start up cost for home brewing?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by BreakingBad, Oct 9, 2012.

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  1. BreakingBad

    BreakingBad Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012

    Alright I am serious about starting up home brewing but the main thing in my way is the start up costs! I know I want to do all grain brewing. I don't even want to try and do a malt extract. So how would I go about getting the best price on equipment? I don't really want to sacrifice too much quality because I am planing on having it for at least 10 years. Is there a place where I can buy used equipment? (i checked craigs list). How about online sites vs. home brew stores? I live in dekalb, il.
  2. ditch

    ditch Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2009 Virginia

    If you want used stuff, Craigslist is probably your best bet. I find carboys and kegs on there all the time. As far as actual brewing equipment, your best bet is building your own. Cooler mash tun, turkey fryer burners and pots. I started out with a turkey fryer for a hot liquor tank and got a 15 gallon aluminum pot from Lowe's for a kettle. I had an old cooler to convert to a mash run, so my start up into all grain was around $250. I had fermenters already. I would recommend starting on the kitchen stove with partial mash brewing until you can get all the all grain equipment. You can make award winning brews on the stove with extract.
    SatlyMalty, Gash and OddNotion like this.
  3. MLucky

    MLucky Initiate (0) Jul 31, 2010 California

    FWIW, I agree with this. We're all different, and there are certainly guys who dive right in and brew an all grain RIS (or whatever) right off the bat and have success. But I started with extract and specialty grains, and I think that's what most people do: you can make great beer that way, and it gives you a chance to focus on the other aspects of your process (sanitation, yeast management, etc) without all the other variables that come into play with AG. Plus you can start on that while you pull together all the extra equipment you need for AG.

    Or not! If you're determined with AG, it's your call. Craigslist is a good source of equipment. Check youtube for videos on building a mash tun: I'd recommend a ten gallon cooler and SS braid hose model. Good luck!
    pointyskull and Gash like this.
  4. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2010 California

    I use my LHBS and Northern Brewer for everything I buy. I still do extract/partial mash/brew in a bag and have been for about 2 years. I would have switched completely to AG by now but I moved into a much smaller place which limits what I can do. I've just recently gone down to one gallon batches so I can brew 3-4 times a month. It's really started to improve my quality being able to brew so much.

    If your set on AG I would build your own equipment as much as you can. There will still be some costs such as pot and what not though. As people said above I would do a batch or two with a partial mash just to focus on boil, sanitation, and yeast management. Brewing requires a decent amount of time and space so keep that in mind, this being said as I have 4 fermentors in the living room.
  5. Mfedonczak

    Mfedonczak Initiate (0) Aug 18, 2008 Texas

    I started with all grain a few years back and I have no regrets about going that route. The easiest way to get into all grain brewing is going to be brew in a bag (BIAB). If you go this route you wont need a mash tun/hlt so you can focus your spending on a good brew kettle. If you do decide to build a mash tun I recommend getting a 10 gallon round cooler from home depot for around $40 and a then get the fittings & bazooka screen from The rest of the equipment is going to be roughly the same price from any of the major online retailers (northern brewer, morebeer, brewmasterswarehouse etc..) so that is up to you.
  6. Ruslanchik

    Ruslanchik Initiate (0) Feb 12, 2008 Texas

    Craigslist is definitely your best bet for used equipment. It helps to live in a place with a strong homebrewing community, but, as posters above have mentioned, you can repurpose equipment from other areas. Your biggest expense is going to be a good kettle. You will definitely need 10 gallons or more of volume. I was lucky enough to kind a keggle on Craigslist, which works great for me. If you are handy and have tools, you can make a keggle for less than the cost of a big new kettle.

    Also, I agree with everyone here that you should make a mash tun using a 10 gallon cooler and plumbing fittings. I made a huge mistake by using a 5 gallon cooler and fittings from the homebrew store. I probably spent 3 times what it would have cost me to put it together myself and now I am stuck with a smaller rig than I would like.
  7. kjyost

    kjyost Initiate (0) May 4, 2008 Canada (MB)

    Let's see:
    Made a mashtun from a cooler I had given to me years earlier (~$10 for parts)
    Made a Counterflow Chiller from copper & Pex (~$40)
    Had a turkey fryer given to me for a birthday ($0)

    That's all I need though I have since upgraded the kettle (gift), burner & stand ($70 - had a friend weld the stand), starter equipment, temp controlled fermentation chamber, kegging system, more fermenters, more kegs, grinder... The cost can be as cheap as you want to expensive.

