Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

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Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby malzrohr » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:07 am

Brewers - even homebrewers - use a LOT of water. Most of it doesn't end up as beer. I know there is a brewer's term that describes the volume of water used vs. volume of beer produced, but it has slipped my mind...

Now, I live in Holland where water is abundant, cheap and of very good quality but spilling all this water doesn't make me feel good about my contribution to a better environment.

I want to bring down the water/beer ratio and have looked at my brewing process where water is used:
  • cleaning the BM, utils and FV (before and after usage)
  • sanitizing the BM, utils and FV (before and after usage)
  • mashing
  • sparging
  • boiling -> water vapour lost..
  • chilling the wort

So, based on the above I am listing my options and possible consequences:
  • no sparge : need more fermentables and a some more liquor. Too thin a mash?
  • no chill : off flavours, infections?
  • shorter and less vigorous boil : off flavours, apply FWH, more hops?
  • cleaning : ?
  • sanitizing : ?

Currently, I use an alkaline solution for cleaning and an acid for sanitizing. Both methods require a lot of water for soaking and "contact" time with e.g. the FV.
Can you guys help me by sharing your experiences on the above and specially how to reduce water when cleaning and sanitizing ?

Hans
Es ist zwar ein sehr gutes Bier, die Goslarische Gose; doch wenn man meint, sie sey im Bauch, so liegt sie in der Hose.
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby piet_v » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:25 am

In pro breweries the ratio is 7 (liters water) to 1 (liters beer).

You can't save on the brewing/sparging water; it takes about 30 L of water to brew 20 L of beer in any homebrew setting.

I got as far as collecting my cooling water in buckets, as to reuse it for cleaning & sanitizing as much as possible.

... that's it.
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby niels » Thu Aug 28, 2014 10:38 am

Sanitizing can be done with some StarSan in a spray bottle. Just make sure the whole surface is wet for 2 minutes and you are ready to go.

I make 750ml of StarSan solution on the morning of a brewday and I end up with half a bottle left which I save for bottling day. On bottling day I make an additional 500ml solution for the bottle rinser (Avvinatore) and I'm good to go.

I use PBW but I don't fill the whole carboy and put it sideways. Every 30 minutes or so I turn the carboy a bit.
But that's only for the real dirty ones (primary) as I most of the time get them clean with rinsing with some PBW solution and some scrubbing.

I reuse cooling water for cleaning the equipment. You can reduce water usage by freezing some water and use that ice water to recirculate. But it adds to the electricity bill of course...

- Niels
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby Dicko » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:10 pm

By far, the most water used in brewing is used for cleaning, wether it is brewing equipment or bottles and kegs, the process seems to use a lot of water.
Chilling water is a good way of saving some when cooling the wort but for the end result it is a lot better for the quality of the beer than slow or no chill in my opinion.

The water supplied to our house by the authorities in my home town is of the poorest quality and even though we get charged the same as most others in Australia, I have no guilty feelings about wasting it as it is basically useless for anything but flushing the toilet.... Rainwater, apart from the cost of the tank is free...at least so far :)
I do recycle Starsan while it remains clean as it does lend itself to reuse quite easily by tipping it from one vessel to the next.

:cheers:
The worst thing that can happen if I die is that my wife will sell all my brewing equipment for what I told her I paid for it
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby Dr Jacoby » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:24 pm

piet_v wrote:In pro breweries the ratio is 7 (liters water) to 1 (liters beer).


Apparently Sierra Nevada have it down to 2:1, which is quite amazing when you think about it.

Dicko wrote:By far, the most water used in brewing is used for cleaning


Not sure I agree with this, especially in a homebrew setting. If you use an immersion chiller you are likely to waste a lot of water while cooling the beer, even if you use ice etc. The best way to cut down on water usage if you want to cool your beer quickly is to pump water from a garden water barrel through your chiller so that you are re-using rainwater rather than treated potable water. You can even pump the water back into the water barrel for other applications, or for your next brew.

Cleaning is certainly very wasteful but I'd bet most people use more water cooling down their beer to pitching temp, especially in the summer, than they do cleaning their equipment.
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby BrauTim » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:31 pm

Whilst trying to conserve water is a noble, personal and moral act, I think that as homebrewers we would make so little impact to the environment to be insignificant when compared to industry and the volumes of water used for all sorts of manufacturing, electricity production, brewing, you name it etc.

My personal stance is that I only feel bad when the water bills goes up in price.

If you want to produce the best beer you can, you need to use the requisite amount of water to achieve it and I'm not worried about water consumption.
To brew or not to brew, that would be a stupid question !
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby McMullan » Fri Aug 29, 2014 2:00 pm

I don't use much water to clean my BM [thank you, predictive text; very funny]. I only use water with a keg brush and elbow grease. I fill it to just above the heating element 5-6 times with a brief rinse down between each fill. (A narrow strip of that spongy type of dishcloth works wonders when wrapped around the heating element. Stabilise the element with your free hand.) On the final fill, when it looks clean, it gets heated to 60 degrees with the pump on for 15min. I don't lose any sleep thinking about sterilisation either, since it's been boiling for 90min. I will sterilise occasionally, if I'm not brewing for a while. But, again, not much water used.

I fill a cheap 30L fermenting bucket with water and add less than the recommended amount of PBW. With some warm water from a shower head and a little effort, I can get rid of all the visible crud in my fermenters (Speidel 30L with wide openings that allow easy access for cleaning). Then they get an extended (>24h) soak with the weak PBW solution. I've reused these PBW solutions for weeks and they continue to remove (over night) crud from conical flasks used for yeast starters. As soon as the solution starts to look dirty, the toilets get a 'treat'. This saves me prep time, makes PBW incredibly cheap, dramatically reduces its 'footprint' and cleans the toilets. Like others, I don't prepare much Starsan (less than 2L is sufficient for a 30L fermenter) and I keep it in a small sealed bucket for reuse and some in a spray bottle. I've always got some working PBW and Starsan solutions available.

