When it comes to buying home brewing supplies, there are a few things you need to think about. Things like ingredients you need to think about quality, cost and freshness. Equipment purchases mean thinking about how useful is it, practicality and price.
In this article I want to give you some tips on buying equipment and ingredients because (and I know) there are plenty of opportunities to spend money and end up with something you hardly use or is just not right for you.
One thing I want to point out before we get onto the tips is to try and support your local home brew shop whenever possible. Here in the UK there are home brew shops spread all over the country so finding one shouldn’t be too hard. Shopping online is a great way of getting good deals but I often find myself running out to my local home brew shop for last minute things that I may have forgotten. Having a local home brew shop means I can run out and buy a pack of yeast last minute whereas it wouldn’t be so easy online.
OK, so onto the tips.
1. Make a list of what supplies you need and then go looking for it.
All too often I have gone to the home brew shop with a vague idea of what I want, only to come home with bags full of stuff that I can’t remember why I needed it at the time. I’m sure you have been in similar situations where you see all the stuff on offer and can’t help but pick it up and buy it, yes that’s right, impulse buying. Some people I know have a similar affliction with tools and they end up buying lots of tools that end up sitting in the shed unused.
Make a list and stick to it, you will end up saving money and be able to spend that money on making more home brew that you want.
2. Ask for Advice
This is where visiting a shop is priceless, especially when you are first starting out home brewing. I remember brewing my first beer, I went to my local homebrew shop and looked puzzled by all the stuff on the shelves. I asked the staff for advice and 30 minutes later I was at home making a pale ale with extract and crystal malt with whole hops. The other thing was I didn’t need to buy that much kit either because the staff explained how to brew the beer using straining/hop bags and using the stock pot I had already.
That’s the thing about home brew shops, they are almost always run by people that have good experience brewing beer at home. You may sometimes get advice that’s not always 100% correct but I know that without the staff at homebrew shops I probably wouldn’t of made as good home brew and maybe not even stuck with it.
3. Look For Deals and Buy Wisely
If you read any home brewing forums then I’m sure you have seen people adding posts showing where to get a good deal. Particularly things like large equipment and boilers, I know that on one forum I visit there is a board dedicated to eBay deals. ebay is a great place to pick up bargains and by shopping around from time to time leaves you with more money in your pocket to spend on something else.
Buying things in bulk is also usually a good way to make savings, a lot of home brewers will by 25kg sacks of things like pale malt because they know that most of the beers they will make will have that as the base malt.
Buying in bulk in this way will save you money in the long run and keep you brewing for longer between visits to the home brew shop.
4. Look for Freshness When Buying Ingredients
When you buy home brewing supplies you want to make sure that the ingredients you buy are as fresh as possible. A beer made with fresh ingredients is going to taste remarkably better than one made with old stale ones. In a certain respect if you go to your local home brew shop you can check this for yourself, most ingredients have a date on them whether this is a date of packaging or a use by date, so you can pick the best ones. If that tin of malt extract on the shelf is covered in dust and the label is faded by the sun then it’s probably a good idea not to buy it.
Yeast is a particularly important ingredient to check the date on. The viability of the yeast will fall from the moment it’s packaged (liquid yeasts especially). Buying yeast well withing it’s expiration date is a must to produce good quality beer.
A few home brew retailers online I have seen have written about the freshness of the ingredients, for example; one supplier I have used mills the malt on the day of dispatch as a guarantee of freshness. Look out for some of these things when you buy you supplies, then you know you will be making the best beer possible.
5. Buy With Longevity In Mind
Skimping in the short term is not always the best way to shop. If you are buying equipment say for example a boiler then spending that little extra to get a step up on the budget one may be the best way. I have bought an electric boiler before, that I must of used for say 8 batches of beer before the thermostat started behaving strangely and no longer liked to boil. The reason I bought it was because it was the cheapest in it’s range. Had, dare I say, bought the slightly more expensive one, then maybe I wouldn’t have had to replace it so soon.
Another thing to mention here is about brewing all grain, a lot of people put off brewing all grain because of the initial outlay to get all the equipment. In the long run however buying supplies of grain is cheaper than extract and give you a lot more freedom to brew whatever you want.
6. Buy in a Group
You have probably heard of Groupon. The basic premise is you can get big discounts if you buy in large quantities. The same can be done for brewing ingredients, if you belong to a home brewing club or take part in an online community and enough of you want to, then you can buy things like malt in large quantities for a discount direct from the maltster. This can then be split among the group and you all get the benefits of a large discount and having really fresh, high quality ingredients.
This is not something I have done before, but I have seen members of forums arrange this type of thing so It may be a good option for you.
There we have it, some advice on buying home brewing supplies. I hope this may of helped out some people out there who like me, come back from the home brew shop with far too much stuff.