Reducing your waste

Reducing your waste

We all know the world needs more beer, but we also need a healthier planet. Reducing material output is one direct way to reduce emissions and spread our limited resources a little bit farther. Increasing your processing efficiency will result in less damage to your wallet and our planet. Read along as we explore some options to reduce your byproduct material. 

We have all seen environmental damage at the cost of our industry. Part of our responsibility is to be economically and environmentally prudent, in order to provide opportunity to future generations. Do you part to minimize waste both in packaging and in raw materials. 


Water is by far the most abundant ingredient in brewing, by mass or volume, but due to its transportability it poses few logistical issues. In the modern day, pumps and pipes are able to move large amounts of liquid very quickly. This often leaves water out of the waste conversation, but realistically it is a major impact to local treatment systems. Responsible production volume breweries work to pH balance their discharge water, as well as remove solids via a settling tank. As far as smaller outfits, targeting your water usage can save significant money, ensure consistency, and improve efficiency. 

When planning a brew, a good estimate for spent grain water retention is 14 fl oz per pound of crushed grist. Multiplying your total grist weight by the water retention factor will allow you to estimate the total water volume that remains in the spent grains. Adding the water retention volume to the intended kettle full volume will give you the total water volume required for the entire brew. The total water volume can then be split between hydration and sparge, based on the desired hydration ratio. Remember, hydration ratio has an impact on enzymatic activity, so factor this in your calculations. Sparging with the appropriate amount will prevent dilution of late runnings and ensure a proper pre-boil gravity.



Hops are more popular than ever, and some crazy-hazies are surpassing 4 pounds per barrel (1.5kg/hL). Often these brews are loaded with high protein ingredients like oats and wheat, forming significant hot-break coagulation in the boil. When combined with the hop load, this “hot trub” contributes to brewery waste. After the boiled wort is pumped into the fermenter, the hot trub is often drained. More eco-friendly breweries may choose to limit the solids hitting the drain, and instead dry the hot trub, later to be added to agricultural feed.

The cloudy/hazy appearance in popular trending beers is a product of low flocculating yeast strains combined with high protein content starches. Low molecular weight proteins can bind with polyphenols to form particles that diffuse light. These complexes will remain in suspension for prolonged periods, contributing to a fairly stable haze.

Iso-extracts, lupulin pellets, cryo hops, and other innovative options can offer large reductions in physical waste material. When hot side trub is excessive, some equipment may experience significant volume losses. Whirlpooling can help centrifuge the heavy organic material into the center of the kettle, allowing equipment with multiple outlets to draw wort without excessive amounts of hot break. In systems with only one primary outlet, a piece of stainless may be added as a “hop dam” to restrict the hot trub from entering the process pump. Refined hop products can provide bittering, flavor, and aroma benefits without the vegetal mass, increasing real volume collection. Reducing the overall mass in the kettle will result in less waste down the drain, and more beer? Hard to beat that!

Here hops are being transferred prior to pelletizing. For many years pelletizing was the standard in hop preservation, however modern science is evolving rapidly. Today refined lupulin and super critical fluid extracts are just a couple of options available to professional brewers. Adding extracts to your kettle can reduce vegetal flavors, boost aroma, and increase yields.



There is only one ingredient that increases in mass after processing. Due to cellular division, the count of yeast cells present in the wort will increase exponentially throughout fermentation. Unlike most bacteria, typical brewing yeast will replicate cells asexually through “budding”. Individual strains vary, however in some cases a single cell can replicate 20-30 new cells before scarring on the cell wall prevents further budding. An average brewing strain may reproduce a new cell in as little as two hours, taking a single isolated cell into a visible colony within 48 hours. After fermentation, excess bio-mass can accumulate to as much as 3 pounds per barrel of finished product. 

Yeast cells replicate quickly. A common brewers practice is to let the yeast double overnight, and brew two batches on one pitch of yeast. Brewing is a harmony between yeast health and product characteristics. If fermentation is not balanced properly, yeast growth can lead to volume loss in the fermenter, and excessive byproduct to dispose of.  

Driving yeast growth will contribute strain characteristics into your product, but it will also generate more yeast waste. Cell division can be manipulated through wort composition, temperature control, pitching rates, and dissolved oxygen. Aerobic yeast activity will make more efficient use of available energy, translating to more cells, so balance aeration with other performance characteristics. Although certainly less than ideal, yeast is often sent down the drain, similar to hot trub. Alternately it may be autolyzed to render it inactive, and then used in agriculture feed. In either case, the best scenario is to dial in efficient fermentation.



When it comes to saving money and labor, spent grain is king. In fact, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling suggests up to 80% of brewery byproduct is spent brewing grains. Considering traditional brewing makes use of just four ingredients, and we have already addressed three, this seems highly plausible. To make the most from your brews, hone in on an ideal brewhouse efficiency.

For example, if you are only achieving 76% brewhouse efficiency, a 10bbl batch may be warranting about 600 total pounds of grain for a 5% ABV beer. An enzyme addition, or even a processing adjustment, could easily see an improvement of 7% or more. At 83% brewhouse efficiency, one 55-pound bag of malt could be removed with the same result. While this doesn’t sound like much, it adds up quickly. A 30bbl brewery producing twice a week could save $10,000 a year at an average malt price of $0.60/lb. That same brewery producing twice a day may save an entire brewers salary over a year! 

Adding enzymes to your mashing schedule can significantly improve your extractions and allow for a reduction in the grist bill. Reducing physical labor is a welcomed supplement to improved efficiency, and it benefits brewers the most. Maintaining a high level of production while alleviating physical stress always results in improved morale, and that is an exponential factor. Motivated employees are more likely to innovate, bringing added value to the company.

Brewing is physically and mentally demanding career. Any opportunity to streamline processing is fantastic. Enzymes, yeast strains, and hop extracts aren’t magic potions, but rather precision tools. Targeting their use can reduce waste, save money, and even improve your product at the same time.

Processing improvements

Cutting out raw material is a direct savings to the bottom line, but as we have stated in the past, these savings must come from somewhere. Often, usable sugar is leaving the brewery as waste and can be salvaged with a bit of extra attention. Take care to audit your current processing and see where you can make improvements! 

One class of enzymes might be considered “saccharification enzymes”. These complexes are primarily geared towards hydrolyzing starch and facilitating a conversion of starch into simple forms of sugar. Examples include maltogenic amylases. After expanding long chains of glucose, they are “clipped” into much smaller segments – perfect for fermentation. Another set of enzymes might be classified as “processing enzymes”. These enzymes break down arabinoxylan complexes and glucans in order to decrease viscosity in the mash and improve lautering. Even if lautering is completed without issue, arabinoxylans and glucans can pose further processing issues downstream if filtration is implemented. The best course is preventative action. A combination of these enzyme complexes will increase real extract from raw material by converting previously wasted starch, and by facilitating a thorough rinsing of converted sugar into the brew kettle. From here, the options mentioned earlier can compound your improvements for maximum effect.  

Saving money is a primary objective for any large organization, however brewing in a cost-effective way does not have to be self-serving. Using less raw material means more is available for industry partners, and more importantly, it means more beer! Oh, and it can help our planet too. You are already doing the work, start reaping the benefits!