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.

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