A Walkthrough and Cost Breakdown of Brewing Your Own Beer

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I’ve mentioned many times on The Simple Dollar that I enjoy brewing my own beer at home, and just as many times, readers have requested a walkthrough of this process along with some cost analyses.

Recently, I made a batch of porter and took some photographs along the way to illustrate the process. Let’s dig in!

Equipment
If your goal is simply to brew a batch of beer and consume it in one sitting with a group of friends, all you need is a brewing bucket, a bubbler, and a siphon hose, depicted below.

IMG_0031

These supplies are available at any home brewing store.

When you mix up a batch of beer, it needs to ferment for a week or two, and this bucket makes it quite easy. You simply put your unfermented beer in the bucket, put the bubbler in the little hole on top of the bucket (the bubbler allows gas to escape without contaminating the beer), and let it sit. When you’re ready to drink the beer, just open the spigot and drink a glass – the hose can make it easier to pour.

Most home brewers tend to want to bottle their beer for long-term storage. If that’s the case, you’ll need to accumulate roughly fifty empty, clean beer bottles and also a simple bottle capper, again available at your local beermaking supply store.

This equipment, all together, will cost $20 or so and are often available in kits.

When making beer, I use a few optional items:

Some optional equipment

The large glass jug is called a carboy. You can use it for long-term storage of the fermenting beer – it doesn’t last too long in the bucket. Also, I use an auto-siphon (which makes it very easy to siphon beer out of the carboy) and a bottling tip (which makes it very easy to put beer in the bottles). You may also want a hydrometer, which you can use to calculate the alcohol content of the beer you make.

You don’t need these things to make beer, but it does make it easier in some ways. You can leave the beer for a very long time in the carboy and bottling is a much easier process with the auto-siphon and the bottling tip.

The only additional items you’ll need to make your own beer can likely already be found in your kitchen. You’ll need a large pot (one that can hold four gallons of liquid or so), a large spoon to stir it with, a thermometer, and a funnel (if you’re using a carboy). You’ll also need to carefully sanitize any equipment you may use – I use a bleach solution to make sure everything is as clean as possible.

Making Beer
As I mentioned earlier, I planned to make a porter. I found an interesting recipe on the internet:

6 pounds plain amber malt extract
8 ounces crushed crystal malt (60 L)
4 ounces crushed chocolate malt
4 ounces crushed black patent malt
1 ounce cluster hops (bittering)
1/2 ounce Williamette hops (finishing)

Along with these ingredients, there are a few standard items you’ll need for any beer making journey: a grain steeping bag (essentially a teabag for steeping the grains in the water), priming sugar, yeast, and caps.

Ingredients

All of these items are available at a beermaking supply store. I acquired all of the above for roughly $35.

A big part of the fun of homebrewing is that you can experiment with the recipes as much as you want. For example, my wife and I made an oatmeal stout that went off the recipe quite a bit and it turned out sublimely delicious.

Most beer making recipes follow a pretty standard procedure. Just pour two gallons of water into your large pot, heat it to 160 degrees F (80 degrees C) or so, put the grains in the grain bag and tie it off, then drop the grain bag in the water to steep for twenty minutes or so.

The "tea bag"

Above, I took the picture just after dropping the “tea bag” into the water. The steeping will cause the water to change color, usually to some shade of brown. Here’s what it looks like after the steeping.

Brewing beer

Once the steeping is finished, you simply bring the pot up to a low boil and add the malt extract (a brown liquid) and the bittering hops. Leave this at a low boil for an hour (stirring it regularly), then five minutes before the end, drop the finishing hops into the mix. Once it’s finished boiling (it’s now called “wort”), you’ll need to cool it down to 70 degrees – I usually do this by dunking the stock pot into ice water in the sink. I then pour this into the carboy, though you can also do it in the bucket if you don’t have a carboy, then I add two to three gallons of filtered water. I then drop in the yeast, stir it a bit, then put the bubbler on top and let it ferment. Here’s a picture of my porter in the carboy at the start of fermentation.

Full carboy

Then you wait. Usually, you’ll wait for roughly two weeks. What you’re looking for is whether or not there are bubbles coming through the bubbler. Watch it for a minute – if you see no bubbles, wait another three days and you’re ready to finish it up.

When you’re ready to finish it, you simply add the priming sugar to two cups of boiling water, boil the priming sugar/water solution for a few minutes, then add that to the beer. You can then bottle it – if you’re not going to bottle it, you should serve it in the next couple of days.

Bottling is similarly easy. You just thoroughly clean 50 to 60 beer bottles, fill each one carefully, then put a cap on each one with the capping tool (basically, you just put a small disc on top of the bottle, put the capping tool on top, and squeeze). Let the bottles sit for a few weeks and then it’s ready to drink.

Is This Cost Effective?
The $64,000 question, indeed. Is home brewing a cost effective hobby when compared to just stopping at the store and picking up some beverages?

