If you are a homebrewer, like myself, you might have heard these questions: Why should I start homebrewing? Is it cheaper? How long does it take?
So let’s have a closer look at the whole thing.
Is it cheaper?
Of course at first glance many people tend to think that it is cheaper to craft your own beer. And for some this might the biggest argument to start homebrewing. But I have to disappoint you a bit on that one. Depending on the ingredients you use for your recipe it can be (much) more expensive, considering you normally drink the so-called “TV Beers’.
For a fresh start you don’t need to invest that much into any kind of special equipment. It is possible to buy starter kits that contain everything you need, including the ingredients. But let’s be honest, this would be the same as saying you baked a cake when you just used an already prepared mixture, just added water and put it into the oven. So I will not take this into consideration here and take it a bit further.
For a fresh start you’ll need a large(r) cooking pot, a fermentation bucket, a cloth diaper, a hydrometer, a measuring cup, a kitchen scale, a large(r) spoon and of course (beer-)bottles. This is the very basic equipment and it’ll work pretty well. And maybe you have most of it already at home. In most cases the starting investment will cost you less than 50€ and you can use it again and again. Even when you start to optimize your homebrewing process and equipment, many things will stay the same.
The starting equipment is not be that big of a deal after all.New cooking pot
A bit easier and ‘luxurois’ is somekind of a preserving cooker. For our second beer we used the Klarstein Biggie Einkochautomat instead of just using a simple cooking pot, but this alone is even more ‘high-tech’ than needed for your first beer. A real great improvement was the so-called ‘MatMill Läuterhexe‘ (could be translated to refining witch) which made the refining process a lot easier. But I’d still suggest to start as easy as possible.
The ingredients needed are malt and hop, which are also not that expensive in most cases, and the yeast of course. This might be a more expensive factor depending on the recipe you’re using for your beer.The Hop
Additionally you’ll need of course water. And this is the first thing where it gets a bit tricky. Because most people just see the water which is used for the beer itself. But you have to clean up your equipment and the bottles and some of it even several times. For our last beer the Schneuczek No. 2 we had to use 34l for 24l of beer. And we just roughly calculated that we needed over 100 additional litres for cleaning and sterilizing and some additional water here and there. This is just a very rough estimation but it shows that we almost 150l total of water for 24l output of beer. And you have to add the energy needed for the brewing and the cleaning process too.
Not including the equipment, because it is a one time investment, and summing up everything else one litre of our last brew costs about 2,50 €, working hours not included. Now you might add that this is still a lot cheaper than some craft beers you can buy. And so yes it might be cheaper brewing your own beer in comparison to some very exclusive craft beers. But in several cases it’ll be much more expensive compared to just buying the mainstream beers from the local supermarket. And you’ll have to put several hours of work into it. Much more work than just carrying a box home.
Wait you say work?
Yes homebrewing is work and takes some time. The brewing process with its different phases and especially with only low tech equipment can easily take 8 or 10 hours. Most of it consists of stirring and filtering, but I can assure you it can be quite tiring.Cooking the malt
Depending on how many litres you are aiming at you’ll need many bottles and all of them need to be cleaned and sterilised. For our last 50 bottles this process took nearly 5 hours. Filling the bottles also takes some time, again depending on your equipment. In the last process this took us about 2.5 hours for ~50 bootles. With some additional cleaning, some basic preparations and so on you can could say that it takes about ~20 hours to brew and get the young beer into the bottles. Maybe you’ll also make some mistakes on your first try, like we did, and it takes even longer.
So yes homebrewing is work and most of it is just repetitive and let’s be honest a bit boring. If you invest a lot of money you can automate most of the steps of course. But who starts with and investment of several thousand bucks?
Don’t just start on your own. Gather some friends, buy some of your favorite beer(s), order food and just have fun together while brewing and cleaning. Doing all the work together makes it much easier.
More expensive and work. Why should I do this again?
First of all brewing your own beer is a hobby. And every hobby takes some time and most of all the hobbies out there do cost money. And what is to be considered work for several people can be fun for others. Well I have to admit that all the cleaning is not so much fun. But taking into consideration that you’ll get something you made yourself in return is quite satisfying in the end.
What is also very important, at least for me, is that you learn some science stuff too.
First of course some biology and some chemistry, but while trying to optimize the brewing process you even do learn physics. You’ll learn why you have to cook the malt for a long time and why you have to use different temperature steps while cooking. You’ll get to know something about the different ingredients, the possible effects of combining them, the different types of hop and how they’ll influence your beer. And of course you’ll learn much about yeast and beer itself. For example just the basics of top- and bottom-fermented beer.
And don’t forget history. You’ll find out when and how all the different types of beer have been created, when beer was created at all and so on. Of course you don’t have to learn everything by heart and some of the stuff is quite similar to baking bread (don’t confuse this with the TV series). The knowledge will just get to you in time. And if you don’t just throw your money out there and buy a complete brewing facility, it is also a creative crafts thing. Some might even call it hacking because this term doesn’t just refer to infiltrate computer systems.
You’ll for example think about better ways to heat your stock and for better ways to cool it down again.Cooling the stock
Filtration is always and important part of the process and there are many ways to do it. Starting with a simple cloth diaper, using a sieve or even come up with something more comfortable on your own. And of course there is the stirring process which can be optimized by using a motor instead of your arms. Maybe you’ll use a slow running drilling machine or a windscreen-wiper motor or something completely different.
Homebrewing makes you think and learn!
Start homebrewing your very own beer. Start with low-tech equipment, maybe make some mistakes and learn from them. And then start optimizing. From my point of view you’ll have a gret time with some friends and you’ll be a bit proud of yourself when you can taste your first very own beer. And even if the outcome of your first brewing process is not the best, you’ll still have created something on your own and especially something apart from the mainstream stuff that can be bought everywhere.The first Beer is ready