Video: Make Ginger Beer with Just 3 Ingredients

IMG_3689Ginger, sugar and lemons. That’s all you need to make ginger beer at home. Ok, you’ll need water too, but it still amazes me that I can make my own ginger brew at home with such quotidian ingredients. And you don’t need much special equipment besides a handy bottle capper and a good microplane.

IMG_3699Ginger beer, if you’ve never had it before, is an effervescent drink made from a mixture of ginger and syrup. It is nonalcoholic, like root beer. It’s bubbly like a soda, but its carbonation comes from fermentation. Over the course of a few days, you can easily turn some grated ginger, sugar and water into an active bug that will transform a ginger syrup mixture into the special drink that it is.

BottlesMaking ginger beer was my way of dipping a toe into the world of fermentation. I am now totally hooked. In a recent newsletter, I wrote about three of my New Year’s resolutions, fermentation being one of them, and shared a ton of fermentation-related resources (check out the archive copy here). Sandor Katz‘s books were on the list, including Wild Fermentation, where I found this gem of a recipe. He was gracious enough to let me share the goodness with you.

IMG_3712I hope you’ll try it. I made a video of the process to show you how easy and fun it is! I saved a bottle from the last batch I made to crack open on camera just to show you how fantastic the natural carbonation can be! Dip your toe into this world like I did. Just don’t be surprised if you end up hooked and wanting to learn more.

*Check out this post for answers to frequently asked ginger beer questions.

Homemade Ginger Beer

From Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz

Ingredients:

At least a 3-inch piece of ginger root, as fresh as you can find it
About 2 cups of sugar
2 lemons
water

IMG_1507Method:

Part One

Start the “ginger bug” by combining in a bowl 1 cup of water, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of grated, fresh ginger, with the skin on.

Cover with cheesecloth and place in a warm place.

Everyday, “feed” the “bug” by adding 2 more teaspoons of sugar and 2 more teaspoons of ginger. Give it a little stir, cover it up with the cheesecloth, and set it aside.

Continue the process until the bug becomes active, about 2 – 5 days. I’ve never had this happen in two days. You will know your bug is active when you see that bubbles have formed. At first, if you’re like me, you’ll second guess yourself and see some miniscule change and think, Is that it? Are those the bubbles?

Probably not. The change will be pretty noticeable. It almost resembles a carbonated beverage a few minutes after it has been poured into a glass, little bubbles around the surface.

ginger bugOnce the bug is active, you’re ready to make the ginger beer.

Part Two

Strain the active bug and set it aside.

In a large Dutch oven, bring a half-gallon (2 quarts) of water to a boil. Then, add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 2 to 6 inches of grated ginger. The more ginger you add, the more gingery it will be. Let this mixture boil for 15 minutes and then let it cool completely (I’m serious – don’t get over-zealous) before continuing with the next step.

When the mixture is completely cool, strain it to remove the ginger. Then, add the juice of 2 lemons, the strained ginger bug, and enough water to make a gallon.

Bottle in sealable bottles. I invested in a bottle capper because it is just so cool to have my own “beer” bottles, but Sandor says you can also recycle soda bottles with screw tops or use rubber gasket bail-top bottles.

Leave the bottles in a warm spot to ferment for two weeks before opening.

Put in the refrigerator before serving and pop the cap off slowly or you’ll end up with ginger beer everywhere, but the glass. The carbonation that is formed through this process is amazing! Be sure to check out the video for additional tips and information!

*Post part of Wednesday Fresh Food Link Up!

72 thoughts on “Video: Make Ginger Beer with Just 3 Ingredients

  1. Paige

    Yeah Stacy! I can’t wait to make some! So glad you broke it down, I have been talking about doing it forever but I still haven’t! Hopefully this week :)

    Reply
  2. Laura

    Do you know if it is safe to use recycled standard glass beer bottles? I suspect it’s fine as long as they’re cleaned and sanitized prior to filling.

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Yes, you can! Just not the twist off cap bottles if you want to use a bottle capper like I show in the video. Otherwise, you can totally reuse pop top beer bottles. And yes, clean and sanitized is key!

