Homebrewing can be as involving of a hobby as you want it to be. A simple starter kit with ingredients for your first batch requires a modest initial investment of around $100-$200. If you want to brew more than once batch at a time you will initially be looking to buy additional fermenters. There are other gadgets and accessories that while not entire necessary that make the process easier and your beer better. If you then decide to take the leap to all-grain brewing or kegging the investment is even more significant. Here are some tips to save money as a homebrewer:
- Buy in bulk: Depending on how often you brew and how much disposable income you have, it’s always a good idea to buy your ingredients in bulk. If I order online I will order 3-4 batches worth of ingredients at a time to save money on shipping and handling. If I am driving to a homebrew shop I am saving time and gas by buying ingredients for multiple batches. Now I have my grain mill I can also order my grains I’m bulk instead of a few pounds at a time.
- Craigslist is your friend: There isn’t always a lot of homebrewing equipment for sale on Craigslist, especially in the North Shore, but every once in awhile you can find something. I’ve seen people who received homebrew kits as gifts, never used them, and are willing to sell them for as low as half off the retail price. The real goldmine is when an avid homebrewer has a lot of equipment and has to sell it all at once for some reason. Sometimes if a homebrewer is moving across the country or downsizing his/her residence he/she will sell all their gear for a super cheap because they don’t have the time to piece it out. I’ve seen ads with kegs, kettles, burners, carboys, mash tuns, stacks of fermenters, you name it for only $300-$400. You can find a motivated seller and purchase a whole setup for a fraction on the cost of buying new gear. Craigslist is also the best place to find a beer fridge.
- Look for deals: The big websites run deals all the time, as do most local shops. I took advantage of a 20% off sale to purchase my mill and wort chiller. I took advantage of another special to purchase 4 used pin-lock kegs for only $125. I shopped around and found a great deal on a CO2 regulator. The Twitter account @homebrewfinds is a tremendous resource in finding deals on all things homebrew related. The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) also offers exclusive deals to AHA members.
- Make long-term purchases: I purchased two Party Pig mini-kegs on eBay last year. This year I purchased an insulating jacket to keep my beer cool during cookouts and parties. Now I use the pigs mostly as fermenters and am in the process of investing in real kegs. In hindsight was it the best investment? I’ve gotten good use out go them, and when the pressure pouches actually activate the system works great, but to answer the question probably not. I may invest in a slightly larger kettle so I can brew 3 gallon brew in a bag batches on my stove-top. That will free up the pigs and render my 5 gallon kettle obsolete. I am trying to make sure that if I do upgrade my kettle I am not going to be replacing that again in a year. The bottom line is try to avoid spending money on equipment you think you may be replacing any time soon.
- All-grain brewing can be less expensive in the long run: Grain is a lot less expensive than extract. While purchasing the equipment for all-grain does come with up-front costs, you will save money in the long run on ingredients. If you’re an occasional brewer it may make more financial sense to stay with extract as it would take even longer for the ingredient savings to offset the cost of the equipment.
- Plan your batches: In the past I have talked about planning my batches so I can reuse the yeast. What I will do is when I order ingredients I will start with my lightest beer, pitch the yeast, harvest it, and reuse it in subsequent batches. This also saves time and money in creating yeast starters. If you plan on brewing several recipes with the same type of hop, you can usually purchase your hops by the pound for a lower rate than by the ounce.
- Also remember that the more beer you brew the less money you will be spending on commercial beer! That is a great way to rationalize to yourself or your spouse spending money on homebewing.