Easy Ways to Reduce Waste When Home Brewing

Beer brewing and eco-consciousness are not often spoken about together, but the reality is, beer brewing can be a bit wasteful, from water use to processes to how ingredients are sourced.

So today, I take a look at how we can reduce, reuse, and recycle while brewing beer. I’m Trent Musho, and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s reduce our home-brewing waste.

Don’t fear, because while it may seem like at first glance beer brewing could be “bad for the environment,” really, by brewing your own beer, you’re saving tons of emissions created during shipping and transporting of beer.

It takes a lot for that little bottle you buy to get to your local craft beer shop, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some areas that can be improved when brewing your own beer.

Let’s first take a look at some ingredients to see where we can help reduce waste, then we’ll look at some processes, and then dive into water usage, possibly the biggest area where we can improve and make a difference for the planet.

Buying in bulk helps reduce not only the packaging involved, which, for some reason, tends to be a lot of plastic, but it also saves on the emissions created during shipping since you’ll be ordering less often.

Getting bulk grains and hops means you can also be ready to brew at any moment. You may just need to convince your significant other that these giant sacks are to help save the planet.

Stock up on your favorites – they use a lot of base grains and bittering hops – and then you can use the next tip to buy specialty ingredients.

Supporting local homebrew shops is a great way to keep the hobby alive in your neighborhood, but also, you again are reducing emissions by shopping close by. That is, if your closest home-brew shop is actually nearby.

Additionally, you can bring in reusable containers like mason jars and airtight Tupperware to weigh out and store specialty grains and hops. Most homebrew shops have paper bags that you can use, and those aren’t half-bad since you can actually, in most cases, recycle them.

But if you have mason jars, you can fill them up and store them for long-term use. Speaking of reusing, finding a way to reuse spent grains after brew day is a great way to minimize waste. Although most recipes only call for about a cup, you can always make a big batch.

Some viewers have even told me that they dry and grind their own grains to make flour. Excellent idea! I’d love to try that sometime. I have recipe videos for spent grain pizza dough, pretzels, and dog treats. The grains add a great texture to baked goods.

Just make sure your grains don’t have any hops in them before giving them to your dogs as it can be toxic. If you still have a bunch left over or brew a lot, consider donating your grains to a local animal sanctuary or neighbor with farm animals.

Spent grains make an excellent food source for chickens, pigs, cows, and more. Worst case scenario, you can compost the spent grains either in your home compost or through a local composting facility.

Regarding carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the EPA, CO2 is responsible for nearly 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Most of that is coming from transportation, electricity, and industry, but as home brewers, we can work to do our part.

Considering that CO2 is an integral part of beer making, it’s hard to reduce the use of it. But you can try capturing it for reuse during fermentation. A lot of CO2 is created during fermentation. Some estimate that you could fill a carboy 24 times with fermentation-generated CO2 alone.

If you have a spare keg and the right pressure, capturing the CO2 is not hard. All you need to do is create a jumper cable from your gas outlet to one of the posts on the spare keg.

As fermentation rolls, that keg will fill up with CO2. If you pull the PRV, you can end up with a purge keg ready for filling or you can use the CO2 captured to pressure transfer from your fermenter into another keg.

There’s honestly a bunch of ways you can use it, and “Brewing Techniques” has an excellent article on it, including ways to do it out of a non-pressure fermenter. If you want to learn more, I’ll leave the link in the description for you to check out.

All right, let’s start talking about water, which in my eyes is one of the biggest things we can improve upon.

First up, by cleaning your equipment all at once, you can knock out cleaning a bunch of stuff using less water. “Brewery Wash” is strong stuff, and you can actually reuse it several times. So try making a big batch of it and reuse it to clean all your stuff if it’s not too grimy.

The manufacturers of the stuff say you can actually keep using it, but it does work best when it’s hot. Same goes for sanitizer; you can make a large batch of the stuff and reuse it several times before tossing it. Using distilled water to mix with will extend the life and potency of its effects.

Keep an eye on the sanitizer solution. If it’s clear, you’re probably good, but once it goes cloudy, it doesn’t work as well. You can also check to see if it’s still viable with a pH meter. It should be under 3.5 for the best results.

Here it is, the big one. I don’t know when it became acceptable to dump gallons and gallons and gallons of water into the yard or down a drain, but we can do better. Chilling beer can take time, depending on the type of chiller you have, which means it takes a lot of cold tap water.

The first step might just be to upgrade to a more efficient chiller. There’s a lot of companies out there that tout super-fast chilling times. Do some research and consider investing; it will save you not only on the water bill but also on time.

But let’s say you’re a DIY-er and you made a homemade wort chiller. Instead of dumping that water out, find ways to reuse it like saving it in a bucket for use around the garden or even to make sanitizer with. Or you can try this trick out with a water pump: attach one end of your chiller to the pump and then place the other end of the chiller into a bucket or cooler filled with ice water.

Then just cycle the water through. It will reduce the total water needed to chill, but it does take a little bit longer since you’ll be replacing the ice to keep the temps down.

Lastly, consider skipping chilling altogether, aka “no chill.” Just carefully dump your hot water into a heat-safe fermenter (stainless steel is best), then place that fermenter in your fermentation chamber or set it out overnight until it’s at pitching temps. A great zero-water waste solution.

We might not be making a huge dent in the climate issues, but all together every bit helps, and for a bonus, a lot of these tips will actually save you money as well.

Either way, hopefully, you got some ideas on how to start reducing waste around your home brewery. If you do anything else to reduce, reuse, or recycle ingredients, let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for watching. Cheers and happy brewing!

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