By: Amelia Chen
A lot of us are familiar with brewing beer. We know that we need water, grains, hops, and yeast. We might know the specifics of the process, and what to control or modify to get the desired flavor or color. But what about the waste products? Specifically, what about spent grain?
Brewer’s spent grain (BSG) is the abundant byproduct of lautering, or separating the wort from the grains. Currently, it is being landfilled or used as animal feed if farmers are willing to pick the grain up from breweries. However, much like the problem with acid whey from Greek yogurt, the increase in breweries and microbreweries, and growing popularity of craft beer and homebrewing presents the question of what to do with all that spent grain.
Numerous attempts and proposals have been made for applications of this grain, including biogas production, building materials, and mushroom cultivation. But I’m more interested in how BSG can be recycled into food products. It is high in protein and fiber and low in carbohydrates because most of the sugars are taken out during the mashing process for fermentation. Thus, it is an attractive addition to bakery products, such as bread, cookies, and pizza, both in its whole grain form or as a flour. As you can imagine, it also provides color, texture, and unique flavors. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), only small quantities of the grain or flour is needed per recipe. Several breweries around the country are already offering their spent grain to consumers in the form of bread, granola, lip balm, and even dog treats.
I’m definitely a sucker for ingenious ways to use or recycle everyday products, and there’s so much you can do with a bottle of beer besides drinking it before tossing the bottle into the recycling bin. So of course I got excited about the prospects of BSA. However, the reasons you may not have encountered such a product yet are several obstacles relating to cost. While breweries are usually happy to give away their spent grain, it is not always efficient for farmers or businesses to pick it up, especially if the brewery is located in a dense, urban location. Additionally, while spent grain can be used directly as the damp, whole grain, it has a short shelf life, which also limits the window for pick up. Though freezing and drying are effective ways of extending the shelf life of BSA, there are obviously large costs associated with those processes.
Associated Press (30 May 2014). Brewers get crafty using spent grain from beer. Retrieved 31 March 2015, from: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/05/30/brewers-get-crafty-using-spent-grain-from-beer/
Fuller, J.R. (20 October 2014). Boom in Breweries Leads to Growing Problem: What to do with Spent Grain? Retrieved 31 March 2015, from: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20141020/chicago/boom-breweries-leads-growing-problem-what-do-with-spent-grain
Ktenioudaki, A., Chaurin, V., Reis, S.F., Gallagher, E. (2012). Brewer’s spent grain as a functional ingredient for breadsticks. International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 47 1765-1771.
Mussatto, S.I., Dragone, G., Roberto, I.C. (2006). Brewers’ spent grain: generation, characteristics and potential applications. Journal of Cereal Science, 43, 1-14.
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