As homebrewers know, the benefits to making your own beer are innumerable. You control the taste, carbonation, alcohol content, balance, and character of what you drink. You’re always ready for an impromptu gathering. Homebrew makes a thoughtful last-minute gift. And you get so good at sterilizing equipment, you’re practically qualified to work in a laboratory. But one major drawback is the sheer volume of leftover ingredients you’re forced to deal with after the fact. You can compost them, till them into your garden soil, or freeze them for later use, but we know that ultimately grains just want to get eaten. While they don’t offer a ton of nutritional value, save for adding fiber, spent grains do impart a nutty flavor, give great texture, and can be used to create an impressively diverse range of bakery-fresh treats. Once the possibilities start a-brewin’ (sorry) in your head, you’ll find opportunities to use spent grain and spent grain flour (method below) everywhere you look. Here are four basic ways to give your spent grains a second chance.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate spent grain into desserts and other baked goods, is to dry it out and process it into flour. Then you can simply replace traditional flour in any recipe (or do half and half to achieve softer textures) with your spent grain flour. Store it in an airtight container and it will keep for a couple months.
Spent grain flour
Pre-heat oven to the lowest temperature setting (usually 200 degrees or below) and spread out spent grains onto an ungreased cookie sheet. It’s best if liquid has already been strained out as much as possible. Bake them until they’re completely dried out, which will generally take about seven hours. When you can no longer detect any moisture, take the sheet out and allow the grain to cool a bit before giving the batch a whizz in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also make the flour in a coffee grinder. Process to your desired consistency and it’s ready to use in pasta, crackers, pastry shells, cookies, cobbler, muffins, and veggie burgers.
One of the most common things to do with spent grain is to make it into bread. Some spent grain bread can be too dense to the point where you can’t really use it in an everyday capacity like making a sandwich. You have to spread something really rich on it like salmon mousse or pâté in order to make it palatable, but the coolest thing about all spent grain bread is that it takes on some of the same characteristics of the beer you just brewed with it. This recipe developed by Hob Weiss (a.k.a. Dad), uses a combination of Belgian Munich malt, Belgian Caramunich, and a special roast all from St. Paul homebrewer Nathan Steigman. “The Munich malt has very low diastatic power,” Steigman explains. “That means without a longer mash to convert sugars it would not add much to my beer’s eventual alcohol, but would still be a sweet grain for flavor.” The bread that this recipe yields manages to avoid any of the usual staleness and consistency problems of other spent grain breads I’ve tried. It’s a winner, and once you have the method down you can experiment with throwing in fruit, olives, cheeses, herbs, and all different types of grain.
Spent grain bread
yields two generous loaves
2 ¼ cups water
1 tablespoon sweetener (molasses, raw sugar, honey, etc.)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 compressed cups of spent grains (can add up to ½ cup more, depending on textural preference)
In a 5 quart standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk together the water, sweetener, and yeast. Slowly add flour and spent grains (ed. 2/15/2013) one cup or less at a time until the dough forms a football shape on the dough hook and the sides of the bowl are relatively clean. Turn out the dough with floured hands, and move it into a large plastic bowl with a lid. Scrape mixing bowl with plastic scraper.
Knead bread right in the bottom of the bowl, flouring as required. To knead efficiently, rotate the dough 90 degrees on each turn, lifting the top of the ball towards your body, and then pushing away from your body towards the center of the ball. Continue kneading and stretching those strands of gluten until you get a tight, dome-shaped dough ball. Keep the dough on the wet side as the grain in this bread has a tendency to be dry when finished.
Cover the bowl with the lid and allow bread to rise and double in size. Add salt and oil and knead lightly to incorporate before cutting the dough in half. Knead each half into a ball by holding in both hands and tucking under as you rotate the dough.
Turn the two portions of dough into oiled, full-size steel loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise and double in size. Once doubled, remove plastic and score bread with a serrated knife. This helps control the way the bread expands as it heats, preventing any irregularities in shape.
Heat oven to 450 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes.
Spent grain treats shouldn’t just be reserved for humans. This recipe from St. Paul homebrewing pro Ben Sacquitne is a great way to use up spent grain and will make your pup very pleased. If you have a big bucket to store them, you can easily double or triple the recipe and cross “dog treats” off your shopping list for a few months.
Spent grain dog treats
4 cups spent grain
2 cups flour (can use spent grain flour here, or a blend)
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
You may need to adjust the amount of flour in the recipe based on the amount of liquid left in the grains. Using your hands, mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Then shape using a cookie cutter or cut into rounds using the open end of a drinking glass with a floured rim.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes for softer, cookie-like treats (great for older dogs or puppies), or bake at 225 for 2 hours to achieve a more biscuit-like treat.
For brewers who tend to do their work on the weekends, this recipe is perfect for a beer-themed brunch. We recommend a menu of Bloody Marys with beer backs, Quiche Lorraine with a spent grain pastry crust, and these tasty spent grain waffles.
Spent grain waffles
(yields 6 to 8 waffles, depending on the size/shape of your iron)
2 cups flour (use all purpose flour in this recipe – it’s just better)
¾ cup spent grains, compressed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cup milk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat your waffle iron and whisk together wet ingredients, except the spent grain. Gradually add in dry ingredients and finally the spent grain. Mix until combined. Pour batter into the center of the iron, about a ½ cup per batch and cook according to your machine’s directions.
Leftover waffles will keep frozen for two months. To reheat, just break them up and pop them in the toaster.
So start experimenting with adding spent grain to whatever you bake and if all else fails Sacquitne offers a pretty good back up plan: “Feed it to chickens.Then eat the chicken.”