Buying brewing ingredients in bulk was always something that I was touch-n-go with for some time.
I knew that I eventually wanted to do it, but I just never ended up taking the plunge.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t always brewing as much as I am now, so I didn’t see the need. There wasn’t a way I could justify it at the time.
That picture looks a bit different now.
I started getting busier. With three kids, my day job, and a wife that works part-time in the evenings, my window of opportunity to hit the local brew store was dwindling.
I knew I had to change something up to keep my sanity and make things easier.
That was when I decided to make the leap and get into buying in bulk: Grains, hops, yeast, water, and any essential additives (e.g. candi sugar, flavor extracts).
Once I did that, I finally realized why buying in bulk works for so many others.
What Buying Brewing Ingredients in Bulk Has Taught Me
I learned very quickly this was the right move for me, especially with my brewing frequency (which has picked up quite a bit in the last two months).
Of course, there were a handful of fantastic benefits that I also got to (and continue to) experience as I moved into the elusive world of “going bulk”:
1) I can brew whenever I want
Kinda tough to argue with this one, right?
When I have some free time (which I will admit is quite rare as of late), I can pull up my list of recipes, check out what I have ready to go, and get everything together for an impromptu brew day!
A lot of people might say, “Well, I brew whenever I want to already. What’s the big deal?” To that, I’ll throw this question your way:
What happens when something falls through on a Friday night at 7PM, and you’re suddenly left with no plans AND have been itching to brew, but just haven’t had the time?
I don’t know about you, but when things like that happen to me, I certainly make sure to take advantage.
My local homebrew shop isn’t opened at those hours, which often meant I didn’t have the ability to brew when I wanted (or when it fit my schedule). I’d still have to work in a trip to get everything, then either figure out if I was brewing right away or trying to tuck everything away for another time.
Now, I can crank out brew days on my own terms.
2) Makes it easier to plan out brew days
When my calendar starts to jam up, it takes a bit more planning to get my brew days in. It’s not impossible, but just takes a little more work.
There is nothing worse than planning a recipe, only to show up at the brew shop and the grain(s) or hop(s) you need aren’t in stock.
For me, it’s happened more than once. I’ve had to adjust recipes on the fly or look for substitutes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of that.
I like to know what I’m getting and stick to it.
By purchasing in bulk, however, I can plan out my brew days with relative ease.
While it can be said that I’m “limited” to what I can brew with (since it’s only what I have in stock), I don’t mind it.
In fact, I actually prefer it!
What’s sweetens the pot even more is that I can map out my recipes months in advance. I do my bulk purchase and make sure I cover what I want to brew.
This way, I know that when I want to brew a specific recipe, I don’t have to worry about a subbing one type of grain out for another. No worrying about what hops are a good substitute.
I’ll even go as far as to say that I don’t have to worry about certain yeast styles not being in stock. I brew with what I have, and it’s never been more fun!
3) I actually save money
We all know that if you’re getting into brewing to save money on beer, you’re probably going to have a bad time.
Depending on your batch size and brewing frequency, you could be turning over a decent chunk of change for each batch.
Like I said – we do it for the love, NOT to save money!
Except when I started buying brewing ingredients in bulk, I actually DID start to save money!
Here’s the thing: One of the many concerns of going bulk is storage and crushing grain.
For storage, brewers either don’t have the room or want to shell out the extra cash for storage containers.
For crushing grain, it’s usually the cost of a grain mill that leaves most a bit apprehensive. Large mills tend to run anywhere from $89+. For a lot of us, that isn’t always an easy pill to swallow.
All of that said, this is what I ended up with:
- A corona mill ($18.99 on Amazon)
- (1) 40-lb Vittles Vault (for my 2-row – scored it for $16.73 on Amazon on a limited-time deal)
- (14) 3-lb and 5-lb plastic containers with twist-n-seal lids from Dollar Tree ($14+tax)
- Vacuum sealer ($32.90 on Amazon)
- Extra vacuum sealer bags ($8.99 on Amazon for 2 rolls)
I had to shell out about $94 and some change for all of that, but it’s easily going to pay for itself (and has already started to).
As for my hops and grain, here is a quick comparison of what I was paying at my local brew shop vs. what I pay when buying in bulk:
- Grains at my LHBS, on average, cost me nearly $2/lb. Buying in bulk, my costs are now close to $1.30/lb. If I bought grain by the sack, that cost could be even lower (I tend to buy in 5 to 10-lb increments for base grains and 1 to 2-lb increments for specialty due to my smaller batch sizes).
- Hops, on average, were around $2/oz at my LHBS. Buying in bulk? Averaging nearly $0.80/oz!
