Sunday, July 21, 2013

Uses of Spent Grain

Although this entry is not really aboot beer, it deals with cooking (what beer is aboot really, cooking). In the future, some of these entries will not be aboot beer, but loosely tied with beer.

Part of making beer, there is always excess waste. Water is the major component in brewing that is wasted (I'll go into further detail on this subject in a future entry). Other wastes are: spent grain, hops that fall out as trub in the boil, yeast after fermentation; I'm sure that there are others, but currently, I feel that is enough to list. Recently, I have been trying to be efficient in the use of these waste products. In this entry, I'm going to focus on spent grain.

Spent grain in a brewery, for the most part, gets used as other products. At Saugatuck Brewing Company, where I work, spent grain is used in one of two forms. One form is as cattle feed. A farmer comes twice a week and picks up anywhere between 10 and 15 barrels of spent grain. This is a common practice in breweries. The other form in the brewery that I work for, spent grain is used in making bread. Maybe once every week we get a 1-gallon bucket to fill with spent grain that the kitchen will use in the making of bread for soup, pizza bread, or other assortments of products.

As a homebrewer, there are things that can be done so that spent grain is not wasted in a landfill. One way is to use it in compost. This compost will turn to rich soil that can be used in the garden. Spent grain can be the carbon source in your compost as other sources (vegetables and fruits) are the nitrogen source. A good carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) would be somewhere in the range of 25-30:1. A C:N less than that would make a compost pile that is literary skinky. 

Another way that spent grain can be used is in cooking. My main way is in making spent grain granola. Others that I have tried is in making cookies and bread. I'm going to talk in this entry on the making of spent grain granola. It is very easy and there isn't much measuring that has to be done. I just add ingredients and, even though each batch changes, it always comes out pretty rad.

The first thing that I do after I get done with the mash is to try to dry out as much spent grain that I can. This requires using a couple of Pyrex baking pans that are 2-in deep. I usually fill two of them and throw them in the oven at 250ºF for somewhere around 24 hours. Every couple of hours or so I mix them to get equal drying. After it cools, it is still a little damp, but I put the spent grain in gallon-size ziplock bags and then store it in the freezer. 

In making of granola, the first thing that I do is take approximately 3 cups of the spent grain and let it slightly thaw. In a mixing bowl, I add to the spent grain, a cup of Quaker Oats and almond slices, less than a cup of wheat germ and flax seed. The liquids that I add are somewhere in between ½ and ¼ cup of vegetable oil, honey, and maple syrup. I use my hand to mix this, then spread it thin on a cookie baking sheet (that should be lightly greased). 

In a preheated oven, I bake this for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250ºF. Every 15 minutes or so, I stir the granola to ensure equal browning. I eat this granola every morning over yogurt with strawberries and blueberries that I get from my local framers market here in Holland, MI. 

I hope that this will help homebrewers to find alternative uses of spent grain and other waste. I'll post some more ideas on what else to use other by products of homebrewing, as well as some other spent grain recipes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An experiment of open fermentation!

Near the end of May of this year, two of the brewers at the brewery that I worked at, Saugatuck Brewing Company, decided to do some experimentation with wort. The wort was pulled from a beer that was brewed called “The Applause” or other wise known as “The Clap.” This beer was pitched with a wild yeast strain that was pulled from grapes that were picked from Fenn Valley Winery. After the yeast was pitched, there was extra wort after the beer was put into 5-gallon buckets and left to open ferment inside the brewery (the experiment that I reference). 
After only a just a few days a krausen developed on the wort, a sign of fermentation. To keep from infecting other beers in the brewery, the buckets were placed outside, under cover so that rain would not enter the buckets. On this past Thursday, these buckets were retrieved to see how they progressed. The first observable effect of open fermentation was that there were a lot of fruit flies (dead) and fruit fly larvae in the buckets. I decided to smell it and it had a very wonderful tart aroma to the beer. I hurried to find a cup to sample, while the other two brewers decided what to do. The taste was almost as amazing as the smell (minus the fact that I was drinking fly larvae with the now beer). A gravity reading was taken on the beer and it has a ABV of 5.5%. The beer was filtered through some cheese cloth into another bucket.

