Last year I got into brewing beer for a hobby. To date I have made about 9 batches of beer, all told I am about $700 in equipment purchased and my batches run at about $20-75 per 5 gallon batch and I have yet to have a batch that is anything but delicious. My prices fluctuate so wildly depending on what I am making and they way I am making it. My most expensive batch was a Mac & Jack's extract clone, and my cheapest was a 5 gallon batch of hard cider.
I actually got started because of the hard cider, as my extended family has several apple trees on their property and I thought it was a waste that we weren't doing something will all of those apples. To start I bought a $100 starter kit from my local homebrew store (LBS) and got some yeast. In my starter kit I got everything to brew your first batch (including all the ingredients) and everything listed below
6 Gallon Primary Fermentor (w/ Spigot aka a food grade bucket)While I bought the kit to make cider since it came with a complete recipe for beer I ended up brewing a batch of red ale after I finished my first batch of cider (more on the beer later). The cider is really easy to start with because there is no boiling required much of the sanitation, boil, and math are not needed. You don't even need to take a hydrometer reading if you don't want to as it is really only to figure out your Alcohol by Volume or ABV of the finished product. I basically took 5 gallons of pasteurized juice at room temperature and put it in the primary fermenter, added yeast and put the lid and airlock on and kept it in a cool dark place while the yeast did its work. Once primary fermentation was completed I racked into the 5 gallon carboy for secondary fermentation (slower less vigorous fermentation) and waited some more. At the end I mixed some priming sugar into the finished product, transferred into sanitized bottles and capped them. Priming sugar is corn sugar that won't add flavor to your final product but will give something for the yeast to produce more co2 to pressurize your beer (in this case cider). Feeding the yeast a little bit at the end have it pressurize the bottles is known as bottle conditioning, and will result in a little bit of defloculated yeast at the bottom of your bottles. Anyone that has had a Sierra-Nevada beer will know what I am talking about. The end product was great and has only gotten better as it has aged. I am coming up on one year and a half since the first batch of cider and I only have 3 or 4 bottles left!
5 Gallon Glass Carboy (w/ Bottle Filler Tube)
Drilled Lid with Adapter & Airlock
Capper and Caps
Malt Extract Syrups
Muslin Hop/Grain Bag
Complete Illustrated Instructions
Anyhow this is an exciting and rewarding hobby so far, but it has also been somewhat expensive. As I strive to refine my process and get better control over what I am doing, it has been a long string of realizing that I need more, bigger or better equipment. Some things I have built, some things I have bought and others I have learned to live without.