Author Topic: composting spent grain  (Read 10157 times)

Offline the_pig

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composting spent grain
« on: August 23, 2012, 03:04:06 AM »
Hi All:

I'm not sure if this is the right place for this question, so my apologies if not.  But I'm ending up with a fair amount of spent grain after brewing 5 gallon batches of beer (approx 11 lb dry is a lot heavier when wet!)  It seems like a waste to have the trash guys haul that away to a landfill.  Do you compost your spent grain?  Are there any other ways to dispose of it responsibly?  If you compost, do you have any tips for someone with little experience?  Thanks!

Offline danny

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2012, 04:28:12 AM »
yeah go ahead and compost, mix in grass cuttings or hay to help eliminate the smell or if you have a dog make yourself some biscuts.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2012, 05:19:38 AM »
Its imperative that you avoid letting the mass of grain go septic (anaerobic).  The smell is horrendous!  Mixing the grain with other loose organic materials can help keep the pile open and breathing.  Occasional fluffing and turning of the compost pile will also help keep the environment of the pile aerobic. 

If you are starting out a new compost pile, mixing in a little bit of the local soil will help innoculate the pile with microbes needed to perform the composting.  Place the compost pile in a shaded area to reduce the moisture loss or be ready to ocassionally wet the pile to keep it moist. 
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Offline Slowbrew

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2012, 05:44:12 AM »
I have a large enough yard that I can simply spread the spent grain on the lawn.  I basically put it in a homer bucket, use a large spoon and broadcast spread it as if I were planting wheat in the days before modern equipment.  The squirrels love it and it decomposes without any issues.


The only time it has ever gotten a little ripe was a year or two ago in the spring.  I had brewed quite a bit over the winter.  When the snow melted I had a lot of grain on the ground and it was all wet.  A little sun and a couple passes of the lawn mower got rid of it though.

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Online mtnrockhopper

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2012, 06:01:18 AM »
The grains contain way too much nitrogen, which is why they smell, the breakdown can create ammonia and other smelly compounds.  But that means they can be mixed with carbon-y materials like grass clippings, wood chips, leaves, etc which normally don't compost well.
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Offline Delo

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2012, 06:13:16 AM »
Its imperative that you avoid letting the mass of grain go septic (anaerobic).  The smell is horrendous! 

Absolutely.  The best way of doing this is to add in a lot of carbon(brown material) like paper or wood and to make sure the pile is well mixed so there are no pockets of anaerobic activity. I use free woods chips from our county.  Spent grain has a lot of moisture in it already so this is even more important to mix well and add carbon. Vegetables scraps, Coffee, Grass clippings, and green leaves/plant cuttings  are green material. The more you have of them in the compost pile the more carbon you have to add to the spent grain.  If you have a compost pile already, cover the grain with composted soil after mixing in the carbon.  Covering the spent grain will help keep the smell down and unwanted pests like mice and rats away.  I live in an urban area and our yard is small, so I have to pay attention to our compost pile or our neighbors will complain.  I think the most I put in my compost bin in a week was 40 to 50 lbs without problems.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 06:18:41 AM by Delo »

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2012, 06:17:28 AM »
I like to make dog treats, and I have a friend who has a small farm, and she has several pigs who love to eat the left over grains!
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Offline the_pig

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2012, 09:59:18 AM »
Thanks for all the tips!  I also live in an urban area, so it's good to have these warnings going in.

I don't have a dog, but my daughter (who lives nearby) does.  How do you make dog biscuits?  Squish together and bake?

Online kmccaf

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2012, 10:19:05 AM »
I have a large enough yard that I can simply spread the spent grain on the lawn.  I basically put it in a homer bucket, use a large spoon and broadcast spread it as if I were planting wheat in the days before modern equipment.  The squirrels love it and it decomposes without any issues.


The only time it has ever gotten a little ripe was a year or two ago in the spring.  I had brewed quite a bit over the winter.  When the snow melted I had a lot of grain on the ground and it was all wet.  A little sun and a couple passes of the lawn mower got rid of it though.

