Making Ginger Beer is awesome and easy – although it requires a little patience (the biggest downside is it will take 1-4 weeks before it’s ready) and demands your attention at the start of the process. The upside is the depth of flavor, natural carbonation that is something magical to have created. Homemade ginger beer is wholly satisfying and a lot of fun to make.
Our recipe is based on the writing of Sandor Kraut though the quantities of ingredients and technique are pretty similar across the Internet as I suspect they have been for hundreds of years.
NOTE: This is an extremely active ferment – the process does not consume all of the sugar and this will continue to ferment at room temperature because of that. Storing this at room temperature can lead to explosions, especially if stored in glass. It’s best to store this in plastic or swing top bottles and store in fridge which will slow/ stop the fermenting. I prefer plastic because you can squeeze the bottle to test pressure (if it’s rock hard, slowly open it over a sink to release some pressure). This is true of almost every fermented non-alcoholic sweet beverage you’ll ever ferment. Although the risk is real, I don’t want to scare you off this awesome treat. Following the process above will keep it safe and is easily manageable; traditionally this was managed by storage in a cold cellar.
There are two parts to the process – the first small fermentation (called the ‘bug’) which gets things really kicking (almost like a starter for sour dough), and then a secondary fermentation with extra ingredients.
Ginger Beer Ingredients
- Ginger (a large piece about 8 inches long)
- 1.5 cups of sugar
- 2 lemons (it just isn’t the same without them)
Ginger Beer Instructions
- To start the bug, place 1 cup of room temperature water in a jar or bowl (I use a mason jar). If your tap water is chlorinated, allow it to sit open to the air for an hour before proceeding (this will help eliminate the chlorine and will help the fermenting).
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger. Stir well.
- Cover loosely with cheesecloth; I use a single layer as natural yeasts will enter the jar but flies will not. I hold it in place by screwing a band around it (just not using the lid).
- Store in a warm, dry place.
- Add ginger and sugar (the same amounts) every day, stirring after. Repeat until your contents become fizzy (you’ll be able to hear it). This should take a couple of days and up to a week. Our apartment has a bit of the initial chill of winter in it so it takes its sweet time.
- Boil 2 liters of water with six inches of chopped ginger root (for a strong flavor, you can use less if you’d like) and 1.5 cups of sugar.
- Allow the mixture to cool completely and strain the contents to remove the solids.
- Add the juice of two lemons, and this syrup to your ginger bug.
- Strain the mixture to remove solids.
- Add water (again a good practice is to let the chlorinated water sit for a bit) to increase the contents to 4 liters (roughly a gallon)
- Bottle in clean bottles – you can get them from brew-your-own beer stores, reuse Grolsch pop-top bottles (there’s a full post on how to use them here) or use beer bottles if you have a capper. We’ll share how to sterilize/clean later this week (it’s a post unto itself). Per above, plastic is the safest if you’re worried about explosions.
- Store until the bottle is hard to squeeze (in the case of plastic). It should take 2 days to a few weeks (the warmer things are, the quicker this will be as long as the temperature is under 100 degrees farenheit). If you’re worried about pressure, open slowly over a sink to release pressure (further fermentation will make sure it stays carbonated).
- Once it’s complete, store in refrigerator; know that this can be a little more prone to making a mess when opening so be near a sink, with a glass!
It’s really fantastic.
If you make Ginger Beer, do you do anything differently?