"Beer Stools" was conceived through noticing the tremendous amount of organic waste generated by the brewery industry. Spent grains are the main consumption in the beer brewery process. They are wet, warm, easy to sour and hard to decompose because of large volumes, all of which create environmental issues. As beer is the second most popular beverage after water for New Yorkers, dealing with the enormous amount of spent grains is a very important problem to deal with.
Working with a local brewery, I was able to get spent grains to do different experiments. All existing solutions and products using spent grains are food related and have the problem of keeping the spent grains fresh before they are made into products. Inspired by recycled cork, I decided to make a manufacturable material that can be used for different kinds of products. The design transforms the original negative perspective of spent grains into bar stools that can be reused in the bar or brewery industry. It can be used to replace wood or other building materials to that can help reduce the footprint of the brewing industry.
Beer Stools was a four month project based on local production. Through the research phase, I had a chance to build a relationship with a local brewery to learn the secrets behind the beer industry.
Based on statistics, there are more than 320 brewery companies in the New York City area and produce 800 million gallons of beer each year. What comes after is huge amounts of consumption. Unlike the recycling system for beer bottles and cans, there is no recycling or compost system in place for spent grains. Spent grains are are wet, warm, easy to sour and hard to decompose because of large volumes, all of which create environmental issues. In the past, the FDA labelled the brewery industry as a harmful industry and prevented them from locating in cities because of spent grains. The most common existing method to reuse spent grains is sending them to farms to feed cows and chickens. However, for the small local breweries, it is difficult to build this connection and expensive to deal with this organic waste. In the end, it will go to the dumpster.
In order to better understanding the brewery industry and the brewery process behind it, I started to visit different kinds of brewing companies around New York City. After those visits I successfully built a connection with one local brewery called Strong Rope Brewery in Brooklyn. I documented my experience and observations during this journey and I was wondering are there any other ways to reuse this material because their current method of spent grain removal is having it dried and sent to the landfill. Combining with the inspiration from recycled cork, I came out with the idea to turn the spent grains into some kinds of material we can use or machine. I decided to turn this organic waste into building material that people or designers can utilize.
Working with Strong Rope brewery, I was able to get spent grains to do different experiments and test what are the best ways to compress the material and what are the mixing proportions with different binding materials. I tried different kind of binders like wax, distinct kinds of glue and eco-friendly resin, to ensure the material is still recyclable but also strong enough to be machined. I used wood glue as a binder and mixed with some sawdust and water to compress it. By compressing it, I can turn spent grains into a friendly sustainable material that can be used to replace wood or other building materials to improve the sustainability of the brewing industry.
Beer stools are stools made of compressed spent grains. By learning from the results of all of my experiments, I was able to successfully compress spent grains into the seat for a bar stool. The spent grain bar stools are the first push towards the idea of how to reuse waste materials and bring them back into brewing industry.