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Spent brewing grains uses

 
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Hi All,

I have a friend who is the head brewer at a small local brewery and tells me that they usually just pitch their spent grains, mostly barley and wheat and some rye . I am wondering if this would be a good thing to compost, and if anyone has any specific recommendations on how best to utilize it in the setting of a small fruit orchard.  Will the brewing yeasts help or hinder composting?  Any thoughts appreciated.

Thanks,
 
pollinator
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I am currently composting the spent grains from the last kit of beer I brewed. It sat in the compost pail inside while we filled it, and then I transferred it to our rabbit bedding-dominant compost bin.

The last time I checked it, the smell had changed from an oversweet stale hoppy beer taste to no real smell at all, except for a bit of hay mixed in with the recycled paper bedding.

I think the prime concern for those keeping large quantities of spent grain or trying to compost it is the fact that it will draw pests under most circumstances, along with that sickly sweet scent that occurred as a result of anaerobic decomposition. My compost bin was really cooking, so I think it burned through the spent grain faster than it could draw rodents.

Another approach is to apply an Effective Microbe population to the spent grain and bokashi it. If you found access to that particular niche market, you could conceivably convert spent grains to inoculated bokashi medium for sale to the public.

-CK
 
garden master
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There's several uses for spent grains. Being a brewer myself (well, former brewer), composting is one good use, feeding it to chickens or turkeys is another as is giving it to pigs and cows. Another use is baking bread from spent grains. My wife and I have done that before, it's pretty good. There's tons of recipes out there, here's a simple one: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/bread-from-beer-grains/
 
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Fred Estrovich wrote:Hi All,

I have a friend who is the head brewer at a small local brewery and tells me that they usually just pitch their spent grains, mostly barley and wheat and some rye . I am wondering if this would be a good thing to compost, and if anyone has any specific recommendations on how best to utilize it in the setting of a small fruit orchard.  Will the brewing yeasts help or hinder composting?  Any thoughts appreciated.

Thanks,



WHAT?! You lucky duck! I've never met a brewer that didn't a line of people waiting to take spent grain - it's awesome stuff!

As James said, 97% of the time it's used as fodder. And X2 on the spent-grain bread. I've had some AMAZING breads, but you only need a tiny amount for baking.

It is excellent nitrogen source for composting, as Chris has said. I've used it to great effect that way. But because it's wet and gelatinous if you do just throw it in a bin (or on the ground) it will likely compact and and before to long start undergoing anaerobic composting like crazy; so it stinks to high heaven! I always mix it with a robust (or at least absorbent) carbonaceous material (ramial wood chips, rotted sawdust, straw, chicken bedding of pine shavings, etc) to make sure oxygen stays in it. And it is delicious, so no small wonder rodents love it.

Life taught me (the hard way) that you don't want rodent-accessible compost bins when you compost like me (all the fresh kitchen waste goes in there, and it's like 10 feet from the house) so I built a rodent-proof bin and my spent grain from homebrewing goes in there with everything else. Lovely stuff!

It has so much nitrogen if you mulch your orchard in wood chips you may notice them breaking down faster than you expected! Also for commercial spent grain you won't have any hops or brewing yeast in it, so those won't be factors in your orchard. If you were to throw brewing yeast into a compost operation they would quickly be out-competed as they pretty much can only break down simple sugars. They're coddled Because we love them...

You've landed on composting gold - congrats!!
 
pollinator
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I agree with Bobby Reynolds, I've been composting SBG for years now.


It is excellent nitrogen source for composting, as Chris has said. I've used it to great effect that way. But because it's wet and gelatinous if you do just throw it in a bin (or on the ground) it will likely compact and and before to long start undergoing anaerobic composting like crazy; so it stinks to high heaven! I always mix it with a robust (or at least absorbent) carbonaceous material (ramial wood chips, rotted sawdust, straw, chicken bedding of pine shavings, etc) to make sure oxygen stays in it. And it is delicious, so no small wonder rodents love it.


Definitely a good idea to use plenty of "browns" in the mix, and bulky ones at that. Things that will keep air channels in the pile open; coarse wood chips, twigs, straw, stems... and do a good job of mixing or layering the grains in relatively thin <3" layers.
It WILL go anaerobic in large clumps. The pile will also heat up quite quickly, 3-4 days to reach 140F in the summer, and on to 150-160F in a couple more, so be ready to turn it!

There's a lot of Phosphorous in the grains, so if you are using 1000's of pounds of grain (making tens to hundreds of yards of compost) it will accumulate...
 
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This related thread may be of interest:https://permies.com/t/32617/growing-worms-spent-brewery-grains
 
pollinator
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Others have commented on the suitability of spent grains for compost, but I'll add, to address one of your questions, that there will be no brewing yeast involved.  Yeast is added to the wort, which is the liquid removed when the grains have been steeped in water.  There may, of course, be bits of yeast floating around the brewery, both domestic and wild, but in the brewing process what you have (spent grains) are a pre-yeast thing.  Just for what it's worth.
 
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This forum reminded me of when the grain trains used to derail around the south side of Glacier National Park all the time, (many years ago).  
The railroad would bury the grain next to the tracks, well, a few weeks later the grain would ferment and the grizzly bears loved to dig it up and eat it.  
Nothing like watching a bunch of grizzlies, (from a distance) staggering around drunk!!  
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Wes Hunter, true about the yeast.... most of the time.

The brewery that I work with puts their yeast trub from a previous batch onto the HOT grains in the mash tun before emptying the tun.
This is hot enough to kill the yeast (theoretically) and is a waste management tactic to save it from clogging their drains.

So, it is worth a conversation regarding the true content of what you are getting from the brewery, and what your plans/requirements are for the grain.
Other "added goodies" might include ingredients such as: hops, fruit, herbs, vegetables (pumpkin, etc.) as well as possibly peels, stems, pits from the same if they know it is for going for compost... and sometimes unusable spoiled ingredients like hops or grains.
Some animals don't care for the bitterness of hops, so if you are getting it to use as feed, it's worth asking if they would keep it separate.

To the brewer, it is all just waste to be gotten rid of... but they may accommodate your needs if you ask.
 
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Look at this topic Flour from brewery grains
 
Can you really tell me that we aren't dealing with suspicious baked goods? And then there is this tiny ad:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars
http://woodheat.net
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