Ethanol from Yeast

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to create onsite ethanol from spent yeast

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and E-Fuel Corp have joined forces to create a high-grade, inexpensive ethanol fuel.

They plan to make fuel from discarded beer yeast using the Efuel 100 MicroFueler. The first-ever home ethanol systems will be housed at the brewery in Chico, California.

“The plan is to have a machine here on site that would distill the ethanol that’s remaining in the yeast slurry,” said Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada Sustainability Coordinator.

“We could make it available for employees. If we have a lot of it we could end up selling it. We could use it for our shop vehicles and company vehicles,” said Chastain.

Currently, production waste is sold as dairy feed to local farmlands. In fact, Sierra Nevada sells 1.6 million gallons of beer yeast waste annually. But not once this system is in place. Testing will start in Q2 of this year with a goal of full-production by q3.

The beer yeast contains between five and eight-percent alcohol content, but the MicroFueler is expected to raise the level to 15-percent.

“Creating ethanol from discarded organic waste is an excellent example of how the MicroFueler can help eliminate our reliance on the oil industry infrastructure. This is especially true when considering Americans reportedly discard 50% of all agricultural farmed products,” said Tom Quinn, E-Fuel founder and CEO. “Using a waste product to fuel your car is friendlier to the environment and lighter on your wallet, easily beating prices at the gas pump.”


  1. Ted Briggs says

    Keep up the Green Great work SNBC!!! What other waste streams could be used I wonder? Pressing spent grain for wort? Spent hops?

  2. gitchegumee says

    “First-ever home ethanol systems”? Budweiser has been doing this for years–at least in their St Louis plant. And I’m cloudy on how this “MicroFueler” raises the alcohol content in yeast. Their website doesn’t elaborate other than to say that there is enough nutrients to allow this. Anyone know where the yeast pick up the extra etOH? Doubling the etOH in the wash makes the distillation process much more efficient. Just curious.

  3. Tlangle1 says

    When a similar story regarding Coors in Golden was posted before the last DNC event in Denver, that company was lambasted as wasting resources to produce ethanol and accused of being part of the problem instead of the solution.
    Now, a small brew-brother takes a step in that direction, and he’s a lean green machine eco-machine.
    Call me sensitive, but do I detect a bias here?
    Can right action only occur on a less than grand scale?

  4. Joe Brewer says

    The “First-ever home ethanol systems” is referring to the Efuel100 MicroFueler system, not to Sierra Nevada’s plans to distill waste yeast. Wouldn’t you put out a press release if your brewery was investing in such a thing? Also, I googled Coors and ethanol production, I went through 4 pages of articles about it but didn’t find a single criticism. There are lots of reasons to criticize using food crops to produce ethanol for fuel but I think it’s pretty obvious that using waste for that purpose has much more upside than down. Maybe the farmers that used to feed the yeast to their animals aren’t happy?

  5. Joe Brewer says

    “First-ever home ethanol systems” is referring to the Efuel100 MicroFueler system that SN is going to use to process the yeast, they aren’t claiming to be the first to do it.

    In the earlier thread about Coors ethanol being used for the DNC I hardly think they were “lambasted”. There was a mild observation that they could be going further in their green efforts, that about it. There was a lot of criticism about using food crops for fuel, etc but not much directed at Coors. Perhaps it’s unfair, but I think the perception is that Coors would drop their ethanol program in a heartbeat if it didn’t turn a profit for them whereas SN and many other craft brewers would probably continue to it on principle (and the press and good publicity that it generates).