Ginger beer

July 20, 2009 | Filed under: Extras

Many of us have memories of some bottles from a batch of ginger beer exploding  before we could drink them. These were the days when we bottled ginger beer in glass bottles and capped them with the sort of tops on beer ad soft drink bottles.  Nowadays you still need to be careful but using plastic bottles with screw tops make it much easier.  The most painful part is waiting for your first batch of ‘bug’ to mature.

Ingredients for ginger beer bug

750 mls warm water
2 teaspoons active yeast
2 teaspoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Method

  1. Take a 1 litre preserving jar or wide necked plastic container (an icecream container will work)
  2. Pour the warm water into the container
  3. Add yeast, sugar and ginger
  4. Keep the container sitting on the kitchen bench
  5. Feed it every day for one week with 1 teaspoon raw sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.

Ginger beer

Ingredients

3 cups of raw sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 litre of boiling water
5 litres of cold water
juice of two lemons
ginger beer bug

Method

  1. You will need a large bowl and 7 or 8 x 1 litre plastic soft drink bottles
  2. Put sugar and cream of tartar into the bowl
  3. Add boiling water first, followed by the cold water
  4. Add lemon juice.
  5. The container of ‘bug’ will have sludge in the bottom and liquid on the top.
  6. Pour the liquid part into the bowl.
  7. Stir well and pour into well washed soft drink bottles.

It pays to write the date on the bottles at this stage because you need to wait two weeks before drinking.

Open carefully as sometimes the ginger beer takes on a life of its own and may burst out everywhere when opened, especially if the bottles are hard.

With the leftover bug fill the jar with water and throw half away or give it away to a friend.

Fill the jar back up to 3/4 full and start again.

Thanks Robyn for this recipe.

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Comments (42)

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  1. 24 hour ginger beer | June 15, 2011
  1. Mark says:

    I like sweet ginger beer! At what stage and how many sultans do recommend putting in?

  2. Mellissa says:

    Hi, you know once you split the bug and start again, do you feed it that day or wait till the next day? Thanks, we have made our first batch and it tastes delicious.

    • admin says:

      Hi Mellissa.
      I’ve checked around and it seems that it doesn’t matter too much – as long as you keep feeding the bug every day. I hope you’ve made more successful batches of ginger beer.

  3. Jacqui says:

    Hi Ive been making GB for the last 8mths or so from a bug I was given. I feed with sugar and dried ginger daily but Ive also been adding some fresh ginger which really freshens up the taste. I do have a problem though, my bug has developed like a coating on the top It looks a little slimey & transparent also it smells a little alcoholic. I wondered if it is the heat of summer that has changed it. Anyone else come across this? Jacqui

  4. Shona says:

    When adding to the bug for the seven days do you stir it through or sprinkle it across top to leave it to settle?

    • Judy says:

      I don’t think it matter much if you stir or leave to settle. It certainly won’t hurt to give it a quick stir before you leave the bug for another day.

  5. Chrissie says:

    Just found plastic bottles do blow! Just cleared up a really sticky mess from our 1 week bottled brew. The bottle which we didn’t have enough to fill to a normal level seems ok. Have decided to put our glass bottles,(bottled today) in the garage with a blanket over.

  6. kelly says:

    i remember my neighbour making ginger beer and putting the sultana in she told me that when it had risen up to the top it ment that the ginger beer was ready to drink. Wonder if this is true or not will find out just finished bottling my first batch hoping to do alot before christmas, homemade ginger beer and veges from the garden will impress the family!

    • Judy says:

      Hey – that’s impressive. I hope the ginger beer turns out well. I’ll be interested to hear about the sultana theory.

  7. Kristina says:

    Hey, this worked a treat! First time at making home-made ginger beer and it tastes awesome. We bottled ours in 330ml plastic bottles. Thanks, KJ

  8. Anthony says:

    If you want to cut back the likelihood of a blow out here is a trick my grandfather showed me.
    When you separate the bug double up some muslin cloth with some cotton wool in between the two layers and stretch it over a jug. then give your bug a light stir then poor it out on the cloth and leave it over night or as long as it takes to drain through. use the liquid for your brew and what is left on the cloth for starting the bug back up.

    Anthony from nz

  9. joy says:

    I have kept the original ginger beer bug over winter and successfully re-activated it this summer season. Just tipped off the water, added fresh, then fed it for approx two weeks until it bubbled.
    A friend had no luck with hers after keeping it all winter. When her husband used his hydrometer he found it was almost pure alcohol, hence the tipping off of the liquid before starting again.
    This year I am experimenting with freezing some as I have in the past frozen a light ale base.

