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Bulk Buying Ingredients & Is It Worth It?

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MartsHomeBrew

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Hopefully this post is ok in this section.
I've put down 15 kit and extract brews since beginning brewing a few months back and am looking to attempt all grain. I was thinking it might be a good idea to purchase maybe 4 - 6 different kinds of commonly used grain but in bulk quantities of 20kg to reduce costs which is a factor for me. This is instead of buying small quantities often to satisfy one particular recipe. I will be producing 23 litre batches via 6 x 30 litre fermenters which I will do continuously as possible. Was hoping for some feedback from experienced grain brewers as to whether this idea is sensible in terms of shelf life of grain, and whether I will be able to make a diverse range of beer styles with 4-6 grain variants. I understand there may be other bits n pieces needed from time to time which is expected.
On top of that, I planned to do a similar thing with dry yeast like W-34/70, US-05 etc, buying it in 500gm bags instead of the 11.5 gm sachets, again to reduce costs in the long run. Not sure for the yeast once the bag is opened whether the yeast absolutely must be used up in a short time, or whether it could keep for say, 6 months if stored prudently. Have never tried liquid Wyeast products and unerstand they are highly regarded, but a bit costly for me. I suppose harvesting yeast may be an even cheaper option than this and am yet to attempt that.
Any opinions would be appreciated :)
Martin
 

hsb

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Most brewers use one or two 'base' grains - eg; pilsener for lagers/belgians and Maris otter for bitters/ipa/stout etc..
It's a good idea to buy these in bulk if you can and if you feel you'll get through them in months, not years.

Then you can buy small amounts of speciality malts, like chocolate, crystal, abbey etc. to round out your recipes.

If you plan your recipes in groups, you can use some of the previous yeast cake for the next beer. Saves money and time and means you can justify liquid yeasts, plus no messing around storing yeast at first.

So, sounds good, big plans with 6 fermenters! Might be more prudent to just test out All Grain with a small grain buy at first but you seem pretty convinced already!
 

Arghonaut

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Definately buy your grain and hops in bulk, saves you plenty of money. 6 grain variants would cover a fair bit of ground, an ale and/or pils base, light munich, wheat, a couple of crystal malts, maybe some vienna, would cover a fairly wide range of styles. Personally i justbuy the main base malts in bulk, and fill out any orders for other stuff with 500g to 1kg of spec malts.

Yeast i would look into harvesting and storing rather then buying in bulk. A stir plate, erlenmeyer flask and set of vials will pay for itself quickly if you brew alot, and makes liquid yeats very cheap as you can get 8+ uses easily from a single pack.
 

Nick JD

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After buying nearly all the AG ingredients in bulk at some stage I have settled on only buying a good Pilsner malt in 25kg sacks.

Reason: variety.

Bulk yeast - well you're already doing that when you buy 100 billion in one pack. Yeast culturing and pack splitting etc is a better idea IMO. Yeast variety is important for beer variety.

Bulk hops - great idea if you make 100L per week. Say you have freezer space for 12 pounds (4 for PAs, 4 for Lagers, 4 for other) ... do you know how long it takes to actually use 12 pounds of hops? What you are actually doing is buying 12 pounds of hops and then you have 8 pounds of 3 year old hops in 3 years. Old hops (even stored well) are not as good as new hops.

Spec malts - also nice to try them all, and there's a lot of them. A kg or two at a time is fine - most recipes don't use much.

It costs about $5 more per batch to use fresh ingredients and brew a different beer each time - that's why I only buy base grain in bulk. Weyermann Pilsner ... can use it in everything.

Not making the beer that it says on the label of the can is the best thing about AG. You can make any beer ... in the world.

If you are happy with drinking 100L of one beer and then making it again, disregard this.
 

mudd

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Hey Merts

Depending which is your local hb shop you have different options, I see your in Melb. Grain&Grape (AHB sponsor) do a grain book where you buy 2 bags worth and then can draw down on it when you need it, so your always getting the grain fresh. They calculate out all the different grains on a spreadsheet and draw down an equivalent amount on your book. Great for when your starting out and unsure what malts you want to try, they will mill it for you as well (shelf life isn't long once milled)- another piece of kit you dont have to invest in straight away.

Cheers
Mud
 

Sam England

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Evening Marten,
All great advice above, but I'd be tracking down some brewers close by and you can have the benefits of fresh hops / grain without the 3 year storage issues. I buy 2 base malts by the bag, split a couple of the regulars with mates and just build out the next four or five recipes with every order with the bits and pieces. I also harvest yeast and buy hops in bulk from the US and split them with a couple of mates as well. Too easy.
Cheers,
BB
 

stux

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I buy base grain by the sack, specialty in 500g, 1KG or 4KG, depending on how often I use it... and hops generally 450g at a time.