If you are comparing the cost of homebrew to the cost of well-made craft beers at the store (which is what most homebrews are comparable to), then homebrewing is actually quite cost effective. In the above example, I used $35 worth of ingredients to make seven six packs of porter, a cost of roughly $5 per six pack. This doesn’t include, of course, the cost of the equipment, but this cost is pretty small per six pack if you make many batches. Comparing this to my favorite porter at the local liquor store (Fuller’s London Porter, which cost $8.99 per six pack), homebrewing is substantially cheaper than the craft option.

On the other hand, if you are comparing the cost of making that same porter to the cost of a case of Old Milwaukee (or a similar very inexpensive beer, which can be found for less than $10 per 24 pack), homebrewing isn’t cost effective at all and is in fact more expensive than such beer. Admittedly, recipes for mainstream beers are less expensive than recipes for top quality porters – I called a homebrewing supply store and was quoted about $24 for the ingredients I would need for something approximating Old Milwaukee – but the homebrew is still more expensive.

So, the real question is what kind of beer are you replacing with homebrew? If you’re replacing great craft beers with your own homemade beer, your costs will in fact go down – and you’ll have found a very fun new hobby. However, if you’re content just buying some Miller Genuine Draft, homebrewing isn’t going to save you much money (if it saves you any at all).

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75 thoughts on “A Walkthrough and Cost Breakdown of Brewing Your Own Beer

  1. Great walk-through Trent! I’ve yet to try brewing at home, but I have been to a U-brew facililty. The facility is essentially a place, which has all of the equipment, ingredients and a book of recipes. You’re free to follow a recipe or create your own. You do all of the work yourself and come back 2 weeks later to bottle; and you can enjoy your wicked creations.

    The cost savings between purchasing good quality beer and going the U-brew route is pretty substantial; you roughly get 120 pints for $150 CAD (one kettle of brew). Add on about $20 for bottles the first time in and re-use them.

    It’s a great way to get a group of friends together.

  2. You Should do a Review of Coopers Kits made with 2.5 Lbs of sugar thats really cheap and how many homebrewers make beer in Australia .This beer will taste similar to commercially made beer because they use about 40% of other brewing ingreedients like Sugar , Rice or Corn a Can of beer concetrate costs about $18.

    But you can get Coopers complete ingredient kits with the Brewing Sugars and Corbonation Drops for $27 from your local Homebbrew Store , Makebeer.net or Amazon and its as easier than making a Betty Crocker cake .

    http://www.makebeer.net/category.asp?idCategory=112

    http://www.amazon.com/Coopers-Australian-Hopped-Concentrate-3-75-Pound/dp/B001D6KP14

  3. Great article. On my to do list. On a side note, I have my doubts that people who drink old milwaukee have much interest in brewing thier own beer.

  4. That’s so funny that you posted this today! I got a homebrew kit for Christmas (I’m a wicked beer snob and kind of a foodie, so I thought it’d be fun to make my own) and just got my brew kettle this week. I’m planning to start my Continental Light (similar to a Heineken) tomorrow afternoon!

    Still laughing at the timing… great post! Maybe I’ll try your recipe not too long down the road :)

  5. Looks to be a fun hobby … I tend to like to try different styles of beer every time I buy (I typically go through a six pack a month), so I don’t know that I’d want to brew so much. I’d always assumed that the supplies cost more than you mention.

    This could also be a nice homemade gift if it turns out well — and I’ve had some homebrew that made Old Milwaukee taste like a fine microbrew …

  6. Great article. I help one of my buddies brew about 8 or 9 times a year and we find it to be very worth it. He invested a bit more going in because he converted an old garage sale fridge into a kegerator. However, now, in addition to drinking great homemade beer, we can drink it on tap instead of having to deal with bottles. The conversion process takes a bit of knowhow, and purchase of some equipment, but it still is not too expensive and it saves a lot of work on the bottling later on. Also, it means that when he does not have time to brew he can bring his Keg to a local Micro Brew and have it filled with great quality local beer at somewhere around 35 or 40 dollars, which is also a great deal and requires no more work than stopping by the bar. Either way, if you like to purchase specialty beers as opposed to PBR, Bud, etc… it is well worth it to look into the brewing, and it is loads of fun.

  7. I think the better question Trent, is: Why would you homebrew just to save money on beer?

    Homebrewing is about experimenting with ingredients and techniques. It’s about developing a palate capable of detecting subtle changes in flavors. And yes, Homebrewing is about enjoying the fruits of your labor.

    But while you *can* save money homebrewing (if you like Good beer, that is), the best homebrews come from people who are brewing for the love of it.

  8. I’d love to do this but living in a one bedroom apartment means space is at a premium. So in reality, it’s probably cheaper for me to continue buying the six packs.

    Have you considered making your own alcohol? I’m thinking limencello or alcohols steeped in various spices/fruits? I’ve also heard of bourbon being steeped with vanilla. Now THAT I could probably do, and would love to try.

