Category Archives: Fermentation

Homemade Ginger Beer Q and A

IMG_3712My DIY ginger beer tutorial is my most popular post to date! It’s been viewed by more people than any other post I’ve written. And honestly, I’m not surprised. It is one of the most fun and rewarding homemade kitchen projects you’ll make. For me though, writing the post about ginger beer was almost as fun as making the beer itself. It started a dialogue of questions and answers, updates and encouragement as lots of people started brewing ginger beer at home. The conversations and excitement around this DIY kitchen project have been energizing!

I decided to compile the ginger beer-making questions I’ve received into one post. Give this project a try and keep the questions coming – I will help you along the way! Feel free to send me your updates too – I love to hear about how your project is going!

Bottles and Bottling Equipment

Is it safe to use recycled standard glass beer bottles as long as they’re cleaned and sanitized first?

Yes you can! Just not the twist off cap bottles if you want to use a bottle capper like I showed in my ginger beer video. You’ll need pop top bottles for that!

How do I sanitize recycled bottles?

If you have a sanitize cycle on your dishwasher, that would be the easiest way to prep your bottles. Otherwise, the National Geographic Green Living page suggests a method similar to that used to sanitize canning jars:

To sanitize the bottles, you can place them in the dishwasher and use the sanitize setting. The moist heat will kill pathogens inside and outside. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try boiling the bottles to remove the pathogens. Fill a large pot with enough water to submerge the bottles. Heat the water and the bottles on the stove until they come to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the bottles from the water and dry them with a clean towel.

Where can I purchase the bottles, caps and cappers?

I purchased my supplies locally, at Cellar Homebrew in North Greenwood/Shoreline.

Custom bottle caps?

Yep! You can order them here!

Ginger Bug and Fizz (Natural Carbonation)

No yeast?

Nope! Not in this recipe. The combination of fresh ginger with the skin on, sugar and water create the “bug” that gives this ginger beer its fizz.

What if my bug is ready, but I’m not ready to bottle it?

According to fermentation master, Sandor Katz, 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 of days. However, if the bubbles are gone and it seems like your bug is no longer active, I’d just start over again.

I’ve heard my bottles could explode from the pressure created by the carbonation. Is that true?

From what I’ve read that seems to be true. I’ve never had a bottle explode, but just to be sure, it might be worth it to store your bottles where it wouldn’t be a messy disaster (or dangerous) if a bottle did explode from the carbonation.

I opened one of my bottles two weeks into the rest period and it had little fizz. What did I do wrong? 

It is very possible it just needs a little more time to ferment. One new ginger brewer said about this experience, “…another week later I opened another bottle and WOW. This is the BEST ginger beer I have ever had. It was perfect.”

 

Ginger Beer Recipe

How many bottles does this recipe typically fill? 

About 10 or 11 (beer bottles like the one in the photo above)

How long can I keep the bottled ginger beer before I drink it?

I have kept my bottles of ginger beer for a few months before opening them, I just had to open the cap ridiculously slow to prevent losing half the bottle because of all the carbonation. I wonder now if that length of time changes the alcohol content. (More research needed for this one.)

Can I use other sugars, like brown sugar, to make the bug?

I’d say that organic sugar is the way to go – the less refined, the better.

What can I do to spice it up a bit?

I think the flavor of this ginger beer is divine – I wouldn’t change a thing. However, if you want to make it a bit spicier, you can adjust the amount of ginger you add, during part two.

Do you have to use water to make the bug? Would it work with juice?

I wouldn’t use juice because of the things that get added to juice as it is processed. Stick with water and sugar as specified in the recipe.

Is the beverage supposed to be cloudy? Is that sediment normal?

Yes to both.

What is the alcoholic content for this recipe?

It is nonalcoholic. Sandor Katz says, It’s “a soft drink, fermented just enough to create fermentation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol.”

 

General Fermentation Questions

Is there any serious risk of food borne diseases, like botulism?

I am a big food hypochondriac when it comes to canning and preserving food. Being safe is super important to me. From what I’ve learned about food borne illness, I feel safe using this ginger beer recipe because of the acid present in the recipe via the lemon juice and the way I seal the bottles in air-tight containers (bottles).

Here are a few links about the topic of fermentation and food safety:

The Three Biggest Fermenting Mistakes

But I Thought It Was Anaerobic If It Was Under The Brine

Debunking the Botulism Fear

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!