  10. Richard says:

    Such cool memories thanks. As a kid I used to be dropping sultanas in the bottles and hammering caps on beer bottles and having half of them blow apart. Im definately going to make some

  11. Ginga says:

    Philippa, you can store your bug in the fridge but if you are going away for more than say, two weeks. Then it may be better to start another one one when you get back.

  12. Ginga says:

    Couple of follow ups:
    Sludge at the bottom is spent yeast. It is not harmful and I actually love drinking it all mixed up and lcoudy in the final drink!
    The end of fermentation heralds the end of extra fizziness, that’s why giving the brew more room for expansion should reduce the exploding bottle syndrome!
    The CO2 is good and acts as a deterrent to airborne yeasts – it’s good!

  13. Ginga says:

    Cut the sugar to reduce the fizz it helps but also squeezing the plastic bottles prior to bottling is good too, the yeast (suspended in the liquid, that’s why you don’t need to add more yeast,Tony) can only work on the sugars in the mixture. There are a host of reasons why the fermentation process ends (sugar is spent, yeast dead or dormant, etc) but once a limiting factor is reached, that’s it.

    A sultana contains fructose and sucrose that adds sweetness and deeper flavours, great idea.

    Stir the bug, don’t shake it. Keep it in the dark as yeast hates light and the happier the yeast, the bodied the drink!

    As for your batch, Mike, sorry to hear it didn’t work. Your yeast was infected by a wild yeast. There are yeasts everywhere and if there is one strain (say under a lid rim that hasn’t been washed with detergent), it may outcompete with the pure strains you added. MY advice would be to wash everything again with hot water, detergent and start again.

    Leave the lid of the bug slightly ajar, there will be a build up of carbon dioxide build up during the fermentation starts (CO2) is heavier than air and stays in the jar.

    If bottles are super fizzed (like mine!!) release some pressure after a week or two (use safety glasses when doing the glass jars!!) and then leave it for a minimum of 6 weeks.

    Apart from that if I can add anything else later, I will but good luck brewing and love the sultanas!!

  14. Philippa says:

    How do you store the bug if you are not going to use it for a while please? I’ve also been shaking mine – is this not right?
    Thanks

  15. Mike says:

    Well after two weeks, the first batch is a failure. It does not taste very good. Tastes almost like cider with a faint ginger smell.
    – Plenty of fiz
    – Not sweet tasting
    – Not very much ginger flavour

    I cant figure out what I have done wrong. Any suggestions please?

  16. Mike says:

    I’ve had my first batch bottled for a week now and just bottled the second batch today. I tested one bottle after 5 days, and it tasted horrible. Guess I need to wait a little longer. The bottles are on the verge of bursting, the lid is poking up, the bottom is now rounded over so the bottle tips to the side, and the shape is distorted. Also their are some small stress marks on the neck of the plastic bottle. I’ll post back how it tastes later and if I have a blow out.

  17. Barry says:

    I made ginger beer in the early 80’s. One thing we put in the bottles after they were filled was a saltana. It would swell back to the full size of the original grape and float to the top inside the bottle. I can’t remember what the purpose of the saltana was but the ginger beer we made was brilliant. If you want to make it alcoholic just add more sugar. We found this out the hard way. After work and school my children and i would sit having a glass of ginger beer. Shortly afterwood we would become very happy. It was many days after this we realised that the ginger beer was alcoholic. We cut the sugar back.
    i think cutting the sugar back also reduces the liklihood of the bottles exploding. We lost many dozens of bottles through explosions. open them outside. We have also painted the kitchen ceiling with the stuff. It would come out of the bottles like a shaft of liquid. Also the plastic bottles wont explode. they are extremely strong and can take incredible pressures that you would never be able to generate.

    • Judy says:

      Barry – your comments take me back some years to when my children were young and we used to make ginger beer. I wish I’d known about the sultana then. if only for a bit of fun with the kids. I can certainly relate to the exploding bottles. We used to use glass beer bottles and cap them with the metal caps using a hammer to get them sealed. I think plastic screw top bottles is a much safer way to go.

  18. Rhem says:

    Thank-u, started my bug a few days ago. As a kid I had a bug, but strangely don’t ever remember ever having to add sugar. Just ginger powder. I was given it by someone who had been doing it for years. Was that some sort of super yeast bug or something, or is my memory failed me. Nor did we add lemons too the batch of that i’m positive, but lots of sugar.

