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TheSkinnyBrewer

Brewing on a Budget, Possible?

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Wondering if there was any advice for brewing on a budget. I have read people spending under $10 to brew a mr beer sized batch. I have really enjoyed brewing so far, but am having trouble justifying the money (I can be a little tight with my money) as I have bills to pay and such that that money could go to. Right now my plan is to brew just a few times a year. Unfortunately after one batch, im addicted, enough said right? I love IPAs and Amber Ales so anything in that alley would be great.

Thanks

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Some stores sell Mr Beer standard refills for a greatly reduced price right after Christmas. Some examples are Bed Bath and Beyond, Shopko, some Kmarts, CVS.

If you have a nearby LHBS, you might be able to save even more by buying LME in bulk (mine sells if for as little as $1.80/lb if I buy at least 36 lbs at a time) and creating recipes "from scratch" with hop boils and unhopped LME. Or take the leap to all grain. With a Mr Beer sized batch, you may be able to do that with equipment you have already. If your LHBS isn't convenient, you'll want to get a mill, which will be an initial expense of about $100, but will pay off in the long run if you use it enough.

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BpG hit it on the head.

It really depends on what is available to you (your area)

I was able to pick up the three pack kit (OVL, HCCD, and WWW) standard refills after holidays (x-mas and fathers-day) for $20 that is just under $7 to do a basic kit of 2 gallons beer

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If you can find a local homebrew store in your area, you should be pleasantly surprised at what you can get. I think $12 for a batch of 8 quarts is quite possible, which is $1.50 per quart or about $3.50 for a 6-pack of 12 ounce bottles. I think that's very reasonable, especially if you can make a beer you enjoy even more than the $5 to $8 per 6-pack store bought stuff. And I'm talking all malt instead of half malt and half booster. To be totally honest, I have to tell you, I'm a newbie at beer making, but I'm no stranger to math.

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Unfortunately here in Alabama our laws suck and the closest LHBS is about 1 1/2 hours away not that convenient. No not really fond of the flat rate shipping cost. lol. but it is what it is and is nice for large orders. Hopefully our laws will be changing soon but for the meantime I'm still looking for a good alternative. Plus I have to start slow so I can get the wife on board with my new addicition :P
She doesn't understand the fun of brewing your own beer when it winds up being close to the same cost as buying it at the store.

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If you are trying to save money, I'd look at doing 2.5 gallon BIAB(brew in a bag). The cost of the equipment required is minimal(you probably already have most of it) and buying grains vs. extracts in cheaper. I can do a 2.5 gal SMaSH(single malt and single hop) beer using washed yeast for under $13+shipping from the online site I order from.

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Feel your pain about being limited in Alabama - but I see where you are from Madison, if you still live there then you may want to contact this dude, they may have some suggestions:
Huntsville Alabama Homebrewers Association
9007 Shereton Rd
Huntsville, AL 35802
Phone: 256 880-8523
Email: bad351stang@yahoo.com

Also, Amazon, Midwest Brewers, Northern Brewer, Tons of Hops (for hops, obviously), DME Mart (for cheap DME in bulk) are some places to browse online.

In the end, I've found you need to roughly plan your next couple batches and try to locate all your ingredients and just work the numbers. I have about 8 rough ideas of what I want to brew over the next 2-3 months and priced it out at around $150 between Mr Beer, Tons of Hops, Amazon and either Northern Brewer or Midwest - and this will be relatively higher gravity and specialty brews with extra or different yeast and hops. so that's around $18-19/LBK or 21-22 beers.

If I'd only bought from MR Beer, the recipes plus yeast and hops would run closer to $230+ and that would be with only one shipment. So I went from basically paying around $1.25/per bottle to closer to $0.87/per - which is pretty good IMO, considering a case of BMC runs you about a $1/beer and anything decent/good is closer to $1.25+

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TheSkinnyBrewer wrote:

Plus I have to start slow so I can get the wife on board with my new addicition :P
She doesn't understand the fun of brewing your own beer when it winds up being close to the same cost as buying it at the store.


Tell her about how much other hobbies can cost. Golf, motorsports, skiing, snowmobiling, hunting/shooting, just to name a few. Atleast with making beer you get to drink it, which you might be doing anyways in the other hobbies.
You can get some nice 5 gal refills on the web and split them in 2 LBK's for less money then MB. Oh oh, I may end up in band camp for this one. :)

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I may not make this jump early in your brewing career (though it's really up to your preference), but I cut my expenses greatly by switching to all-grain. I have done a Mr. B sized batch as cheaply as $7 a number of times. You can also cut expenses by switching from Mr. B HMEs to malt extracts and hops, especially if you buy in bulk. But, conversely, you pay for convenience with the Mr. B kits. The cost of your time will come into play in either of the other methods I describe, especially in the AG method.

