Homebrewing Will Not Save You Money…

The Satisfying Rhythm of Yeast Blowoff

The Satisfying Rhythm of Yeast Blowoff

…and that’s okay. Seriously. It is kind of mind boggling the number of times I’ve heard people claim that homebrewing will save you money. I feel like these people are somehow missing the point of the hobby and taking a simplistic look at the actual costs of brewing. It’s one thing to advocate for the hobby (which is why I write this blog), but you need to present realistic expectations for new brewers. If trying to save money is why you’re homebrewing, get out now. There are plenty of other (and better) reasons to homebrew.

Case Study in Brewing Costs

Let’s look at the basic economics of making a 5-gallon extract batch of beer of average gravity and hop levels on the simplest (cheapest, lowest quality) system out there that does not include kegging, temperature control, liquid yeasts and starters, wort cooling devices, and assumes you are using recycled bottles for packaging. I am using an extract beer for the model because typical statements about the cost of homebrewing are targeting new brewers who will likely start with extracts.

The following will make 5 gallons of 1.054 beer at 50 or so IBUs that should ferment out to 5.3% ABV. Let’s call it a simple American Pale Ale (not unlike Sierra Nevada Pale Ale). Prices are quoted from Northern Brewer (one of the cheapest shops around) and do not include tax or shipping. This model makes a lot of assumptions, one of which is that you care about the quality of the beer you’re going to make. You could easily throw table sugar, water, and bread yeast together to make alcohol, which would get you drunk. It also assumes that you want craft beer. You won’t be able to brew a Miller Lite clone cheaper than you can buy it in the store. This recipe would produce something comparable to a lot of craft beers out there, especially if care is taken along the way.


  • 5 lbs dried extract – $19.99
  • 1 lb steeping grains – $1.75
  • 1 oz high alpha bittering hops – $1.99
  • 2 oz aroma hops – $3.98
  • 1 pack dry yeast – $3.29 (Safeale US-05)

Related Consumables:

  • Energy – $2
  • Water – $1
  • Sanitizer – $2
  • Cleaners – $2
  • Caps – $1
  • Mesh Bag – $0.50


  • Basic Starter Kit including a fermenter – $79.99
  • 5 Gallon Pot – $34.99

Equipment is the hardest cost to quantify due to the mind-boggling options out there and the time period which the costs should be spread over. Because of this, it is often altogether overlooked. What I’ve specified above is the most basic kit you can get. You’ll likely add (a lot) more stuff to this to increase the quality of the beer and decrease the amount of labor involved. For the sake of simplicity we won’t account for this. We’ll divide the equipment cost over 12 batches because you’ll likely either quit the hobby or move on to more advanced brewing requiring more advanced equipment by the time you do 12 or so extract batches. This leads to an equipment cost of $9.58 per batch.

Totals Costs:

  • Ingredients: $31
  • Consumables: $8.50
  • Equipment: $9.58

Total: $49.08

Most brewers yield about 48 – 12oz bottles of beer from a 5-gallon batch. The loss in volume is due to racking, spillage, trub loss, hop absorption, etc. That is a per bottle cost of $1.02 if you’re really pinching pennies and being careful along the way.

A 12-pack of Sierra Nevada (one of the cheapest and best American Pale Ales out there) will run most people in most areas about $11.99 or about $1 per bottle.

If you are trying to clone Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, your homebrew will cost about 2 cents more per bottle than buying the genuine product at the store. This doesn’t take into account the fact that your time is worth something (an extract batch will take 4-6 hours of your time when you take into account packaging) or the fact that you’ll likely want to use liquid yeast and make upgrades over the simplest setup out there.

If I’m hell bent on saving money, how can I?

  • Move to all-grain brewing and buy in bulk. Raw grain is much cheaper than extract.
  • Make sure your all-grain setup is very basic. Try brew-in-a-bag methods. Think hard about each upgrade and decide if it is worth the added cost.
  • Buy your hops in bulk.
  • Harvest and re-use your yeast.
  • Lower your expectations. Brewing great beer requires techniques to appropriately produce and pitch the proper amount of yeast as well as precision in controlling your fermentation temperatures. These both cost money and are not something I would recommend skimping on if you’re trying to brew the best beer you can.

Even doing all of the above, you’re still going to have a tough time making it pencil out when you take into account equipment costs (as well as the desire to brew the best beer possible) and not simply something that will give you a buzz.

At the end of the day, brewing your own beer is awesome. You can create amazing beers that mimic those commercially available or let your imagination run wild and dream up your own creations. I brew for the pure satisfaction of crafting something delicious with my own two hands. Brew for these reasons not because you’re trying to save money.

Are you a brewer saving money making your own beer? I’d love to hear your comments below! Please tell us what you’re doing to make beer cheaper than what can be purchased commercially.