  9. My husband has brewed quite a lot of beer. He’s actually quite good at it. One thing that is crucial is the sanitation/sterilization procedures. You don’t want miscellaneous bacteria and whatever to get into the brew. This is especially true if you reuse bottles. Now when he brews, he doesn’t put it in bottles. Instead he has some kegs. Brewing your own beer is definitely a cross between chemistry and art. He enjoys creating a variety of brews and according to others, it’s quite good. I personally don’t drink beer, but my husband and I have a pact- I don’t drink his beer and he never has to wear anything I knit! We each enjoy our own crafts and encourage our spouses to do the same!

  10. My boyfriend brews mead. In the summer, when it’s blackberry season, we’ll try for a blackberry wine.

    You know you’re REALLY into this when you start distilling your own whiskeys…

  11. You would drink the beer right from the bucket? Uncarbonated? Or do you use the priming sugar to carbonate it in the bucket?

  12. @Ben Keg your beer .

    But Keg Kits cost about $150 bucks ,then you need a fridge and CO2 but it ends up than drinking at the local bar over time .

  13. My husband is an avid homebrewer. I think it’s a GREAT hobby.
    -It does save money if you drink beer regularly and care what your beer tastes like. If you switch to all grain brewing and get a grain mill and an insulated bucket, your cost can easily go down to $15 for a 5 gallon batch. We have also tried making beer using a neighbor’s backyard grown hops-another cost saver.
    -It’s very shareable/gift-able. For example, we brewed all the beer we served at our wedding reception, and we give it as gifts and make up fun customized labels for the bottles.
    -We participate in a homebrew club where we have potlucks/barbeques and taste each other’s brews and offer feedback.
    -When we travel we enjoy seeking out local brewpubs and breweries to sample their beers.
    -We have found fun ways to use beer in our cooking-bread/dough recipes (it really makes pizza dough extra tasty!), stews, “beer can” chicken, etc.
    Two bits of advice:
    -Cleanliness/sanitation is important, as another poster stated.
    -If you use an outdoor propane burner to heat up the kettle, keep it outside and do not use it indoors. The fumes can be very bad for you and it’s easy to catch your house on fire.

  14. I brew about four times a year. Like most hobbies its as expensive as you let it be.

    I also like microbrews and at those prices I figured out I broke even on equipment after three batches.

  15. My fourth homebrew (a cranberry wheat) is finishing up in bottles this weekend. All in, the equipment Trent shows is about $80-$90. You can get beginner, pre-measured ingredient kits for $30-$45 depending on the style you like. You’ll want the carboy and bottles, as beer is totally uncarbonated after fermenting. The bubbler lets all the CO2 out while alcohol is being made, but you have to put it somewhere where no air can escape in order to force the CO2 to be suspended and have a nice bubbly brew.

    The true cost of homebrew is patience. You have to be willing to say “I’m going to make something today that will involve a significant amount of effort on my part, for which I won’t know if I did a good job until sometime next month”. I love it!

  16. I started making wine at home back in January. I am on batch number 3. My first batch with equipment per bottle was about $8. This is about same cost as cheap bottle around here. After that the cost will go down. There is a good forum for wine and beer. finevinewines.com it is also where I purchase most of my supplies and equipment.

  17. There are other cost savings to be had that make it more affordable too. For example, I know grow my own hops, cutting down the per batch cost (although I’ll still buy some, if I need a unique variety) and keep a culture a yeast going. Grain can be bought in bulk and you can malt it it yourself, although this is much more work than using extracts.

  18. I don’t think it should even be considered as a cost-effective alternative to buying beer (even if you find it’s cheaper than a comparable beer, it’s still up to personal taste). It’s more about enjoying yourself and having pride in your accomplishment when finished.

  19. Hey this is great! This looks like something that would be right up my and my hubby’s alley, but i have never considered it until now. There’s something about seeing it there in a real person’s house that makes it all look doable. (you should do something like this every friday- hint hint)

  20. A brewing Kit costs about $100 including the Ingredients The fermenter will make 6 gallons of beer.

    6 gallons of beer is the equivalent of 64 12oz bottles. 64 bottles for $100, comes to about 1.56 a beer.

    At homebrew store or online you can buy a beer ingredient kit for between $27 and $40, and they have everything you need to start another 6 gallon batch.

    The most expensive beer kits brew 64 12oz bottles of beer which comes to 63c a beer. And on the cheaper end it is 42c a beer.

    If you go for a can of Hopped Wort and Dextrose or even table sugar you can get the costs can get down to 30c a bottle .This is cheaper than buying a carton of Budweiser and dare I say better and you get the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.

    Full mash brewing and buying Grain and hops in bulk will lower your ingredient costs but your equipment costs will go up as will the time needed to make beer, but by then it becomes hobby or in my case its a profession.

  21. My husband and I homebrew a few times a year. We feel the quality of the beer is much better.The feeling you have when you take your first taste is really quite satisfying.

    That feeling has compelled us to try our hand at other culinary adventures. Every September it’s like a science fair in my kitchen. Simultaneously we will have a batch of beer brewing, wine fermenting,various crocks containing sauerkraut or pickles fermenting.My husband always says if it’s fermenting it’s September!

