Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Experiments with Spent Grain: Rats, Mold & Cookies

Since we switched to all-grain brewing, we've been experimenting with different ways to use our spent grain. Originally we buried it around the shrubs in our backyard as fertilizer. (Man oh man, did the hydrangea love it!) This seemed to be the perfect use for it, that is until the rats found it. In Chicago, the common alley rats are Norway rats. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Norway rats "will eat nearly any type of food, but they prefer high-quality foods such as meat and fresh grain." Well, they found a jackpot of fresh grain in our yard! Unfortunately for us we had to find a new use for our grain.

When we're not brewing, I spend a good deal of my time baking. I know that many brewpubs (and homebrewers) use spent grains in their bread. Believe it or not, even as a homebrewer, I'm not a patient person, so that ruled out baking bread. (The rising, the kneading, the waiting - ugh!) However, spent grain adds a nice chewy texture to cookies and crisps.

There are two main things to remember when baking with spent grain:
  1. It must be DRY
  2. Use in moderation
Drying: Don't think you can just leave your grains out to dry - I tried that and got a moldy, smelly goop. After some trial and error, here is what I've found to be the best way to dry grains:
  • Spread a thin layer of drained grains on a microwave safe dish. (Use pyrex or something very sturdy, as you'll need to nuke it for quite a while.)
  • Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Stir and nuke for another 6 minutes. (If dried, the grains will stick to the dish.)
  • Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator
Use in moderation: remember that the majority of the flavor/sweetness in the grains is extracted during the mashing process. This leaves behind a fairly flavorless and very chewy grain; thus, you're using the grains for texture only. A little goes a long way.

To date I've only baked two things with the dried grains, both successes! Below is my recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Spent Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1/4 c. butter-flavored shortening
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, loosely packed
1.5 t. vanilla
1 egg
3/4-1 c. spent grains
1 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using mixer, cream butter and shortening until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, mix until smooth. Add grains and mix until combined.

In separate bowl, whisk remaining dry ingredients. Add to the wet mixture until combined. (Do not overmix.) Add chips.

Drop by spoonfuls/scoopful onto sheets. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden.

Feel free to make substitutions, although I think that nuts may clash with the grain texture. I've used butterscotch chips in place of the chocolate - delicious.

I'm always looking for new spent grain recipes or suggestions on drying. If you have either or both of those, please leave a comment. Next recipe: Fresh Cherry Crisp


  1. Thanks for the tip on drying, I was wondering the best way. I'm also looking for better ways to use spent grains so if you come up with anymore please post.

  2. Check out the Cherry Crisp recipe. It also uses spent grains.