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fertilizerbrew 01-02-2013 02:01 PM

Brew strictly for soil ammending?
Hello all,

I have been reading about beer being used to benefit the soil in gardens and activate compost piles. While this may be a sin to some beer enthusiasts, I was hoping that someone would pass on some advice in this matter.

I currently do not drink beer, and I do not really want to have to buy beer every time I want to use it in my composting or garden. I usually have some whole grains (either barley, wheat berries, or brown rice) in the kitchen for food purposes. I also have molasses, karo, baking yeast, nutritional yeast, and brewer's yeast (these last two are supposed to be inactive?). If I want to make a brew that is not going to be drunk, but just used on soil/compost, can I eliminate much of the steps required for brewing beer?

One thing I would like to know is if there are substitutes for hops? Can I just use black tea or another herbal tea high in tannins? If anyone has any links to threads/web sites that discuss alternatives to hops in brewing I would greatly appreciate it.

Also, Can I just brew it in a jar or bucket without an air lock?

Can I use black strap molasses or karo instead of malt syrup?

Do I just boil grains in water, add molasses, karo, or sugar with some high tannin formula and brew it in a bucket with a loose lid? Any ideas?

Alternatively, if I were to want to drink some of the brew for nutritional/health value, what additional steps would be required to make it safe/palatable to drink?



*Edit: Any idea how long it should brew?

TyTanium 01-02-2013 02:12 PM

Do you have any links that explain how beer benefits the soil? I've not heard that before.

Most of us compost our spent grain, which is awesome soil amendment. I also toss my used yeast slurry in the compost pile, but most compost activity is bacterial, so I'm not sure the yeast actually does much.

Are your grains malted? You need to "mash" the grain, not boil...it's essentially a steep around 150 degrees where enzymes in the grain convert starch to sugar so the yeast can eat it.

There are substitutes for hops, though honestly, hops are antimicrobial, so you could probably skip it if you're looking to encourage microbial activity. A number of bitter herbs work as substitutes.

For a soil amendment, I'd imagine it'd be "ready" after a few days...some residual yeast activity is probably desirable.

kh54s10 01-02-2013 02:25 PM

You may be able to do it but at approximately $30 for ingredients to get 5 gallons of fertilizer I think I would find a different way.

If you are truly making BEER to use it will take quite a few $$ of equipment and 4 weeks minimum for each batch. The bigger the batch the more it will cost.

Added: It would be a lot less expensive to go to the liquor store and buy cheap beer.

pabloj13 01-02-2013 02:26 PM

If it's just for composting the spent grains, I wonder if you could find a local microbrewery that would give you some after their brewday.

hedbutter 01-02-2013 04:05 PM


Originally Posted by pabloj13 (Post 4737746)
If it's just for composting the spent grains, I wonder if you could find a local microbrewery that would give you some after their brewday.

I agree with pabloj13. Also, look for clubs Link in your area and see if they would be willing to save spent grains for you. Either of these gives you the benefits of using the spent grains, but without the hassle of buying the equipment needed.

broadbill 01-02-2013 04:12 PM

Have you looked into composting your kitchen waste? I think with this brewing thing you are making it ALOT more complicated than it really has to be...

DrunkleJon 01-02-2013 05:34 PM

He may just want an excuse to start drinking beer...

I kid I kid. In my opinion it probably is more trouble than its worth to brew just for that benefit. Although you could make a barley tea and throw in some cheap yeast in a warm closet if flavor does not really matter. Heck, amping the temperature will speed up the fermentation process.

fertilizerbrew 01-03-2013 02:41 PM

Beer for soil
Hello all, and thank you for your responses and suggestions.

Indeed, It may be a bit absurd to go through the trouble of brewing a batch of something similar to beer for use in the garden when there are easier ways. I would enjoy learning more about the brewing process, and I wanted to see what type of results I would get. I was just hoping I could throw some ingredients together and let them brew for awhile.

A link with information on using beer in the garden was requested in a reply to the original post. Searching 'beer for soil' in Google brings up several pages of people discussing this topic. Below is a link that discusses applying pasteurized beer for its mineral content.


Another link claiming yeast in beer helps soil (some claim pasteurized beer has no yeast?):


I will be brewing some comfrey teas this summer for use in my garden and composting by brewing comfrey in a bucket of water for a few weeks. I was thinking that I could develop a recipe that would add more nutrients to the tea (possibly using a spinoff of beer brewing) to put with the comfrey leaves. Any more ideas would be appreciated! Until then, I guess I will follow the advice and get some cheap beer from the liquor store to experiment with.

Thanks again!

TyTanium 01-03-2013 02:50 PM

The cheap liquor store beer is almost certainly filtered and has no living yeast. If you want live, active yeast in your soil, dry baker's yeast should do just fine.

Kombucha may be an easier option for you...there's a whole section on here for how to do it.

rhurls 01-03-2013 05:04 PM

I would think that you should be fine if you just buy some Goya Malta and throw some yeast it to ferment it. You will not get the spent grains, but should get the nutritional value.

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