    I found a great mozarella cheese making kit on the http://www.cheesemaking.com site. One Superbowl Sunday I told everyone to bring a gallon of milk. I taught them all how to make mozarella. The kids loved it!

    Is it cheaper to buy these things? Sometimes…but it never tastes better.

  22. Any idea what the cost benefit would be if you also grow your own barley and hops?

    That is quite seriously my husband’s plan. I think it might even have been a significatn contribution to our decision to move out to the country and set up a little family farm (along with chickens and such). I think he’s planning on starting the grow your own beer experiment next year, though.

  23. We have been homebrewing for a couple of years now, and got started using the Mr. Beer kit that makes 2 gallons of beer at a time (3-4 6-packs of beer). It’s an all-extract system of brewing but we had pretty good results, especially when we substituted different dry yeast styles from the homebrew store for the brewer’s yeast that comes with the recipes. We’ve moved on to brewing 5-gallon batches and bottling about 8 6-packs at a time, but Mr. Beer was a great way to learn about the process of brewing. It’s also a fun hobby that has a product that’s great to share with friends at the end of the process.

    One tip – before you get started, ask family and friends to start save bottles for you, if you plan to bottle. You’ll need the kind of bottles with pryoff caps (no threaded tops), but most good beers come in these anyway. You can recycle the bottles many times… just note that if you give away your beer, you should let the recipient know that they won’t get any more until they return the bottles!

  24. My favorite part about homebrewing was designing the bottle label. My least favorite part was the smell. I dislike beer and having to smell that stuff brewing is awful because it permeates the whole house. But my husband enjoys making it, and other people seem to enjoy drinking what he makes.

  25. @Kansas Mom theres a whole lot of microbreweries growing their own hops especially farm based ones because the price of hops has risen dramatically over the past few years and they are easy to grow (they are related to Marijuana ) .

    Growing your own Barley and Malting it is a whole lot harder but it can be done but requires a whole lot of capital .Its still easier to buy your grain in .

    I would suggest for a small farm based brewery to set up what is called a Zero Emissions Brewery so all the brewery waste including wastewater is used on the farm to grow other food crops .The brewing industry is very wasteful but best practices in the industry are getting better .

    More info can be found on the Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives website for a primer .

    http://www.zeri.org/case_studies_beer.htm

    Also Organic farming is where the money is.

  26. There is a wine/beer homebrew store a few miles from my house near a hardware store I use and I sometimes stop in and ask lots of questions. I am close to give it a whirl . . .

    This post has served to stir me up again (forgive the pun).

  27. I think you’re being a bit disingenuous… The biggest offender is that you can’t just amortize the cost of equipment immediately: Until you’ve brewed 7 fully successful batches, that $50 worth of initial equipment is adding more than $1 per six pack.

    Lots of other problems with this analysis, but I think as a general rule, homebrewing is not a good way to tell people to save money. More often than not, they are simply frustrated by the actual process.

  28. Great intro article! We homebrew wine, mead and gluten free beer. I am a celiac, and good GF beer is hard to find and expensive… we’ve finally perfected a recipe, and are now in the tweaking stages – I must say, its been fun to try the different options or try to duplicate a regular beer into a GF variety… We figure the it costs us about $1 – 1.50/bottle of GF beer, and the varieties we make are not available commercially, so it is totally cost effective for us.

  29. I’ve started making beer this past fall. When you’re into small craft brews, it’s definitely a cost saver.

    I don’t think it would work very well to drink your beer right out of the fermenting bucket as you initially mentioned, though…It would require a buildup of pressure in the bucket to carbonate the beer very well, even with the addition of priming sugar to the finished beer.

    I thought bottling would be a much more labor-intensive process than it turned out to actually be. We haven’t bothered with labels at this point, just write the batch number on the bottle cap.

  30. It was interesting to hear about your beermaking.
    I would consider myself a beer snob as well as a pretty active homebrewer who cant get enough hops. I just want to let everyone who is thinking about brewing at home that they need to be the cleanest people on earth. Everything needs to be clean!! and sanitized. nothing ruins a batch of beer faster than little buggies infecting all your beautiful soon to be beer.

    And yes beer can be really cheap and fun, esp if you’re looking for a new hobby. Even cheaper, if thats what your looking for, making hard cider, hard lemonade, etc. Personally not my favorite, but if your looking for a cheap buzz in these hard times, thats the way to go.

  31. I know I am never going to brew my own beer, but this was really interesting to read. This is the sort of post that can be very practical & useful. The photos add a layer of interest.

  32. I saved money by going to resturants and asking for long neck beer bottles, also my frinds saved them for me along with goush beer bottles there easy cap bottles you don’t need a capper.

