I by a 50lb sack of 2 row can save about $7 per batch. Never repitched yeast but I’m going to try to brew back to back batches

I buy my base malt from a local brewery and bulk hops of some varieties that I use the most from hopsdirect.com. With reusing yeast, I’d guess an average strength pale ale is around $15-$20 for 5 gallons.

I’ve never made a beer from a kit myself (not that I think there’s anything wrong with doing so), but I’ve looked at the prices, and I can say for a fact that it’s definitely cheaper to buy the ingredients separately. Others here have already given most of the same ideas I would regarding how to save money on all grain beers, but one more tip is to save some unfermented wort (a.k.a. gyle) in separate sealed bottles on brew day, and use that for your priming solution instead of buying carb tabs or corn sugar. That’s assuming that you bottle your beer, instead of kegging it. Using the tips listed here, you can typically expect to spend between maybe $18 and $25 per batch for an average strength beer, depending on how heavy you go in the way of hops. That’s a good $10 per batch savings vs. buying kits, which is pretty significant IMO.

I like all these ideas. I grew some hops last year and I have more rhizomes going in this year. I only have to buy pellet hops for bittering. I want to look into using what you called gyle,I like that idea. Save and reuse. What’s a good place to get my base grain. NB I think is $35 plus shipping for 2row

Look to other sources to buy bulk hops of ones you use frequently

I’ll second what others already said. Buy grains and hops in bulk. You can get grain for as cheap as $1/lb and hops for under $1/oz. Definitely reuse yeast. This is one of the biggest money savers. 1 pack of yeast will grow to give you enough 2nd generation yeast for another 2-3 beers. Then those 2 or 3 batches can grow to another 2-3 batches EACH. That’s 9 batches worth of yeast by the 3rd generation. At the very least, you can plan back to back beers using the same yeast strain and save yourself the $7-8 for a pack of yeast on the 2nd batch.

Keep your recipes simple. IMO, most good recipes are very simple and not overly complicated, which can get pricey.

I have a German Pils that’s lagering right now that cost $13.50 to brew.

Traded some harvested yeast I had on hand for some German Lager yeast = FREE
8.5lbs of Pils @ $1/lb = $8.50
1/2lb of Carapils @ $2/bl = $1.00
4oz of Czech Saaz @ $1/oz = $4

Total cost = $13.50 for 5.25 gallons of a nice, crisp, German Pils! Can’t beat that.

buying hops in bulk is key. $1/ounce or less in a lot of places, then just seal with a vacuum sealer or zip lock worst case, and keep in the freezer. They will last for a year or slightly longer if vacuum sealed. Depending on your space, grain in bulk also helps.

Also, take the 3rd runnings with really low gravity, and freeze it in mason jars for yeast starters. Then one $4 pack of US-05 will last you for 4-5 brews easily.

And even longer. I’m still bittering with 2012 Magnum and Nugget. Haven’t noticed any loss over time. I do add a few extra pellets when weighing since I do assume they have lost some bitterness, but it can’t be much. I store them just as you mentioned. Vacuum sealed and in the freezer.

These are all excellent suggestions. I’ve reused yeast by brewing back to back similar styles. Got a light (~3.9%) Belgian Pale Ale in secondary and reused about 1/2 the yeast for a Saison (~5.5% in primary). After these I’m making a Tripel with the same yeast. Did the same with some Stouts recently too.

I primarily do partial mashes due to space and equipment limitations now and I’m also still a newbie and “brewing on a budget”. One thing I’ve done to limit costs is look for sales and take advantage by signing up for email alerts. Being a newb, I’m not straying too far from kits. Austin had a deal recently for $15 off $100 or more. I got four kits (Dry stout, Atlantic Palisade, Saison & Kolsch) that would have been ~$101.00 for ~$86.00 and it had free shipping. Works out to less than $22 per five gallon recipe. I’ve slightly modified some of them but it still is less than $25 average and I’ve been happy with the results so far.

