Purchasing ingredients in bulk is a great way to save money as long as you use them all. The problem having bulk amounts of anything is not wasting some because it went bad. Everyone has made that mistake at a food club of buying the 200 pack of hamburger only to have used 25 by the time they all went bad. Hops, grains and yeast all have shelf lives that you will to use them by. But there are ways that if you store your ingredients correctly you can increase the shelf life and really reap the benefits of buying ingredients in bulk.
Hops are effected by three things, air, light and temperature. Keeping them in a vacuum sealed container like a food saver bag, or a canning jar if you have a canning machine, can help prolong the life of the hops and keep ambient air way from the hops. You can get a decent food saver for around $70. Warm temperatures also degrade the hops faster, causing them to lose their aromatic qualities. Keeping them in the freezer is a good way to keep them from losing luster before they go into your beer. Freezing the hops will also break down the cell walls allowing you to extract even more hop flavor during brewing.
Grains are a little easier to store because they are not affected much by being stored in warmer temperatures. Some things you need to worry about with your grains are rodents, bugs and moisture. Of course rodents would love to get a hold of your grains. Keeping them in five gallon buckets or similar plastic container with lids should ensure those mice and other rodents can get at them. This will also help keep from attracting them in the first place. Grains can get weevils, but there is not much you can do about this other than the previously mentioned plastic containers. Moisture is one that might become a problem and is much harder to control if you live in a humid environment. Using a dehumidifier in the room the grains are stored will usually help. In general, choose a nice dry back of a closet or store room that doesn’t get too humid.
Yeast is the trickiest of the three to store for long periods. I would recommend saving your money on hops and grains so that you don’t have to store your yeast. But if you insist on keeping your yeast for extended periods it is possible to do so. Yeasts are living things, the need food to survive. Though if stored at a little above freezing, 34 degrees, you can extend the life of the yeast for a much longer time. You can also save yeast from previous batches by keeping some yeast cake and storing it. This is a little tricky and is a little out of the scope of this article but is a good way to save on yeast. For purposes of feeding the yeast without increasing their metabolism you can feed them glycogen. This will keep the yeast healthy for hopefully long enough for you to brew again.
Brewing beer can get really expensive if you don’t know the corners to cut. But the side effect of most any money saving tip in home brewing is that it will require more time from you. I personally find myself with more time than money more often than not so I try to pinch every penny when it comes to Brewing. To some spending a little more is worth not having to spend the time. Buying in bulk is more work but it will save you money. So if that is what you’re looking for give it a try, if not don’t. Either way keep brewing and enjoying good beer.