  33. Hi Trent,
    One beer making tip courtesy of my friend Eli. I don’t think he would mind my sharing it with you. Instead of putting your pot into an ice bath, then adding filtered water, you can do it all in one step. Buy several gallon bottles of water from the supermarket- Get bottles that can be re-closed. Put them in your freezer a few hours before you’ll need them, so they get close to freezing. When you need to cool your wort, add this chilled water. Check the temperature, naturally, so you do not overshoot. Save money by refilling these bottles with your own filtered water the next time you make a batch of homebrew.
    If you buy your ice, then you will probably come out close to even in cost the first time you do it. If you have an ice maker at home, then you may have to chalk up the extra cost to more convenience. (I know, a terrible thing to say on a personal finance blog.) Anyway, just an idea that may work for you.

  34. My husband just made his first batch today. He saved his money to buy the equipment and we are both excited at this little expirement. I have a feeling we are done buying beer at the store though. Thanks for the walk through!

  35. Some questions for Trent:

    How long does home-brewed beer keep once bottled?

    Does it continue to ferment after being bottled?

    If the fermentation continues in the bottle, I assume it ceases when the yeast run out of food (finishing sugar). Is that correct?

    Have any of your bottles popped their caps or exploded from CO2 pressure buildup?

  36. I have been brewing for a year now and this pretty much sums up the process. you can get cheaper per batch by going all grain from what i have read, but the equipment is more expensive meaning you have to add some more things. a great source of information is homebrewtalk.com you will learn allot if you are serious about wanting to brew beer. remeber you will never be able to brew a bud as it is one of the hardest to brew. you would think its simple but its not. good luck to you all who try this.

    BTW kegging is expensive but it doesnt have to be. you can pick keys up for around 25 needing rebuilt which is simple to do. you can use a large dorm fridge for the kegerator. you can pick one up for around 100 on cl or you can pick up an old freezer for pretty cheap. I use an old ge 3cuft model that i modified to fit 3 kegs in. i paid 25 bucks for the fridge and 200 for the keg kit which included a 5lb co2 tank hoses regulator and picnic tap.

  37. Great post! I have been avid homebrewer for about 6 years now. I just wanted to share that there are many ways to bring down your cost of brewing significantly if this is a hobby that you get hooked on. First, if you move from the malt extracts in to all grain brewing, you can save BIG and the quality is even better than extract brewing. It just takes a little more time and patience but well worth it. Second, you can reuse the yeast. This is a technique that all brewers use and can save $5-7 each batch! Also, you may not realize it yet but the homebrewing community is huge and there may be some local homebrew clubs that you could get involved in. EVERYONE in this community is willing to help you brew great beer. If you need more help and pointers, you can always google or go to this website… http://forum.northernbrewer.com/index.php

  38. Amazing Homebrew Wine $2/bottle.

    We have been homebrewing wine and beer for a few years, and although the beer is fun, the wine is an amazing pay off. A medium quality wine juice kit is $60 and makes 30 bottles. Leave the wine sit for a year after it is bottled and we have the quality of a $20 bottle in our ‘cellars’.

    Wine has the ability to age moreso than beer, so adding the ingredient of time *really* makes this hobby pay off. AND wine is 70% easier than beer to brew.

  39. You beat me to it! We have our first batch of beer sitting in the fermenter right now. My husband used to homebrew, but we’re getting started again.

    We had to buy all the equipment because his was lost in a move. We spent about $200 to get set up, although $45 of that was the big pot — our canning kettle has rust in the bottom, so that won’t work, and we checked all the local thrift stores to no avail, but the pot will serve many purposes. In a metropolitan area, I would also advise checking different brew stores for prices. At one the “advanced” brewing kit (with a fermentation bucket, bottling bucket, glass carboy and all that you need, including hydrometer and bottling tools) cost $115; at one it is $175.

    If you save $3 a six-pack by brewing your own, and drink a six-pack a week (at home), most of the kit would pay itself off in a year. If you skip a trip to the bar now and then to drink your own, you could earn back the $200 and more in a year.

    We want to try wine, too. We met a brewer at a party the other night, and he said he loves making wine because you just toss it together and let it do its thing, comparatively.

  40. In regards to the “Is it cost effective?” question, I think that while it might not be in terms of ingredients, it definitely is in terms of a new hobby and entertainment time. If you (or even get together with a group of friends to) brew beer and have a lot of fun with it, then it’s a much less expensive hobby than most other things, and it can be a great time.

    So, you can pay about $35 every few weeks or so for an entire afternoon or evening of enjoyment, plus the time that you get to celebrate by actually drinking the beer, or you can pay a similar amount (depending on the place) to go to a decent nearby golf course. I’m not saying that brewing beer is more fun than golf – just that it’s a cheaper alternative. Plus, if you do it with a bunch of friends, then you save even more, and you get to be social. Five friends at a golf course is going to be a lot more expensive than five friends brewing beer.

  41. Hey Trent, that’s a fantastic guide. I am more familiar with how to make wine at home but have always been looking for a beer recipe.