So, on a typical batch where I’m using roughly 3 to 3.5-lbs of grain, I’m saving anywhere from $2.10-$2.45. Add in roughly a half ounce to an ounce of hops for a savings of $0.60-$1.20 and my total savings on grains and hops alone is $2.70-$3.65 a batch (1.5 gallons)!
Since I currently brew about three 1.5 gallon batches every two weeks, the savings starts to add up pretty quick.
And when I harvest yeast and generate a small starter, the cost per batch goes down even more!
I tend to use a lot of dry yeast, which I split in half (remember – I’m doing about 1.5 gallons regularly). At $2.99 a pack for Safale US-05, for example, I’m paying roughly $1.49 per batch at first pitch.
Now, if I am able to pull off 8 to 10 generations (including the first pitch) from that half-pack, my yeast cost per batch plummets down to a mere $0.15-$0.19! That cost is spread across a whopping 16 to 20 small batches!
Harvesting dry yeast might seem “cheap” when you can just buy another pack, but not all dry yeast is as affordable as US-05. Safbrew BE-256 (Abbaye), for example, is around $6 to $7 a pack. Break all that down like I did above, and it’s clear to see how harvesting yeast and reusing it will save you a ton over time.
Between grains, hops, and yeast, my all in costs average anywhere from $4.69 on the low end to $5.90 on the high end. Not bad for cranking out roughly 14 to 15 beers per batch!
One thing to remember: If I were to increase my batch size, my overall “cost per beer” would continue to decrease. I typically only brew 5 gallon batches with a good friend of mine, as we split up the batch when we’re done. We also go in together with the costs of ingredients, so that’s an entirely different ballgame.
4) It’s more convenient (and saves time)
With 3 kids, my spare time is few and far between. Buying brewing ingredients in bulk saves me from having to run to the brew store a handful of times each week.
Besides that, it’s super convenient. Hell, I can mill my grains while my kids are by my side (often helping me fetch grains or just eating them, which they love to do).
To put it into perspective: My local homebrew shop is open 10AM-6PM. I’m usually home from work around 4PM. The problem? My wife has to be to work by 5PM.
Trying to hit the brew shop after work AND make it home in time before my wife needs to leave is nearly impossible (due to where I work and live in proximity to the brew shop).
What about loading up the kids and making the trip? At the time of writing, my youngest is 20 months old and loves to get into everything. Add in my other two kids and I can tell you that getting through the grocery store with the three of them is a challenge on a good day.
As a result, I usually have to adjust my work schedule in order to have enough time at the shop to get everything I need. Doing this frequently started taking up A LOT of my time.
It also started to get harder for me to do.
After my first bulk order showed up and I got everything properly stored away, prepping for my next brew day was awesome!
I literally walked down to my basement, measured out my grains, milled everything, and put my bag of grains aside. With my hops in the freezer and my yeast on standby in the fridge, I was ready for my brew day the following morning.
No more trying to squeeze in a trip to the brew store, adjusting my schedule, or fighting traffic hoping to make it there in time.
It was such a damn good feeling to be able to have that kind of convenience available. That alone makes it all worth it to me.
Note: I do support my local brew shop when I can and still make trips (when time allows) for some of those “one-off” things I might need.
Are You Ready to Go Bulk?
If you’ve been tossing around the idea of going bulk, there are a few things to consider first:
- Your brew frequency. Do you brew enough to use up everything in a reasonable amount of time?
- Room for storage. If you’re low on storage space, buying bulk might not be for you (although I would suggest that even with minimal storage, a bag of something like 2-row isn’t a bad thing to have around).
- Investment of additional equipment/storage containers. Yes, you will have to pay a little bit upfront for these things, but if your brew frequency is high, you’ll recoup that money and then some fairly quick!
- You have more time. Some people love to go to the brew store to hang out and talk shop. Nothing is wrong with that and I love to do that when I am able to, but it’s not always in the cards for me. If you still want the brew shop experience, you might not be ready for bulk.
If it works for you, I highly recommend taking the plunge! It has been absolutely great for my current schedule and lifestyle. I’ve even managed to squeeze in more family time due to the time saved from having to head to the brew shop.
Here’s where I do my bulk purchasing from:
MoreBeer.com – Mostly grains and yeast (when needed), but will grab random things like bottle caps or brewing additives I’m low on (such as lactose, orange peel, or corn sugar).
Since I brew smaller batches and order grain at 1, 2, 5, and 10-lb increments, I utilize their Fast & Free Shipping on any order over $59. Paying $0 for shipping saves me a TON of cash (not to mention the cheaper grain prices when buying in bulk).
YakimaValleyHops.com – Hops and dry yeast.
Absolutely LOVE these guys! Their prices are amazing and product is stellar. Cannot recommend them enough!
What do you think?
Whether you buy in bulk, plan to, or want nothing to do with it, drop us a comment below!