Make Biofuel From Your Home Using Leftover Beer

E-FuelBiofuel.jpg Imagine a washing machine-sized contraption in your garage that’ll make the fuel to power your car. And that fuel was made from all the leftover beer from last week’s Super Bowl party. The folks at E-Fuel are making that possible.
The E-Fuel100 is a portable ethanol “microrefinery” system that allows consumers to produce their own biofuel from simple, household sugar or even beer.
E-Fuel, the company that wants to catalyze the paradigm shift in society’s energy consumption, has also recently partnered with Chico, Ca-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to produce ethanol from the waste produced from the brewing process.
On average, Sierra Nevada produces 1.6 million gallons of unusable “bottom of the barrel” beer yeast waste. Instead of being directed to dairy feed, the system of E-Fuel microrefineries that will be in place in Q2 2009 will now power Sierra Nevada’s entire fleet of delivery trucks as well as hundreds of cars in Central Valley.

“This has the potential to be a great thing for the environment and further our commitment to be becoming more energy independent,” said Sierra Nevada Brewing Company co-founder and president Ken Grossman.
The company was founded in March 2007 by Tom Quinn and ethanol scientist Floyd Butterfield to revolutionize the world in the same way the personal computer did. And hopefully in doing so, it will negate the global debates on the “collateral damage” of ethanol production such as rainforest land displacement in Brazil or the usage of corn in the United States.
The MicroFueler weighs about 200 pounds and hooks up to a 110- or 220-volt power supply and wastewater drain just like a washing machine. Depending upon the cost of electricity and water, Quinn claims the MicroFueler can produce ethanol for less than $1 a gallon.
“You just open it like a washing machine and dump in your sugar, close the door and push one button,” says Quinn. “A few days later, you’ve got ethanol.”
However, some say it isn’t so easy as a push of a button. Among other criticisms, home production makes it difficult to control the quality of the biofuel.
Despite the critics, the people behind the E-Fuel100 are optimistic that the “produce where you consume” energy model the microrefineries promote will eliminate many problems not only with large-scale ethanol production as well provide an efficient and easy alternative to wane off of fossil fuel usage.

Ashwin is an Associate Editor of Triple Pundit. He recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Argentina, where he wholeheartedly missed the Pacific Ocean. He is a freelance editor and media and marketing consultant.After a brief stint working in the wine world, when not staring blankly at a computer screen, you'll find him working on Anand Confections or at 826 Valencia, where he has been a long-time volunteer.

7 responses

  1. To clarify, the company’s claim is that alcohol can be used on a household level to create ethanol in these “microrefineries.” The term “leftover” beer was used to make a point–that one can use bottles of beer to produce ethanol at home; but, I was also told the sludge at the bottom of barrel brews can also be considered “leftover” beer. I’m not a professional beermaker, but this is what I was told it was considered as. Brewer1056, can you help clarify this?

  2. I can try, I am not a pro either but have been homebrewing for about 14 years. B
    Basically when beer is brewed there are two distinct stages. The first requires work by the brewer, the second requires work by the yeast. Very simply speaking in the first stage the brewer mixes grains (usually barley, but can also be wheat, corn , rice, etc) with hot water to extract sugars. These sugars are rinsed from the grains which are then often sold to hog or cattle farms for feed, and the sugar solution, now called “wort” is boiled with hops, and maybe spices, additional sugars, etc. After the boil the liquid is strained and hops are discarded. The wort is then cooled and mixed with yeast, and begins to ferment. The wort is now beer. The fermentation process creates a number of by products like alcohol (good) CO2 (good) and lots more yeast cells (good and bad) and excess proteins, hop particles and minute specks of grain dust settle to the bottom of the fermenter (generally bad). All of this sludge at the bottom of the tank is referred to as “trub” (pronounced troob). The trub is of course mixed with some of the beer at the bottom of the tank, making a thick mess that smells vaguely of beer and strongly of yeast. Professional brewers strive to get as much beer as possible out of the trub for economic reasons, and for visual clarity of the beer via filtering, thus capturing even more of the biomass byproduct. Homebrews generally don’t worry about filtering, and simply wait for most of the trub to settle.
    Hope that helps- I wouldn’t mind being able to turn my homebrew by products into fuel, now they just go in the compost pile. Cheers! Shane

  3. I know all to well of a great source of “leftover beer.” When bartending I’d estimate that I pour one sixth to one quarter of beer down the drain (depending on if the keg has been properly transported and cooled), in order to get a small head on a glass or pitcher. This waste runs right into the sewage where is is unrecoverable. Sounds like every restaurant, bar or club should get their hands on one of these machines and as we should all do with all waste streams, separate, recover, and use it to fuel something else. Waste=Food.

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