As those of you read our newsletter and follow us on social media may be aware, we have begun the vertical farming process by planting some delicious veggies in our NuTree system and we are happy to report that our plants are doing splendidly!
As our work on the NuTree approaches the testing stage, we have found ourselves in need of a source of wastewater to begin running our tests of the system’s effectiveness. And since our first devices are designed for use in breweries, what better way to test the NuTree than on the wastewater created by homebrewing our own beer!
Most of us here are relatively inexperienced when it comes to brewing but our CTO Ari Ochoa has actually been homebrewing for a few years now and he has been showing us the ropes.
I sat down with Ari recently to talk about his experience homebrewing, the methods we are using for the test batches, and the challenges associated with the brewing process.
“I started off brewing a few years ago with my cousin. Honestly, at the time I was just a poor college student and it seemed like a good way to get cheap beer.” Ari laughs when asked about the origin of his hobby. Since then his interest in the hobby has developed into trying a variety of different methods and styles.
“I’m getting to the point now that I’m comfortable trying out more complex recipes… as with anything else you improve over time but the cool thing about brewing is that if you can follow instructions you can get a decent result on your first try.” Ari explains as he begins to walk me through the brewing process.
The first step is to steep the grains in a 5-gallon metal barrel, more or less the same way you make a cup of tea. You then add your malt (home brewers will normally use a malt extract for the sake of simplicity) and bring the brew to a boil.
“That creates ‘wort’ which is what you call unfermented beer.”
“Can you drink that?” I ask out of curiosity.
“You can technically drink it but I wouldn’t recommend it, I have heard of some people taste testing it though.”
You then have to cool down your wort before you can add the yeast, this is done using a heat exchanger. Once the wort is cool it is poured into a large glass jug where the yeast is added, the batch is then left to sit for a few weeks to ferment.
“After that, you are pretty much done with the hard part, you siphon the beer into bottles or a keg. Depending on how you carbonate, you’ll either let it sit for a week or two while sugars naturally ferment and create CO2, or you can add it in from a tank of gas.”
After being having the step by step process explained to me it becomes clear that brewing generates more wastewater than I had originally anticipated.
“The biggest thing is cleaning, every tool and container has to be thoroughly sanitized before being used because any amount of bacteria will affect the taste of your beer…”
Add to that all the various containers that need to be cleaned after each batch and you have a considerable amount of water that needs to be treated. This is more or less negligible for home brewers, but for breweries that deal with much larger amounts, wastewater treatment can be a huge (and expensive) source of stress.
“For these test batches we are trying to simulate the wastewater you would get from a brewery as closely as possible… We are trying to do styles that are popular right now, mostly IPAs and English ales, and we are using all grain methods (using milled grains instead of malt extract) because that’s how most breweries do it.”
I am excited to see how our NuTree preforms in treating the homebrew wastewater, based on our preliminary calculations our team is optimistic about the results. (We are also excited to see how the beer comes out!)
We will be updating our homebrewing progress on social media, so give us a follow if you want to know more! For further updates consider subscribing to our newsletter here(link)!
That’s for now! As always we thank you for your interest and support of our work.