      Reply
  3. kristy @ Gastronomical Sovereignty

    Stacy!!! i love ginger beer! These would make fantastic Christmas gifts ….am i getting ahead of myself now? Ack! I have wanted for a very long time to try fermenting shit. i think i could do this.

    thank you for sharing your post with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up – I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal & real/whole food posts! xo, kristy

    p.s. have i told you how much i enjoy your videos? :)

    Reply
  4. Julie Moberly

    Stacey -this is great! I have a ginger bug raring to go (I left it above the mantel over the fireplace, and it grew so fast I was afraid it was going to get up and leave in the middle of the night). I’ll tell you how it turns out!

    Reply
  5. Paige

    I think I killed my bug! It was bubbling but I didn’t have time to bottle it, so I fed it again thinking that it would keep it alive, but now there are no more bubbles :( Do you think I should keep feeding it, or start another one?

    Paige

    P.S. I still love this project.

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Hi Paige – Sandor says that once the bug is active, if you’re not ready to use it, you can keep feeding it with fresh ginger and sugar every couple days. But, if the bubbles are gone, I might just start another bug. Bummer! It is totally worth it though once you make it through the entire process. Try it again and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  6. Hayley

    My bottles (recycled juice half gallon plastic bottles) are bulging and engorged! I made my ginger ale on tuesday afternoon. Do i really need to wait two weeks? What does the extra time do because the carbonation is definitely there already! I am nervous they will explode!

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Well, I certainly have heard of fermented projects exploding, so, if they’re bulging, you may want to serve it up! :) The longer they rest, the more carbonation builds. Sounds like you had a super active bug! Awesome!

      Reply
    2. Seung

      You should use PET plastic bottles. Those are the type designed to contain pressurized drinks, like coke bottles. Regular non-PET bottles aren’t designed to contain pressure and will bulge out (juice containers) and the caps will leak. Worst case scenario, they will rip at a seam and explode and make a mess.

      Reply
  7. Karen

    Just bottled mine. I was thinking of putting it in the bathroom in case it “explodes”. We usually do that with our home-brew if we bottle it but your post said “warm” spot, the kitchen is much warmer than the bathroom. I am afraid it is too cool in the bathroom. Excited to see how it turns out..

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Oh man…I keep hearing horror stories about things exploding! :-/ I’m all nervous now. I’ve never had that happen and keep my bottles in the kitchen, but I suppose in a worse case scenario, a bottle could explode. Eek! So far, mine have been fine. Good luck, Karen!

      Reply
      1. Karen

        Update: I opened one of the bottles two weeks into it but it was very sweet and had little fizz. I figured maybe next time I need to add more lemon blah blah and then another week later I opened another bottle and WOW. This is the BEST ginger beer I have had. It was perfect. I shared with friends and they were blown away as well. Not too sweet at all. Thanks for the recipe, I will make it again, and again

        Reply
        1. stacy Post author

          Yay! Karen, that’s so great! I’m so glad you came back to share and enjoyed the recipe! I hope you’ll pass it on to your homebrewing friends! Cheers! :)

          Reply
  8. Saso

    Hello Stacy.. Thank you for sharing your recipe.I’ve got a question, Yesterday I started making bug and I messed it up by putting 2 tablespoons of ginger and 2 tablespoons of sugar and I left it on a temperature of 80-82 Degrees(F).. And after 20 hours the bug became very active and it also makes a noise.Can I continue doing the recipe,or wait for a few days..
    Thank you.
    P.S: How can I send you a picture (if possible) so you can see it and give me further advice.. :)

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Hi Saso! It sounds like you have an active bug! I’d move to the bottling phase! I don’t think my bug ever becomes active that fast because it’s never that warm in my house, except maybe during one or two weeks in August! :) If the bug started bubbling, go for it! You can send me a picture at seattleseedling@gmail.com Let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
  9. Gumboot princess

    Hi – beauty-full video! I’ve started my bug & im wondering how many bottles your recipe fills? ….the kind if bottles that you have in the video….

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      I usually fill up about 10 or 11 bottles (beer bottles, like the ones in the video). Good luck with your first batch! You’re going to love it!

      Reply
      1. Gumboot princess

        Thanks for your quick reply! How do you sterilize your bottles? Just regular wash & air dry? & how much did the bottle capper devise cost?
        Last one :) how long can you keep the bottles for? A few weeks,months….

        Im excited to bottle up my 1st batch!

