How to Use Spent Grain Left Over from Brewing
If you have ever tried or looked into the idea of brewing beer at home, you know all the great benefits. You can control the taste, carbonation, alcohol content, and character of what you drink; it makes a great last-minute gift; and by brewing at home, you are saving on cost and won’t have to recycle your own bottles.
There is, however, one major drawback to home brewing—the high volume of leftover ingredients you have to deal with after every brew. These leftover ingredients are all the oats, wheat, barley, and other grains that are “spent” during the brewing process.
Should you compost?
The most common way to dispose of spent ingredients is by composting them. In fact, due to changes in Vermont law, that is the only legal way to dispose of them since they are considered food waste. So, you can compost the grains in your bin or in your garden, but eventually you’ll hit a limit. And ultimately all these spent grains really want to be eaten!
While they don’t have a super high nutritional value, spent grains do have a rich nutty flavor and texture, and can be used to create a wide range of baked goods. Once you start thinking about to possibilities, there is almost no end to what you can bake using these leftover grains.
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How to process your spent grains
To get your spent grain ready for cooking or baking, you will have to turn it into a useable flour. This is easier than it sounds and only takes a couple of steps:
- First, you will have to remove any moisture left in the grains. Fresh grains naturally hold a large amount of moisture, and the brewing process only adds to that. So, they will have to be dried. This can be done in either a food dehydrator or in your oven. If you are using an oven, spread out the grains onto a baking sheet in a single layer and bake them at 200 degrees until the feel dry and brittle (about five to six hours). Putting them in the oven at too high a heat will cause them to cook rather then dry, causing them to become hard and tough.
- After the grains have dried, you can take them out of the oven and let them cool briefly before grinding them into flour. This can be done in either a food processor or a coffee grinder. Just make sure to thoroughly clean the coffee grinder before and after processing the flour. The oil left over by coffee beans can cause your flour to clump.
What to do once your grains are processed
Once you have your spent grain flour ground to your desired consistency, it is ready to use for pasta, crackers, cookies, muffins, breads, or breading. One of the best things about reusing spent grains is that it takes on many of the flavors of the beer you used it to brew. Choosing what you bake/make with your spent grain based on the beer you made with it adds a whole new level of flavor to your baking. I have seen many Vermont micro-breweries use their spent grains in bagels (like Frost Beer with Myer’s Bagels or Zero Gravity with Feldman’s Bagels). But one recipe I particularly like is a pretzel recipe from Northern Brewer. You can even make some alterations to it by adding a bit of sourdough starter for some extra depth of flavor.
So, the next time you are cleaning up after your brew day, make sure to bag up that spent grain instead of throwing it in the compost bin. It will save you money on buying flours and reduce the amount of waste going into your bin.
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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of VSECU.
About David Tepfer
David Tepfer is the creative marketing specialist at VSECU. He spends his time focusing on the design and presentation of VSECU’s messaging and communications. He has a passion for all mediums of visual art, is an avid cyclist, and is an influential member of Burlington’s gaming community.