Refreshing homemade ginger beer
Ginger beer tastes like grown up ginger-ale with a spicy kick that burns the back of your throat in a pleasant sort of way. I haven’t actually measured the alcohol content (I need a hydrometer) but I would guess by my ginger beer’s effects that it comes in around the low single digits.
To make ginger beer, you first need to make a ginger bug, a starter that will ferment your drink and transform ordinary ingredients into delicious bubbly goodness. I have read ginger beer recipes that call for commercial yeast and they probably taste good but I prefer to ferment everything in sight via the microbes present on food, in the air, and on my hands.
You’ll find my full instructions for making a ginger bug here. Basically, you grate up a tablespoon of ginger, combine it with a tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup or so of water and feed your bug more ginger and sugar daily for about five days until it bubbles vigorously, smells yeasty and the ginger floats. At that point, you can start your ginger beer (or other fermented drinks like this lemonade or this hibiscus soda).
Drink the rainbow
Ginger Beer Ingredients
Water. I don’t have a problem with chlorine in my water but if you do, fill a large vessel with water half a day or so before you’ll brew your drink and the chlorine will dissipate. You want to do this because chlorine kills microbes. Without microbes, your drink will not ferment.
Sugar. I usually use evaporated cane sugar for my ginger beer. Any type of plain sugar will work.
Ginger. I have messed up ferments by adding too much salt, by fermenting them too long (mushy dill pickles anyone?) or by just neglecting them and failing to notice problems like a mushy top layer (at least you can scrape that off to fix it). But only once did a ferment refuse to bubble to life—my attempt at pickled ginger. I later read that non-organic ginger may be irradiated, which kills the microbes. I must not have used organic.
Ginger bug ready to use
Ginger Beer Recipe
- 6 inches of organic ginger
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid from a mature ginger bug
- 10 cups water
1. Cut up about six inches of organic ginger into 1/8-inch slices. You may want your ginger beer less or more spicy than mine. You don’t have to peel the ginger but I do so I can then make candied ginger out of the ginger pieces. I follow this Alton Brown recipe and flavor kombucha with my candied ginger. So good!
2. Place the ginger and three cups of the water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. While your ginger simmers, stir your ginger bug up. Be sure to incorporate all the white yeasty residue at the bottom of your ginger bug container into the liquid. This is microbe gold. Strain out about 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid from your ginger bug.
4. When the ginger has finished simmering, strain out the ginger pieces. You’ll have less liquid than you started with, maybe only a cup or cup and a half.
5. Stir sugar into ginger water. After the sugar dissolves, add room temperature water until you have about 8 cups total. You can make a big vat of ginger water in a large pot but it will take a while to cool down. YOU MUST LET IT COOL BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT STEP. Heat will kill your microbes and your ginger beer won’t ferment.
6. Once your mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the liquid you strained off your bug.
7. Pour the mixture into clean, flip-top bottles. Set them aside for a period from a few days to a week before transferring to the refrigerator.
The carbon dioxide building up in the bottles can cause them to explode. I have never had this happen (and hope I never do) but to be safe, I usually put my bottles in a cupboard to contain any possible disasters. I “burp” my bottles every couple of days—open them by rocking the lids back and forth gently and slowly to let out carbon dioxide.
After you brew ginger beer a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much ginger and sugar to use and how long to ferment your drink. I suggest you take notes to help figure out what works best in your kitchen.