    Cheapest way to do it is to build your own chiller & mashtun and find a cheap turkey fryer setup. That shouldn't cost you more than $200
  8. good_gracious

    good_gracious Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2012 Maryland

    alexipa and BreakingBad like this.
  9. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Grand Pooh-Bah (3,096) May 21, 2010 Texas

    If you're bottling you will still need a bottling wand and auto-siphon. Either way you'll need a wine thief. Don't skimp on these cheep but highly useful pieces of equipment. :grinning:

    And if you live in a warm climate or place where 70F and less are difficult to guarantee for weeks on end, go with temperature control as a high priority
  10. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Pooh-Bah (1,779) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Check out for cheap propane burners. It's amazing what you can find on there, not to mention the usually free shipping for any substantial order. Cheap kettles abound; just search "60qt. stockpot" (or whatever size you want) on google shopping. Aluminum is fine; no need to spring for stainless. But, as noted above, definitely check craigslist first. There is nothing wrong with fermenting in plastic buckets unless you will be aging it for months/years. With a little patience you should be able to put together a decent system for well under 200 bucks.
  11. koopa

    koopa Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2008 New Jersey

    I second the recommendation to research BIAB (Brew In A Bag) brewing if you want to do all grain with a reduced budget.
  12. hopsbreath

    hopsbreath Initiate (0) Aug 28, 2009 Florida

    I agree with the $200 number. A homebrew startup kit consisting of a carboy, bottling bucket, auto-siphon, hydrometer, thermometer, and some star-san can be had for around $100. Convert a cooler with the SS braid technique, buy a kettle, and brew on the stove if you can. I have a natural gas stove and can still bring 6.5 gallons of wort to a full rolling boil no problem. Once you've made the initial investment in equipment, it's actually more cost effective to brew all-grain compared to extract. You'll probably break even after 10-12 batches and then you're ahead of the game! :slight_smile:
  13. alexipa

    alexipa Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2011 Colorado

    Everyone has already covered almost everything, but I'll chime in and say that I started with extract and would highly recommend the same. You'd be brewing the same quality beers but with less to screw up. It sucks to drain 5 gallons of almost-drinkable beer... It's great to drink 5 gallons of beer you brewed yourself, even if you didn't have 100% control over the finished product.
  14. gtermi

    gtermi Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2010 Texas

    I spent about a $600 to get EVERYTHING for home brewing all grain. Kegs, homebrew starter kit, home-made mash tun, home-made hot liquor tank w/ sparge arm, several carboys, fridge with temp controller, propane burner and lots of little things here and there.

    I found an old 9 gallon cooler in the garage and just converted that into a mash tun for like 30 bucks. Just look around the house and see if there is anything at all you can use before you go spending tons of money.
  15. BreakingBad

    BreakingBad Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012

  16. marquis

    marquis Pooh-Bah (2,239) Nov 20, 2005 England

    It depends on what you have already and how much you are prepared to "make do"..........I started off using a preserving pan and fermented in a storage pippin.There wasn't a homebrew industry at all then in 1963 as the hobby had only just been legalised.(the need for a licence had been revoked).Later on I bought some 3 KW stainless steel boilers very cheaply at flea markets and made a mash tun from a spare cooler and some odd lengths of 3/4 inch plumber's copper tubing.Wort cooler was a few yards of 3/8 inch copper tubing (end of roll, no charge).Fermenting vessels were cheaply available by then.Bottles just seemed to appear after I had put the word out; I've still got a load of 40 ounce screw top brown bottles from the 50s and 60s! All acquired over a while at virtually no cost.
    hopsbreath likes this.
  17. beerman_60

    beerman_60 Initiate (0) Sep 30, 2012

    (quote alexipa) Everyone has already covered almost everything, but I'll chime in and say that I started with extract and would highly recommend the same. You'd be brewing the same quality beers but with less to screw up. It sucks to drain 5 gallons of almost-drinkable beer... It's great to drink 5 gallons of beer you brewed yourself, even if you didn't have 100% control over the finished product.(unquote)

