You can make a delicious spent grain bread using the grains left over from home brewing. Let me show you how.
Most bread made with spent grain tends to be hearty and chewy. And there is a time and a place for that. This loaf bakes up nice and soft and is perfect for making sandwiches. I also have a great recipe for spent grain crackers and spent grain granola bars you might really like.
If you’d like to use actual beer in a yeast bread, try my Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter Beer Bread.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my bread and rolls recipes in one place. Thank you for visiting!
How To Use Spent Grains in Bread
Bread and beer are closely related and share almost the same ingredients.
And this Particular bread has even more in common with beer than most since I used the spent grains from The Beloved’s latest Brewing Escapade in the dough.
To brew beer, you can either use a malt extract, which is an evaporated form of what you’d get if you boiled cracked whole grains. Or, you can start with the cracked grains and boil them to extract a lot of the flavor.
The leftover grains–pounds and pounds, even for fairly small batches of beer–are generally composted or fed to chickens or otherwise tossed away.
Why Bake with Spent Grains?
But just because they’re called “spent grains” doesn’t mean that they are completely bereft of goodness. They still have some flavor left, a bit of the wort (pre-beer) clinging to them, texture, protein, and fiber–all good things, when it comes to bread.
And unless you like super soft white bread, you will appreciate the extras that come with baking with spent grains.
If you like a bread with a strong bready character and flavor, one with a moist, soft-yet-chewy crumb and caramelized crisp-chewy crust, then you are Totally in the right place. You must make this bread.
Should I Dry Out My Spent Grains?
The nice thing about this bread is you don’t have to start with dried grains. You can literally go from brew pot (once cooled down) to dough.
For some applications, like for making granola with spent grains, you’ll want to dry the grains out first.
The easiest way I’ve found to dry our spent grains is to spread them out on a half sheet pan and bake in a low oven (150F or as low as your oven will go), stirring every 30 minutes, until dry and crisp.
This could take upwards of 7-8 hours, so just be aware that, while it’s a hands-off process, it will still require the use of your oven for the better part of a day.
Start Your Spent Grain Bread with a Poolish
What Is a Poolish?
A poolish is a type of starter for bread. A “proto-dough,” if you will, made up of flour, water and a touch of yeast. Its purpose is to:
- give the yeast a chance to get a jump start on growing without a bunch of other ingredients weighing it down, and
- develop additional flavor
Poolish is also generally considered to be equal parts, by weight, of flour and water along with a smidge of yeast.
So, the hydration of a poolish expressed in bakers percentages is 100%, since the flour and water are of equal weight. What you’re looking for is a bit like a pancake batter texture.
Remember our baker’s percentages from above? A poolish is made of a portion of that 100% of flour, and can comprise up to about 50% of the total weight of the flour.
For example, if your bread will contain 500g of flour (500g=100%), the flour in your poolish can weigh up to 250g, or 50%.
My bread ended up containing 25 oz (709g) of flour, 5 oz (142g) of which was contained in the poolish. So the percentage of flour in the poolish is calculated thusly: 142/709 x 100=about 20%.
NOTE: Since you want your poolish (and the yeast in it) to be nice and active when you start making the “brewers bread,” make the poolish no more than about 12 hours before you make the full bread dough.
Do You Have To Start with a Poolish?
Strictly speaking, no.
I think you really should use some sort of starter, as it is what lends complexity and chew to your finished bread. Breads made with starters or pre-ferments like a poolish are chewier than breads made without. If you’re a fan of chewy bread, definitely use a starter of some sort.
I also turned the poolish into a sponge, which is another interim step that isn’t strictly necessary, but as I didn’t want to use very much yeast at all, making a loose sponge allowed the yeasties that were there to multiply and eat and stretch without having a heavy dough weighing it down. If you want to skip the sponge step, just add more yeast.
About Bakers Percentages
Want a little bread baking science? I shall give it to you.
In order to scale a bread recipe up or down, all ingredients can be expressed as a percentage of the weight of the flour.
However much flour you are using in your bread is considered 100% of the flour. Because 100% is another way of saying “all.”
The rest of your ingredients–liquid, salt, fat, spent grains, yeast–can be expressed as a percentage of the flour.
As a quickie example, if the flour in your bread recipe weighs 500 grams and your water weighs 300 grams, the flour=100% and the water=60%, or 300 divided by 500 times 100.
Understanding baker’s percentages can help you scale your loaf with ease. If you want to scale up our hypothetical recipe to 750g flour (your new 100%), you know you’ll need 60% of that weight in liquid, or 450g (750 x .60).
In regular sandwich bread, the liquid, usually water and/or milk, is scaled at 55-60% the weight of the flour. This percentage of water is pretty much the standard and allows for an even, tight crumb which is good for spreading butter on without it dripping through. In artisan-style loaves, the hydration percentage, or amount of water, is sometimes as much as 75%. That’s what gives you that lovely open crumb and big old holes. Lots of character, but not so great for a pb&j.
I purposely kept the hydration level of this bread to 60% so I’d end up with a nice sandwich loaf. If you’d like a more “artisan-style” loaf of spent grain bread, you can increase the amount of water in your recipe.
Where Can I Get Spent Grains?
If you are a home brewer and don’t use extracts but cracked grains, you can just use the grains after you boil them.
If you’re not a home brewer or don’t have a friend who is, if there’s a craft brewery in your area, it’s worth it to ask for some of their spent grains. Chances are they will be happy to let you have some. Or find your local homebrew club and ask those guys.