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swenocha wrote:

I may not make this jump early in your brewing career (though it's really up to your preference), but I cut my expenses greatly by switching to all-grain. I have done a Mr. B sized batch as cheaply as $7 a number of times. You can also cut expenses by switching from Mr. B HMEs to malt extracts and hops, especially if you buy in bulk. But, conversely, you pay for convenience with the Mr. B kits. The cost of your time will come into play in either of the other methods I describe, especially in the AG method.

+1 I'm in the same boat. Takes more time but I can justify the time for the savings. Although sometimes when I can afford it I like to get MB refills because they are quick and easy (and taste good too :) )

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I look at it this way..
I can buy beer at the store and I can brew my own. The difference is that I can take pride in something I made but not in something I bought.

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HoppyDaze wrote:

I look at it this way..
I can buy beer at the store and I can brew my own. The difference is that I can take pride in something I made but not in something I bought.

Adding to that you can also tweak a recipe any way you see fit. Even a simple kit recipe can be changed up and experimented with (using honey instead of sugar, adding a lb of DME (Dry Malt Extract), dry hopping). The possibilities are endless :woohoo:

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swenocha wrote:

I may not make this jump early in your brewing career (though it's really up to your preference), but I cut my expenses greatly by switching to all-grain. I have done a Mr. B sized batch as cheaply as $7 a number of times. You can also cut expenses by switching from Mr. B HMEs to malt extracts and hops, especially if you buy in bulk. But, conversely, you pay for convenience with the Mr. B kits. The cost of your time will come into play in either of the other methods I describe, especially in the AG method.

+1. AG brewing can be very cost effective, and the money you save will more than pay for equipment, unless you go crazy and buy one of these. brewhouse_above.jpg

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If I don't count what I have spent on equipment my beer averages around 40 cents a bottle. And that includes One Step and caps. If you buy from morebeer.com they don't charge shipping on any order over $59. Rebelbrewer.com doesn't charge any on orders over $100. So by planning ahead you can even avoid shipping charges. Rebel brewer sells grain by the ounce. And will custom build kits at no charge.

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Rebel (through their 50 Pound Sack site) also sells grain and hops cheap in bulk. Free shipping, 10% off of orders above $100, 25% off of orders above $200, and additional discounts for picking up at the store make shopping with them very appealing to me...

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oly wrote:

swenocha wrote:

I may not make this jump early in your brewing career (though it's really up to your preference), but I cut my expenses greatly by switching to all-grain. I have done a Mr. B sized batch as cheaply as $7 a number of times. You can also cut expenses by switching from Mr. B HMEs to malt extracts and hops, especially if you buy in bulk. But, conversely, you pay for convenience with the Mr. B kits. The cost of your time will come into play in either of the other methods I describe, especially in the AG method.

+1. AG brewing can be very cost effective, and the money you save will more than pay for equipment, unless you go crazy and buy one of these. brewhouse_above.jpg

*wipes drool from chin

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AG is less expensive, but I've brewed extract + steep batches for as little as $12.50 by shopping around, buying stuff on sale/bulk w/free shipping. You can't (or at least I can't) complain about 60-75 cent beers that are better then any macro.

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First of all thanks for all of the info from everyone it is helping alot. Even the wife cant argue with 75 cents a beer. :woohoo: I guess my next question now would be what are the approximate times associated with each style. I think Im leaning more towards using dme and hops but Im unsure on the process. Do I just boil the water add the dme and then hop boil? Still a newbie at this but I am a Biologist by degree and work in an engineering job so needless to say I like to get in depth on things. I enjoy the Mr. B cans for the ease of use but would like to do a little more to make it eventually getting to all grain setup.

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How much beer do you normally buy in the store? Say you spend $20 every few weeks on beer. If you cut back on the amount you buy, or spend a bit less on cheaper beer, take that money saved and put it aside. After a few months, you'll have saved enough to stock up on a bunch of Mr. Beer refills. Shop around on Amazon and look for free shipping deals.

Also, check out craigslist for people selling their brewing equipment. If you're lucky, someone will be upgrading their set up, and be willing to sell their used equipment cheap.

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Skinny~

Thanks for the topic. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a money sieve. So I guess I can just envy you. I mean, I just spent roughly $175 on an order coming from Austin Homebrew.

I do like your plan to only homebrew on occassion rather than try to emulate me and become your very own liquor store.

As many of the guys say, all-grain is a less expensive way. Also shopping for bargains too. I also think maybe you could consider brewing lower ABV beers. What I mean by that is that - generally speaking - the amount of grain/extract/malt/adjunct in a beer correlates to it's ABV. Therefore, if you're brewing a beer with a 6% ABV...then I'd assume you have more malt than you would in a 4% or 3.7% ABV beer. Just an idea.