    I am glad to see that we are using the same carboy :)

  42. The hardest part about making wine is locating grapes.

    What you need to look up in the yellow pages is home brew supply, or brewing supply, and look for a local home brew supply .. or LHBS … These stores deal almost always in equipment that is related to beer, wine, and occasionally cheese making. In major cities you can often find 5-10 of them, but you may need to drive an hour to an hour and a half if you are in a more rural part of the country. Wine doesn’t require any boiling, so you use potassium sorbate and a variety of other chemicals to stop fermentation, and help retard spoilage. Much of the sanitary work in brewing beer on the homebrew level is left up to the boil kettle.

    Making alcohol is fun, but prepare yourself for a certain time commitment, and at least some room in a closet or basement. The creation process usually takes about 5 hours, and then at some point a few weeks later you have to spend another 2 hours… that includes cleanup and prep of your equipment… then depending on the variety of wine you could be looking at up to a years rest or more before you drink.. For beer the time is closer to 3 months.. but many beers can age just like wine up to 10 years long.

    Mead and ciders or perry’s are also possible to make. For ciders you just need apple juice and brewers yeast. You don’t have to boil any thing, and your product is usually ready to drink in about 30 days. Ciders contains sucrose and simple chain dextrins so it is important to stop fermentation before it is complete by cold crashing or flash pasteurizing the yeast. Otherwise you basically end up with vinegar or cider that is very very very dry… You can also let the fermentation work itself completely out, and then add juice back into the mix before you serve to bring a tad of the sweetness back.

    Mead or alcohol made with honey is another fermentable beverage. Meads require very little work on the part of the homebrewer, short boil times, possibilities for herbs, fruits and other spices, but require at least 1 year in the closet before they are consumed. The long chain sugars in honey require that the yeast work on them for extremely long periods of time.

    I didn’t really cover carbonation at all, but that can involve bottling, kegging, or cask/real ale serving of your beverage. They each have benefits and drawbacks and costs related to equipment. Bottling is cheapest but requires the most work.

    Hope this answered your questions or at least help you create some new ones.!

    ~J~

  43. Best way to save money on beer I found.

    Buy the most generic beer you can find (Best, Natural, Keystone). Then instead of buying the light version, buy the regular type. When you go home you can dilute the beer with ice cubes. The beer will be very cold and you’ll acquire the taste in no time.

  44. I used to brew beer using carboy etc.
    But just last week I bought a “Beer machine”
    It is the easiest way to make bier.
    It makes 10 liter in ca. 10 days.
    And a pint comes to .-65
    I will start my first batch soon.
    Ed

  45. Good advice, some tips:

    - If you are space-cramped (Arlene), do NOT buy a glass carboy. The homebrew snobs are wrong, food buckets are fine for brewing. You will NOT get a plastic smell or taste in your beer. I brewed in a 350 sq. ft apartment.

    -order your ingredients online. 5 gallons (2 cases and change) of porter should cost you about $25 to brew.

    - Buddy up and buy ingredients bulk. A 55# sack of dry malt extract is MUCH cheaper than buying liquid malt on an as-needed basis.

    - Brew with a buddy who does “all grain” instead of extract, and buy malt barley in bulk. This IS more work: al-grain is making beer from scratch literally. With all-grain and a 55# sack of British 2 row malt ($35-$65), my cost for a batch of porter went to $8! That’s 3.50 per CASE! All grain takes longer to brew… you do it because you enjoy cooking it up.

  46. Yes, it does work out to be cheaper… but don’t underestimate the time commitment.

    If you’ve ever had a corboy explode during fermentation, then you will know what I mean…

  47. Great post. I would like to do this someday as a hobbie – as far as hobbies go I would consider it relatively inexpensive since its offset by the cost of the beer you would have bought.

  48. While slightly cheaper, I never really enjoyed brewing my own beer. I didn’t like the large quantities I had to make of one beer, especially an experiment. I also didn’t like having to wait a month just to find out I made 20 bottles of crap. I think it has to be something you just enjoy doing as a hobby as the effort will not make up for the $1 per six pack you save.

    I do enjoy roasting my own coffee. Now that saves a ton of money over premium roasted coffee and I can experiment with small batches.

  49. I’m pretty sure I disagree with the summary point that home brewing *might* save you money. Over the years, I’ve added equipment and gotten more complex, and I’ve figured out that, even with those costs, all of my equipment has *more* than paid for itself, no matter what kind of beer I might replace it with. See here for my overview of the process and a cost breakdown with lots of numbers and math :) –> http://www.bamfbeer.com/?p=78

  50. I’m sure someone suggested it already, but Craigslist is a great place to find a lot of this equipment. If you get really into it, you can do all grain brewing, which is what I have switched to. It takes longer, but the $ you save on each batch is significant. And, I think, you make even better beer than the extract. Afterall, big breweries do the all grain method.. Start with extract though, you can make some fabulous tasting beers. Thanks for posting this article, it was very well done!!

  51. just a few clarifications for those looking to homebrew.

    The bubbler is more formally referred to as an airlock (the one in the pictures is a very common 3 piece airlock)

    when adding the malt to the boiling water, take the pot OFF the heat! Otherwise you may scorch the sugars in your malt/burn your malt and your beer will taste horrible.