        J

        Reply
        1. stacy Post author

          I just wash the bottles in the dishwasher, though I’m thinking I need to get myself a bottle brush to give them a once over and maybe a diluted bleach rinse before going through the dishwasher. The bottle capper was around $25, I think, but totally worth it! A bag of 50 caps only cost me a few bucks and the bottles can be used over and over, so the capper was worth it for my set up. I have kept my bottles of ginger beer for a few months before opening them…just open the cap ridiculously slow to avoid losing half the bottle with all the awesome carbonation. :)

          Reply
          1. Gumboot princess

            Thanks again for sharing what you know about ginger beer <3 we bottled up 10 bottles last night = super fun!

  10. Chef, Interrupted

    This was scrumptious!
    I left most of the (glass) bottles from my 1st batch stored outside of the fridge and one day came home to a mess of shards & stickiness! A 2 bottle bursting event. Blech. So let others take note: explosion can and does happen! (Perhaps it’s the San Francisco super-active yeasts?).

    My beer-brewing hubby rolled his eyes at the wild fermentation methodology… ;)

    So I’m making my 2nd batch now… and will be storing these bottles in the cellar!

    Reply
  11. Grant

    Awesome page! I’m just getting into making homemade beverages and stumbled across this. Making my first batch of “bug” right now. Two questions: First, (maybe this is a stupid one but) Can I just multiply everything evenly if I want to make a bigger batch? and 2.) Can I use organic sugar, brown sugar, or other kinds of sugars? and actually there’s a 3.) can you suggest any other ways to spice it up?

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Thanks, Grant! There are no stupid questions! 1. Yes! 2. Definitely organic sugar…not brown sugar though because of the other ingredients (molasses, I think?) added when processing it. I think other kinds of sugar might work too…I’ve never tried though, so you’d have to let me know how it worked. 3. I wouldn’t add anything to it since the resulting flavor is so good! However, you can adjust the amount of ginger you add, during part two, to make it spicier. I bet when you try your first finished ginger beer you won’t want to change the flavor at all. It’s seriously delicious! :) Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  12. Grant

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to be alarmist or anything. What I really mean is: “Is there any risk that I could’ve done this wrong and make myself sick by drinking it?” I hope not, cause I just bottled my first batch yesterday and am super psyched to drink it. Starting a new batch of “bug” already.

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Totally great question! No, there isn’t, as far as I know. That’s one of the things I like the most about it…I’m kind of a hypochondriac canner. ;-)

      Reply
  13. Ron

    I have started the ginger bug and after 5 days its really bubbling and has kind of and oder to it. Is that normal? and how long can you keep your ginger bug?

    Reply
    1. Ron

      I have started the ginger bug and after 5 days its really bubbling and has kind of and oder to it. Is that normal? and how long can you keep your ginger bug?

      Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Hi Ron! If you’re local, you can get all your supplies at Cellar Homebrew in North Seattle (North greenwood neighborhood). That’s where I got all my goods. :) Seriously though, the bottle capper is totally worth the investment.

      Reply
  14. Noella

    When making the brew do you have to use sugar and water or do you think it would work with juice? And with the ginger bug do you have to use the whole thing or can you use some and then keep it going like sourdough starter?

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Hi Noella! I wouldn’t use juice because of the things that get added to it and just because I don’t know enough about the exact science behind why the sugar and water work like they do. You can keep feeding it for a bit longer if you’re not ready to use it when the bug first becomes active, but I don’t think it is as everlasting as a sourdough starter. I hope that helps.

      Reply
    2. Seung

      You can use juice but will probably have to add sugar. There isn’t enough sugar in juice for the yeast to ferment it and ginger beer to taste sweet. You’ll have a very dry drink, like champagne.

      As for the starter, you can keep it going indefinitely if you keep feeding it regularly and have it exposed to the air for new yeast to grow on to it. Although it gets tricky because if you grow your colony to a big enough mass, the rate that you are adding the ginger and sugar may not be enough and the yeast will ferment all the available sugar and go hungry and die or make the starter so alcoholic that it kills itself. Easier to just start a new batch or just use baker’s yeast.

      Reply
  15. iheartjriy

    HI Stacy,
    To my dismay I opened my 1st bottle of GB & there was zero fizz – I did read Karen’s post where she waited longer to open bottles & there was fizz, I will keep waiting…
    Q: Is the bevrage inteded to be cloudly, with sediment?

    Spring beauty,

    j

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Oh man! The same thing just happened to me with my last batch! I’m thinking about writing a troubleshooting post. Could be that you just need to wait another week or could be that the bug wasn’t as active as you thought it was (that was my case, anyway). Yes, cloudy and sediment – totally normal. Definitely give this another try! It is SO worth it when it works out!

