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Brewers’ grain, also known as brewers’ spent grain or BSG, is the residue of malt and beer production. This brewing by-product is sometimes wasted causing an important environmental impact, nevertheless, with the circular economy in mind, brewers’ grain processing can turn waste into value mainly for the feed and food industry, tackling some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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Brewers’ grain is a major by-product of the brewing industry.

From the by-products of the brewing industry, brewers spent grain constitutes around 85% of the total, followed by approximately 13% of spent yeast. To get a better picture of the actual brewers grain volume, just make the calculation; when you produce 100 liters of beer, you get 20 Kg of wet BSG, then compare it to the global production of beers that in 2021 was 1.86 billion hectoliters, according to the statista.

That important volume of spent grain could create environmental degradation. Fortunately, the added value from brewers grain processing makes it a good raw material for the feed and food industry. But a small part of this by-product is still disposed of in the landfill.

 

Brewers grain processing consists of preserving the grains as quickly as possible.

Spent grains come out of the brewing process as wet residue. The high content of water makes the grains vulnerable to microbial growth and fast deterioration. But they are rich in protein, fiber, and sugar. Thus, the importance of consuming it wet immediately or preserving the grains as quickly as possible. Some brewers sell or give away their spent grains just after processing when still wet. Its transportation can be costly and polluting, but it is expensive and difficult to preserve it on site, especially if you don’t have the space in your facility. The challenge is to find an industrial symbiosis to reduce emissions and waste by valorizing spent grains.

You can preserve the brewers’ grains by solar drying, oven drying, or freeze drying. Two of the brewers grain equipment most commonly used are rotary drum dryers and continuous fluid bed dryers. Drying the grains will reduce moisture from 80% to less than 10%, then you will obtain a brewers grain meal that can be converted into flour. There are also other physical methods including steam drying and freezing, as well as chemical and biological methods.

 

Brewers spent grain valorization, conveys into upcycling the value chain.

One of the objectives of the circular economy is to upcycle the value chain, in this case adding value to spent grains to use them as raw material for many products. For this reason, the brewery industry is finding synergies with other industries, innovation hubs, and other actors, to find solutions to meet the sustainable development goals. This way, brewers avoid dropping the residues into landfills, creating a circular bioeconomy around the spent grains.

Using spent grains for animal feed, food and fertilizers are the most common way of contributing to the SDGs.  But there are also innovative applications such as new materials and compounds in the biotechnology industry, as well as bioenergy which includes biogas, biofuel, ethanol and others, that can be used for the brewing processes.

Processing steps involved in brewers-grain making

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