Since most people just throw them away, they should be happy to let you take some off of their hands.
If you can’t come by spent grains, you could easily substitute soaked grains such as oatmeal, farro, or wheat berries. Or quinoa. You could even throw in some sunflower seeds, if you want.
OK. Enough talk. On to the delicious spent grain bread. Remember, only make your poolish half a day or so (12-ish hours) before starting to bake.
Another Reader Rave
Emily Roth (@madetrueblue on Instagram) made this bread after brewing some beer, and here’s what she had to say.
She also shared a photo on Instagram. See how beautiful?!
What Else Can I Make with Spent Grains?
Spent grains are pretty versatile. Use them wet or dried. Here are a few recipes for you to try:
If you also would like to know how to use brewers’ yeast to make bread, please read my post about that. For some other bread made using brewers’ yeast, try these recipes
How-To for Making Spent Grain Bread
Here’s the lowdown on the steps of making spent grain bread so you can plan you time accordingly. Note that most of your time will be spent waiting around for Things to Happen.
- Make the poolish.
12 hours before baking, and no more than 16 hours before, stir together your poolish, cover loosely with a lint-free kitchen towel, and let sit out.
- Make the sponge.
Mix all the poolish together with the sponge ingredients. You can do this in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover loosely and let rise until just about doubled, about 4 hours or so.
- Make the dough.
Mix the rest of the dough ingredients in with the sponge. Knead until smooth, shaped into a ball, and allow to rise until almost doubled, 3 hours or so.
- Shape and pan the dough.
After the first rise, press out the gases, fold the dough a few times, and then shape into loaves and pan. Cover and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Bake and Cool.
Bake the loaves until they reach an internal temperature of 205F, about 30 minutes. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool the loaves completely.
Bread Baking Essentials
I’m not going to tell you you must buy an expensive stand mixer, although they do make life easier when making bread. You don’t even need bread pans, technically.
But there are two pieces of equipment I really want you to buy, because they are very versatile and you will use them for almost all your baking, and even some of you cooking.
Please get an instant read thermometer, and please buy a kitchen scale.
A thermometer is extremely helpful in knowing when all sorts of things are finished baking or cooking, from your Thanksgiving turkey to your Thanksgiving rolls or pumpkin pie, and just about everything in between.
And a scale ensures consistency of results from batch to batch of whatever you make. Please, please, make these two pieces of equipment part of your kitchen family.
How to Store Your Homemade Bread
You’ve worked really hard and spent a bunch of time making this bread, so you want to make sure to enjoy every slice.
Store the loaves at room temperature for up to a day. Once you start slicing bread, go ahead and slice the entire loaf, place the sliced loaf in a freezer bag, press out the air, and freeze.
Pull out pieces as you need them, microwaving them for 10-12 seconds to thaw or just letting them thaw naturally while you make your sandwich.
Or your toast with butter, jelly, and/or honey.
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For the Poolish
- 5 oz . water
- 5 oz . bread flour
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
For the Sponge
- all the poolish
- 4 oz water
- 4 oz bread flour
- 4 oz spent grains
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
For the Bread
- all the sponge
- 16 oz bread flour
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2-3 teaspoons kosher salt, (to taste, but don't leave it out)
- 4-6 oz water
For the Egg Wash
- 1 egg, , beaten
For the Poolish
- Stir all ingredients together.
- Let sit at room temperature, loosely covered, for 12-16 hours
For the Sponge
- Mix all the ingredients together in a big old bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Cover loosely, and let stand until very bubbly on top and almost doubled in volume, about 4-5 hours.
For the Bread
- Dump the rest of the ingredients in with your sponge. Start with the lesser amount of water.
- Mix until the dough comes together, adding water if necessary. The resulting dough should be smooth, only slightly sticky and fairly extensible.
- Once the dough is mixed, knead by hand for a good 15 minutes or for about 7 minutes on medium-low speed on the stand mixer.
- Shape dough into a smooth ball and put right back in your bowl. Brush the top with olive oil and cover.
- Let the dough rise in a warmish place until doubled in bulk, about 3-3 1/2 hours.
- Evenly press the gases out of the dough, fold it over on itself several times, and divide the dough into two equal parts. Each of my loaves scaled at 21.7 ounces, but yours will vary depending on how much water you ended up adding.
- Shape each half into a rectangle and then roll up, tucking the ends of the cylinder you've just made under.
- Place the dough, seam side down, in lightly sprayed bread pans. Mine were 4 1/2" by 8 1/2".
- Let the dough rise until almost doubled in bulk, another 1 1/2-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Brush the loaves evenly with the egg wash. You can slash the tops of the loaves with an oiled razor or just leave them alone.
- Bake on the lowest rack for about half an hour, or until the internal temperature of the bread is around 205F and the loaf sounds hollow when you thump it.
- Let the loaves cool on wire racks for at least an hour before slicing and devouring.
Total Recipe Time does not include the hands off time of waiting for the poolish to...pool...or for the sponge to get bubbly.
Expect it to take 2 full days to make this bread, the vast majority of which is waiting around.
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Nutrition InformationYield 20 Serving Size 1 slice
Amount Per Serving Calories 150Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 9mgSodium 324mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 5g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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Thanks for spending some time with me today. Enjoy the soft spent grain sandwich bread, and have a lovely day.