Spent-Grain Bread

Or, “Beer Bread, Minus The Beer”.

Homebrewing is on the rise.  In 2010, according to a press release from the American Homebrewers’ Association, 82% of homebrew supply shops “saw an increase in sales of beginner [homebrew] kits”, which means, well, more folks are getting into the hobby.

Last summer, I started homebrewing, also from a beginner’s kit.  My friend Jack and I journeyed over to Perfect Brewing Supply in Libertyville, and I snatched up Jack’s father’s old carboy, as well as some of his other old brewing supplies.  Jack and I made a hefeweizen I named Too Clever by Hef, which was followed by a lemongrass and ginger-infused black ale I called Fit to be Thai’d, and that brewing season finished up with some hard apple cider (made from apples I picked with my friend Josh at his family’s home), which I dubbed Justifiable Applecide.

I am not a nice man.

Anyway, this year I’ve also been brewing – whenever a friend of mine visits, I put him to work in the brew-forges, crafting beers with me.  When Dave visited, we made a wheat beer.  When Michael visited, we made an October Ale (just like Foremole Diggum would have drunk – oo er aye.).

Now, when you make beer, you’re essentially making a sweet grain tea (the wort), which is a tasty substrate for your yeast to swim around in, eat up, and convert to alcohol and CO2.  You can make wort by adding malt syrup concentrate to a large quantity of water, or you can do a whole-grain mash and soak grains in hot water until they release all their sugars.  Basically.

Doing a whole-grain mash, as I do, leaves you with a lot of leftover, somewhat soggy grains – they don’t remain in the wort for fermentation.  And, if you’re like me, you might end up with quite a few pounds of spent grain.

Rather like this.


Everyone’s always telling you to eat more whole grains.  Now you’re sitting on eight pounds of it and you just wanna chuck it out the back door?  No, sir or madam!  No, indeed!

Most of you are probably not homebrewers.  That’s okay!  Most of the people I know aren’t, either.  But, with the rising popularity of the hobby, I’m sure you have a friend or neighbor that brews.  I can think of two or three of my Chicago friends or neighbors who make beer, and I’m not even in any clubs.

My local homebrew shop, too, makes a lot of beer in-house (unsurprisingly).  I might call them, to see what they do with their spent grain, if I get the urge to make this recipe again.

Anyway, this recipe: it’s dense, it’s chewy, and it’s not too sweet.  I think a lot of bakers go wrong in their wheat breads by making them nearly dessert-cake-level sweetness.

I developed the recipe myself, after trying and failing to produce good bread with the spent-grain bread recipes I found online.  I have made this bread twice, and I am delighted to say that, for having developed a bread recipe on the fly, it works quite well.  (I followed my recipe to the letter the second time, so I know it works.)

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: this bread would taste awful if hops got into it.  Make sure that you get spent grains that haven’t touched any hops.  (This shouldn’t be an issue, if you’re brewing in the right order.)

Spent-Grain Bread
makes one large loaf

The Setup


  • 2 cups spent grain from all-grain mash, milled to a fine pulp in a food processor (measure after processing)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

The Heist


1.  First, if you haven’t, mill your grains in a food processor.  If you’ve got a lot, as I did, this may take several batches.  That’s fine.  You’ve got all the time in the world.

Doesn't that look pretty?  And not like a bowl full of unspeakable?

2.  Mix the water, the yeast, the honey, and the vegetable oil in a measuring cup, and let it sit until the yeast wakes up, about five minutes.

(Photo note: these photos are from two separate sessions, which is why it’s night outside in some and day outside in others.  You don’t actually have to work from dusk till dawn to make this recipe.)

3.  Take two well-packed cups of spent-grain mush and plop them into a great big bowl.  Mix in the four cups of AP flour, as well as the salt, and mix until everything is incorporated – it might get a little ropy or clumpy, but that’s okay!  Break it all up with your fingers until everything comes together.  It should feel a little like wet sand, honestly.

It's sort of like playing with brown sugar.  It makes that same sort of satisfying thwop as it falls into a bowl.

4.  Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in the liquid ingredients; mix until everything is completely hydrated and doughy, but not sticky.  If it’s sticky, add flour, a little at a time, until the dough becomes workable again.

