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What do we do with the Spent Grain after a Mash?

I am working on opening a new distillery, and one of the questions that comes up is how do we get rid of the spent grain after fermenting on the grain?


  • daddad
    edited July 2016

    You dewater it and feed it to your cows! It can be approx 30% of their feed. Hogs, horses, chickens,...percentage max varies. Then we have a BBQ. Some day, I will offer mash fed/finished beef for the distilleries customers.

    I've read a lot on this and just recently read that stillage from a copper still is bad for sheep. It's posted here somewhere.

    Alternatively we have made/baked salty cracker treats from it. Started for dogs, now for humans.

    If you have the space it makes great compost. But you have to dry it quickly or live with the smell.

    It only becomes worthless when you have too much!

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • edited July 2016

    Traditionally, barley based mashes are separated after mashing, and corn/rye based mashes are separated after distillation.

    Separating after fermentation is not-so-traditional, but is doable. However, the spent grain will contain alcohol, unlike the other two models.

    However, I suspect it will be more palatable to animals than post-distillation stillage, which is very acidic. They might get drunk. Alcoholic pigs probably make great customers.

    I think it's easier to separate a corn/rye mash after fermentation (especially when using viscosity reducing enzymes), than before fermentation, but realize that it requires an additional step in the process, where you transfer the beer to a separation vessel, or back to the mash tun. From a process perspective, it becomes inefficient due to the additional transfer and additional vessel that is require (and needs to be cleaned). If you had an extra $30,000 for a Russell Finex LSS, this would be easy.

    Call up your local trash hauling companies and ask them what their rates are on landfill or composted food waste. Use this as the baseline in your financial model. If you can find someone to take it for free, great, but it's MUCH HARDER IN DO IN THE REAL WORLD. Farmers don't want to drive 20 miles to pick up a couple pounds of spent grain. Worse, when you are sitting on 2 tons of spent grain, they forget to show up and it goes bad, then they don't want it, and you gotta dump. Like I said, budget for landfill, or compost if you are feeling environmentally friendly. Any better is gravy.

  • Maybe a local farmer can pick it up? Cattle love spent grain. Alcohol left in the grain may be an issue but fancy Wagyu beef get fed beer from time to time right? Or is that a rumour....

  • edited July 2016

    We spoke with at least 20 farmers, and went through 4 others before we found the one consistent, reliable one.

    One was unreliable - gone

    One said his animals didn't eat it, so he was composting 75% of it - he wasn't interested - gone

    One changed his mind after a few pickups, wasn't worth his time, having to drive 40 miles each way - gone

    One had sheep, he picked up once, they didn't touch it - gone - he didn't even want to return our containers (like $200 in HDPE sealable barrels)

    We had a number of folks interested in taking it, for free, if we would deliver - yeah right.

    Now that the temps are 90 degrees, we need to schedule our distillations based on when he can pickup grain, and work backwards from that. If it sits for 2 days, it's garbage.

    We are doing at least a ton a week.

    I suspect most of the people that suggest this, have never tried to do it at commercial scale.

  • @grim said: Like I said, budget for landfill, or compost if you are feeling environmentally friendly. Any better is gravy.

    I like that approach.

  • edited July 2016

    The crazy backyard chicken people are great, they are super consistent and would be there every day. Problem is, they want to take 5g buckets of it. I'd need to find like 100 people. If they all bought whiskey when they picked up, I wouldn't mind as much, but it's a ton of work.

    If you find a guy, make sure he gets a bottle on his birthday, for christmas, make sure his wife gets a fruit basket on her birthday, take him to dinner, etc.

  • One farmer this side is making a fortune from it. He buys shitty cattle at rock bottom price, feeds / fattens them on the spent grain and resells the cattle in approx. 4 months and makes a fortune with people saying fantastic cattle and in good condition.

  • We've got a llama farmer less than 2 miles away, and it's on my way home from work, so even when they don't pick up, it's easy to drop off. A lucky situation, although there's another llama farm even closer if we need it.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Dolly's Llama Farm?

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • @Kapea said: Dolly's Llama Farm?

    Now stop that!

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Ooooooommmmmmm...

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • OoooooommmmmmmigodKapeasgettingfriskyagain. Ya gettin' a lot of negative air ions down there?

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Most of my spent grain ends up as compost but if you have a brewer friend they may be interested in it. There's been a big surge in sour beers with the craft breweries and home brewers around these parts. Recently I gave my brewer friend about 10 gallons of spent cracked corn that was unsparged. Once he smelled it his eyes lit up and his imagination started going crazy. He combined it with some of his spent grain from a recent IPA he made, did a light boil, etc., etc., sparged, and pitched a White Labs (WLP045) Scotch whiskey yeast I gave him to try out. I had a taste of the still fermenting beer the other day and it is already one of the best sours I've ever had, I can't wait to try it once it's finished. I'm going to have to learn more about brewing beer so that I can start reusing my spent grain to make my own sours.

  • We ferment off the grain & the spent mash goes to the cows. We can make a 400-500kg mash last about a week & they are queued up at the gate every morning waiting for breakfast.



    800 x 450 - 68K
    800 x 450 - 67K
  • NICE...450kgs a week to how many cows?

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • Portable pellet mills are becoming reasonably cheap these days. Some Lucerne chaff mixed through spent grains then through the pellet mill makes a good feed that lasts without spoilage issues.

  • I don't know the term "Lucerne chaff". Can you explain?

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • Does anyone have any experience with burning spent grains in a pellet stove? Of course they would have to be dried

  • edited July 2016

    @zymurgybob said: I don't know the term "Lucerne chaff". Can you explain?

    Safeway's house brand for chaff? :))

    I know what it is. Because I know what google is.

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • Lucerne is a form of legume feed and chaff is made from chopping the stalks and leaves to short lengths to allow the animals to process it.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @zymurgybob what punkin said, it's feed grown for green feed, hay or chaff, known as "Alfalfa hay" in the states apparently Medicago Sativa is its fancy name @hellbilly007 not sure about spent grains, I know a few people who use their grains that only make low feed grade (mainly wheat) in pellet stoves but not sure how dried spent grains would go, refer my pellet mill suggestion !

  • It might take more energy to dry it than you'd get from burning it.

  • edited August 2016

    Point taken, @Kapea. I know the stuff well, as alfalfa, but lucerne came out of left field, or maybe a Swiss Safeway. Ah, people separated by a common language.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • As far as drying the grain I'd just be spreading it out on a framed screen, placed in the sun. Perhaps for the winter months I could use a rack with screens over the stove. I'm just brainstorming here.

    I'm really liking Osmaltman's, over at HD, mixing of molasses and spent grains, pressed into blocks for deer feed.

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