Spent Grain Bread

Introduction: Spent Grain Bread

About: I make things with yeast.

What do you do with all of that left-over grain from brewing? Why you bake with it of course! I adapted this recipe from the Egg Harbor Bread recipe in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, and it results in a course, crumby richly flavored bread. Any recipe can be adapted to use spent grain, just sub in about half the flour with the grain.

This guide takes a more holistic approach to bread making. Rather then just giving you the steps I try to explain a bit of the why and how so that you can experiment on your own at home.

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Step 1: Assemble Your Ingredients

First, make beer, as I outlined here, then wash your hands and clean the kitchen. Make sure you have thoroughly cleaned a work surface because we will have to knead the bread directly on the counter.


  • 1 tablespoon of yeast (about two packages)
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt
  • 2.5 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons margarine
  • 4.5 cups spent grain
  • 5+ cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • dash of powdered milk

Yield: 3 loaves

Total Time: 3.5 hours

Active time: 30 minutes

Be sure to take the yeast out of the fridge a few hours ahead of time, and let the spent grain thaw under hot water.

Note the amounts are all approximate, I will explain throughout the recipe why.

Step 2: Prepare the Yeast

When you buy bread yeast at the store it comes dehydrated and in suspension, so the first step in making bread is making the yeast up and making sure it's alive. To do this take about a half cup of warm water (just let the tap water run until it's hot) and mix in three tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of yeast. I also add the three tablespoons of margarine at this point to let it soften up in the warm water and to make it easier to mix in later. After about 5 minutes the mixture should become all foamy with yeast activity. If it doesn't your yeast is dead and you need to get more.

Notes on ingredients:

  • Yeast: The amount of yeast you put it is unimportant, and only affects the raising time. More yeast equals a faster raise. Some people think a slower raise makes a better tasting bread.
  • Water: Any potable water is fine, but it needs to be warm. 90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Too hot and you kill the yeast, (or if it's a sudden temperature change it could stun the yeast) too cold and the yeast goes dormant.
  • Sugar: The sugar you put in here is food for the yeast. If you don't put in enough the yeast won't get enough food to activate properly. If you put in too much the yeast won't eat all of the sugar and your bread may taste sweet, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Margarine: You can sub in equal amounts of olive oil or butter, and this will change the texture and flavor of the bread subtly. I use margarine because it's cheap and still makes a very tasty bread. (I tried it with bacon fat once, and it just gave the bread a weird texture.) With the malted barely in the recipe it will sort of override any subtle flavors, so using high end stuff is kind of a waste here. The more fat you add the richer and denser the bread will be.

Step 3: Mix Everything

Add in one and a half tablespoons of salt and one cup of flour and mix to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Add the spent grain and two cups of warm water and stir until combined. Keep adding flour about a cup at a time until everything holds together a bit, but it still sticky, like in my first picture.

Notes on ingredients:

  • Salt: Salt can retard the growth of yeast, which is why I add it now, after the yeast has a chance to grow a bit. Too much salt will kill the yeast and make your bread not raise, too little yeast will make the bread taste flat and uninteresting. I try to add a half tablespoon per loaf, but err on the side of too little yeast. You can always salt the finished bread before you eat it.
  • Flour: I just use all purpose flour as it's cheaper at the supermarket. I've tried it with bread flour, which has a higher protein content and can help develop more gluten for a chewier bread, but I've not really noticed a difference. I can't give you precise amount of flour to put in because it varies based on things like humidity, but there should be at least as much regular flour as spent grain or the gluten won't develop properly and your bread will fall apart.
  • Water: With spent grain bread it is impossible to know exactly how much flour versus water to put in because the spent grain from the beer already has an unknowable amount of water in it, so I just add two cups and then add flour until we get the right consistency.
  • Spent Grain: You can also dry the grain and grind it into a flour for a smoother bread, but I that's an awful lot of work, and I like the extra texture in the finished product.

Step 4: Kneading

Place some flour on the clean counter and dump out the mixture. Knead the dough by pressing the dough away with the heels of your hands and then folding it over back toward you. Every few kneads rotate the dough 90 degrees. As you are doing this keep adding flour about two tablespoons at a time. Continue for about 15 minutes until the dough comes together into a smooth, slightly sticky ball. It should look like the last two pictures. If you add too much flour the dough will start coming apart, and if that happens just add in more water a tablespoon at a time. It is easier to add flour the water so be careful. The counter will be a mess when you are done.

