Wednesday, February 18, 2009

3 Money Saving Ideas

I want to share some of the many way I have found to save some money in my homebrewing hobby. Over time, I have calculated that I can produce a pint of average strength beer (a gravity of 1.050-1.060) for myself for about .30 cents per pint. This is based on brewing in ten gallon batches and achieving an 80% efficiency in the mash. When considering the high price of commercial beer out there, this is a huge savings and if you drink as much beer as I do, brewing at home really pays off in the long run. When first starting out, the cost of ingredients can push your final price per pint into the range of commercial beer costs. We are usually buying kits or small amounts of malt extract and hops. The small purchases are more expensive to produce mostly because of handling costs which leads to higher costs to the consumer (brewer). This leads to the first idea that will dramatically save you money.

1. purchase ingredients in bulk.

Once your hooked in the hobby of brewing, you will most likely be brewing on a regular basis and will be making frequent visits to your local home brew store for ingredients. For the miscellaneous items this is a good resource, however, for the bulk of your grains and hops it is best to buy in bulk, that is 50 lb. bags of 2-row and 1 lb. packages of hops. There are a couple of sources for bulk grain. One is to go by and visit you nearest brewpub or micro brewery and talk to the head brewer. He may be willing to order additional bags of grain for you when he makes purchases for the brewery. The other option is to do group purchases with you homebrew club at the nearest grain wholesaler although the company that I deal with is happy to sell to me directly, a bag at a time. Currently I pay about $30 per 50 lb. bag from Certified Foods Inc. located in the S.F. bay area. With 50 lbs. of grain I can brew about 30 gallons of beer! I also buy my hops a pound at a time from Hops Direct for about $26 lb. for Centennial and Cascade. I store my hops in the freezer and the grain I store in sealable 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets.

2. salvage your yeast

Liquid yeast can run you about $6 each now from White Labs and pound for pound is the largest expense in brewing. There are of course less expensive dry yeasts on the market which are quite good these days but if you want more variety you'll need the liquid type. With a little planning, the easiest and most convenient way to save money regarding yeast is to simply rack new wort onto an existing yeast cake from a prior fermentation. The other option is to pour the yeast from your fermenter into a sanitized jar, cover with foil and save in the fridge for up to several weeks. Then when your ready, pour off the excess liquid from the jar and pour the yeast cake into your new batch of wort. It is also easy to 'step up' a small amount of salvaged yeast or an older yeast sample for re-pitching.

3. re-use your hops

For those like me that love the hoppy beers, you probably dry hop. Placing hops in the fermenter or keg after fermentation is complete, is a great way to add hop aroma for pale ales and IPA's especially. When you dry hop, the bittering compounds in the plant are not lost in the process and can be utilized in the bittering of your next beer. At the time that you dry hop, place the hops in a mesh bag. Then you can either plan on brewing a new beer when the dry hopping schedule is complete or when done dry hopping, remove the bag of hops and place in a sanitized container and store in the fridge or freezer and re-use in your next brew session.

There are many more ways to save money and creative ways of saving money seems to be an integral part of this great hobby of home brewing. In the future I will go into some more ingredient ideas along with saving money in the area of equipment.

If you have any money saving ideas to help others regarding ingredients, leave a comment.


Michael Albanese said...

Thanks for taking the time to post this great advice on minimizing the cost of home brews. You mentioned some things I had never thought of. But how long can you keep hops in the freezer? I went to the brew shop the other day and they wouldn't sell me the hops they had because they said they were too old and not suitable for brewing anymore. I mean, a pound of hops is going to last a long time. Also, do you know of a malt outlet in the LA area that sells a 50-lb bag of 2-row for anywhere near the price you mentioned you get it for in SF? Thanks, Mike

mark said...

I routinely save my pellet hops refrigerated for 6 to 9 months with no negative effect. However, most of the time I use them way before that time. As far as the quantity, I will use 12 oz. brewing 10 gals. of my IIPA and 9 oz. for my Rye IPA. A typical pale ale is 5 or 6 oz. I don't know of a distributer in the L.A. area but if you contact the local homebrew club, they can probably help you with that. Cheers!

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