The new technology would save breweries money and make them more self-sustaining.
Yeast is one of beer's biggest unsung heroes—providing more flavor than many drinkers realize, especially in yeast forward styles like Belgian ales. But this microbe behind fermentation is also one of brewing's unsung hassles. As a living organism, yeast can require nutrients to propagate it outside of the brewing process. It's part of the unglamorous science that goes into giving you something to drink on a sunny afternoon. But speaking of unglamorous science, a team of researchers from Singapore has found a way to turn a byproduct of brewing into yeast nutrients—reducing the amount of brewing waste while also saving breweries money.
Professor William Chen and his team at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore's Food Science and Technology Program have developed a way to turn spent grains (essentially the solids leftover after making beer) into yeast food, according to a paper published in the journal AMB Express. These findings, which took two years to develop, are especially intriguing for two reasons. First, spent grains are a large part of brewery waste: They can be used for animal feed or more novel products like snack bars, but in general, it has little value. Meanwhile, liquid yeast nutrients can sell for over $100 a gallon. As a result, turning spent grains into yeast nutrients both cuts waste and saves money.
"We have developed a way to use food-grade microorganisms to convert the spent grains into basic nutrients that can be easily consumed by yeast," Chen said in a statement. "About 85 percent of the waste in brewing beer can now be turned into a valuable resource, helping breweries to reduce waste and production cost while becoming more self-sustainable."
Chen said he is in talks to license or commercialize the technology. According to NTU, several international brewing companies are already interested in this innovation, including Singapore's Asia Pacific Breweries which donated spent grains to be used for the research.