    This is very sound advice, and I would recommend it to anyone starting up. In Australia we have the Coopers range of concentrates (and Morgans and others) while in the UK they have Muntons and others. These are excellent starting points and the brewshop you buy them in will also have suitable blends of fermentables to add to them. The next thing I would add is to say that when you choose a concentrate for the style you want to start with (let's say for example 'English IPA'), brew it, bottle it, drink it etc. Then do exactly the same brew at least 5 times. This will enable you to become familiar with all the other variables that can influence the quality of your beer, and minimise them. You will converge on a good beer. After this, you can then start changing things, or trying new styles, just to know that all your downstream processes are solid. (DO NOT think, 'oh, that was shit, I'll try another style' - how will you ever know where it went wrong ???)

    If you do it in this way, your outlay will be less than 100$ for everything, and you will find out if you have the skilll required to produce a drinkable beverage.

    From personal experience, I brewed from concentrates (especially Coopers and Muntons) for nearly 10 years, won several prizes in Statewide competition against full mash brewers (much to their surprise or disgust) and only then did I feel confident to begin partial mash brews, which again have won me a number of prizes. One day I will cross to the dark side completely. The key when you start is to have a good idea of what you want to drink. Then after you perfect that, think about what you want to brew.

    I don't want you to spend a lot of money, on complicated gear, and then keep brewing total pisswater without knowiing what is going wrong.

    Re: The full mash or concentrate debate, my view is simply that we are all on the same path, our goal is the same, we just start at different points on that path - no problem. No stigma is attached so go for it.

    1up and JackHorzempa like this.
  18. sfsean28

    sfsean28 Initiate (0) Dec 17, 2008 New Jersey

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  19. jkaiser150

    jkaiser150 Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2009 Florida

    i would love to start, but being in florida, bad ac issues, and tight budget, i can only dream now.
  20. Ruslanchik

    Ruslanchik Initiate (0) Feb 12, 2008 Texas

    This kit looks fine and is like innumerable others out there. The thing that is missing here, even if you want to do extract brewing or brew-in-a-bag, is a good large kettle. You can get away with a smaller kettle (<5 gallons) for extract brewing. But if you want to do all-grain or full-boil extract brewing you will need a large kettle ~10 gallons and a propane burner, in addition to a mash tun. As discussed above, it is much more economical to find these things used or build them yourself.
  21. WickedSluggy

    WickedSluggy Savant (1,093) Nov 21, 2008 Texas

    Difficult to answer without knowing your budget. But when you say you want it to last you ten years you are probably talking about spending some money. It's not that you can't brew all-grain on the cheap, but if you do, you are not going to stick that a cheapo method for ten years unless brewing remains just an occasional activity. If you brew seriously for ten years, you’re likely to want greater control than you'll get with a BIAB setup.

    Yes craigslist is a place to start. I'd look for someone selling Sanke keg for conversion kettles. They work great for HLT, MT and BK. But I personally prefer a true kettle for the BK. If you buy wisely you can setup a gravity fed (3 tier) system for < $300. Once you go to single tier or even 2-tier you’re going to have to spend another $110+ per pump and then the QDs and fittings Etc.
  22. Rihup

    Rihup Initiate (0) Oct 7, 2011 Illinois

    BreakingBad; if you’re ever interested I live about an hour away and could show you my all grain cooler set-up. I also live very close to Crystal Lake brew and grow. They have a lot of great stuff from beginners to pros. Plus the staff there is pretty topnotch when it comes to answering questions and helping people start out. Buying things through them and craigslist my all-grain (10 gallon batches) set-up cost me about $350.00.
    SatlyMalty and BreakingBad like this.
  23. BreakingBad

    BreakingBad Initiate (0) Sep 17, 2012

    yes!! can u send me a bm and we can set up a time, maybe next Saturday?
  24. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Grand Pooh-Bah (3,096) May 21, 2010 Texas

    Looks pretty good. Has a bottling wand and auto-siphon, two of the three key things you'll need. I would add in a wine thief for sure. They make sampling for testing extremely easy.

