Nick Carr on May 25, 2016 0 Comments Brewing Thrift: 4 Ways to Save At Home There are many ways to save a little money on your homebrewing hobby. The best savings probably come when buying supplies and ingredients as you don’t have another expense of some sort balancing what you’re saving. On shopping day it’s money you’re not spending, pure and simple. Saving at home takes on a slightly different tone and must be weighed against convenience and time value. To save while brewing at home takes an upfront investment of money, often a continued investment of time, and what many would consider as a loss of convenience. Balancing these is the satisfaction of “doing it yourself,” the money saved, the chance to gain and use new brewing skills, and in some cases, the possibility of finding another hobby you love. Click Here to Shop for Brewing Supplies & Equipment So, try out the money-saving tips below, start slow, and see where the balance shifts. You may find you love gardening and growing your own brewing ingredients, or you may find a hidden penchant for using your hands and building, or you may make a new friend while searching for a cheaper water source. 1. Grow Your Own For those that have the room growing some of your own ingredients for brewing, not only saves you money, but it puts you outdoors and can bring great satisfaction. And if you can’t grow them — or even if you can — you can always forage for some wild ingredients. Hops are probably the first ingredient and most important that comes to mind when we talk about growing our own. Depending on the variety you seek, hops can get somewhat expensive and will likely become more so over the coming years. Being able to use homegrown hops for all or some portion of a batch can save significant money over time. Though all strains are not available to home gardeners — many new ones are falling under patent laws — there are still quite a variety to choose from. Do some research on the hops you are thinking of growing, talk to other gardeners in your area and try to find out which species work well where you live. Brewing herbs can also be easily cultivated. In many cases, these plants can play roles in your cooking as well. As an added bonus, many of these same herbs will also support your local bee population. I’ve grown or found; dandelion, bee balm, rosemary, yarrow, sweet gale, juniper berries, spruce tips, sage, horehound, and probably many more I can’t think of at the moment, all of which ended up in my brew-pot. Growing supplementary grains is also an option. Many recipes call for small quantities of unmalted grains such as wheat, rye, and oats. It is even possible to grow your own barley, but you’d need quite a bit of room and you’d have to malt it yourself, which is not all that hard. It all depends on how deeply you want to delve and how much time you have. At some point, unless you’re passionate about gardening, convenience will start out weighing the returns. But imagine being able to brew a batch of beer from ingredients exclusively grown in your own garden! If you just don’t have the room to grow either hops and/or herbs, don’t dismiss the idea of foraging. I know a place where I can get loads of wild hops and every year take a trip to load up on, not only wild hops, but raspberries, gooseberries, and other wild edibles for brewing. 2. Find A Water Source Buying your brewing water is convenient and most would say it’s pretty cheap too, but why buy it if you don’t have to. This is money — no matter the amount — you could be saving. First, don’t just automatically think that your tap water isn’t any good for brewing. Look at your water report. Generally beer can be made from just about any water, as long as it is free of odors and contaminates. Most water, once free of unwanted contaminates, can be adjusted to closely match that of any beer style. Chlorine is probably the one thing you’ll most have to look for, and possibly deal with, when searching out a free source of brewing water. It is added to most municipal water to help eliminate bacteria and other contaminants. But chlorine is easily eliminated, at least to a degree where it is no longer of concern, by filtering and/or boiling. The same goes for if you have any bacteria in the water. Of course, if you’re boiling the water to get rid of chlorine link this into your brew day so you don’t lose your savings in heat costs. An under-sink filter is always a good investment, especially if you’re brewing often and buying your drinking water too. Granted, it is an investment, but one that will pay for itself pretty quickly. You’ll also cut down on the amount of plastic you’re buying which is a small win for our environment. There is also the possibility of having a friend or finding someone that has a great water source you can use… maybe in return for a couple brews. A friend out in the country, still using a well; or in a smaller town not too far away, but tied into a pristine water source; or somebody that has an undercounter reverse osmosis system in their home. 3. Building & Modifying Your Own Equipment It is easy to get lured into purchasing very expensive prefabricated brewing equipment. It’s shiny, right? Shiny and awesome looking, but is it worth the cost or is it something you might possibly make yourself? If you’re the DIY sort, and I’ve found many homebrewers are, don’t overlook the possibility of building your own equipment. I can guarantee close to 100% of the time, building it yourself will be cheaper, even if you make a couple of mistakes, than buying it. And there are plenty of how-to guides across the internet to help you figure it out. Most equipment is pretty straight forward to build all that’s required is a little time, patience, and labor. Some brewing DIY projects are very simple, such as making an insulating jacket for your mash tun. Other DIY projects can be slightly more involved, such as building a dedicated 3-tier stand for a gravity brew set-up, re-purposing a beverage cooler into a mush tun, making a counter-flow wort chiller, or designing a hop back. But still well within the capabilities of anyone that considers themselves as handy. And hey, you may learn a new skill or two along the way… soldering and welding, anyone? 4. Mill Your Own Malt If you’re an all-grain brewer, milling your own grain can save money on a couple fronts. First, if you’re gonna buy in bulk, which we all know will save you money, you’ll definitely want to buy unmilled grain because it is less perishable than milled; and the longer you can store your grain the more money you can potentially save. Milled grain is also almost always slightly more expensive. Whether buying online and getting it milled before it’s shipped, or buying from a local shop and having it milled there, it will cost a little extra. Now, the expense may not seem like a lot, especially when compared to the cost of some high end grain mills, but it is an investment that can pay for itself and save you some money. Do some research before you buy. Always remember you really just want to crack the grain not grind it into dust. So, make sure the mill or grinder you settle on has a course enough setting to produce a brewing quality grain. Look around and you’ll soon realize that buying an overly expensive mill is not always necessary — especially for homebrewing — and there is even the potential of making your own (another DIY project to add to our list). Final Thoughts My best advice, give one or two of these money-saving brewing tips a try. Don’t try to change too much all at once. The water tip is pretty straight forward and easy to implement. Maybe plant one or two hop bins or build a simple lauder tun or insulation jacket. See whether the scales shift. Do the satisfaction/savings/excitement elements outbalance the convenience/time/investment factors? If so great! You’ve found another outlet and a way to save a bit of money. If not, that’s ok too. Try something different. If it still isn’t something you can get into, no worries. There’s plenty of other ways to save between shopping smart and having good brewing practices. Coming soon will be another set of tips on ways you can save on brew day. Cheers!