What to Do with Grains After Brewing Beer: Sustainable and Creative Uses

Want to know what to do with all that leftover grain? We give you plenty of ideas, including some you might be surprised by!

BEER

Mat Stuckey

8/18/20235 min read

clear glass jar filled with brown liquid
clear glass jar filled with brown liquid

What to Do with Grains After Brewing Beer: Sustainable and Creative Uses

Brewing beer is a delightful journey from grain to glass, a process that marries tradition with innovation. However, once the elixir is brewed and the bottles are filled, brewers are often left pondering over the heaps of spent grains. These aren't just any ordinary waste; they're treasure troves of fibre, nutrients, and potential.

Rather than discarding them, there are myriad ways to repurpose these grains, ensuring that every part of the brewing process is utilised to its fullest. Let's embark on a journey to discover the sustainable and creative avenues for these spent grains, championing a more eco-friendly brewing ethos.

1. Animal Feed: Nourishing the Farm

Spent grains have long found their way into the agricultural world as a sought-after feed for livestock. Their rich protein and fibre content make them an excellent supplement, providing animals with essential nutrients.

Poultry:

Chickens, with their voracious appetites, have a particular fondness for spent grains. When mixed with their regular feed, it not only enhances the nutritional value but also introduces a variety that chickens enjoy. Some farmers even notice an improvement in egg quality when their hens consume spent grains regularly.

Cattle:

For cattle, spent grains are like a gourmet treat. Many farmers swear by the benefits of integrating spent grains into cattle diets, noting enhanced milk production and overall better health. The grains provide a balanced mix of energy and protein, essential for the cattle's growth and well-being.

Pigs:

Pigs, known for their diverse diets, relish spent grains. The grains serve as a hearty supplement, ensuring the pigs receive a balanced intake of nutrients. Farmers often notice that pigs fed with spent grains tend to have a healthier weight and show signs of contentment.

2. Baking and Cooking: A Culinary Adventure

The culinary world is no stranger to innovation, and spent grains offer a unique ingredient that can transform regular dishes into gourmet delights.

Breads:

The rustic charm of homemade bread gets a delightful twist with spent grains. By incorporating them into the dough, the bread takes on a nuttier flavour and a more robust texture. Whether it's a sourdough loaf or a multigrain bun, spent grains add depth and character, making each bite a testament to sustainable baking.

Granola:

Imagine starting your day with a crunchy granola that tells a story of sustainability. Mixing spent grains with oats, nuts, honey, and dried fruits creates a granola blend that's not only delicious but also packed with nutrients. The grains add a chewy texture, complementing the crunch of the nuts and the sweetness of the fruits.

Pancakes and Waffles:

Breakfasts can be a delightful affair with spent grains in the mix. Adding them to your pancake or waffle batter introduces a layer of texture that's both surprising and welcome. Each mouthful becomes a blend of the fluffy softness of the pancakes and the subtle chewiness of the grains, making breakfast a meal to look forward to.

bokeh photography of person carrying soil
bokeh photography of person carrying soil

3. Garden Compost: Nurturing Nature with Spent Grains

The world of gardening thrives on recycling and sustainability, and spent grains fit perfectly into this ethos. Rich in organic matter and nutrients, they can play a pivotal role in enhancing the health and fertility of garden soil.

Composting:

Composting is nature's way of recycling, turning organic waste into black gold for plants. Adding spent grains to your compost pile introduces essential nutrients and microbes. As the grains break down, they release nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – the three primary nutrients vital for plant growth. Over time, the compost enriched with spent grains becomes a potent mix, ensuring plants get a balanced diet.

Mulch:

Mulching is a gardener's secret weapon against weeds and soil moisture loss. Spent grains, with their moisture-retaining properties, make for an excellent mulch. When spread over the soil, they form a protective layer, preventing water evaporation and keeping the soil cool. Additionally, as the grains decompose, they deter weed growth, ensuring your plants have little competition for nutrients.

4. Craft Projects: Unleashing Creativity with Spent Grains

For those who see potential in every grain, spent grains offer a canvas for artistic expression. Their unique texture and organic nature make them a favourite among craft enthusiasts.

Paper Making:

Handmade paper has a charm that's unmatched. Incorporating spent grains into the paper pulp gives it a textured, rustic appearance. The grains create a speckled effect, perfect for artisanal greeting cards, journals, or even artwork. This eco-friendly paper not only looks beautiful but also tells a story of sustainability.

Natural Dyes:

The world of natural dyes is vast and fascinating. Spent grains, when boiled, release pigments that can be used to dye fabrics. Depending on the grains and the brewing process, you can achieve a range of earthy tones. These dyes, being organic, are eco-friendly and gentle on fabrics, making them perfect for those seeking sustainable fashion alternatives.

5. Spent Grain Flour: A Baker's Delight

The journey of spent grains doesn't end at brewing. They can embark on a new adventure in the world of baking. By drying and grinding the grains, you get a coarse, aromatic flour that's brimming with flavour.

While spent grain flour can't replace traditional flour in its entirety due to its low gluten content, it can be a delightful addition. Mixing it with regular flour in bread, cookies, or pastries introduces a nutty flavour and a hearty texture. Each bite becomes a reminder of the grain's journey, from being a part of a brew to gracing your baked delights.

6. Dog Treats: A Tail-Wagging Delight

Man's best friend deserves the best, and spent grains can be a delightful ingredient for homemade dog treats. These grains, packed with nutrients, can be transformed into treats that not only satisfy but also nourish.

By combining spent grains with flour, eggs, and peanut butter, you can create biscuits that are crunchy on the outside and packed with flavour on the inside. The addition of peanut butter, a favourite among canines, ensures these treats are eagerly devoured. Moreover, making your own dog treats allows you to control the ingredients, ensuring no harmful additives or preservatives.

7. Mushroom Cultivation: Nature's Bounty from Spent Grains

Mushrooms, with their earthy flavours and meaty textures, are a favourite among many. Cultivating them at home can be a rewarding experience, and spent grains can play a crucial role in this endeavour.

Spent grains serve as an excellent substrate for certain mushroom varieties, especially oyster mushrooms. These grains, rich in organic matter, provide the essential nutrients mushrooms need to thrive. By introducing mushroom spores to a bed of moist spent grains, one can create a conducive environment for mushroom growth. Over time, you'll see a flush of fresh mushrooms, ready to be harvested and savoured.

8. Biogas Production: Turning Waste into Energy

In an era where sustainable energy solutions are paramount, spent grains offer an avenue that's both eco-friendly and efficient. Especially in larger brewing operations, where the volume of spent grains is substantial, turning them into biogas can be a game-changer.

Through anaerobic digestion, microorganisms break down the organic matter in spent grains, producing methane-rich biogas. This biogas can be captured and used as a renewable energy source, powering everything from boilers to vehicles. It's a testament to the fact that with innovation, what's seen as waste can be transformed into a valuable resource.

The Final Grain: Reflecting on the Potential of Spent Grains

In the world of brewing, spent grains might seem like the end of a chapter. However, as we've explored, they mark the beginning of numerous exciting journeys. From nourishing our pets and gardens to powering our homes, these grains hold a world of potential. Embracing their versatility not only reduces waste but also champions a more sustainable and holistic approach to brewing. As we raise our glasses to the delightful brews, let's also toast to the grains that continue to give back in myriad ways.

Looking for more interesting facts about beer and brewing? Head over to our blog or resources sections for more useful tips and insights!