What to do with spent brewing grains? Make cookies of course!
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
I have been brewing for a while now and every brew you end up throwing away a substantial amount of grains. At first I tried putting them in the food waste bin for compost but there were too many grains, so the bulk of grain waste just ended up in the main bin. But this was really not sitting right with me. Throwing all that grain away just felt like a waste, especially on the back of lockdown when so many things had been scarce. So I googled 'What can I do with used spent brewing grains?' The internet said make cookies! Well sort of. There were tons of cookies for dogs but what about people like me. Eventually I found a post that excited me. Human spent grain cookies were possible!
*Skip to the end for the recipe
What are spent grains?
One of the first steps of brewing is the mash. During the mash you steep your malted barley (or whatever grains your brewing with, can be oats or wheat for example) in water for 1 hour to release starches and enzymes. This eventually gives you the sugary water called wort that is essential to make the beer. After this hour, the grains are separated from the wort, then rinsed to remove any residual sugars. The separated used grain at this point is called spent grains. It is one of the major waste products of brewing beer. Although, most commercial brewers recycle as much as they can, it is pretty hard as a homebrewer to use all your spent grain.
Prepping your spent grains for baking
After the grains have used for brewing, squeeze out as much wort as possible. Leave the grains to drain in a colander while you get on with the rest of your brew. You can use the wet grains straight away for baking or you can dry them out by baking at a very low heat in the oven for a couple of hours. Both wet and dry spent grains can be used in baking.
Making the cookies
I found a recipe to make Cranberry and white chocolate spent grain cookies. I already had all the ingredients in the flat so it was perfect. The cranberries and white chocolate were left over from some Christmas baking and the rest were pretty standard baking ingredients. D asked if we could have some Smarties cookies so I split the batch into two and did half with Smarties and the other with Cranberries & White chocolate.
The cookie recipe did not use that much spent grain in reality, only 1.5 cups (not sure the weight in grams). But I used the remaining grains to make spent grain flour for future baking. I used wet grains to make cookies but I later found out that the recipe was designed for dry grains, but the cookies still came out great.
Note: The taste of your cookies will vary depending on the type of beer being brewed.
To make the cookies I combined the softened butter and sugar together, then mix in the eggs. In a separate bowl combine the flour, spent grains, salt and baking soda (I accidentally used baking powder but it did not seem to cause any issues). Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.
I split the batter between two bowls. To one I added the white chocolate and dried cranberries, and to the other I added the Smarties. I learnt today that Smarties are not as bright as they used to be! If you have time, cool the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 20 mins to firm it up.
Spoon into small balls and add to a baking sheet. I was out of baking paper so just greased my baking sheet well with butter. Bake your cookies at 190°C in the oven for 10-15 mins.
The cookies were really good. They were soft, chewy and sweet. You definitely taste the grains and they provide the lovely chewy texture. The white chocolate and cranberries were my favourite. I pIan to make these again and try some other combinations too, maybe raisins and dark chocolate. I feel like you can really chuck whatever you want into these cookies and they would be great. This might become a regular addition to brew day!
Recipe adapted from Lazy Beer Foods
Makes 24 cookies
10 mins prep, 10-15 mins baking per batch.
150 g butter, softened
135 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1.5 cups spent grain (I used wet, but recipe says dry)
180 g flour
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
Cookie fillings - Add whatever you want! I did the following:
White chocolate and cranberry cookies (1/2 batch)
30 g dried cranberries (chopped)
50 g white chocolate chips
Smarties cookies (1/2 batch)
2 x 38 g tubes of Smarties
Preheat oven to 190°C
Combine the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and mix.
Mix together the spent grain, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in multiple small additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in your cookie fillings.
Pop a small spoonful of cookie dough onto the baking paper
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on wire rack or plate.
Store in an airtight tin, and they should be good for a couple of days.