using spent grain (for real this time)
Each time I brew I say that I am going to do something with the spent grain rather than just tossing it. For those of you who aren’t homebrewers, spent grain is the malted barley and other specialty grain that has already been boiled to make wort. Most of the sugars have been removed to create the beer, but the grains are still perfectly good. They are not alcoholic in any way, just wet, hot, and heavy.
Until my last beer – a dunkelweissen – I had never followed through with my desire to use the spent grain. Some people gather it and feed it to birds. Commercial breweries often have farmers that come and pick up the stuff to use as feed.
While I am an animal lover, I live in a no-balcony condo so the bird thing was not too practical. What I really am is a food lover, though, so I decided to try my hand at making spent-grain flour.
There are very simple and straightforward how-to’s online which basically consist of baking the soppy grains at a very low temperature for hours. There are also a ton of recipes for the best ways to use this flour, although it can be substituted for 1/3 to 1/2 of the all-purpose flour in nearly any recipe. The best resource I found for using spent grain is Brooklyn Brewshop’s The Mash.
So, after spreading the grains (mine were about 35% wheat / 65% barley) thinly on two baking sheets, I slid them into the 170 degree oven and let them sit there for about two hours. At that point I mixed them around a bit while simultaneously realizing this method was going to take forever.
The site suggested to leave the oven door open to let the moisture out, but being pragmatic about my air conditioning bill and the miserably hot temps outside, I stubbornly refused to do this. After another hour I decided I didn’t want to leave the oven on all night, so I did it my way. I pulled the grains out and laid them on the counter with an industrial strength fan blowing crosswise over them. In the morning they were completely dry!
The next step is grinding. I started with a food processor for a more coarse batch (left) to be used in whole wheat bread and from there put some of it into a coffee grinder (right) for use in pastries.
Even after using the coffee grinder, there are still relatively large chunks, mostly the grain husks, still present in the flour and this is okay. But bear this in mind when you bake with it.
Using the recipe from The Mash website and the finely ground flour, it was pretty simple. Almost half of the flour is of the spent-grain type. The recipe uses no cocoa powder, only melted chocolate and the result is an incredibly chocolaty brownie. And happy friends.
So happy that there are no photos of the entire pan of baked brownies, lest I lose a finger.
Use spent-grain flour in pancakes, corn dog batter, breads, and pizza dough to add a distinct nuttiness and pleasant texture.
If you don’t brew, ask a friend that does. Most brewers end up with a LOT of grain that – unless they know a chicken farmer – often goes to waste.