How to Start Homebrewing Beer on the Cheap

Homebrewing is hardly rocket science. The ancient process of brewing your own beer has been fairly well defined by this point in human history. Step No. 1: Extract the sugar from grains. Step No. 2: Ferment the remaining liquid. Step No. 3: Drink the beer.

So, if homebrewing is so simple, then why is brewing equipment so expensive? That’s because the same rules apply to beer-making that apply to any task, from baking a cake to mowing the lawn to changing a tire: the right tools make a huge difference. If you want to brew beer that is consistently high-quality and delicious, then having the right equipment can make your brew day easier and more enjoyable.

If you’re just getting started with homebrewing or don’t have the funds to invest in a high-end system, here are some tricks to help you brew your own beer with less cash.

Brew Small Batches

Simply put, brewing a smaller batch of beer requires a smaller investment. You’ll spend less on ingredients, as your volume will be lower. You can use smaller pots for boiling, which also cost less. Thanks to the smaller pot size, you can boil on the kitchen stove with no need for a gas burner system. Fermentation can take place in inexpensive one or two-gallon containers. Remember the old adage, it’s not the size that counts, but how you use it? That applies here.

Lee Heidel/The Manual

Use What You Have

If you have a kitchen and are brewing small batches, your largest pot may be enough to hold your boil volume. The same is true for a fermentation vessel; you don’t have to use a shiny glass carboy, because any clean, sanitized jar will work (as long as you have the proper lid and stopper to vent carbon dioxide). Once you’ve already brewed a batch or two of beer, you can also reuse your yeast and bottles, making your dollars go even further.

Think Like an Engineer

The best brewers are part chef and part engineer. If you’re the crafty type, you can also adapt other items you have around the house to replace expensive brewing equipment. Need to insulate a fermentor for a consistent temperature? You can use plastic bins and spray foam to create your own insulation device. A brewing stand for the mash tun can be crafted from ladders and pine shelving. If you’re willing to spend a little time and effort, you can likely build most of what you need while keeping costs low, especially when compared to a commercial setup.

homebrewing supplies
LaWatha Wisehart/Getty Images

Buy in Bulk

Think ahead. Plan out your recipes so that you’re using the same malts, hops, or yeast strains in subsequent batches. Then, purchase your ingredients more cheaply by buying in bulk. You can also save dollars on gas now that you aren’t taking as many separate trips to the homebrew store.

Free is Good

Homebrewing isn’t for everyone. It’s very possible that you know someone who has given the hobby a try and dropped out. It’s not uncommon for a former homebrew hobbyist to unload equipment — even really nice equipment — at dream prices. Ten-gallon pots, mash tun systems, and the like take up a lot of room. Sometimes, folks are just happy to see it go. Even if you don’t have a friend who’s left the hobby, check Craigslist and local Facebook groups for deals. And it’s never hard to get friends to donate empty bottles.

Getting started with home brewing, or taking your beer making to the next level, can be daunting financially. By using these tips, you can make more beer with less money. And who doesn’t like that equation?

Outdoors

A Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Skiing and Safety

If you're planning on hitting that powder stash, now is the time to start learning (or reviewing) essential backcountry skiing skills and putting together your kit.
Food & Drink

Smoked Cocktails: Everything You Need to Spark a Great Drink

Learn how to achieve impressive effects and flavors by turning classics into smoked cocktails with a few simple gadgets and utensils.
Grooming

Hawthorne Grooming Brand Uses an Algorithm to Make Your Own Customized Grooming Essentials

We went through the process from start to finish to get a feel for the customization system.
Food & Drink

5 Best Wine Barrel-Aged Beers to Drink Right Now

If you enjoy barrel-aged beers, you'll be interested to see what a wine barrel does to a brew. Don't wine about it — just drink it.