Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Homebrewing Costs

How Cheap is Homebrewed Beer?

Talking in the pub the other day I was asked how much it costs to brew my own beer, to be honest I didn't really have a clue so I thought I would try to work it out. 

Ingredients and Packaging

I buy most of my ingredients online, currently from The Homebrew Company who seem to be pretty competitive on pricing. A delivery charge of £6.95 is applicable but if I add that to the malt cost I get the following prices.
  • 25kg Pale Malt £25.63
  • 1kg Crystal Malt £1.47
  • Gervin GV12 Ale Yeast £1.50
  • 100g Cascade Pellets £3.16
  • 100g Chinook  Pellets £3.96
  • 100 Crown Caps £1.78
So this gives everything I need to brew and bottle a straightforward American Pale Ale, I don't buy bottles as I just re-use old ones.


This is for a simple hoppy American Pale Ale, about 5% abv.
  • Pale Malt 4.4kg - £4.51
  • Crystal Malt 400g - £0.59
  • Cascade 75g - £2.37
  • Chinook 75g - £2.97
  • Gervin GV12 Ale Yeast - £1.50
  • 42 bottles + caps - £0.75
  • Total ingredient cost = £12.69
  • Cost per litre £0.60
  • Cost per pint £0.34
The hop prices are pretty cheap (2015 crop) but even if they were doubled the cost would only be about 84p per litre, around 48p per pint! I've also used a cheap dried yeast but even if I used a liquid yeast the cost would still be around £1 per litre. Alternatively I could brew a weaker session ale (<4% abv) reduce the hopping and get the price down to less than 50p per litre.

Energy Costs

Of course there is also the cost of energy to factor in. I use my gas hob to heat the water and boil the wort. My current gas price is 3.37p per kWh, about £1.68 per day. For the mash I need to heat 30lt of water from about 12°C to 70°C and for the boil I need to heat about 28lt of wort from say 64°C to 100°C and maintain a rolling boil for 1 hour. For my most recent brew I took a meter reading before heating the mash water and again at the end of the boil. I didn't use any other gas appliances in the meantime. According to the meter I used 0.9m³ which equates to 10kWh, about 34p!

Equipment Costs

If I were to start from scratch I would need to buy all the necessary equipment. To replicate my current setup would require:
  • 40lt Aluminium pan and lid £75.00
  • Brewbag £25.00
  • Thermometer £4.00
  • Immersion chiller £37.00
  • Fermenter £10.00
  • Airlock + grommet £2.00
  • Adhesive Thermometer Strip £3.00
  • Hydrometer and sample jar £6.00
  • Steriliser £2.00
  • Syphon £3.00
  • Little Bottler - bottling wand and tap to attach to bottling bucket £6.00
  • Bottling bucket (a second fermenter) £10.00
  • Capper £10.00
A total cost of £193, but I got my pan for nothing as I found it at work, and home brew equipment is often available second-hand. I also made my own immersion chiller for about £20. Brew once a month for two years and the equipment costs can be amortised at around 40p per litre. 

If I was considering home brewing simply as a way of saving money it would make sense, I could easily brew enough beer for me to drink for around £1 per litre and that would include paying for all equipment over two years. Of course, like most home brewers, I do it because I enjoy the hobby not just because I am a tight-fisted sod (although I am that as well).

Commercial Costs

Looking at how much my small scale home brewing costs made me think about what professional brewers spend. Steve at Beer Nouveau has given a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with brewing a batch of his West Coast IPA in his blog here. His recipe is similar to mine but he will achieve greater efficiency and benefits from economies of scale, so his ingredient cost is around 35p per litre. It is interesting to see how the cost of materials only forms a small part of the overall production cost, duty and overheads significantly exceed the value of ingredients.  

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