About 6 months ago I wrote the first entry, in what I’ve now decided will be a series of articles, about the economics of homebrewing. The point of the original article was to see if homebrewing was actually a way to save money. Since then I’ve brewed 7 more beers and collected even more data that I’d like to share!
Where I live, in Ontario, Canada, the average price of a case of 24 beers is $34.95 or roughly $1.46 per 355ml beer. If you want to drink some craft beer instead you need to be prepared to pay quite a bit more.Economics of Homebrewing
After I wrote the first post I made two big changes to my brewing process. The first is that I’ve started to brew using reverse osmosis (RO) water instead of my tap water. I find this gives a better taste to my final product but it does come with the additional price tag of about $3.60/5 gallons where I live.
The second change goes hand-in-hand with the first and it is that I also started to adjust my water chemistry. While this has had a big positive result for the taste of my beer it also added a very small amount of consumable cost to my process.
Just a reminder right off the bat that my numbers below might be completely different from yours and that’s perfectly OK! With that out of the way let’s get to the interesting part!
|Total 355ml Beers Brewed||718|
My total spend over my first 18 brews was $733.09 for equipment and $468.71 on homebrew ingredients (gain, hops, yeast) and consumables (StarSan, muslin bags, salts, bottle caps, etc.). This is an increase of $58.37 in equipment and $75.52 in ingredients and consumables costs since my last post.
Where I live in Canada we don’t have as much access to low cost equipment and ingredients as, for example, those who live in the United States might so my equipment costs may be a bit higher than what you might expect. Additionally I’ve received a few gifts here and there and upgraded my equipment beyond what is required to actually brew beer. While these quality of life upgrades have been free to me I’ve included their full costs here just to be fair.
To be clear – before anyone posts otherwise below – yes, it is 100% possible to brew beer without spending nearly as much money on equipment! You could cobble together left over containers and jerry-rig something to get the job done for next to nothing if you were so inclined. Even looking at my own equipment costs I could have gotten away with spending less than $300 if I had just stuck to the basics… but where’s the fun in that 😛
|Per Batch Averages|
|Average (Ingredients) Cost||$27.31|
|Average Yield||40 x 355ml bottles|
This is an increase in $0.79 per batch but also an increase in yield of 2 bottles as well. Like last time I’ve decided to show the volumes in standard 355ml bottle sizes because I find that easier to understand.
|Per Bottle Averages|
|Average 355ml Bottle Cost (With Equipment Cost)||$1.93|
|Average 355ml Bottle Cost (Without Equipment Cost)||$0.65|
The per bottle averages went in the cost saving direction with a decrease of $0.62/bottle including the higher equipment costs or a $0.05/bottle decrease without. I’m actually really happy about this because it means that even though I added a lot of expensive equipment my production costs are still going down!
|Other Tracked Items|
|Reused Harvested Yeast||$21.49 saved|
Reusing harvested or overbuilt yeast continues to be a good spot to save money. Since the previous post I’ve saved another $8 in reused yeast alone!
Breaking it Down
Interested in seeing what these numbers look like on a per batch basis?
|Item||Homebrew Cost||(Yield) # of 355ml Bottles||Average Cost per 355ml Bottle|
|Baldwin St. Bohemian Pilsner||$31.98||30||$1.07|
|OBK Irish Blonde Ale||$21.85||40||$0.55|
|OBK West Coast IPA||$40.65||35||$1.16|
|OBK Irish Stout||$23.01||37||$0.62|
|OBK Irish Red||$23.49||44||$0.53|
|OBK Cream Ale||$21.85||38||$0.58|
|Goose Island IPA Clone||$41.26||48||$0.86|
|Simple Apple (Juice) Cider||$20.90||32||$0.65|
|Centennial Blonde Ale||$19.17||43||$0.45|
|English Honey Brown Ale||$13.56||43||$0.32|
|Summer “Leftover” Ale||$14.55||37||$0.39|
|Belgian Table Beer||$18.91||48||$0.39|
|OBK American Amber Ale||$31.68||48||$0.66|
Comparing it to the Big Guys
Alright so with all of that out of the way how do things compare against the “big guys”? What would it have cost me to buy the equivalent amount of beer from the store? What, if anything, is my break even point?
Just another small reminder before I get into the numbers… Where I live in Ontario the average beer price is $1.46/bottle so my numbers are based around that. Each row in the table below (apart from the first, which is the upfront equipment + non-ingredient consumable costs) represents the commutative yield from each successive brewed batch. I then added the equivalent commercial cost to get to the same amount of beer for comparison.
|# of 355ml Bottles||Homebrew||Commercial|
So when will I break even? Well according to Excel’s handy FORECAST function it looks like it’ll be around 1,125 x 355ml bottles of beer (a decrease of 12 bottles since last time). At the rate I’ve been going I’m more than half way to breaking even by batch yield.
So what did we learn this time? While it remains true that the equipment costs are the single greatest factor in whether or not you will save money, it doesn’t seem like that alone is enough to prevent you from eventually breaking even. As an example even though I added a significant amount of new equipment since last time my per-bottle costs have actually decreased!
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the more brews I get under my belt the more I’ve learned to look out for ways to save money. For example increasing my brewhouse efficiency, purchasing in bulk, picking recipes that have more impactful hop additions when I want that (e.g. whirlpool or dry hop vs 15 min addition if I want more of a “hop punch”), and of course continuing to save and reuse yeast!
So can you save money homebrewing? Absolutely! Will you save money homebrewing? Well… maybe. Homebrewing is a very fun but also a very addictive hobby that tends to have you always on the lookout for the next upgrade. As a result your millage may very on that one.
All that said this hobby is definitely about more than just the money involved. It’s about the fun experience of having full control over your entire beer making process. The screw ups and successes along the way just add to the enjoyment of putting your own personal stamp on things!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this post and I plan to continue this series going forward as I keep tracking my homebrew costs. If you have any questions about the numbers I’ve presented above please feel free to ask 🙂 .
Below is a quick gallery of the brews mentioned in this post. For more information you can read about their individual brew days here.