Reasons behind my equipment and price choices

For some reason the comment system does not like long replies, so I have placed both on the original article.  Here is more information about the equipment I chose, and the reasoning behind the prices.

1) The first critique with my numbers is that the recipe analyzed is purchased for a 5 gallon batch instead of in bulk.  While many people buy in bulk, it would be inaccurate to say all all-grain brewers do.  Many brewers like the flexibility of trying different beers.  If you are brand new to all-grain brewing, most likely you are not going to purchase 200 lbs of grain.  Personally I like the variety, and often purchase my recipes for 5 gallon batches.  I didn’t start buying in bulk for my first two years of all-grain.

I have never purchased extract in bulk, and I don’t know many who have.  Extract is sold in bulk, so I am sure many brewers do.  To make the comparisons fair though, you’d have to compare bulk extract prices to bulk gain prices.  My guess is that the savings would decrease more if you compare bulk purchases to bulk purchases.

I do agree and I do state in the article if you purchase your grain in bulk, you will reduce your costs.  Unfortunately buying in bulk is the only way you can get grain costs under $1 USD/lb.

2) The next critique is the equipment choices and cost.  I had forgotten about turkey fryers.  I don’t like them because they are usually 30 qts, but yes you can buy one for about $50 USD or less with some bargain shopping.  I’ve seen them on sale for $35 USD.  You can even buy a used pot, but there is no way to predict how much you can find a used pot for in your area.  I’m not sure where you can get a propane tank for $20 USD, but I had forgotten them in my equipment costs anyway.  The returnable tanks are $49 USD in Denver, and $18 USD for each swap.

The $249.99 USD price for the continuous sparging system is the price in the latest Northern Brewer (NB) catalog.  I do not recommend the system, but many people do go that route (otherwise they would not sell them).  I looked at building one from scratch, but could not get the price low enough to justify it.

The costs for the cooler converter and bazooka screen are also the current prices.  I built my first mash tun from scratch.  The price for the individual pieces including the stainless steel braid was about $35.  It is the same for the most part as what NB sells. For the industrious, you can build these from scratch but I did not feel the price savings was worth the time.  I spent about a week trying to seal it enough so that it would not leak once filled with water.  You can also MacGuyver it with a bung, stainless steel braid and a tube.  That will be much cheaper, but it might add to the frustration level for someone’s first all-grain brewing day.

I should have mentioned that the cooler I chose was the Coleman Extreme 5-day cooler (a mistake on my part because it’s important). This cooler can hold the temperature steady for a long time, even overnight.  I recently moved up to a 70qt cooler, and $37.88 was the price I paid at WalMart.  You can buy a cheaper cooler, but it may or may not hold the temperature.  Coleman’s website lists the retail price at $44.99 for the 36 qt, and $69.99 for the 70qt, so I think the WalMart prices I listed were actually very good.

I believe in buying the larger cooler, because it offers the flexibility of scaling to larger brews without buying a new cooler.  If you know you will never increase your brews above 5 gallons, 40 qts will be fine.  I wish I had originally purchased the 70 qt, because I now have 40qt and 70 qt mash tuns. If you happen to have a nice cooler lying around that you want to use, you can certainly use that and reduce your overall costs.  For the purpose of the article though, I have to assume you don’t have a cooler.  The Coleman Extreme 5-day cooler is the cooler I chose for both mash tuns.

3) The reduction in hops was listed in the recipe.  There will be less hop utilization in higher concentrated boils.  One could argue that you would use less hops in all-grain recipes, because all-grain always implies full-wort boils.  Either way, the hop differences were not enough to change the overall price for 5 gallon brews.

The article was about how much it would reasonably cost to start all-grain brewing.  If you are the do-it-yourself type, you can find many ways to build your brewery much cheaper.  That might be a good subject for future articles.  If I showed you a way to build a brewery for $10, I’m sure someone can find a way to build one for $9 – MacGuyver might do it for $2. 🙂