This last year has been a great time for my brewing. I won my first homebrew competition, which gave me a real kick in the butt to brew more frequently. Since that competition I have been brewing weekly, sometimes working on beer 3 times a week. Its been about 5 – 6 months of that schedule and I have spent all my money. As you can tell, slowing down my brewing is an answer to my problem, but I find a great amount of joy playing with my beer, so I’ve decided to knock back the brewing schedule to every other week and start saving money wherever I can.
With my science background, I’m planning on saving yeast and making slides, but I’m broke enough that an autoclave (pressure cooker!) is out of the question right now. This leads me to the cheapest/easiest way to save money on brewing, reusing yeast. All I do is put the newly made beer directly on top of an old batches yeast cake. I always make sure that the cake is as fresh as possible and never leave the yeast without beer in it for more than an hour or so. I know this is tremendously over pitching the yeast… but whatever, its easy and the fast fermentation is wonderful!
I have also been reading/listening up a lot on no sparge brewing (video link). No sparge brewing is a process commonly used for lower ABV beers that could use a better malt backbone. In this process, you use all the water you need for your brew day in the mash tun, vorloft it well, and drain the entire mash tun into a brew kettle. You lose some efficiency, but it makes for a wonderful beer (which I will soon find out!)
While I was listening to this method, I thought of a way to still use the extra sugars in the mash tun, make a partygyle brewday out of this process. After I brew a no sparge batch, I simply add another 3 -4 lbs of grain (sometimes specialty grains) to the mash tun at the mashing temp and let it go through another conversion. This second mash usually lasts about 2 hours, since I have been only using my 7.5 gallon kettle for inside brews and i have to wait to get the first beer out of the brew kettle.
The results of this process have been promising. After 2 brew days, I have been able to get 4 different 5 gallon batches for the grain normally used to make 2 gallon batches. Is the original gravity lower on all 4? sure! But with OG’s in the 1.040 range, i am more than content with having a few 4 – 5 % ABV beers coming down the pipeline.
This leads me to my last option to save money. STOP BREWING BIG BEERS. Usually my beer all hover in between 6 and 10 % ABV. ya know, I make strong beer! But with my goal being lower ABV beer, my bills are remarkably smaller, usually walking out of the homebrew store with a bill for less than $40. That means I making beer at about 40 cents a beer. Its weird, but it seems that I can finally make great beer that is cheaper than buying commercial beers! It only took about 6 years of brewing to do it, but my original goal was to make good beer cheaply. and now I have.
More on these beers to come!