I find the 450g packs a good compromise in savings vs amount of hops I have to store.

PS: Last Coopers Pale Ale clone I did worked out to 11$/keg, not including gas. I'd say buying in bulk is worth it ;)
 

QldKev

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Grain
Are you planning on buying a mill? If you are milling you own grain, then a 25kg bag will last un-milled for a year or two. Once milled it doesn't last that long.

To work out what bulk grains to buy you can do it 2 ways.

First idea is we tell you what we think you should get based on what we brew. Hopefully you will brew the same. Not so bad if you are happy to have several bags around, as myself I buy in 25kg bags
BB Ale
BB Pale
Wey Pilsner (sometimes I may have a Wey Bo Pils and also Wey Pils)
Vienna
Perle (sometimes)
Marris Otter
Munich II
Wheat
And try and keep them all on hand, getting a bit expensive for a startup buy... Great once you get them as you can decide on making any beer on the day.

Second idea is you spend the time in the recipe db and work out the next say 6 to 12 brews you want to make, and look at the grains you need. Then you can compile a list of grain to suit what you want. The bonus here is you can also have a look at all the spec grain you will also need, and rather than buying 150g of something you can grab 1 or 2 kg at a time. Probably not as bad if you love close to a brew shop with most grains on hand thou. Until recently it was many hundreds of kms for me to get grain. The cost of buying grain as you go for me, wasn't just a few extra $ in grains, it was also another $12 in post.


Yeast
As already mentioned look at splitting and harvesting your yeast. Buying a 500g brick will mean you will be limited to that strain. I don't think I would want the same yeast strain trying to ferment my English Ales, my Pils, Lagers, and my APA.

QldKev
 

mxd

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it appears you want to brew 60 ltrs a week, you wont have issues about freshness at that level
 

Diesel80

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Marts,
how much beer will you be getting through and how fast? This will determine how much in the way of ingredients you actually need to get in bulk.
Also what style will you brew?

I keep 2x base malt on hand and hops in 90-100g lots for variety. When I find a favourite I get 450g bags. Usually a low AA hop so i can use it up before it starts to turn.
Yeast I have started making starters and splitting yeast packs now. Always keep a few dry packs on hand in case something goes wrong.

Also what batch size will you be brewing? If you are only brewing 23L at a time in AG its going to take you 24hours or so of brewing to produce 6 batches.


Cheers,
D80
 

Yob

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if you have a vac sealer, IMO, bulk buying hops and spec malts is a good deal cheaper than 'per brew' purchases (my vac sealer paid for itself in a few pounds on hops :) ).. as Kev said, if you are milling yourself get in on a bulk buy for base malts, also a huge money saver..

in short? Bulk buy where you can if you have the correct equipment to be able to cope with it.. (Storage is a factor also)

:icon_cheers:
 

slash22000

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I would buy grain in bulk, it's always a good idea for base malts at least, except it costs twice as much to get it to Darwin than it does to actually buy the malt. You'd think chucking 25-50 kg of grain on a truck would be cheaper than sending it via Auspost or something. Apparently not.

Incidentally, if anybody knows a reasonable way of getting bulk grain to the middle of nowhere (Perth, Darwin, etc), let me know! As long as it ends up cheaper than buying extract I'll be happy. ;)
 

Truman42

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I looked into buying grain in bulk. But when I considered the cost of a grain mill approx $150-$200 and the fact that I only brew a 23 litre batch every month with maybe a second brew thrown in around xmas time or special occasions, it just wasn't wort the outlay.
I can get it from KK or G&G crushed ready to go nice and fresh as I need it.
Ok it costs me a bit more but I would need to brew for a few years to offset the cost of a grain mill, storage space, tubs etc. my cost for a 23 litre batch including power and water is around 50 cents a stubby so Im still $4.00 in front per stubby.
 

Truman42

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I would buy grain in bulk, it's always a good idea for base malts at least, except it costs twice as much to get it to Darwin than it does to actually buy the malt. You'd think chucking 25-50 kg of grain on a truck would be cheaper than sending it via Auspost or something. Apparently not.

Incidentally, if anybody knows a reasonable way of getting bulk grain to the middle of nowhere (Perth, Darwin, etc), let me know! As long as it ends up cheaper than buying extract I'll be happy. ;)
I used to manage a transport company in Broome and lived there for 18 years but have been back in Melbourne for the last 5 years. We ran to Darwin from Perth. Often we would transport up cars for car hire companys. Maybe go and see some in Darwin and if they get cars transported up you might be able to get your grain thrown in the boot. or go and see a business who might get up something large but empty on a regular basis and you can get your grain thrown inside. Like a water tank company or something similar. Im sure if you offered them some beer they would help out and it wouldn't cost them anymore.