Edit: I don’t have the space to store bags of grain but I’m going to start growing Cascade hops this year and will be buying some in bulk so I can cut the average costs when I start formulating my own recipes.

Great suggestion! I do this about once a year. I brew a Patersbier and use 1/2 the yeast cake for a Tripel and usually the other 1/2 of the cake for a Belgian IPA. 3 beers from a $7 pack of yeast.

What about cleaning and sanitizing product. Anything available in grocery stores.

You can use bleach or something like that, but that is a ‘HEAVY RINSE’ sanitizer, where if you don’t rinse the bejeezus out of it, your beer will taste like bleach. In my mind, sanitizer is not one of the things you should skimp on, but there are ways to make it go much further.

I would suggest just buying a large container of Star San and keeping the mixture around once its mixed (you can keep it in a spare ale pail or something where it can be sealed). Keep in mind, stuff does not need to SOAK in star san, it just needs to come in contact with the surface to be sanitized, so you can theoretically use a small amount for a full batch of beer. The concentrated stuff could last a homebrewer hundreds of batches.

[quote=“Pietro”]
I would suggest just buying a large container of Star San and keeping the mixture around once its mixed (you can keep it in a spare ale pail or something where it can be sealed). Keep in mind, stuff does not need to SOAK in star san, it just needs to come in contact with the surface to be sanitized, so you can theoretically use a small amount for a full batch of beer. The concentrated stuff could last a homebrewer hundreds of batches.[/quote]
Depending on your tap water pH, you may want to make a big batch using distilled water. I make up a gallon at a time and only throw it out after about 4-5 months when it has lots of chunks floating around. I’ve had the same 16oz bottle of SS for about 3 years and it’s still 3/4’s full.

I splurged for a gallon of starsan 2 years ago. I don’t reuse the same batch month after month, but still have more than 1/2 gallon. Buy a gallon up front and forget about it for years.

I also use oxyclean rather then PBW for cleaning. A big box at BJs, Sams, whatever is pretty cheap. Get the “Free” version. No dies, perfumes, etc.

I prefer to use natural cleaners, and I don’t believe in spending big bucks for cleaning agents. I just think it’s a total rip-off to do so. I buy Clorox green works all-purpose cleaner, or seventh generation’s natural all-purpose cleaner. They both go for around $3.49 per bottle in the grocery store, and they last for a while. If, like me, you don’t want to go out of your way to buy cleaning products and spend a stupid amount of money on them, these are good options. I’ve been using them for years without any issues with bacterial contamination. You could take the “expert” advice and spend more money on “professional” cleaning agents, but there’s no reason to if you just use common sense and wash your equipment thoroughly.

Bleach works well with glass like carboys but does need good rinsing. The difference to me is that every time you introduce something into the container there is a chance that it carries something bad with it. This is why no-rinse sanitizers make sense. Bleach on plastic is a bad idea because it can pick up the bleach taste and smell. On stainless an extended soak may pit the metal.

That said when I first started brewing and the choices were limited I used bleach on a lot of stuff. With care it worked. The worst part was having to deal with the harsh stuff and always managing to end up with little white spots on my clothes. I now find the price of modern sanitizers low enough to not have to deal with it.

For cleaning glass carboys Dawn dish soap and a carboy brush works for me and is cheap enough. Has to be rinsed but that is no problem. PBW after a few batches for the tough stuff.

Thanks for the input. I’ve been checking bulk prices and found some good deals. Ive gotten it to around $3 per six pack. thats a 12lb all grain. Any other opinions on Clorox 3? I thought it was best to stay away from bleach, or doesn’t it have bleach in it? This is becoming a mental exercise for me but has anyone calculated out the cost of the propane? I’m figuring about 5 sessions out of a barbecue sized tank.

I personally would stay away from bleach. Just to easy to make a batch taste like bleach, which will blow your cost analysis real quickly with 5 gallons down the drain.

Propane differs from propane filler to propane filler, burner to burner, batch to batch. My blichmann usually gets me 7-8 brews per tank, $20 fill, or around $3/batch.

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