See - the mixed grain-and-flour looks kind of sandy-pebbly.

5.  Oil the bowl, cover it, and let the dough rise until it doubles in volume, about 90 minutes later.  Punch it down, and transfer it to a well-greased 9-inch loaf pan, which you should also cover.  Let the dough rise again for another 90 minutes to 2 hours.

It's not so terribly pretty, as far as breads go, I'll warrant.  But is really good.
6.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and, once it’s ready, bake the bread at that temperature for 50 minutes.  If you’re a stickler for doneness, and who isn’t with bread, you can check the internal temperature of the loaf when you pull it – it should be hovering around 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Isn't that better?  I think so.

Now, you don’t need to put anything on this bread, as bread that requires butter to taste good is scarcely a bread at all.  However, bread that asks politely is rewarded with a pat on the crumb:

Hello, little pat of butter.  You are going in my mouth.

Good bread.  Good little bread.

This hearty bread makes fine sandwiches, but I like to just cut hearty slabs of it, spread it with mustard, and top it with a few pieces of strong cheese.  I had some for lunch today with a few slices of freshly-cooked beet, and it was marvelous.

Happy cooking!

19 thoughts on “Spent-Grain Bread

  1. I make beer and it just kills me to toss out all that spent grain. I too, tried a recipe from online and it didn’t turn out very well. Yours looks mighty tasty! I think I’ll give your recipe a try.

  2. I developed a PowerPoint presentation on Home-brewing for a speech class and decided to use your recipe to make spent grain bread for the class. All I can say is….Thank you so much!! The loaves came out beautifully. Absolute masterpieces! I know the class will enjoy them. Thanks again!

    1. Danielle –

      I’m so pleased and flattered! What a lovely compliment, to have a recipe used for a class assignment!

      When I was in school, I had a few classes that I always baked for, pretty much without fail, each week. Wednesday would be Snack Day for my fiction-writing seminar and Food in American Literature class; I’d lug a big bag full of baguettes around with me all day, occasionally with a frozen stick of butter in a bag in my satchel, hoping it would thaw enough by the time I got to class.

      I had some weird habits, sure, but not a soul complained when I entered my Pie Phase.


  3. Very good Bread! My whole family & neighbors like the taste. We especially liked it hot out of the oven. Some with honey, some with honey butter, some with honey jelly. Excellent recipe!

  4. I was wondering if you have ever dried the spent grains and then used them in bread or any other kind of baking? How about grinding the dried grain into flour?

    1. Gary –

      That’s a neat idea! I hadn’t considered drying out the grains, no, but if you did that, it might be cool to roll a lump of dough around in a small pile of dried grains, and to then put that grain-covered loaf in a greased pan to proof. I’ve done that plenty of times with wheat bread and oats or wheat bran.

      As to your second idea, I’m not sure it’s worth it. If you’re going to mill grains into flour, you might as well use dry, unspent barley, or maybe just commercially-available barley flour (I think Bob’s Red Mill makes some).

  5. Just made this after a brew session, tastes great! I can imagine how the bread would change for the different types of spent grain. I used maple syrup instead of honey and kneaded the dough (the recipe didn’t call for it, but it felt strange leaving that step out). As I was cutting into the first loaf I remembered the salt…oops! Oh well, it still tastes good and I’ll definitely make it again, thanks for the awesome recipe!

  6. I made this bread last week — and holy moly was it TASTY! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    I used 1c whole wheat flour and 1c all-purpose. I also used a combination of honey and agave nectar.

    The day I made my bread was a bit overcast, which made my dough quite sticky. I kept adding flour, but once worked in it would become a sticky mess all over again. After about 10 minutes of kneading and one cup of added flour later, I decided just to let it rise.

    My dough ended up fitting in one 9 inch pan and in one 8 inch pan. But both turned out positively yummy — thanks for the recipe!!

  7. We’re about to start milling and brewing, no more kits! I think I’ll grind all the spent grain in the food processor and then freeze it in 2 cup batches. Anyone developed a recipe for muffins or pancakes?

  8. I used this recipe, and my bread came out good and hearty. Thank you! My home brewing husband was pleased that I used up all the barley from his Imperial IPA :)

  9. Great results with my free-form loaves. Sprinkled some spent grain on top, too, for the rustic feel. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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