Dude, DIY Ethanol From Beer Yeast


Totally brotastic: a home ethanol kit that runs off of discarded beer yeast. The entrepreneurs behind startup E-Fuel, who have been hawking a washer-and-dryer-sized home ethanol system called the E-Fuel 100 MicroFueler, say this morning that they’ve done a deal with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to use the beer maker’s yeast waste as a feedstock.


Starting in the second quarter, Sierra Nevada will place MicroFuelers at its Chico, Calif., brewery and make ethanol from the 1.6 million gallons of nasty bottom-of-the-barrel beer yeast waste. E-Fuel’s system requires just sugar plus yeast to create ethanol, which the company claims can be made for a dollar a gallon (that’s got to largely depend on the feedstock). While it sounds a lot like a backyard moonshine still, one of the product’s innovations is supposedly an advanced membrane distiller that can separate water from alcohol with fewer steps and lower heat than other ethanol systems.

E-Fuel was started by entrepreneurs Floyd Butterfield and Thomas Quinn. According to reports Butterfield has been working on ethanol still designs for decades, and Quinn is responsible for innovations like the motion sensor in the Nintendo Wii.



Good to see that the yeast that is no longer suitable for brewing will be re-used for ethanol generation.

I was wondering at first how the ethanol would be economically separated from the water. It seems that the membrane separator solves part of that problem.

I would still question the total energy requirement for the system and the total carbon footprint. Electrical energy to run the unit has to come from somewhere. Energy to create the membrane has to come from somewhere. Yeast can only consume simple sugars — table sugar won’t work — and this feedstock has to come from somewhere, be transported from somewhere, etc.

Unfortunately, it always takes more energy to make energy that we can utilize than the work potential in the energy that was created.

Jay Parkhill

So cool. I thought that stuff was only good for covering the ceiling of my kitchen when I botched a homebrew recipe and pressure built up too much in the fermenter.

Seriously- fuel from waste is awesome to see.

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