Nick Carr on June 22, 2016 1 Comment Brewing Thrift: 6 Ways to Save On Brew Day You’ve shopped smart, saving some hard earned money on ingredients. Maybe you’ve implemented a few tricks to save some money at home too; maybe you have a couple hop rhizomes planted and you’ve found a good inexpensive source of brewing water. It’s time for a brew day! And even here there are things you can do to pinch some pennies. Saving money on brew day is all about smart brewing practices and using your ingredients efficiently. From how to get the most out of your hops and yeast, to reusing brewing water and sanitizer, to learning an old and more-involved but efficient brewing technique, the tips below will hopefully help stretch your brewing dollar to its fullest. Click Here to Shop for Brewing Supplies & Equipment 1. Hop Efficiently Hops are one of your two most expensive ingredients — yeast is the other. It is also the ingredient most vulnerable to price increases due to bad harvest years. So, it isn’t a bad idea to go frugal when you can and know the brewing practices that can help you get the most out of your hops. Use High Alpha Acid Hops For Bittering You can use a smaller quantity of high alpha hops to do the same bittering work it would take a larger quantity of a lower alpha acid variety to accomplish. Some of the newer varieties especially shine when it comes to alpha acid content; Admiral, Citra, Chinook, Galena, and Pacific Gem to name a few. This way you can save those varieties with lower alpha acid and use them in lower quantities for flavor and aroma additions. Longer Boil Time A longer boil allows for more efficient use of hops. Of course this is offset by the added expense in natural gas, propane, or electricity to boil longer. Boil your bittering addition for at least 60 minutes and up to 90 to get the most bitterness per ounce. Up Your Boil Volume Boiling a larger volume of wort increases hop utilization. This is an especially pertinent point for extract brewers, because they often use smaller brew pots. The inevitable higher gravity of a smaller volume boil will significantly reduce hop utilization making it necessary to use a bigger quantity of hops. It may be worth looking at upgrading your brew pot, so that you can brew your full volume at its original gravity and take full advantage of every ounce of hops. French Press Your Hops Use a French press to make a hop tea in the place of late addition hopping and/or dry hopping. Doing this instead of late addition can cut the hops used by up to 1/2 and it also reduces the amount of trub and thus the amount of beer absorbed and lost. To do this pour some boiling wort onto your hops in the French press, let sit for a few minutes, press the hops and pour off the extract into an air tight container. Refrigerate the extract and add it to your beer when you rack it to the secondary. You can also try the same thing in place of dry hopping. I know, many brewers will frown on this method and say it does not impart the same flavors as actual dry-hopping, but it should not be dismissed out of hand. It will also save you beer lost to absorption in the fermentor and quite possibly also cut down on the amount of hops used dry hopping. Using “hot brewed” hop tea here may create a different profile than dry hopping, so a possibility (one I’ve not experimented with yet) is to “cold brew” your hop extract. You could either do this in the French press or an air tight jar. Pour warm water or wort over your hops, leave them out for maybe an hour, then refrigerate the whole thing letting the water/wort stay on the hops for several days before straining them off. Add this cooled brewed extract into the secondary. I honestly haven’t experimented much with using a French press, but it seems a line worth some investigation. You could even try using it in conjunction with a smaller dry hopping regimen. 2. Scale Your Batch Size Appropriately A five gallon batch size is the norm; brewing recipes are usually tailored to the 5 gallon volume and most recipe kits are built around it. But, depending on what you have in mind for your brew this may not be the optimal size and could cost you some money. Some recipes are expensive to make in this quantity. If you’re trying a new recipe and find you don’t like it. It’s a loss. If you are brewing a high gravity or highly hopped recipe (i.e. more malt and/or hops) brewing a 5 gallon batch may cost you more than you want to spend. Maybe it includes some special expensive ingredient — say cloning Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch, which includes saffron. In any of these cases, scaling down your batch size makes good monetary sense. On the other side of this is up-scaling a batch. You might want to do this with a favorite recipe that you love to have around. In this case, you’ll save on yeast costs, especially if you are not reusing your yeast, on propane burned, as well as on sanitizer used. Also, the time it takes to brew a 5 gallon batch compared to a larger batch is not much of an increase so, maybe most importantly, you’ll be saving some time overall. 