Try Frontline transport they run Perth to Darwin. Or try a stockfeed agent Like Elders. A bag of malt shrink wrapped to a pallet of stockfeed aint going to cost them more in freight.
 

MartsHomeBrew

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Hello and thanks to all the great feedback from all of you, it really helps beyond what i can pick up from my books.
Generally speaking, I am enthusiastic to try making just about any kind of beer, with my personal favorites centering around Belgian Ales and German Lagers and wheat beers. My theory is that the more I make more often, the more I will learn in a short time. As yet i have not made anything that was undrinkable, but a few are ordinary. Just using extract cans, i try to experiment by adding something of my own to each batch, or slightly varying something in each similar batch to compare. It seems irrefutible that all grain ultimately gets the best results when done correctly, but i am still to grasp various technical aspects of it.
I like the idea of mapping out a brewing schedule in order to look at what is needed for the short term, so thats something i will do.
I do not have a grain mill and was not aware that milling it greatly shortens its life which makes perfect sense, but Mudd mentions Grain & Grape which is where i planned to go for my purchase while they have their 20% off sale this week. Am guessing grain mills like most things are much cheaper in the US, is there a "best" brand or model to look for?

I read about the grain logbook thing elsewhere but didn't know they had this at G&G. One thing is it's a bit far to go there regularly for my liking (Doncaster to Yarraville), so i guess I either fork out (about $200-$300??) for a grain mill and lug a few big sacks home and try storing them, or go for the logbook idea which seems to be a great option for the time being. Thanks for that tip as well.

For hops, clearly Nikobrew holds the mantle for cheapest prices and freshest product from all accounts, at least when compared to local sellers, even when they have a sale! I think i could get through a 4 pound shipment within about 6 months or less.

Yeast wise, i will get to the bottom of making starters and splitting packs to reuse the same pack over several batches. I was reading that perhaps some yeast gets better as it is reused over a number of times. Was also looking at another post discussing scooping yeast off the Krausen after a few days, which I had not heard about previously. I once tried tossing a new batch straight onto a previous yeast cake immediately after I'd bottled the previous batch, but nothing happened after 36 hours so I had to switch barrels and add a new yeast, which put me off further yeast experimentation. Clearly I need to learn this at once.

Based on a concept of 2-4 variety grain bulk buys, any tips on which would be most desirable from Grain & Grape, being that their list contains numerous brands of the same kinds of grain? Is there a standout brand, or are they much of a muchness?
 

Florian

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As for grain brands, or maltsters, without knowing the exact product range of G&G, one concept is to get grain from the country you're trying to copy the beer from. German Pilsner malt (like Weyermann, Best and others) for your German lagers, Belgian malts for your belgian beers etc.

You could of course also buy the Australian equivalent and possibly safe a few bucks, totally up to you.
 

stux

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Grain mills

Get. Monster mill, or crankenstein or go local and get a mash master mini.

If you get the monster, I'd get stainless rollers + hopper
 

Spiesy

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I'll be requesting a grain mill for my next birthday... brewing a 20L batch a fortnight, I worked out it would pay for itself in around a year... Whilst this is certainly a while, at a modest brewing rate, after that year has passed, brewing becomes even cheaper! (until I buy something else).
 

jammer

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Hopefully this post is ok in this section.
I've put down 15 kit and extract brews since beginning brewing a few months back and am looking to attempt all grain. I was thinking it might be a good idea to purchase maybe 4 - 6 different kinds of commonly used grain but in bulk quantities of 20kg to reduce costs which is a factor for me. This is instead of buying small quantities often to satisfy one particular recipe. I will be producing 23 litre batches via 6 x 30 litre fermenters which I will do continuously as possible. Was hoping for some feedback from experienced grain brewers as to whether this idea is sensible in terms of shelf life of grain, and whether I will be able to make a diverse range of beer styles with 4-6 grain variants. I understand there may be other bits n pieces needed from time to time which is expected.
On top of that, I planned to do a similar thing with dry yeast like W-34/70, US-05 etc, buying it in 500gm bags instead of the 11.5 gm sachets, again to reduce costs in the long run. Not sure for the yeast once the bag is opened whether the yeast absolutely must be used up in a short time, or whether it could keep for say, 6 months if stored prudently. Have never tried liquid Wyeast products and unerstand they are highly regarded, but a bit costly for me. I suppose harvesting yeast may be an even cheaper option than this and am yet to attempt that.
Any opinions would be appreciated :)
Martin
Where abouts you live? Me and a friend buy sacks of grain... We have mills. Be handy if you live close to us....
 

mxd

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I read about the grain logbook thing elsewhere but didn't know they had this at G&G. One thing is it's a bit far to go there regularly for my liking (Doncaster to Yarraville), so i guess I either fork out (about $200-

Where abouts you live? Me and a friend buy sacks of grain... We have mills. Be handy if you live close to us....
 

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