BY: Joe Piccirillo, BPS Applied Food Studies
After a long day of cooking, sitting in class, memorizing recipes, or studying, many students seek repose in The Egg. Some may want to enjoy a cold beer and unwind. In Brooklyn Brewery’s state-of-the-art brewing facilities and classroom, Head Brewer Hutch Kugeman educates students in the art, science, and history of one of the world’s most ancient beverages. Beer has four key ingredients grains (malt), water, hops, and yeast. Together these components give the beverage its iconic flavor, aroma, and pleasant effervescence many people have grown to love. The grains stand out in the brewing procedure. Grains allow the wort (unfermented beer) to begin the fermentation process by providing necessary sugars to feed the yeast and determine the final flavor of the finished product. After mashing is complete, the remaining grains are strained out of the wort and are often thrown out. This generation of large amounts of spent grains as byproduct has become a major disposal problem in the brewing industry. Fortunately, as sustainability movements grow in popularity, brewers have grown more resourceful. Some have reached out to local farmers in their area who can use spent grains as cattle feed. Beyond animal feed, brewer’s waste makes an excellent nitrogen-rich component in any sort of composting system.
Spent grains are a treasure in their own right. They are rich in nutrients such as protein and fiber, and acquire a distinct sweet and nutty flavor from the brewing process. Because of this, chefs and home cooks alike are adapting to the culinary uses of spent grains. Here are the CIA, Chef George Shannon, the chef instructor of the breakfast class at The Egg, has done extensive research in the utilization of these grains. Chef Shannon has been working with Hutch at the school’s brewery and is trying to utilize as much of the grains as possible.
Once Chef receives the grains, he begins to process them into flour. First, the grains are all laid on sheet trays, about ½ inch layer per tray. Then they go into an oven, set at the temperature 225F. Over the course of a few hours, the low heat will dry all the moisture out as well as deepening the flavor of the finished product. During this process, it is imperative that the grains are rotated on to new sheet trays, about every 30 minutes. This ensures even drying and safeguards the grains from sticking to the tray as moisture is released. After drying is complete, the grains are stone ground into flour in a grinder. The coarseness of the flour varies from coarse to fine, depending on the final usage. Now that flour is now ready to use and appears in many of Chef Shannon’s breakfast dishes. From waffles to muffins, spent grains are fortifying these dishes with nutrients, and most importantly, flavor. Chef Shannon is continuing to find new and innovative ways to provide these grains with an afterlife.
Although Chef Shannon is doing good things with our brewery’s spent grains, we are still disposing, on average, about 500-600 pounds a week. Hutch is willing to give grains to students. Now that you are aware of the benefits and many uses of spent grains, stop on by the brewing facility a grab a few pounds of grains, and discover your own new way to repurpose them.