Paul

+1 I do the same thing.  The squirrels and birds go nuts for it, especially in the Winter, and it is usually gone within 24 hours. But when spring hit, and they actually had something else to eat...that's when it started to get a little ripe.

I spread it way in the back, so I don't ever actually smell it.
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Online micsager

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2012, 10:30:23 AM »
Thanks for all the tips!  I also live in an urban area, so it's good to have these warnings going in.

I don't have a dog, but my daughter (who lives nearby) does.  How do you make dog biscuits?  Squish together and bake?

Just google it, and you'll find many recipes.  Most include some peanut butter.  But be careful there are no hops in it. 

I have a co-worker with small pig farm, and they love the spent grain.  And now that I'm brew 40-50 gallons a month, it's helpful to have a good way to get rid of this grain.  And, the pork chops I get each fall are good too. 

Online kramerog

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2012, 11:43:58 AM »
There are several types of problems you can get with spent grains and spent hops.
-You can get vinegary and fermentation smells in the beginning
-Ammonia smells from being too rich in nitrogen later
-Anaerobic smells from going septic later

The vinegary and fermentation smells come from too much sugar or beer in the grains, which then attract hornets.  The best way to combat this is to have higher efficiency and then to continue sparging with water to extract out all the sugar and starch;  I use that water for irrigation so the water doesn't get wasted. Mixing in dry materials would probably help too.

To avoid ammonia smells, mix in browns (not grass clippings).

To avoid anaerobic, mix in enough dry materials so the pile isn't water logged and air can get into the pile.

In addition, it is much easier to reduce or avoid smells in the winter if you live in a cold climate.  In the Chicago winter, I make no special provisions in managing the compost pile; I dump and run to where it is warm.

The last two classes of smell are automatically avoided if you mulch the spent grains rather than compost.    For mulching, do a high efficiency mash and sparge, dump the grains, and hit the grains with water from a hose to spread the grains out, wash out the sugar into the soil and irrigate at the same time.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 11:48:20 AM by kramerog »
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Offline beer_crafter

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2012, 08:23:48 AM »
I have accidentally developed a super-species of giant suburban rodent which subists on spent grains from the compost pile.  Be careful out there.   ;D

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2012, 09:56:21 AM »
go online and order yourself some black soldier fly larvae. They will eat that grain up in no time. It's fairly gross to watch as masses of half inch long black magots roll around in the spent grain but they don't smell bad, eat alot quickly and then leave. the flies themselves don't eat so they aren't much of a nuisance once they metamorphose and can actually help reduce the populations of other flies through competition. If you ahve chickens they will eat most of the larvae anyway.
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Offline lazydog79

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2012, 02:41:39 PM »
Its imperative that you avoid letting the mass of grain go septic (anaerobic).  The smell is horrendous! 
I learned that the hard way the first time I chucked a load of grain in the composter.  Whoa!    Made me wanna put my head in a dumpster for some fresh air  :o

Absolutely.  The best way of doing this is to add in a lot of carbon(brown material) like paper or wood and to make sure the pile is well mixed so there are no pockets of anaerobic activity. I use free woods chips from our county.  Spent grain has a lot of moisture in it already so this is even more important to mix well and add carbon. Vegetables scraps, Coffee, Grass clippings, and green leaves/plant cuttings  are green material. The more you have of them in the compost pile the more carbon you have to add to the spent grain.  If you have a compost pile already, cover the grain with composted soil after mixing in the carbon.  Covering the spent grain will help keep the smell down and unwanted pests like mice and rats away.  I live in an urban area and our yard is small, so I have to pay attention to our compost pile or our neighbors will complain.  I think the most I put in my compost bin in a week was 40 to 50 lbs without problems.
+1 That's always a good way to get rid of shredder paper.  I've got a bin composter.  I'll put a little paper in, then the grains, and cap it with some more paper.  Keeps the stinkies down!

Offline tubercle

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Re: composting spent grain
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2012, 04:52:41 PM »
I thought about starting a earthworm colony for composting purposes. I wonder what spent grain would do to them?
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