If you need the dough too much it will become tough and inelastic and not raise properly, if you don't do it enough it will not stick together properly.

To save labor you can also knead with a bread machine, mixer or food processor. These methods produce wonderful bread, I just demonstrated with the most approachable method.

Step 5: Raising

When you are done kneading put some flour in a large bowl and plop the dough into it. Spread a little bit of oil onto some plastic wrap and place the plastic wrap over the bowl with the oil sound down, to prevent sticking. Now walk away and let the dough double in size. I usually let it go for about an hour, but based on factors like how warm your kitchen is this may take more or less time. I then come back and punch down the dough, which is what it sounds like. I literally punch the dough and then knead it once or twice so it will deflate. Next I cover the dough and let it sit for 15 more minutes, punch it down and then repeat the mini raising 3 more times. This step is completely optional, but it helps develop an extra light and fluffy texture in the final bread.

Your raising timeline should look like this:

  • 1 hour raise
  • punch down
  • 15 minute raise
  • punch down
  • 15 minute raise
  • punch down
  • 15 minute raise
  • punch down
  • 15 minute raise
  • punch down
  • shape

Step 6: Shaping

While the bread is raising grease in flour the pans, if you are using them. This is done by taking some kind of fat, like margarine, butter or crisco, and using your fingers or a towel, to wipe every inside surface of the pan. Then you take a little bit of flour and shake the pans to coat the surface and then just dump out any excess flour.

You can use the rest of the raising time to clean the kitchen and play Skyrim.

When the bread is finished raising you then need to shape it. If you have bread pans just divide it up evenly between the pans and then roll the bread down so the seam is facing the bottom. You can the use a knife to cut little lines in the top of the dough if you're feeling artistic.

If you don't have bread pans just roll the whole dough ball so the seam is down and place it on a non-stick baking sheet. You will then get a large round loaf. If you don't make sure to place the seam down the smooth end up the finished bread will fall apart more easily.

Then cover the dough with the plastic wrap and let it double in size one more time. This usually takes me about an hour. About 20 minutes before the dough is done raising preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want particularly crusty bread you can also place a shallow dish of water in the oven to create steam.

Right before you put the bread in the oven you can whisk the single egg with a dash of powdered milk and a spoonful of water (or just a spoonful of real milk) and then spread it over the tops of the bread using a pastry brush, if you have one. This will create a pretty, glossy top to your bread and is a completely optional step.

Place the bread in the oven for about a half hour, or until the tops turn golden. My oven runs a bit hot, so keep an eye on your bread. Knowing when exactly to take it out takes practice.

Step 7: Make a Snack

While the bread is in the oven, use the rest of the egg glaze to make scrambled eggs. Baking bread is hard work and you deserve a break.

Step 8: Remove From the Oven

When your bread looks done pull it out and dump the bread out of the pans immediately, or they will keep baking. Knock gently on the bottom of the bread, if they sound hollow they are done baking. If it sounds and feels sort of soft pop the bread bake into the pans and bake into the oven for 5 minuets.

When the bread is fully baked let them cool fully before cutting into them, or the bread will not hold it's shape properly. I know this is hard because the bread smells delicious and you just want to eat it now, but try and be patient. If you want a particularly soft crust, like me, let the dough cool under a dish cloth.

Any bread you aren't going to eat right away can be frozen for future enjoyment. Remember, fresh homemade bread goes stale much more quickly then sore bought bread.

Step 9: Enjoy Your Bread

You worked hard! Have a sandwich.

Homemade bread is easy and inexpensive to make and creates flavorful, healthy bread. It's simple enough for every day eating, but impresses people at a party. A five pound bag of flour costs $2.30 and can make 4 to 6 loaves. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't bake your own bread! =D

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    4 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I always thought the water was supposed to be room temperature. I'll have to try your 90 degree water and see how it works.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm pretty sure for bread machines you want the water to be cooler. I think the machine it's self heats things up.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This looks very good. Thanks for sharing and do have a splendorous day!