      Reply
      1. Jody

        Your right!
        I opened my 1st bottle yesterday & happily enjoyed the fizz as i popped the cap & as i poured <3 SO FRIGGIN SATISFYING!
        Thanks again your the video, answering questions & encouragement!

        In love,

        J

        Reply
  16. Grant

    Hi, yes the same thing happened to me! After a full two weeks there was no carbonation buildup whatsoever. None. I’m thinking I may have done the bug wrong or not let the mixture cool enough after boiling? Either way, I’m not giving up! I have another batch (hopefully) fermenting right now.

    Reply
  17. icanhackthis

    This is a fermented beverage with no alcohol content, is that due to the fact that you boil the water when adding the ginger mash? I’m asking where the alcohol produced by fermentation is lost… I see no reason not to leave it in there!

    Reply
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  20. Toi

    Hello. Thanks for posting this recipe! I have a batch done and bottled. Question – Would the garage in the summer time be too warm to let it ferment?

    Reply
    1. Toi

      Good amount of fizz after 2 weeks but the ginger ale was bland and muddy tasting and smelled fermented and almost like beer. Not a fan of this recipe.

      Reply
      1. stacy Post author

        Bummer, Toi! This ginger beer is usually a huge hit with me and my friends. So sorry it didn’t work out for you!

        Reply
        1. Toi

          Ok, I was wrong. I tried it again making a few adjustments and it turned out really good. I used 1 3/4 cups of turbinado sugar in step 2 and about 8″ of ginger. I also strained the final liquid in a tea towel, which I think reduced the muddy flavor.

          Reply
  21. Matthew Cook

    Hi, just made a triple batch using ball-top bottles (and one Juicy Juice bottle for the excess!). Your recipe and video are great and very clear and understandable. Bye-the-bye, my uncle was a missionary in New Guinea in the 50′s/60′s where they didn’t have any carbonated drinks (coke, fanta etc.) so they would brew their own ginger beer. Their recipe was along the lines of yours except rather than grow a bug (or a “plant” its generally called in Australia) they would put 3-4 raisins in each bottle along with sugar, ginger and lemon juice. I think the theory was that there was wild yeast on the outer surfaces of the raisins which would set the fermentation in motion.

    Anyway, I can’t wait for my brew to get it’s fizz on!

    Reply
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  23. Gaby

    Thanks for the post!

    Do you know if this is gluten free? I would like to attempt to make some for the holiday’s and I have a friend that can’t have gluten.

    Reply
  24. Gaby

    Hello,

    Thanks for posting this – I was looking forward to having my own brewed beer but my brew didn’t turn out as planned.

    I followed the recipe (made the bug, added the distilled water, bottled them and left them in a warm place)

    I used these bottles from IKEA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40227983/

    I let it sit for the allotted time and checked them last night and they were moldy on the top of the juice. When I dumped them out they didn’t seem very carbonated either.

    Did I miss something? Do you think I picked the wrong type of bottles?

    Best,
    G

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      Hmm, if they were moldy that would tell me that the bottles weren’t quite air-tight. The bottles from Ikea might look like the flip-top bottles you can get at a brewing company, but I wonder if the seal is as solid. The air-tightness is pretty critical to keeping the brew free of mold and in helping it build natural carbonation.

      Reply
  25. Frida

    Hi! Thank you for sharing this recipe and the video! I have started making my ginger bug and have fed it for about 5 days now. I had bubbles yesterday but today there isn’t any, so I’m afraid I killed it. What happens if I keep feeding it for a couple more days? Will that do something to my batch of ginger beer later on? And also, how should the ginger bug smell? Yesterday it smelled like ginger, but today it smelled more like yest or kind of weird. Thanks for helping me out!

    Reply
    1. stacy Post author

      This got lost in the vortex. So sorry for my late reply! If the bug stopped bubbling, I’d just start over again. I can’t remember ever really smelling my bugs, but I will in the future, so I have that context. Usually, I’m just concerned about appearance (bubbles).

      Reply
      1. Frida

        Thank you. I actually used it after all and it worked. The ginger beer taste great (three weeks later). But I was a little worried there for a while. Thanks again for sharing the recipe.

        Reply
    2. MarkD323

      Working from my own recent experience, I can verify for you that that is about the day it seems to go from smelling and tasting like ginger/sugar water to taking on a yeasty smell and taste.

      Reply

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