Beer is generally made from four simple ingredients: water, hops, yeast and of course some grain. If you’re a homebrewer and you’re looking to cut costs then focusing on these four major items can be your ticket to cheaper beer.
While grain is generally one of the least expensive items required to make beer it still adds something to the overall cost. So here are some different ways that you can help drive down the cost of your next grain bill.
Use Less Grain
This may seem obvious but because grain is sold by weight if you use less of it then it will cost you less to purchase. In practice this means choosing recipes that result in “smaller” beers with less alcohol.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to end up being restricted to just brewing 3% table beers but it does mean that maybe you choose to brew a “session” IPA next time instead of a regular, higher gravity, IPA. Or stick to styles where it’s completely normal to have a smaller ABV like with a stout. Alternatively you can always just add other sugar sources like honey or… well… table sugar to help bump up your original gravity instead of using grain.
Oh, and if you’re worried about flavour there are plenty of ways to make up for a shortfall in grain and some of the best sour and saison beers out there are both full of flavour and also lower in alcohol. Get creative and see the smaller amount of grain as a challenge to try other things instead of as an obstacle.
Use a Grain Mill to Avoid Paying Milling Fees
This is a small point but if you’re paying a few extra bucks for your LHBS to mill your grain every time you order, then you can cut that out completely by investing in a grain mill. A grain mill will allow you to buy the unmilled grain and then mill it yourself at home when you need it saving you that small but regular fee. More importantly it’ll allow you to…
Buy Grain in Bulk
Buying grain in bulk, especially base malt, is probably the best way to actually save money on grain. Using my LHBS as an example and comparing what they charge per pound of grain vs what I would pay if I bought it in bulk from them and there is an easy 30-50% savings depending on how large of a bulk purchase I make. Applying that to what I spent on my last 5 homebrews and I could have saved anywhere from ~13-23% in overall ingredients costs just by buying in bulk.
Now obviously I don’t need 500 lbs of grain lying around in my basement but this is a perfect opportunity to find a few friends who also homebrew and split that cost. Or you could just join a homebrew club because a lot of them do regular group buys.
The other thing to consider is that this really only works if you continuously brew beers that use the same type of grain, so be sure to keep that in mind. That’s why base malt is probably your best way to go here. Still if kept dry unmilled grain can last a long, long time so you’ll probably end up using it eventually 🙂
Use Fewer Specialty Malts
Lastly, if you’re looking at really squeezing your grain costs consider looking at the more expensive specialty malts. Base malt is very cheap so the more of a recipe you can fill with that instead of the more expensive specialty malts the cheaper your overall grain bill will be. Plus who doesn’t like a good simple lawnmower beer from time to time?
Bonus – Make Your Own
There is actually one other way you can save money on grain and that’s by making your own. Obviously growing your own grain isn’t something everyone can do, and it would be a pretty big investment in time as well, but it’s definitely possible.
Perhaps something a bit more practical would be to roast your own base malts instead of buying specialty grain. There are loads of instructional videos out there showing how you can do this and to some degree it can save you the costs of paying for the more expensive specialty malts. It’s definitely something I know I’ll be trying in the future just for fun!
Hopefully you found these ideas helpful and if you have other creative ways of saving money on grain I’d love to hear them!