Most of what I do makes things convenient for me with my set-up and brewing routine (binge brewing) rather than concerns about water conservation. Fortunately, we're not on a water metre. :D But is it necessarily a bad thing to use so much water? Here's what I think. Domestic wastewater is a surprisingly filthy, highly toxic chemical cocktail. Unfortunately, not everyone exercises the option (even when it's free) to contain and dispose of liquid wastes in a responsible way. All kinds of nasty chemicals are avoidably flushed down toilets and washed down kitchen sinks. The next best option, ecologically speaking, is dilution. So we can brew with a conscience, knowing that all that 'lost' clean water (and there is a lot of it) actually benefits the environment. In fact, every neighbourhood needs a prolific home-brewer or two. Who else puts so much clean water down the drain? And I see no justifiable reason why we shouldn't be offered subsidised water rates for our green credentials. :beerbang:

Off topic: Anyone compost their spent grains?
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby niels » Fri Aug 29, 2014 6:26 pm

McMullan wrote:Off topic: Anyone compost their spent grains?

Spent grains and hops go onto the compost heap.
Yeast trub is given to garden plants (or the grass) as it has some nutrition that benefits them.

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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby malzrohr » Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:53 pm

Thanks for all the valuable pointers so far! Makes me feel much less scrupulous.
Es ist zwar ein sehr gutes Bier, die Goslarische Gose; doch wenn man meint, sie sey im Bauch, so liegt sie in der Hose.
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby HopSong » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:22 pm

I actually collect my water in a large blue rope handled tub. I use part of it in the washing machine and part to flush the toilet.

Grains get recycled into the compost heap or to make bread n doggie cookies

That's not too bad a start. So, in reality.. it's all used.. none down the drain... except the recycled beer :beerbang:
Cheers, Bill
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Re: Making

Unread postby McMullan » Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:47 pm

niels wrote:
McMullan wrote:Off topic: Anyone compost their spent grains?

Spent grains and hops go onto the compost heap.
Yeast trub is given to garden plants (or the grass) as it has some nutrition that benefits them.

- Niels


I'm impressed, Niels. You've inspired me to build a bigger compost bin. My wife has been asking me to build one since the Spring. :D
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby McMullan » Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:58 pm

HbgBill wrote:I actually collect my water in a large blue rope handled tub. I use part of it in the washing machine and part to flush the toilet.

Grains get recycled into the compost heap or to make bread n doggie cookies

That's not too bad a start. So, in reality.. it's all used.. none down the drain... except the recycled beer :beerbang:


Great stuff, HbgBill. :beer: When you write 'doggie cookies', do you mean cookies for an actual dog? I wouldn't be surprised. My beagle stuffed herself with a significant quantity of spent grains I dumped on the compost heap (I was going to fork them in after brewing :? ). I spent the next 3 days scooping up 'cereal bars' :shock:
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby HopSong » Sat Aug 30, 2014 3:09 pm

Ha.. Beagles will eat almost anything and won't quit until they fall over. I've seen the results of so many overweight beagles. Yessir.. doggie cookies.. add a little peanut butter, eggs, grain and some flour to hold it all together and bake. I know the euro's don't know what peanut butter is.. only Nutella.. but, it's really good stuff. I know what you mean about the cereal bars.. we call them 'land mines' here.:D

I have a pretty large compost bin. I put a lot of spent grain in it.. the worms LOVE it.. judging by how prolific they seem to be.
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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby niels » Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:15 pm

HbgBill wrote:I know the euro's don't know what peanut butter is.. only Nutella.. but, it's really good stuff.

In the Netherlands they call it pindakaas. In Belgium it isn't uncommon, but I'm not a fan myself...

Anyways, I know of people adding spent grains to self baked bread. Never tasted it myself.

Also, spend grains are given to chickens, cows, sheep, horses... Or used around garden plants to reduce weeds.

Lots of ways to give these grains a useful destiny.

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Re: Making "Green" Beer: how to reduce water usage?

Unread postby McMullan » Sat Aug 30, 2014 10:28 pm

HbgBill wrote:Ha.. Beagles will eat almost anything and won't quit until they fall over. I've seen the results of so many overweight beagles. Yessir.. doggie cookies.. add a little peanut butter, eggs, grain and some flour to hold it all together and bake. I know the euro's don't know what peanut butter is.. only Nutella.. but, it's really good stuff. I know what you mean about the cereal bars.. we call them 'land mines' here.:D

I have a pretty large compost bin. I put a lot of spent grain in it.. the worms LOVE it.. judging by how prolific they seem to be.


No, with have that stuff over here. It's been available in the UK for years. Smooth and crunchy! I was shocked to see it available even here in Norway. Like Niels, I ain't a fan of it. Nothing against American imports. Quite the opposite. I've been buying quality products from the States for years. Guitars, strings, tools, toys (for kids and pets!) and, most recently, a malt mill. But I have to draw a line when it comes to 'peanut butter'. I ain't got anything against peanuts. I love 'em. In fact, I love nuts generally. Those that grow on trees, BTW! The funny thing, though, is we have a jar of that stuff in the fridge. Like you wrote, 'beagles will eat almost anything'. I rub it in her Kong every now and then to keep her stimulated. Please, any non-dog owners reading this, look up 'Kong', before making any imaginary judgements regarding my morality. :D

God bless ya, HbgBill :beer:
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