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The best advice I can give anyone (and I am a deal nazi) is to ALWAYS Google discount codes. Even Mr B has them!

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Cheapest I made so far was my Krystal-Weizen 2 gallons beer for $5.25

I got a 3-pak refill kit (last one) from Shopko for $14.99 and I re-pitched the WWW refill on the German Hefeweizen yeast cake was one of my best beers to date

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TheSkinnyBrewer wrote:

First of all thanks for all of the info from everyone it is helping alot. Even the wife cant argue with 75 cents a beer. :woohoo: I guess my next question now would be what are the approximate times associated with each style. I think Im leaning more towards using dme and hops but Im unsure on the process. Do I just boil the water add the dme and then hop boil? Still a newbie at this but I am a Biologist by degree and work in an engineering job so needless to say I like to get in depth on things. I enjoy the Mr. B cans for the ease of use but would like to do a little more to make it eventually getting to all grain setup.

I've heard of people doing BIAB (brew in a bag) all grain batches in around four hours. My AG procedure takes anywhere from 5.5 to 7 hours, depending on the beer and style, so it really is a brew DAY. Doing extract batches as you describe is around a 2.5 hour process as I recall: an hour or so for the boil, half hour to cool the wort (unless you pour hot wort into cold water Mr. Beer style), time getting the water to a boil, cleanup etc.

BTW: if you do extract batches, add your extract to warm or hottish water and stir as you do so to break up any clumps (DME) and to prevent the heavier extract from settling to the bottom of the pot and scorching. THEN raise the temp to boiling. It is also okay to heat your water to boiling, remove it from the heat source and add your extract and then reheat to boiling. NEVER add extract to actively boiling water, unless you want to spend the next two hours cleaning your floors, stovetop, under the cabinets, etc.

When your extract water mix is approaching boil temperatures, monitor it VERY closely, because proteins will "break" (be forced out of solution) and break the surface tension of the liquid. This is called the "hot break", and WILL cause an overflow if you are not prepared to remove your wort from the heat quickly. DO NOT add hops until your hot break has settled back down into the boiling liquid or you will likely have an overflow whether you take it off the heat or not. Monitor closely every time you add hops as well.

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TheSkinnyBrewer wrote:

She doesn't understand the fun of brewing your own beer when it winds up being close to the same cost as buying it at the store.

I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around this statement. Many of the Mr. Beer Advanced Recipes cost under $25. You get a case of beer, more or less, from it. That's a dollar a bottle, roughly. What beer are you buying at the store for a buck a bottle?

If you use your own extract/grains/hops, whatever, instead of the Mr. Beer ingredients, you're cutting your cost per bottle even more.

I recently bought ingredients for a 5-gallon all-grain batch and the total for the ingredients was only about $40, and I expect to get nearly 50 bottles out of it. This will be better beer than you can buy for 80 cents a bottle, too, I guarantee.

I can understand not wanting to overspend on one's hobby. I truly can. However, it's in the nature of every hobby to be money spent, and unless your hobby is actually seeing how little money you can spend on something, you're going to have to spend discretionary income on it.

Everyone's budget is different, of course, and if you're spending money on any hobby that should be going to pay the grocery or electric bill, you need to get your priorities straight. But I don't even think about the money I've plowed into my homebrewing over the past two years. I don't want to waste money on anything, but one way or another, I'm going to spend money on beer, either my own homebrew, or else store-bought.

Frankly, I think I'm saving money by homebrewing rather than buying at the store. And I'm getting the satisfaction of drinking beers I brewed myself from recipes I created myself.

That's just my take on it, anyway.

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I once bought two Brewer's Best Seasonal kits, on sale plus free shipping. The kits included priming sugar and bottle caps. It put my cost at about 49 cents per bottle. I don't always wait for a sale, but I don't mind taking advantage of a sale when I find one.

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I have no problem spending money on my homebrewing. I actually plan to buy the deluxe kit that comes with enough stuff to make 4 gallons of beer at income tax time. so buying that with my free money from uncle sam wont be a problem at all, plus I'll have a second lbk to get 2 batches going at once. I will also get some grains to steep in some batches and probably some hops as well. The refills that come with the kit are all the HME + booster, so I'll have to get grains and stuff to improve them. So it should be pretty sweet.

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I just made a batch that should work out to under 60c a bottle that I think will be tasty using one of the Vienna lagers I got on sale for $4.99 at Target w/free shipping. See "Mr. Dorkmunder" thread if intersted.

