The pyrolysis of wheat and barley spent grains resulting from bio-ethanol and beer production respectively was investigated at temperatures between 460 and 540 degrees C using an activated alumina bed. The results showed that the bio-oil yield and quality depend principally on the applied temperature where pyrolysis at 460 degrees C leaves a bio-oil with lower nitrogen content in comparison with the original spent grains and low oxygen content. The viscosity profile of the spent grains indicated that activated alumina could promote liquefaction and prevent charring of the structure between 400 and 460 degrees C. The biochar contains about 10-12% of original carbon and 13-20% of starting nitrogen resulting very attractive as a soil amendment and for carbon sequestration. Overall, value can be added to the spent grains opening a new market in bio-fuel production without the needs of external energy. The bio-oil from spent grains could meet about 9% of the renewable obligation in the UK. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.