19 best ways to make homebrewing cheaper

making cheap homebrew

Many brewers like to make homebrew because they can make it to their own taste preferences and also because it's much cheaper than paying $15 bucks a pint at the local.

Seriously, the price of a handle of some craft beers is simply ridiculous - usually due to a poor economy of scale for small breweries and high hop prices.

And that's why brewers like to make cheap beer.

They buy their own hops in bulk.

Indeed buying ingredients in bulk is a great way to save your cash money when brewing. It makes your own beer cheaper by the bottle!

The three best ways to save money are:
  • reuse your yeast (by way of a starter)
  • buy grains and malt in bulk
  • purchase your hops in bulk

Saving on the cost of hops

You can do this with a quick visit to your local beer supplier or buying online from specialty suppliers or even Amazon. It's amazing the range of hops found on there.

A really handy trick to keep your yeast fresh is to buy your own vacuum sealer - so you can reseal your hops, or break them up into your desired batch size. You can then store them in the freezer until they are required on brewing day.

Saving cash on yeast purchasing

Buying yeast can be an expensive exercise, especially when there's so much choice out there nowadays - a brewer's access to quality yeast has never been better.

The beauty of a good yeast is that it doesn't need to be a used once with a brew and then you buy another sachet next time you brew - no, you can recycle the yeast from the trub or you can keep a yeast starter going for the whole brewing season.

Saving money on the price of grains

Most brewers simply purchase a bulk sack of 50 lb base grain. It will usually be uncrushed to you need to mill it so having your own grain mill might be part of the deal - buy a good one so it lasts a lifetime of brewing (a handy trick is to connect a powered drill and save yourself some time instead of doing it by hand).

Some brewers can use up to 20 base pounds for a brew (remember, brewers like to mix and match their malts to get unique flavors) so a 50-pound sack is good for at least two brews! Specialty grains that are added to the base are usually bought in smaller bagged amounts.

If you have a good relationship with the local craft brewer, they may be able to sling a couple of sacks your way. 

Sealable food-grade buckets are a great way to store grains so that they remain fresh and they will keep out those cliched eaters of grain, mice, and rats.

If you are a keen malt kit user, then a great way to save money is to buy them from supermarkets rather than from beer stores. I've found a great place near where my mother lives and every time I visit I buy several of their Coopers kits which are often priced 5 or 6 dollars cheaper than my local beer shop.

There are also other ways to save money when brewing beer, you may already know these but here we go:

  1. Instead of using a 'branded' sanitizer, use a generic product such as a laundry soak that contains sodium percarbonate.
  2. Make your own DIY version of powdered brewery wash
  3. Instead of buying bottles, save your empties and remove the labels. You can also source glass bottles by raiding your neighbor's recycling bins.... best done under the cover of darkness. Given so many people drink craft beer featuring perfect sized bottles for brewing (500 - 600 mls give or take) there's many a bottle to be scrounged. 
  4. If you want to save on buying caps, then you can use swing cap bottles.
  5. All grain brewers often will use a wort chiller to cool down the brew - handy brewers can make their own, saving a few quid. 
  6. Instead of using a wort chiller, you could freeze empty soda bottles with water, say 4 1.5 litre bottles. When it's time to cool the wort, cut the ice from the bottles and drop them into your kettle...
  7. An old fridge can be turned into a fermentation chamber with the smart use of a temperature controller.
  8. A great way to find cheap or free second-hand brewing equipment is to keep an eye out on craigslist - it's quite popular but you'll have to be patient and quick! This is quite true for fridges and freezers, some people just want them out of the house quickly so are prepared to let them go at no cost.
  9. If you want to save on hops, by not using them, you can brew certain styles that don't need them such as Hefeweizen or a low ABV bitter.
  10. Grow your own hops! Homebrew groups on Facebook are a great way to source rhizome cuttings, usually, all it will cost you is a couple of bottles of brew!
  11. Don't use so much hops!
  12. You can find all sorts of handy keg parts on Aliexpress, though if you want quality, you may want to check out sites like Amazon. It's a jungle out there though.
  13. You can also make your own mash tun out of commonly available items such as water coolers.
  14. Organized homebrew clubs can often make purchasing arrangements which means cost savings can be passed to you directly, especially so if shipping costs are kept low.
  15. In winter, you can always use snow to cool wort instead of buying ice for your chiller. Dissolve it in water...
  16. Make your own beer enhancer with supplies bought cheaply online.

Some cautions about cheaping out when buying equipment

There's a long established concept that buying cheap items like tools or shoes will cost you more in the long run than buying a quality implement or boot because you'll need to replace them more often than you would a durable item.

The same applies to brewing in many ways. For example, if you have to choose between kettle sizes, buy the bigger one. Sure, it may cost more but if you stick with brewing, then eventually you'll go all grain at scale and you'll have to buy the larger kettle, thus, you've ultimately spent more than you may have wanted.

This is especially so for items like ph testers - go for quality over cheapness every time, especially all when making kombucha

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