Later in the evening, I took one of the buckets and gathered some yeast to propagate. I took a sample in a plastic cup, because I didn't have any other vessel to gather it in. I took it home that night and put it into the refrigerator to deal with the next morning. 
The next morning, I pulled the yeast sample out of the refrigerator to warm it up a bit. I prepared a starter out of 200 grams of dry malt extract (DME) and 500 mL of water (to create a 1.040 specific gravity solution). I boiled the solution for a couple minutes and cooled it as quickly that I possibly could. While the starter was boiling, I used a spoon to scoop out as many dead fruit flies and larvae out of the yeast sample that I could. I poured the starter solution into a per-sanitized 1.9 liter growler, after-which I added the yeast to the growler. I put a bung on the growler and shook it up to oxygenate it as best that I could. I then added a airlock to the bung.
It will be interesting to see how this progresses. I will tempt to build this sample up more, by, decanting the liquid and adding more DME solution to it. Eventually I would love to make build a beer with this yeast!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Experimenting with small batch brewing.

Being a scientist, trained in experimental manipulation of the environment to see how organisms react, I decided to start to do experimental manipulation on beer, at a smaller scale, to see what kind of flavors that I can pull out. The environment for this experimental manipulation is the wort that would be turned into beer by yeast (the organism). My normal homebrew system is 19 liters (5 gallons) but at Saugatuck BrewingCompany, where I work, we brew on a 10-barrel system (1200 liters or 315 gallons). My system might be good for experimenting for SBC, but the small batch system for my homebrew system is 3.8 liters (1 gallon). Even though I work at a brewery, I will continue my hobby of homebrewing.

To ferment in my small batch system, I use 2-1.9 liter (0.5 gallons) growlers from various brewing companies. Currently, I have only done two batches, both meads. This is because I do not have a mashtun that would be proper for this scale. This is my next purchase, a small cooler that I can convert into a mashtun for this purpose.

My experimental brew that I did on 30 June 2013 was a mead (which I previously mentioned). I had two 0.9-liter (1-quart) mason jars with honey that I used for this experiment. One jar was from honey that I collected from my hive last summer and the other was collected from a colleague of mine when I was a graduate student at Miami University of Ohio. The second jar was late season collected in the fall of last year and both sets of honey came from areas that surrounded Oxford, OH. 

The late season honey had solidified, so I put the jar in a pot of 55°C (130°F) water to liquefy it. I also added the early season jar to the pot to help with reducing the viscosity, to that I could pout it easier. Each jar contained approximately 1.1 kilogram (2.5 pounds) of honey in it. While adding the honey to the fermenters, I started to boil water to bring up the volume in the fermenters. This was where I started to add complexity to my experiment.

In the water that I boiled, I added a small amount of solidified honey. I did this to help in the utilization of the hops that I added. Lowering the pH by having some sugars in the water helps in utilizing hops, because just making hop tea in plain water could run the risk of giving harsh-tasting, vegetal or astringent polyphenols (as explained in “Malt Extraction: Late Addition Brewing” in the May/June 2013 issue of Zymurgy). Once the water started to boil, I added 7 grams (0.25 ounces) of hops to the boil. The hops that I used was from the 2012 crop of the Chinook that I harvested last year. I boiled to 5 minutes and added then cut the flame and added the other 21.5 grams (0.75 ounces) to the boil.

Once the boil was complete, I cooled the water with my immersion wort chiller to approximately 25°C (77°F). I then added the water to each growler until the volume came up to the bottle neck, giving room for formation of the krausen. I shook each growler for 15 to 20 minutes to thoroughly mix the honey and give oxygen to the wort. I then took a gravity reading then added one package of yeast to each fermenter. The O.G. was 1.128 and should be 15.9% ABV mead. 

I will let this ferment for 6 months before bottling it. What I am looking for in this mead is a little bit of bitterness (Beersmith calculated it to be 19.2 IBU) and have a citrusy/grapefruity taste from the hops.