By on February 4, 2009

You know, this sounds crazy, but this MicroFueler thing might just work. I’m no fuel expert (I just play one in the autoblogosphere), but flex fuel vehicles are ready to rock and roll on any mix this bad boy can brew. And now E-Fuel, the maker of the home pump, is expanding beyond the home brew market to… the micro brewery market. CNET’s Green Tech reports, “The inventor of the EFuel100 MicroFueler home ethanol maker has signed on Sierra Nevada Brewing to make ethanol from beer dregs.” I would have thought that waiting around for drinkers to leave the dregs would be a time-consuming business, but then that’s just a bad joke isn’t it? Here’s the real deal…

[Micro-brewer] Sierra Nevada every year generates 1.6 million gallons of “bottom of the barrel” beer yeast waste, which it now sells to farmers as feed. The MicroFueler will be able to raise the alcohol content in that mix to 15 percent and remove water.

Initially, Sierra Nevada plans to use the ethanol in its own vehicles. Once it has excess fuel, it will look to supply employees and distribute through E-Fuel’s distribution network, a company representative said.

Maybe Sierra Nevada should rename their Early Spring Beer (ESB) E85. Of course, then kids would be sticking E85 gas hoses down their gullet. And we’d have to tell them to “drink responsibly; avoid liquids intended for vehicles.”

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14 Comments on “Micro Brewed E85...”


  • avatar
    KixStart

    I like it. There’s no idea so bad that it can’t be improved.

    From Sierra Nevada’s perspective, converting waste into something with value makes sense. If there’s a business case… go for it.

    But it seems to me it will be an unusual homeowner who has a feedstock suitable for this gizmo and will there be any kind of useful energy gain or does it run on, say, natural gas, and converts, for example, 100 BTUs of CH4 into 85 BTUs of C2H5OH?

  • avatar
    chaunceyjb

    I like this product too. I think right now the suitable feedstuff needs to be purchased from the company (or you have to use something like the brewery waste), but if they could get this thing to use corn, I would imagine a lot of folks in the rural midwest with ready access to corn would be tempted. While there are several problems with ethanol from corn, many have to do with transporting the stuff (you need containers with stainless steel lines as I understand it), but if you have corn right on farm, it’s just a matter of filling up the Microfueler and them fill up your car when it’s done (assuming you have a flex fuel vehicle). This market is bigger than you might suspect. The annual USDA census indicates that there are over 2 million farms in the United States. In addition there were would be many, many additional households on small acreages or big small town lots where a container (wagon, bin, etc) of corn next to a Microfueler would make sense.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    Most breweries sell their yeast waste to farmers. It is a centuries old process and supplies the herds with feed, especially in the governement induced high cost of corn world we currently live in.

    However, having a device that will take organic material and convert it to ethanol/methanol/alcohol is also nothing new. It’s called a STILL and is currently illegal in the United States except under license.

    I bet the ATF will have something to say about this!

  • avatar
    fredtal

    What ever Sierra Nevada does is fine by me. That Pale Ale is mighty fine.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    No ethanol in this house unless it has spent at least a decade in a cask in Scotland.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    No ethanol in this house unless it has spent at least a decade in a cask in Scotland.

    No corn in this car unless it has spent at least a week in a still in Iowa.
    There, I fixed it for you ….

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    Kurt

    Technically it is not illegal have a still for the production of spirits. However if you want to produce for your own consumption you must meet the same requirements of the big producers – you have to be bonded and have certain minimum equipment pay the tax on it and so on. Obviously impractical.

    However you can produce spirits for fuel with just the correct paperwork. How they actually enforce this is beyond me but it can be done.

    Oh and of course you can make your own wine and beer.

  • avatar

    And a big Thanks for the Laughs! to Robert Schwartz and Lokkii

    (RS, you should try tulamore dew, which is Irish, and Gentleman Jack)

  • avatar

    Robert,

    There’s no chemistry to get right. Modern flexfuel vehicles can run on just about any fuel, 100% gasoline, 100% ethanol, 100% methanol, or any combination thereof. As I understand it, there’s an infrared spectrometer that looks at the fuel to see what it’s made of, and the ECU acts accordingly. It’s a really elegant solution to the problem.

    The MicroFueler produces 100% ethanol. Just dump it in the tank of your flexfuel car or truck and forget about it.

    Also, I’m not sure where you see a boondoggle. It’s just a business deal made between two companies. No government money appears to be involved. The brewing company gets to recover ethanol from what was formerly sold as a waste product, and EFuel gets to sell some units. Once the alcohol is removed, I presume the residue still has animal feed value. The brewing company can then use the ethanol in making products or as a fuel.

    While I’m not keen on making ethanol from corn, making it from sugar beets or even better sugar cane makes much more sense than corn.

  • avatar

    Ronnie Schreiber:

    You’re right. I was way off base on this one. My apologies to the makers of the home pump.

    Headline and text amended.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if the gizmo will pay for itself. The company claims that with some carbon credit scheme if you buy the sugar and yeast from them it works out to $1 a gallon. At current gas prices and the fact that ethyl alcohol has fewer btus than gas, right now it’s a wash. The unit itself costs something like $10K. The unit makes up to 70 gallons a week. That’s 3,600 gallons a year. If you really use that much fuel and gas gets closer to $3/gal, yeah, the payback is within the life of the unit. So it makes sense for a business like the brewing company to do it. A typical car owner? Not so much.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    The only problem I see with this is the fuel tax authorities getting their panties in a twist. There have already been cases where some home fuel brewers have gotten in trouble.

  • avatar
    cleek

    As long as I can store the excess in aged oak barrels for future err…consumption(!) I’m in.

    I was just looking at flex fuel vehicle today.

  • avatar
    cleek

    Doesn’t ESB=Extra Special Bitter
    (Blessings to the good lads at Fullers)

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