    Other things that would help would be to just get some starsan right off the bat. It's the shit, get it, you won't regret it, and a bottle of it lasts a long time and does a lot of batches.

    A brew pot is a must. Get a big one right off the bat, don't skimp on a cheep one. I made this mistake, and now I'm in the market for a bigger pot*. It's going to be the most expensive piece, but it's a must-have. A five gallon brewpot is too small for full boils on five gallon batches. Get a bigger one, even if you're starting off with partial boils and topping off with water.

    Books wise I would get how to brew by Palmer.

    Beer kits wise I would KISS it at first and keep it simple, stupid! :rolling_eyes: Pale ales, IPAs, ambers etc are easy and tend to come out well. I'd suggest something hoppy, as hops tend to cover up flaws, IME. :stuck_out_tongue: Extracts plus hops can make very good beers. I am currently drinking my last extract/partial mash batch, which is much better than my first all-grain batch is :rolling_eyes:

    If you're going to step up to steeped grains, no problem. I'd suggest steeping them in paint straining bags from home depot. It's pretty easy.

    Document everything. I do, and it helps me a whole bunch. Blog it if you like.

    *however, I'm doing 3.5-4 gallon batches right now, so I'm ok. I will be building a bigger, better system soon. :grinning:
    BreakingBad likes this.
  25. hopdog09

    hopdog09 Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2012 Michigan

    to do it on a budget requires time..scavanging and doing swap meets and general good luck take time....
  26. Envelopes

    Envelopes Initiate (0) Aug 26, 2012 Ohio

    I wish there was a pinned thread at the top of this forum that had all the useful links and beginner information (what items you need, which you'll want later but don't need, how to make things instead of buy things, lingo definitions, etc.) condensed into one post instead of spread across all sorts of different threads. I'd compile it myself but I don't know enough about homebrew at this point to do it. Just seems like it would be pretty useful for folks.
    good_gracious likes this.
  27. VikeMan

    VikeMan Pooh-Bah (2,901) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Lot's of people would be willing to compile it. I have always assumed that the Bros have a No FAQ policy, but I'm not sure I've ever read that. You might want to ask them, if it' something you'd find useful.
  28. Wreckoncile

    Wreckoncile Initiate (0) Jul 19, 2011 California

    This, a thousand times over this. I got my start only a couple of months ago with a 20 quart/4 gallon stock pot. I've done two extract brews so far, and while they've turned out decent and drinkable, there is still plenty of room for improvement. As it stands, even with the extract brewing, my pot ends up being filled nearly to the brim during the boil and I do have to watch out for boil overs. I plan on doing my first all-grain, BIAB this coming week (making a 2.5 gallon dark mild, so the grain bill is small enough to be able to fit everything into a four gallon pot) but I definitely want to transition to full all grain at some point and the 4 gallon stock pot is not nearly enough. I'd sink the money on a ten gallon if I was starting all over again, but my current set up is serviceable for extract brewing.
  29. CheezyBlaster

    CheezyBlaster Initiate (0) Sep 16, 2011 Massachusetts

    I started with all grain using BIAB. I really don't see the need for malt extract. Using all grain is already a very easy process. I just wouldn't start with a full on mash tun and sparging set up. Also, some people say you can't tell the difference between extract and grain brews: I don't think that's true at all.
  30. Wreckoncile

    Wreckoncile Initiate (0) Jul 19, 2011 California

    And from an economical perspective, I think BIAB is the best way to go. You'll end up spending an additional $50 to go from a five gallon to a ten gallon stock pot, but the cost of brewing all grain is much cheaper per batch than using extract. After 5-10 batches (depending on gravity/ABV of the batches being made) you'll have paid for the stock pot already.
  31. VikeMan

    VikeMan Pooh-Bah (2,901) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I would argue that going all grain with a mash tun is cheaper than BIAB in the long run. A tun can be built pretty cheaply, and the increase in efficiency will pay for itself.

    As an aside, I just read the recent BYO article on BIAB. As I read through it, I'm thinking "Who would think this is a good idea?" The author then summarized by saying that BIAB is the best way to get into all grain. Okay. Personal bias on my part I guess.
  32. JustinQ

    JustinQ Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2011 California

    Well, My start up was free. But im about 5 grand in the hole now, not debt but in brewing. and I dont even have a 3 tier or a Brutus. YET
    SatlyMalty likes this.
  33. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Pooh-Bah (2,561) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Starting up was cheap. The hobby progressed from very active, to obsession, to a lifestyle.

