There are many ways to save money in home brewing. First of all brewing your own beer in itself will save you money over buying craft beer off the shelf. Extract brewing is where almost all home brewers get their start, but All Grain brewing costs a LOT less. In some instances brewing a batch of beer using grains can cost you half as much as extract. But are there way to save over switching to All Grain? Of course there are!
Most All Grain brewers know that buying grain in bulk saves money. If you’re a member of a brew club and get in on a group buy that cost gets even lower. For instance the last group buy I was part of a 55lb bag of 2row barley cost me around $30. In the end it worked out to $0.59 per lb. But what about extract brewers? Can they save money buying in bulk? You bet you can. Both All Grain and Extract brewer need hops for their beers. Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money.
I recently made a bulk purchase from Hops Direct for some whole leaf Galena hops. I like using whole hops for dry hopping and since I plan on brewing more IPA this year I knew I’d need plenty of hops. A quick visit the the Hops Direct website showed me the hops they had in stock and the price. My LHBS where I get just about all my yeast, hops and specialty grains charges $2.15 per ounce for pellet hops and its very rare that they carry whole hops. I found a hop I was happy with as it was second choice. My first choice was Citra but those sell out very quickly each season. So I added 1lb of Galena to my cart and headed to checkout. The cost per pound was $10.05 for Whole Leaf Galena. Shipping was a little steep even for USPS Priority shipping and brought the total up to $21.80. This is still cheaper than my LHBS for their price on pellet hops.
The day after placing my order I received an email from Hops Direct letting me know that my package was being shipped. USPS shipping can be quick unless its during a peak season like Xmas. Unfortunately the USPS is SLOW on updating their tracking information. My Package was listed as shipped on 2/13/2012 and on 2/15/2012 even though the USPS site didn’t have any updated tracking info my mail carrier brought me a package. That’s 2 days from Washington state to Georgia. For those not up on their geography that’s pretty much from one corner of the country to the other. Needless to say I was very impressed.
Not only did Hops direct email me an electronic receipt of my purchase and the tracking info for my purchase but they also emailed me a scanned copy of the paper receipt. VERY thorough and I love being kept in the loop about everything. My hops arrived packed in a Mylar bag. They weren’t vacuum sealed and I think that would have been better but it was an entire pound of hops. You’d need a vacuum sealer with a big vacuum/sealing bar for that big bag.
I quickly started breaking the bulk hops into 2oz. packages. Now I’ll never claim to be a math wiz but I do know a few things about weight. There are 16 ounces per pound. Plain and simple. However, after weighing out 2oz. packages instead of having 8 packages, I had 9 and almost 10!. Total weight in my bag was 19.3 ounces! That brings my total cost per ounce down to about $1.10.
For any home brewer that plans on buying hops in bulk I highly recommend buying a vacuum sealer. I know I love mine and use it for more than just packaging hops. Your Wife/GF/Husband/BF will be able to use it as well and it really can help save money on groceries. It makes packaging the hops a snap and will help them last a lot longer (you can vacuum seal specialty grains that won’t get used often as well). Here are my hops after breaking down to nine (9) 2oz. packages and one (1) 1.3oz. package along with 1.5oz. of Citra. Such a beautiful sight to see. I would have used Mylar barrier bags but they don’t work in most (any) home vacuum sealers. This is due to the bags being EXTREMELY smooth on the inside and not allowing the oxygen to be removed before the sealer detects negative pressure. I know there are ways to trick the vacuum sealer into working, I just don’t have any Mylar bags on hand to experiment with. Besides, it’s not like I’ll be storing these hops for over a year and they’ll be in the freezer.
Oh yeah, the price for 1lb of Galena pellet hops is even cheaper. $8.65 add in $10.75 in shipping which breaks down to around $0.82 per ounce IF they only include 16 ounces. That’s a HUGE savings in the price of hops alone. As you can see buying in bulk is a great way to make an already cheap hobby even cheaper. Please keep supporting your LHBS or they’ll be gone and that’ll leave you wishing they were still around when you REALLY need something so you can brew that day or the next. Buy you base grains in bulk, buy your most common hops in bulk, wash and reuse yeast a few times, but buy specialty grains, hops that you’ll use rarely and yeast at the LHBS. They can also be a great place to buy equipment and get advice on your beers.
There’s one other way to save money on hops. That’s to grow your own. But that’s going to wait for a bit longer while I wait for my rhizomes to arrive…