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Brew-tality wrote:

I have no problem spending money on my homebrewing. I actually plan to buy the deluxe kit that comes with enough stuff to make 4 gallons of beer at income tax time. so buying that with my free money from uncle sam wont be a problem at all, plus I'll have a second lbk to get 2 batches going at once. I will also get some grains to steep in some batches and probably some hops as well. The refills that come with the kit are all the HME + booster, so I'll have to get grains and stuff to improve them. So it should be pretty sweet.

If you get a tax refund, it's not free money from uncle sam, it's repayment of an interest free loan you gave to uncle sam. Change your withholding and automatically deposit in a CD or savings account.

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bpgreen wrote:

Brew-tality wrote:

I have no problem spending money on my homebrewing. I actually plan to buy the deluxe kit that comes with enough stuff to make 4 gallons of beer at income tax time. so buying that with my free money from uncle sam wont be a problem at all, plus I'll have a second lbk to get 2 batches going at once. I will also get some grains to steep in some batches and probably some hops as well. The refills that come with the kit are all the HME + booster, so I'll have to get grains and stuff to improve them. So it should be pretty sweet.

If you get a tax refund, it's not free money from uncle sam, it's repayment of an interest free loan you gave to uncle sam. Change your withholding and automatically deposit in a CD or savings account.

Technically bp, it is free. I qualify for earned income credit and claim my three children. without the EIC, I wouldnt get much back at all. So I always make sure I let them go nuts at toys r us with some of the money, lol. but I see what your saying, and do have a decently large savings acount going.

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I agree with you on the point about the recipes being under $25, but remember you have to add $7.95 flat rate shipping. So that bumps it up to $33 right there. Im not saying Im not going to spend money, just want to keep control on what I spend.

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Brew-tality wrote:

bpgreen wrote:

Brew-tality wrote:

I have no problem spending money on my homebrewing. I actually plan to buy the deluxe kit that comes with enough stuff to make 4 gallons of beer at income tax time. so buying that with my free money from uncle sam wont be a problem at all, plus I'll have a second lbk to get 2 batches going at once. I will also get some grains to steep in some batches and probably some hops as well. The refills that come with the kit are all the HME + booster, so I'll have to get grains and stuff to improve them. So it should be pretty sweet.

If you get a tax refund, it's not free money from uncle sam, it's repayment of an interest free loan you gave to uncle sam. Change your withholding and automatically deposit in a CD or savings account.

Technically bp, it is free. I qualify for earned income credit and claim my three children. without the EIC, I wouldnt get much back at all. So I always make sure I let them go nuts at toys r us with some of the money, lol. but I see what your saying, and do have a decently large savings acount going.


I stand corrected. In your case, it really is free money. Cool beans.

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yea, I figured tax season would be a good time to stock up on some refills. I dont want my brewing to end up being a financial burden. My girlfriend gets a little annoyed at how much time i spend on these forums, but other than that shes pretty supportive of my new hobby. But to stay on topic, yes its possible to brew on a budget. Just be smart and buy when you know you can. Gotta keep your priorities straight, and do some planning ahead is all...

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the math per beer (less shipping) above is correct. 2.5 gals/8 liters equals about 18 12 oz beers. Our $14 or 15 dollar batch is cheaper than a half case of Micro Brews at $16+. MrB is cost effective... however, because of the fermentation time and conditioning time, you will be doing it as a hobby rather than to keep the fridge stocked. Tho some of the folks on this blog seem to have batches ready every few days. I've been doing about one a month as a hobbyist.

I have two stores near me (Bass Pro Shop and a Kitchen store at my local mall... can't remember the name of it) that sell Standard refills, kegs, and bottles. Those kits keep about 2/3s of my needs filled. Occassionally I'll make an online order and get some UMEs and extra yeast to build some recipes that I haven't tried before (recipes from MrB website in the online store and refill/recipe area).

Do it for the fun of it, and for the pride in creating a great tasting brew.

Cheers!

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Paddy OBrewski wrote:

the math per beer (less shipping) above is correct. 2.5 gals/8 liters equals about 18 12 oz beers. Our $14 or 15 dollar batch is cheaper than a half case of Micro Brews at $16+. MrB is cost effective... however, because of the fermentation time and conditioning time, you will be doing it as a hobby rather than to keep the fridge stocked.

This isn't the case if you're brewing multiple batches. Many of us have three or more LBKs, and/or are brewing 5-gallon batches on a regular basis. This keeps the fridge more than stocked. I have four six-packs in the fridge right now (four varieties of beer), and at least 15 more in the closet ready to be refrigerated. And that doesn't even count the four or five cases I've got in the basement that are still conditioning.

It's cost-effective, and it does keep me in ready beer most of the year.

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