The age-old question: Can home brewing save you money on beer?
It’s a tough one to answer because it depends on you. Are you one to buy the newest, shiniest gear, or are you a bit more frugal?
Today, I’m taking the frugal route and trying to pinch pennies where I can, so I can finally tell my wife that this hobby is saving us money, I swear. I’m Trent Musho, and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s save that money.
So, to answer the question quickly, yes, home brewing can save you money on beer. Okay, everybody, that’s a wrap.
But if you really consider the time it takes to prep a recipe, brew it, clean up, and all the other little tasks that it takes to make beer, and then calculate how much you would charge yourself for doing those tasks, it can add up quickly, and your costs immediately go up.
But this is our hobby, right? I mean, it’s meant to be fun and a learning process. So, for the sake of this video, I won’t be talking about the billable hours you can be putting towards yourself.
I’ll strictly be talking about the things that you’re paying for when it comes to making beer, like ingredients, equipment, and tools. There’s plenty of coin we can shave off in those areas.
But if I miss something that you do to save money, be sure to let me know down in the comment section. Alright, time is money, so let’s get on with the list.
Number one: Brew in a bag.
If you’ve been watching my channel for any time, then you know that I’m a huge supporter of brew in a bag, or BIAB. Outside of the fact that it’s the easiest way to start brewing all grain, it’s also one of the cheapest.
You need the least amount of equipment to get started making amazing beer, and you probably have most of the stuff already, like a large pot, a way to heat up the pot, and a thermometer. Then you just need a cloth bag, which if you don’t have a bag, it’s like $10 max, and you can reuse it for dozens and dozens of batches.
You can always start small with whatever pot you got, which is actually a good thing. Less upfront costs for ingredients. So, brewing smaller batches is another way to save money, but so is drinking less, but we’re not talking about that.
Then eventually, you can work up to a larger pot and system as you feel more comfortable. But we’ll talk about upgrades in a second. The other great part about BIAB is that you’re brewing all grain, which means you’re using the whole ingredients, which will be a lot less expensive than using malt extract.
Sure, malt extract can save you on time, but it won’t necessarily save you on money. But speaking of ingredients…
Number two: Buying in bulk.
Buying ingredients per recipe is nice because you can be very intentional with what you get, but it’s not as cost-effective. Let’s take malts, for example. This Brees Pilsen malt is $1.79 per pound, but $77.99 for a 50-pound sack, which comes out to about $1.56 per pound.
Not a huge difference, but if you’re trying to trim the budget, it can add up, even more so if you’re having the homebrew store mill it for you, bumping the price up to $2.04 per pound.
Now, most local homebrew stores won’t actually charge you to use their mill, but just keep that in mind if you buy online.
Hops are another ingredient that helps to buy in bulk, especially if you’re brewing a lot of IPAs, which can be the most expensive beers to make. Yeah, I’m looking at you, guy that throws 10 ounces in the dry hop.
Hops have an even more extreme price jump from per ounce to bulk orders. Here, this Cascade is $2.29 per ounce, but the 8-ounce pack is $11.99, which comes out to about $1.50 per ounce. Dang, and that’s just Cascade.
When you start looking at hops popular in hazies, the pricing gets unreal. But unless you brew many IPAs regularly, then you probably won’t use all eight ounces as quickly as you’d like. That’s why it’s my recommendation to buy in bulk bittering hops or frequently used hops.
I always tend to have some Magnum, Warrior, or Cascade in a bigger amount, and then depending on the recipe, I’ll buy a small amount of a specialty hop. Or if you wait for the right time of year, hop companies like Yakima Valley Hops do sales on certain varieties to help clear out inventory for the upcoming harvest.
So a pro tip is joining their mailing list to stay in the know for when your favorite juicy hop gets discounted.
Number three: Resist the urge to upgrade.
This might be hard for some to hear, but don’t upgrade unless you absolutely have to. It’s possible that that newer fermenter will make your life a tiny bit easier, but if you’re trying to keep things cheap, then resist. You can make awesome beer with cheap and DIY gear.
The equipment doesn’t make you a better brewer, but I guess it might make you look cooler on Instagram. But if you do need to upgrade something in your brewery, consider going to the used market. You get major price savings on the right sites like Facebook Marketplace. You can even get stuff for free.
Like any hobby, for every new member, there is someone leaving, and with that goes their equipment. Or if you have some handy skills, you can try building your own gear.
I didn’t have a way to chill my beer, and I couldn’t afford buying a new immersion chiller, so I watched one of Larry’s videos on how to make one from scratch, and it saved me a bunch of money and worked for years.
But don’t feel guilty if you have to buy something new. Sometimes the shiny feels good. It’ll just take a few years to get your value back.
Number four: Find ways to reuse.
Finding a second life for something brewing-related is an excellent way to extend the dollar, and a great example of reuse is with yeast. Not all yeast are expensive, but not all of them are cheap either. It can be about a quarter or a third of the total price, depending on the batch.
But by reusing that yeast more than once, that price gets cut down in half, if not more. This is what the pro brewers do since they use a lot of yeast, and they need to cut down overall costs for margins.
An added benefit of this is that a lot of strains hit peak performance after two to four uses. And it doesn’t have to be complicated like washing or rinsing yeast. After you transfer out your fermenter, just save a bit of the yeast slurry with a tiny bit of beer in a sanitized jar and stick it in your fridge.
You can then just pitch it into your next batch, or if you save it for a few months, you can bring it back to life with a starter. Or even easier is to plan a brew day the same day you transfer out. That way, you can just pour your fresh wort on top of the yeast cake and get rolling right away.
Speaking of brew day, consider doing a party gyle brew day, especially if you’re brewing a high gravity beer. Party gyle is the process of reusing the mashed grains from batch one to create a smaller, lower gravity beer.
As long as you don’t rinse the grains too much, there’s a bunch of sugars still tied up in those grains. So if you do a secondary mash in a separate pot, you can get a double use out of them.
There’s a lot of fun combos or brews you can make, and I’ll leave an article in the description for you to check out.
Lastly, I’ll touch on water, which depending on the source and where you live, can be pricey. Living in Southern California, where water usage is sometimes limited and prices are high, it’s always smart to reuse water.
I talked about this in my reducing waste video, but reusing chilling water for cleaning is a great idea. And on top of that, reusing the solution of Star San or brewery wash to clean up multiple things can also save you money.
Just remember with Star San to make sure the pH stays below 3.5 and it doesn’t get too murky. But until then, it’s good to reuse and pocket that change.
That’s not all the ways to save money, but it certainly should get your costs down a bit. But at the end of the day, time is the biggest price we pay with 4-hour brew days and all that cleaning to do.
But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be like that? If you’re curious, check out this video for some serious time-saving tips.
Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.