    Who knows what I have invested, the wife doen't even know/care as she is my co-brewer and says we need a second pump and a new mill.
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  34. Eriktheipaman

    Eriktheipaman Initiate (0) Sep 4, 2010 California

    That's awesome you guys brew together. I haven't spent a whole lot on equipment (I do however brew almost once a week lately) since I moved into a small apartment. Next year me and the girlfriend would are looking to move into a bigger place in a city with a much lower coast of living. Only god knows how much I'll invest in brewing equipment then :slight_smile:.
  35. malweth

    malweth Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2007 Rhode Island

    It ramps up quickly... there's always something else you need.

    What you *need* for extract / partial mash (prices are my guesstimates):
    • Buckets / Carboys (Fermentation Vessels) ($10-40 per)
    • Hoses and other small parts (various, but it's easy to spend $30-50 at start-up)
    • Bottling Equipment ($10-20)
    • Sanitation (Star San) and Cleaning (PBW / Oxyclean Free) ($10-20)
    • Canning Pot (20-30qt, biggest you can find) (<$10 at Wal*Mart)
    The best initial upgrades are:
    • 36-60 qt boil kettle (Stainless or quality Aluminum) -- I have 36... wish I got closer to 60qt for 10 gallon full boils ($50-300)
    • Propane Burner ($50 w/o propane tank)
    • Immersion Chiller (~$50 DIY, $80-120 store bought)
    • Cooler Mash Tun (~$50 DIY)
    • Fermentation Chamber & Temp Controller (I'm planning this next year -- I'm lucky enough to have steady basement temps) ($ ???)
    • Stir Plate (<$20 DIY) and 2L+ Erlenmeyer Flask (for Yeast Starters)
    • Grain Mill ($20-30 DIY or $150+) - This is not strictly necessary for all-grain, but it's nice to control your own. I just got a Victoria type mill that I haven't put together and mounted yet.
    • Keezer ($200-1000 DIY) because bottling sucks!!
    I'm invested in almost all of these... the only thing I don't have is good temp control for fermentation. As I mentioned - my basement is a steady 55 in winter and 75 in summer... that gives me 9 months of excellent brewing. I've even "borrowed" the keezer for a Kölsch I brewed this summer.

    I'm sure there's more... but this probably hits the major purchases.
  36. JustinQ

    JustinQ Initiate (0) Nov 24, 2011 California

    I wish my girl would brew with me, Looks like shes gonna be leavin me soon instead
  37. dgs

    dgs Initiate (0) Jul 18, 2005 Pennsylvania

    It don't think it's uncommon for BIABers to get mash efficiency similar to those who build/use a tun. But, in terms of labor and heat energy, it seems to me that BIAB would be more efficient.

    Likewise, there are probably those who would wonder why building a mash tun is a good idea. I tried the cooler first, then found I preferred BIAB. Like you said, personal bias. I would say BIAB is a good way to get into all-grain, but I don't think there is a 'best' way for most things about homebrewing. Looking back, I think the **method** used by the 1-gallon all-grain kits would have been a good start for me. Very little, if any, new equipment needed beyond what you may already have in a kitchen in order to learn and practice the process of brewing.
  38. VikeMan

    VikeMan Pooh-Bah (2,901) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    All other things being equal, BIAB will yield lower efficiency than traditional mashing and sparging. Sure, you can improve your BIAB efficiency in various ways, but then you can also improve traditional mash efficiency those same ways.
  39. dgs

    dgs Initiate (0) Jul 18, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Is there such a thing as too high? If you have 80%, for example, do you want to go higher? They are different methods and I'm not sure how you make all other things equal, but do you lose something by having too high an efficiency?
  40. VikeMan

    VikeMan Pooh-Bah (2,901) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Jamil certainly thinks there is such a thing as being too high. And I personally do not attempt to squeeze ever increasing efficiency out of my system. I only brought up efficiency because someone had claimed that BIAB is more economical. So I pointed out that (all other things being equal) traditional mash/lauter would be cheaper over time.
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