A friend got interested in homebrewing after all the good beer I was bringing into work each week. He asked me how expensive it is to get into the hobby and unfortunately the answer isn't simple. Each person has a price range and just what they 'expect' is needed to get started. Some brewers start small and build out equipment over time. But what I did recommend was to wait for Black Friday coming up as there will be deals to start even an all grain brewery on the cheap. So, for him and all the other brewers getting into the hobby here is the first post among a few relating to the costs of building out a brewery at home.Note: Links are unaffiliated. I utilized Amazon, Northern Brewer and Adventures in Brewing as examples for prices. There are great other places to get supplies including local homebrew shops (which avoid shipping delays/costs). Links are mostly provided for ease of use and proof of price for items.
The Starting Line
So in any research it was essential to find out just what was essential to start. The first stage of course being the ability to make beer. This though is going to be dependent on your home's temperature. What at the most minimum you would like to get is:
- 5 Gallon Pot ($20-$30)
- Plastic Fermenter ($15)
- Bottling Bucket ($18)
- Airlock ($2) [Get 2, backups are nice]
- Auto-Siphon ($22) [Get the 6ft hose addition]
- Bottle Filler ($3)
- Bottle Filling Hose ($0.50/foot) [Get 3-6 feet for general use]
- Bottle Brush ($3)
- StarSan Sanitizer ($10)
- Long Stem Thermometer ($10)
- Stick on Thermometer ($2)
- Bottle Capper ($20)
- Bottle Caps ($5/144)
- *Brew Paddle ($3+) [kitchen spatula works]
- *Beer Bottles ($12/24) [You can save by cleaning used bottles]
- *Blow Off-Tube ($0.60/ft) [Get 2-3 feet]
- *Hydrometer ($7)
- *Test Jar ($5) [Goes with Hydrometer]
- *Wine Thief ($9) [Helps take sanitized samples from fermenter]
- *Carboy Brush ($6) [Bucket can be cleaned with a soapy water soak & normal sponge]
- *Plastic Storage Container (Varies, $10+) [Organize!]
- *A Brew Buddy (cost varies)
- Total: $132-$186
Wow that is quite a list of stuff. You can find a kit for most of those items like this one from Norther Brewer for $99 (sale at time of post) or this one from Adventures in Homebrewing for $139. The other way is to hunt for the items individually. Sometimes you can shave off another $20 but at this point it's not worth all the effort and potential shipping costs. Homebrew Finds is a good resource though if you want to watch out for deals.Community Edit: I am updating this on recommendations from the homebrewing community.
Note 1: Upgrading to an 8-10 Gallon Kettle - perfect for full-boil extract batches, and ready to go for All-grain brewing should you opt to go there later. That being said, if you have a small stovetop that can't fit a larger kettle, a super tight budget, or you have no interest in full-boil or all-grain brewing, a 5-gallon kettle is a good way to get into the hobby.
Note 2: The cheapest way to try the hobby is to use someone else's equipment. The AHA Learn to Homebrew day is a great resource for this. But tomorrow is just one day out of the year for this. If you missed out look into your local homebrew shops as they can provide classes or contacts for partnering up with a homebrewer. There is also local homebrew clubs that can get you in contact with someone to partner up and learn.
Note 3: You can start on just 1 gallon kits just using your current kitchen and a $50 kit like this one. This will give you some experience into the process and see if you want to move up to 5 gallon batches.
Cool your jets
Some would try to get into all grain next but this is not quite the best progression. One of the best things you can do to save energy and make a reliable beer (Less variables) is with temperature control over your fermentation. Before looking into this option, check if you have a cool place in your home that sits between 60F and 72F. For those in hot regions like mine, that isn't quite an option for avoiding off-flavors that come with hot fermentations. Besides which, I have found more than a few yeasts that produce different flavors at different temperature ranges. Getting a mini-fridge with a temperature controller can do more than just regulate temperature of the brew but also help cold crash that last little bit to yeast pitching temperatures if you don't mind waiting. To start you can get one off craigslist or other classifieds for about $50 (or Free if your lucky/patient). It doesn't matter as much how it looks just make sure they have it plugged in and working before making the purchase. Then pick up an Inkbird ITC-308 for $40 is a good start. So only about $100 for fermentation temperature control.
The OptionalsOther items that help but are not needed for starting:
- Copper Wort chiller ($40+)
- Book: How to Brew by John Palmer ($15)
- Funnel w/strainer ($10)
- Anti-Oxygen Bottle Caps ($6)
- Kitchen Scale ($5+) [Measure hop & spice additions]
Ok ok, lets go 'All Grain'
The easiest way to get into all grain is by making use of your pot for multiple purposes. Even if you don't want to go to all grain right away, moving to a larger 8-10 gallon pot now will save you the $20 5 gallon kettle that might just sit around otherwise, allow for a full boil without boil over, and easily expanded supporting other brewing methods later like utilizing a Mash Tun. In this case we are going to be following a Brew in a Bag method to achieve this. We look at getting a simple 8 gallon pot for $50, there are other pots with Valves and Temperature Probe integrated but the thermometer listed above and the auto-siphon (with cooled wart) can do the same job. Then it's a matter of a propane burner for $55 as that pot isn't going to fit on your standard stove. The downside here is that your not using natural gas from the stove and need to pick up a propane tank. This can range depending if you have one already or not for a grill but just to assume not, $40 (refills are about $15). Tag on the bag itself for another whopping $8. That puts us at about $125-$150, though remember your saving the $20 pot from earlier.
The Final Tally
So for a basic setup, $132-$186 but going all grain right away is looking about $257-$336. Add on temperature control it goes to $232+ / $357+ (all grain), plus all the options... $302+ / $475+ (all grain). That being said, this is all just for current prices. Black friday or other sales might find everything cheaper (except the mini-fridge). While this all isn't quite new info for some, I hope it helps a few when looking to get into homebrewing with Saturday being Learn to Homebrew Day. If there is enough interest, I will work up more cost related posts for stuff like Kegging, Yeast Starters, Full Mashtun Setup, and Advanced Brewing Setup.
Tags for this post: cost, black friday, brewery, equipment
This reminds me of some of the conversations I have with friends about boat building. The cost is somewhere between $100 and $1,000,000. The hard part is deciding what you want to do. But then this is all part of the fun!!
posted by Chal on 11/11/2015 at 02:26:56 PM