7 thoughts on “Homebrewing Will Not Save You Money…

  1. I don’t homebrew to save money; I do it because I love the hobby!

    BUT, for someone living in Canada, homebrewing really DOES save you money in the long run, because our beer is at least twice as expensive as it is for you in the U.S. And that’s the CRAPPY beer, not the craft beer!

    And, of course, once you start brewing all-grain and buying ingredients in bulk, the savings increase. BUT, there’s always the next big purchase around the corner…

  2. I’m absolutely homebrewing to save money and here’s how and why I think I do.
    1. I have moved on to all grain brewing, but let’s be honest I still have a few brews to go before paying off the cost of the grain mill!
    2. I brew with a friend, so equipment costs are shared and consumption is doubled!
    But in reality, you’re right, my savings aren’t that great. The one thing that swings it is that I also make wine. Most of the time I’m going to spend $6-9 on a bottle of wine. The kits costs $90 and make 30 bottles. I get to share a lot of equipment between beer and wine, so I think I’m making a killing there. Also, while homebrewing savings don’t stack up well if you use a large microbrewery’s flagship ale as your comparison, I think after brewing for a couple of years you can be making beer as good as the stuff they’ll sell you in four packs for stupid money. Before homebrewing I was spending a lot of time and money seeking out craft beers that I hadn’t had before, but now every bottle in a batch is it’s own adventure because you get to see how the beer evolves over time.
    Thankfully I also feel like I have reached a happy plateau in terms of equipment (which was mostly driven by wanting to reduce brew day costs/time by getting to all grain, not having to buy water, etc).

  3. Homebrewing saves me money, no doubt about it. It won’t if you overpay for ingredients and brand name equipment though. To give you a few examples 50kg of malt costs me 56USD, delivered to my door, from which I can make something like 280L of beer. DME costs me 3.45USD per kg, so that’s about 1.7USD per pound. 19.99 for 5lbs is more than double the price I pay.
    You can choose to shell out loads on fancy equipment and brand name malts if that’s part of your hobby, but from what I gather from visiting breweries, pro brewers don’t. They just use what works and pay attention to quality of the process and the inputs.

  4. Where I live in NJ, a bottle of premium beer is closer to $1.75 plus tax which gets it closer to $1.90 or $90 for 48 bottles. My costs for a batch are more like $30 all in for ingredients and supplies and even cheaper when I culture my own yeast from past batches. So I have a savings here of $60 per batch. Even commercial kegs are expensive. A sixth keg of Sam Adams is $75.00 for instance – more than double what it costs me to do a clone recipe.

    Of course I also spent about $600 building a DIY through-wall kegerator and tap system (three taps) to save me time and effort. That investment was recouped after 10 batches, or about 5 months of brewing. Been going strong now for 5 years, plus the beer is better. My guests cannot believe how good it tastes – batch aging doesn’t hurt.

    It does take some time to brew, but since I’m an extract brewer my actual active time is no more than 20 minutes per batch while I do other things while things heat up or boil. Kegging takes about 10 minutes per batch including cleaning time for carboys etc. Then there’s the periodic kegerator cleaning.

    Offsetting that is time going to the few liquor stores that are licensed to sell beer. Here in NJ beer sales are tightly limited, so you can’t just pick up a case while at the supermarket. That extra driving and time is not needed when you brew at home.

  5. Brewing your own beer is the same idea as reloading your own ammo: you do it because it is cheaper and (hopefully) higher quality. You aren’t doing the math right if you step back and think; you won’t be buying a new carboy or reloading press every time you make a new batch of ammo or beer. Don’t be ridiculous. Graph the total amount you spend on equipment and supplies. I guarantee over time, you will see that vertical asymptote turn into a horizontal asymptote far below the static cost of your ordinary can of whatsit. Your first glass of beer may cost over $100, but your 100th glass of beer will cost a fraction of a single dollar.

  6. You have a few good points. There is a decent start up cost with home brewing and yes all grain and yeast washing saves you money in the long run . But if you can spend 30-40 bucks for about 48 bottles of good stronger than shit beer, I don’t think you can beat that. But the 30-40 buck is just for the grain, hops and yeast. Other costs that should be considered would be water (brewing, cleansing, sanitizing and rinsing empty bottles) , and of course the cleanser and sanitizer and other additives , propane and electricity (if you are using a fermentation chamber). That would be something to see. I’ll go get my TI-85 and a display board

  7. Live in Quebec for one year….then read this article. I can have 1 or 2 draft beer everyday for under 800$ a year by home brewing…store bought would cost me almost 2500$.

    I am so envious of people who live in places with affordable beer prices 🙁

    Nahhhhhhh who am I kidding homebrew is awesome!!!

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