Save Money with Homebrewing

Most home brewers craft their own beers for taste, and not necessarily to save money. However, once homebrew equipment costs are recouped, home brewers can indeed save money on every batch of beer. Of course, the savings margin will differ depending on the cost of beers that one normally purchases and the ingredients purchased for homemade beer. People also spend different amounts on equipment.

SIMPLE EQUIPMENT

Some of the equipment required for beer brewing is common to most home kitchens: a large cooking pot (about 4-5 gallons), a funnel, and a kitchen thermometer. A less common item, a grain steeping bag made of mesh nylon, is needed to steep the hops.

Additionally, a low-cost brewing setup includes a brewing bucket, a bubbler (for gas release), and a siphon hose. These materials are sold at home brewing supply stores. Home brewers simply place ingredients in the bucket, insert the bubbler into the bucket’s lid, and let the mixture sit for one or two weeks. Buckets may include spigots, but some users like to attach a siphon hose for easier pouring.

A standard 4-5 gallon brewing bucket yields about forty to fifty beer bottles’ worth of homebrew. If the beer won’t be consumed within a few days, then brewers should purchase empty beer bottles or accumulate them from old six-packs. (Of course, these should be sanitized, as should all beermaking equipment.) Professional bottle cappers can be purchased at beermaking supply stores. Homebrewers who are interested in making personalized labels can easily find free templates online.

Altogether, simple equipment can total less than $25.

OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT

A bucket is sufficient brewing equipment when beer will be consumed immediately. However, it’s not sufficient for long-term beer storage. Therefore, some homebrewers invest in large glass jugs called carboys. Some other equipment that facilitates the process includes:

• An autosiphon: This makes it easier to draw beer from the carboy.
• A bottling tip: This is designed for easy bottle-filling.
• A hydrometer: This calculates the alcohol content of liquids.

RECIPES

Homebrewers can easily find free recipes online. Many websites categorize beer recipes so that users can easily learn to prepare ales, ciders, hefeweisens, porters, and more. Here’s a typical pilsner ingredient list:

4 pounds light malt extract
3 ounces crystal malt
2 teaspoons gypsum
1/4 ounce hops (boil)
1/2 ounce hops (finish)
Yeast

Depending on the recipe, ingredients for 4-5 gallons of beer cost about $30-$40. If this yields seven six-packs, that’s about $5 per six-pack. Not bad!

MAKING THE BEER

Here are the typical steps in beermaking:

1) Heat two gallons of water to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

2) Add the tied bag of grains. Let the grains steep for about twenty minutes.

3) After steeping, bring the water to a low boil.

4) Add the malt extract and the first group of hops (the boiling hops).

5) After about 55 minutes, add the finishing hops. Allow the hops to boil for five minutes.

6) Cool the mixture to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. One cooling method is to immerse the pot in a sink of ice water.

7) Pour the mixture into the carboy, if applicable.

8) Add two to three gallons of filtered water.

9) Add yeast and stir.

10) Add the bubbler, cover the brew, and let the mixture (now called “wort”) ferment.

THE WAITING

Tom Petty had it right: the waiting is the hardest part. Wait for about two weeks. Be on the lookout for bubbles. The brew is ready for the next step when bubbles come up regularly through the bubbler.

THE FINAL STEP

To finish the recipe, combine two cups of boiling water with the priming sugar. Boil the solution and then add it to the beer.

ENJOY!

Serve the beer within a few days, or bottle it for long-term storage.