We can find a great variety of grains in our foods but you may likely have never heard of spent grains.
Spent grains are a by-product of the brewing process. This type of grain is the grain after it has been used by a brewer to make beer.
While many large breweries send their spent grains to landfill or donate it as animal feed, there are many other ways to use spent grain.
But how long does spent grain last? And how do you store it best? In this article, we cover everything you need to know about spent grains.
What Are Spent Grains?
Also known as brewer’s spent grain, spent grains are an industrial by-product of the brewing process.
Brewers call spent grains the “malt”. This is typically barley that is soaked, sprouted and then dried to make beer.
This type of grains is labelled as “spent” because the brewer cannot use it to make beer with it again.
This is because all the starches from the grains have been extracted.
These starches are essential for the brewing process as they provide the fermentable sugar that activates the yeast.
What Is Spent Grain Made Of?
Spent grain used by breweries is usually barley that has been processed, soaked and dried. It is made of hemicellulose and cellulose fibers as well as phenols and protein.
What Is Spent Grain Used For?
Most brewers send their spent grain either to landfill or as cattle feed to farmers.
Spent grain is a wet by-product of brewing beer and this makes it challenging to dispose of it easily, especially in cities.
How Long Do Spent Grains Last?
Fresh spent grains only last for a few days. Spent grains must be used very quickly or they will start to lose their nutritional value or go bad.
If you store spent grains in warm weather for a day, they will start to turn bad and give off a terrible smell.
If you want to use spent grains, then you will need to dry the grains to a moisture level below 12%. This will slow down the rotting process.
In addition, you can also freeze spent grains which extends their shelf life. Frozen spent grains can last for a couple of months in the freezer.
How To Store Spent Grain
There are a couple of different ways that you can store spent grains, including drying and freezing.
The reason why spent grains are a challenge to process further is because they are wet. Wet grains don’t last very long and they rot quickly.
That’s why, it is essential to dry your spent grains before you store before them.
Dry Spent Grains
The drying process requires you to bake the grains at a low temperature on sheet trays until the outside and inside of the grains is fully dry.
However, the drying of spent grains also has its disadvantages. It leaves the grains crispy which means you cannot use it for certain baking recipes, such as bread making.
Freeze Spent Grains
As drying takes a long time, it can be much easier to freeze spent grains to store them immediately.
Plus, frozen spent grains are much easier to store in solid blocks in your freezer.
This being said, when it comes to defrosting your spent grains, you will end up with wet grains that need drying to be used.
Step-By-Step Guide On How To Store Spent Grains
Here is a quick tutorial on how to prepare your spent grains for freezing so they can last longer.
Remove Excess Fluid
You will need to drain as much fluid as possible from the spent grains. This can be by pressing them.
Drying Spent Grains In The Oven
Once you removed most fluid from your spent grains, you need to put them on a shallow baking tray. Try to spread the grains out as much as possible so they don’t stick together.
Then, place your baking tray with the grains into the pre-heated oven on 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
You know that your grains are done in the first round when they don’t make a sizzling sound anymore.
Next, remove the tray from the oven and stir the grains, so they turn over. Then place them back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Check that the grains no longer feel moist when you touch them. You will still steam a little bit.
Alternatively to this method, you can also dry your spent grains for around 7 hours in the oven on 170 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just make sure that you turn them over at around 4 hours into the drying process. The entire drying time can vary depending on your oven and how humid it is.
But you will know that your barley is fully dry when the grains are dry to the touch and not steaming anymore.
Instantly Freeze Your Spent Grains
If you go with the short drying time, then you will need to take your spent grains out the oven and put them just under the blower vent inside your freezer.
You will need to let your grains freeze slowly. However, it’s important that you move them quickly from the oven into the frozen to prevent any moisture from escaping onto the tray surface.
Once your spent grains are fully frozen, you can place them into a plastic storage container or bag.
You can also freeze your fully dry spent grains. Just place them into an airtight container and keep them frozen.
Alternatively, you can also keep spent grains that have been fully dried in an airtight jar in your pantry.
How To Use Spent Grains
While brewers don’t use spent grains any further for brewing, you can use them at home in a variety of different ways.
One of the most popular home recipes for spent grains is by using it in bread. Spent grain bread contains a lot of nutrition from the barley grain.
Plus, it also has a mild malt flavor that pairs very well with a glass of beer.
You can modify almost any bread recipe to work with spent grains but there are also many specific spent grain bread recipes online.
Compost Spent Grains
Spent grains make a fantastic compost as they contain a large amount of nitrogen which is excellent for most soils.
Just work the spent grains into the ground or mix them with wood chips, coffee grounds or dry leaves for a varied compost.
Feed Your Chickens
Chickens love spent grain, so this is a very nutritious chicken feed.
Make Dog Treats
If you don’t have chickens but you have a four-legged companion, then you can use spent grains to make some fantastic dog treats.
Make sure to follow a spent grain dog treat recipe, so your furry friend can enjoy his special snack.
While spent grains only last a couple of days until they go bad, you can dry and freeze them to make them last longer.
It’s essential that you store spent grains either in the freezer or as fully dry grains in an airtight jar. This will extend the grains’ shelf life.