The Microbrewery of Hand Papermaking (Fresh Press)

Fresh Press - Sustainable Paper making Something new is brewing in Illinois, and it’s not beer. It’s handmade paper.

Fresh Press is an Agricultural Fiber Paper-Making Research Studio.

That’s right.

They’re part sustainable paper making studio, part research lab, part badass, and they’re all about using leftover fibers from crops in the Midwest.

Started by Steve Kostell and Eric Benson (both professors at the University of Illinois), Fresh Press drives home the potential of papermaking to be zero waste, environmentally sustainable, and a catalyst for a thriving local economy.

They’ve experimented with corn stalks, sunflower stems, and prairie grass, producing a beautiful range of papers that reflect their origins.

Prairie Grass Handmade Paper - Fresh Press


Microbreweries, or craft breweries, are generally small-scale producers, independent, and supported by their local community. Focused on quality, craft brewers use traditional techniques to create innovative interpretations of traditional styles.

Now replace “brewery” with “paper mill” and we now have a working template for the concept of local paper.

What Fresh Press is proposing is a change in the system of papermaking itself.

They even branded their paper styles with names like Unleashed Mutt, Double Cooked Soy Brown, and Sunflower Solstice.

Fresh Press also goes a step further into hyper-locality by sourcing materials that are not shipped long distances. This includes the University’s office paper waste, waste agri-fiber, or locally farmed fiber crops.

Fresh Press - Handmade Paper from Agri-Fiber


The Midwest has suffered economically as more industrial manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. Local paper can act as a catalyst for propelling job creation, namely through creating a demand for locally grown fiber crops. In addition, local paper can contribute to a living, regional economy and identity.

From Fresh Press:

For paper to be sustainable going forward we believe that its tactile qualities and story/branding must change. It must be seen as a more emotionally sustainable product whose manufacture is based on environmentally sensitive methods from agricultural waste from regional farmers.

Fresh Press - Papermaking - University of Illinois


Modern industrial papermaking has come a long way from traditional paper-making ways of using rag or mulberry bark, namely to fulfill our level of paper consumption.

Let’s face it, emissions from transporting wood to pulping mills to paper distributors isn’t insignificant. Also, neither is the burning of waste fibers from agriculture.

Fresh Press papermaking uses the land in an environmentally sustainable way.

They work with botanists and chemical engineers at UIllinois to make sure the paper studio itself is sustainable in every way possible. Also, since the papermaking process uses a lot of water, they even collect rainwater for cooking fiber, beating, and forming sheets.

Fresh Press - Paper Research Lab in Illinois


Collaboration with farmers and the seasons allows Fresh Press to actual reduce waste fiber.

Once a recipe has been created, then the paper and pulp can potentially be used at a larger scale, and for a range of paper products. Though their paper is currently used for stationary, handbills, and posters, the fibers have the potential to be used for packaging, corrugation, and more.

Want more Fresh Press/interested in stalking them online?

Photos and graphics are by Fresh Press.

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3 thoughts on “The Microbrewery of Hand Papermaking (Fresh Press)

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