    I’ve got 5 gallons of Belgian Ale chilling out next to my fridge bubbling away and will be doing a similar post (with videos) within the next week or so.

    Great post! Homebrewing is a great and delicious hobby!

  52. Whether or not you save money brewing your own beer misses the point in my opinion. Brewing your own beer is supposed to be a fun and relaxing hobby.

  53. Hi,

    I’ve brewed my own beer for a few years now, enjoying it with my friends when we catch up to play cards/D&D or just for a chat, so far i think i’ve gathered quite a bit of experience in this.

    Your instructions lack an important step, if you follow them the resulting brew will be 100% flat, every and i mean every fermented product that contains both alcohol and CO2 (the bubbles) need a 2 stage fermentation, this because the same reaction in two different environments produces two different results.

    the procedure illustrated by you is only the first step, fermentation at atmospheric pressure, in this process the yeast will fee don the sugars contained in the liquid and while producing CO2 that get’s discarded trough the bubble it will also produce alcohol, the more sugar the more alcohol, but all the CO2 is gooing off to never ever land.

    step two (1 or 2 weeks is ok but the turning point is when the bubbler has stopped) is to restart the fermentation by adding a small amount of sugar so the yeast goes wild again but this time the goal is to keep that CO2 in, to do this you need an air tight container, such as a beer bottle or a keg, even here the amount of sugar will produce different effects, more sugar=more bubbles (look out cause if you put to much you’ll end up with many broken bottles and a cellar covered in beer).

    brewing beer is easy and fun, the best piece of advice i can give you to make it just right is to be 100% accurate and diligent on cleaning all the equipment and bottles, if any germs other that the yeast reproduce in the beer it will get infected, it will still be safe to drink, but not as good.

    oh and low alcohol content beers are more easy to make, cause whit less sugar you also reduce the possibility of over reaction.

    Cheers ^_^

  54. I was a little shocked to see you using an enameled pot for brewing. If there are any cracks in the pot then bacteria can get in and breed. Boiling doesn’t always kill those bacteria and when sanitizing the pot doesn’t get hot enough to expand those cracks allowing the sanitizing solution to get in there. I highly recommend a stainless steel brewpot; any brew store carries them.

    Also, allowing the grain to boil releases tannins which will make a bitter beer. The grain should be held at no more than 150 for 40 minutes and then rinsed with boiling water to release any remaining sugars into the wort.

    Anyone planning on getting into brewing should look into buying a $10 copy of The Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papizan. It covers all the bases to ensure the money you’re spending to brew beer is worth it. Without the proper techniques and precautions beer can turn out poorly and you’ll end up pouring it down the drain. It also contains a plethora of recipes that are well worth the money.

    I’ve figured out that when I brew 5 gallons of beer the cost of each bottle of beer is $1.22 for 29 22oz bottles. At the store those would run $3.50-$4.00 The money saved is $66-$80.

    If you buy all new equipment. I bought my first brew kit for $50 (without a carboy) and it came with a beer kit. It included a siphon, hose, blow off valve, bottle caps, irish moss (to clear the beer), gypsum (to soften the water), bottle filler, a bottle brush, a carboy brush, sanitizer, priming sugar and a few other small items. I bought my brew pot for 20 bucks (5 gal. Stainless steel) and I had a capper (they’re 30 bucks at any brew store). I had a glass carboy from water delivery years ago.

    The initial investment is slightly high; about $130-$150 but after two batches of GOOD beer you’ve made all your money back.

    If you plan to bottle start asking your friends to keep any 22oz bottles they buy. Make sure they aren’t screw tops (you can’t cap those) and wash them well as soon as you get them. Once you get 30 bottles you can bottle a batch of beer. If you want to remove the labels a soak in water and baking soda will dissolve the glue.

    Please don’t use any 5 gal. bucket you find if you decide to use a brew bucket. Any scratches will hold bacteria. Don’t use a pickle bucket or you’ll have pickle beer. Buy a bucket at the brew store. They’ll tap it for a spigot if you want and it comes with a lid that is already set up for a blow off valve. If you treat your brew bucket well it will last you for years. They’re usually opaque in color and have graduated measurements on the side so you know what you’re doing. They’re usually 6 gallons so you have plenty of room. Buckets won’t overflow during the first few days of brewing; a carboy usually will. The yeast is eating so much sugar it foams and overflows. The problem is solved by hooking up a few feet of hose to the top of the carboy (through the rubber cork) and the other end is placed in a bucket of water. This keeps anything from crawling up the hose and into the beer. After it finishes blowing off you can place your regular lock on top and continue.

    I recommend everyone try to brew their own beer. Just make sure you have the right equipment and have done your research. Clean your kitchen and take 3 hours out of your schedule for brewing. You don’t want to rush it and being stressed while making beer doesn’t make it fun. If you don’t have fun it’ll be hard to get yourself to do it again. No one should dread making beer.