3. Reuse Your Yeast You should reuse your yeast, it’s that simple. Yeast may not seem like that big an expense at 6 to 20 dollars a pop for liquid and a measly 3 or 4 dollars for dry. But think about the same yeast, especially the liquid yeasts, used over three or four batches of beer and 6 dollars quickly multiples to a savings of over 18 to 24 dollars. And well, you can imagine the savings on a more expensive strain. Tips For Reusing Yeast: Don’t reuse yeast from a beer with greater than 6.5% ABV or a beer that was very highly hopped. Go from a lighter colored beer to a darker one. Not vise versa. Using the same yeast across styles with similar characteristics is always a plus. Pitching New Wort On Top Of Old Yeast There are a couple ways to reuse yeast. If you are an industrious brewer and as soon as one batch is done your planning the next, you can tighten your timeline and pitch new wort on the yeast cake as soon as you’ve siphoned your last batch into a secondary. Now, there are a couple things to consider here. First you’re basically over-pitching which can cause autolysis and off flavors. Over-pitching also lowers the expression of esters, so if you’re brewing a style where yeast flavors are important, Belgian and German styles for instance, it might be better not to use this method. Harvest Your Yeast While it may be slightly more time consuming, harvesting the yeast is a better option than pitching beer on top of used yeast. After you’ve transferred your beer off the yeast in the primary you’re going to swish the trub around, breaking it up, adding a small amount of sterilized water if necessary. Let it settle for a couple minutes then pour of the liquid at the top into a sanitized mason jar to about half full. Top it off with cold boiled water, cover it with tin foil and a rubber band, and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. The trub will settle out during this time. Pour off the liquid into another sanitized jar leaving the trub behind. Repeat the process with this new jar. If needed, depending on if you still have trub settling out, repeat a third, and possibly a fourth time. Once done removing trub seal the jar and store the washed yeast in the fridge. It can be stored for 2 weeks to a month. Make Multiple Starters You can also stretch your yeast by making multiple yeast starters from a single packet. If you have some unused growlers around it’s a breeze to make another starter from the same packet ahead of brew day. You than can use one of the starters on brew day. Put an airlock on the other and store it in the fridge. It should keep fine for a couple weeks. Be sure to evaluate the yeast before you pitch it into new beer. When you open it up does it smell like yeast or does it have bad odors? Is it a nice milky yellow color or has it turned brown? Don’t use it if it smells bad or has turned brown. 4. Parti-gyle Brewing No, this isn’t the same thing as a brew party. This practice actually deserves its own article, but let’s at least look at the idea here. Parti-gyle brewing is, at its core, getting multiple batches of beer from a single mash. Now, the core idea can get pretty technical, but for the sake of keeping this from getting too long-winded we’ll just stick to the simplest practice, easily done — after some calculations — by the homebrewer. You are going to collect the wort for a stronger beer and a weaker beer off of a single mash. The high gravity beer will come from a “first running” non-sparge draining of the mash. Water is then added to the mash, it is stirred and resettled, and drained a second time, a “second running,” to make a lower gravity second wort. Boiling can either be done in-parallel if you have an extra brew pot or in-line if you don’t. Note: This is an easy way to make use of tip number 2 (Scaling Your Batch Size), while getting two beers out of the process. You may not want 5 gallons of a barleywine and its grain bill will inevitably cost more than a normal bill, but this all changes it if you can get two brews out of it! Suddenly you’re saving a bit of time, money, and scaling batches sizes appropriately. Parti-gyle brewing will require a little bit of research. You want two beers that use basically the same types of grain, such as a Dry Stout & Imperial Stout, or Old Ale & Dark Mild. You also have to consider how and where to split the batch. Randy Mosher mentions in his book Radical Brewing that half your yielded extract is contained in the first 1/3 of your wort and the other half is contained in last 2/3rds. This information can go a long way in helping you find the right ratios. 5. Stretch Your Brewing Water You use a lot of water on brew day. The one place you probably use the most is cooling your wort down to a temperature appropriate for casting the yeast. Don’t let this water go to waste. It’s hot after being run through your wort chiller, so use it for something you need hot water for. Save some of it for dishes and cleaning up at brew day’s end. You could start a load of laundry with it or set it aside in some extra buckets and once it’s cooled use it to water plants or the garden. The point is, it’s there… use it. Don’t let it go to waste! 6. Reuse Sanitizer Here, you’re reusing both the sanitizer and the water so it’s a save on two fronts. In most cases, sanitizers can be reused at least once if not more. Star San is good to go as long as its pH is around 3 and Iodophor can be stored in an air tight glass container for about a week. Don’t store iodophor in plastic, if it has lost its yellow color it means the iodine has been absorbed or off gassed and it shouldn’t be used. Final Thoughts So, the next time you brew put a couple of these tips into practice. Combine them with some of the tips in “How To Save At Home” and “How To Save On Supplies & Ingredients” to build a savings plan that works for you on all fronts. Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember it’s a hobby. You should be having fun, first and foremost. Saving a little money… it should be an additional benefit, not an added headache. Cheers and Happy Brewing!