  19. Rachael says:

    Hi Rachel, I started mine on Saturday, so I am on day 3 of feeding the bug, mine is a gingery grainy looking liquid with sludgy consistency at the bottom, I haven’t stirred it at all I guess Im doing everything right…:o)

  20. Rachel says:

    Just a quick couple of questions. I have just started my first ginger beer bug. How do I know if everything is going smoothly? What should this concoction look like? Also, I read somewhere about compressing the bottles slightly to help prevent them exploding. Would that help? Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  21. Rachael says:

    These comments have been really helpful thank you. ;o)

  22. Elsienz says:

    When I made my first batch of Ginger beer I thought it was a bit weak, but the flavour definitely developed when left for a while longer. Then we found a bottle that we had missed drinking over Christmas which was about 6 months since bottling – and it was the best bottle ever! It seems that it is best to make it many months before you need it. I am about to bottle my batch for the Christmas holidays.

  23. Trav says:

    I am about to start making some of this delicious ginger beer because I am tired of hearing my grandfather go on and on about how ginger beer used to taste. Before I get started I just wanted to know if when I get to the bottling stage do i screw the caps on as tight as possible? Cheers.

    • Judy says:

      Hi Trav. Yes – I recommend you screw the caps on really tight or the ginger beer may ooze out the top of the bottle as it ferments. I also suggest you follow the recipe first time and then make changes to suit your palate. For example you might want to add more or less ginger to keep your grandfather happy! And don’t forget to leave a gap of couple of centimetres at the top of the bottles to allow for the fermentation process and to reduce the risk of a blow out (Did your grandfather tell you about those?!!). Have fun and enjoy.

  24. Judy says:

    The longer you leave it the stronger the flavour. With some recipes it’s ready within a week so it’s giving it a try and opening a bottle now. I suggest you put the bottle in the fridge to cool it down and to calm the fizz a bit. Then open the bottle over the kitchen sink or outside to keep the mess to a minimum if the bottle explodes on opening.

  25. hugh says:

    Are you sure you have to wait 2 weeks after bottling? Mine have been going under a week and they are very fizzy i’m tempted to open one

  26. Judy says:

    I’ve checked a number of recipes from the 70s and 80s and all use roughly the same proprotion of ginger. I’m wondering if maybe we have developed a taste for stronger flavours over recent years.

    Andrew – How did your brew taste after you doubled the amount of ginger?

  27. Tony says:

    Hi Robyn, Im a bit puzzled as to why we dont have to add yeast again after bottling and dividing the bug. If we keep dividing weekly wont the yeast finally diasppear or does it keep re generating itself on the sugar and ginger.

    Tony

  28. Owen says:

    On the last step where you throw half of the bug away do you stir the bug after you fill the jar with water or just tip out the water without stirring it?

  29. Andrew says:

    I have been going for a few weeks and all my brews have been weak. In the last mix I added a tablespoon of ground ginger before bottling based on some info I found on the web. I am yet to taste this from the bottle but was nice and gingery when I mixed up the batch.

  30. Alex Wright says:

    Hey i didn’t see anything about stiring the mixture?? are u suposed to stir the bug?

  31. Ben says:

    Hi,
    we made the ginger beer, in the correct process but in the end it turned out REALLY weak. Does this happen sometimes?

  32. TED says:

    leave them, the dropping levels are from the immense pressure built up in the container, which is actually the co2 that causes the effervesence, so leave them and open very,very carefully……ted from nz

  33. Ross says:

    The bottles have been capped for five days and the pressure is so high the liquid has dropped way down the bottle and I couldn’t help myself so I slowly opened one to see what the pressure was like. Wow. Very slowly I let the pressure go and it hissed and I can’t believe how fizzy it is. I am concerned the others must be close to blowing as they are as hard as rocks and as I said the liquid is rapidly dropping down the bottle as the pressure increases.

    Do you think it advisable I let some pressure go from the 9 bottles I have made or just leave them?

  34. Judy says:

    Hi

    Start again means to add 1 teaspoon raw sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger every day for another week.

    have fun on Sunday.

  35. Ross says:

    a quick question – when it says as the last step to fill the jar back up to 3/4 and start again – does start again mean add the daily dose of sugar and ginger or add 2 teaspoons each of ginger, sugar and yeast as per the start of the original process?

    Thanks – I am planning on bottling on Sunday.

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