  55. The first method indicated in this article will produce a potentially unpleasant drinking experience.

    While the liquid in the fermenter is, technically, beer, it will not be carbonated, will not pour correctly and will very likely (since you are drawing the beer from the spigot at the bottom of the fermenter) contain a significant amount of yeast sediment. This, of course, is not only harmless, but beneficial (brewer’s yeast is rich in B vitamins). Still, it will make your beer look very murky and there will be a a sludgy sediment at the bottom of everyone’s glass.

    If you want to brew beer the right way, check out:

    http://www.howtobrew.com/
    http://www.beeradvocate.com
    http://beertown.org/homebrewing/index.html

    You will find plenty of ways to cut corners and save money, but don’t use the first method described here. You and your friends want to enjoy the fruit of your labors.

  56. Thanks for posting this, Trent. I’ve been homebrewing for just over a year, and it’s been fun to watch your enjoyment of this activity evolve as mine has.

    In my own experience, the question of whether it saves money is irrelevant. While long a craft beer snob, I drank less than a six pack every month or two. Now that I brew at home, I’ll drink a six pack every week or two, because I have it around. So while I save substantial amounts on a per-bottle basis (especially since I re-use the bottles themselves over and over again), I’m drinking a lot more than I used to, so the homebrew is probably costing me more than I used to spend on craft brews.

    By the same token, I feel my quality of life has improved, and the benefits of homebrew are enormous on many other fronts.

    I love to cook, and I love to experiment in the kitchen. Once you develop the patience (and having a few batches under your belt helps) it can be a very rewarding culinary experience. Right now I’m brewing a dunkelweizen (a dark wheat beer style from Germany) with garam masala (a common spice mixture in Indian cooking), and I can’t wait to try it in about 3 weeks.

    One can give homebrew for almost all gift-giving occasions. This can cut my gift-shopping expenses substantially, and I find people in my family, for example, are far more impressed and gratified by a big bottle (22 oz.) of brew that cost $3 to make — thanks to the craftsmanship and the personal touch — than a $20 tchotchke that they’ll wind up storing in the basement or re-gifting to someone else.

    I’m not saying I trade my brew for goods and services, but hypothetically, I could trade a six-pack ($5-$6 cost) for what is usually a $12 (plus tip) haircut, or I could swap it for eggs with a neighbor who raises chickens in his garage. (Note to urban readers: barter is not just for farmers; I live in the middle of a big city.) The legality of bartering homebrew varies by jurisdiction, so know your laws and act accordingly.

    When you get it right (and I’ve only had 1 batch in 15 that turned out undrinkable) the pride of craftsmanship is enormous. There’s nothing like uncapping something you made yourself and finding it tastier than 90% of anything you’ve every bought. There’s also nothing like catching a buzz of something you made in your own kitchen.

    For you apocalyptical nuts out there — not uncommon among frugality aficionados — there’s something to be said for developing a valuable and trade-able skill while the economy (and potentially the society that co-evolved with that economy) is imploding. I have a good friend who owns lots of guns and makes his own ammunition. I have a neighbor that knows how to raise chickens in an urban environment. Because I now know how to make alcohol out of a few easily located or substituted ingredients and pieces of equipment, when the lights go out for good, I like my chances of surviving and contributing to the tribe better than I did back when all I knew how to do was build spreadsheets and write emails.

    At the end of the day, I make beer because I love good beer and I feel proud when I make good beer that other people like, too. It can be a very rewarding hobby and cheaper than many hobbies you can occupy your time with. Most people who like to fish don’t do it because it saves on groceries.

    If you don’t homebrew, I recommend trying it, maybe with a group of friend to share the cost. If you do, I recommend looking into the BJCP program (http://www.bjcp.org/index.php) to learn more about how to make your good beer great. I’ve just started it and it’s already improving my beer knowledge and the quality of my beers.

  57. Good article. Most people think its cheaper by default because of the volume that can be made. Also, people need to consider the ‘sweat equity’ put into it. It takes time!

    So, it can be cheaper depending on, like you say, what beer is being replaced. I think it has to be a hobby done for more than saving a few bucks – its something fun that you love doing!

  58. I Purchased A MrBeer Kit And Went To Work Making My First Brew.It Turned Out Really Great.Am In Process
    Of Starting Second Batch. Go For It And See How Good It Is— Beers. I Mean Cheers mrbeer.com
    Great Article Thanks

  59. So its almost been over the proper amount of time. How’d it turn out? My fiance has been wanting me to make him a porter so I might steal your recipe.

    I’ve been brewing since Sept, and I still haven’t come whole in terms of cost. But then again I have more then the minimal equipment. In about 8 more batches I’ll break even.

  60. I think you nailed it on the head. If you are happy with Milwaukee’s Best Light, you definitely are not going to beat the price. However, if you enjoy a good tasting beer (especially if you already have the equipment), you can buy the ingredients and water for maybe $40-$60 and at about 50 beers, you sure can’t beat the price…. or taste.

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