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Old 03-18-2014, 08:39 PM   #1
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Default Spontaneously fermented (non-alcoholic) ginger beer (no yeast added!)

People talk in hushed tones of the so-called "ginger beer plant" which used to get passed down from generation to generation, and around the neighbourhood, and was basically a continually regenerating starter that could be used to make natural soda-type ginger beer.

Although you can buy different starters to make ginger beer, using any kind of yeast is cheating - the original "ginger-beer plant" seems to have been some rather specific yeast/lactobacillus combo and when you buy a "ginger beer plant" I really don't know what you are getting.

But I followed some instructions around the net and got my own ginger beer starter going, and this is my experience (I kind of assume you know about making sodas and things, so the instructions are a little compressed)

All you really have to do is put some raw, unpeeled ginger (the peel MAY contain some kind of useful yeasts) in a bit of unchlorinated water in a clean jam jar and add some sugar, and keep adding a little water and a little sugar every day, leaving the lid off all the time, with just some gauze or something over it, preferably away from sunlight. After a few days you should get some fizzing - and if it still smells good (gingery) you are in business! If not, chuck it and start again, it took me my second attempt to get it going, the first time it either went stinky or didn't "take", or both, I forget which now.



This is what mine looks like at the moment.

Now you can build it up for a few more days and then use a cup of it as a starter in about a gallon of room-temp dechlorinated water in which you have previously boiled about a half-pound (a matter of taste really) of grated, boiled ginger and however much sugar you prefer - 3 to 6 cups seems about right, I go for the lower end of that. I also add lemon juice before bottling, to taste, probably the juice of two lemons. Bottle in empty plastic Coke bottles or similar and leave at room temp for 24-48 hours (I use plastic, it never lasts long enough to be worth bothering with glass), and wait till they are as hard as an unopened coke bottle. Actually I like it a bit harder than that, i.e. very gassy, but don't go crazy or you'll get either an exploding bottle or one that is impossible to open without causing a geyser. After that it MUST be kept in the fridge or it will kick off again!

It really carbs up a treat - incredibly refreshing. That's the thing though, I have no idea what strain of yeast is in there, your results may differ, it would be interesting to find out, and no idea whether that is the same "ginger beer plant" of tradition. All I know is it's spontaneously fermented and tastes great!

I have just resuscitated my jar of the starter (pictured above) which was in the fridge for 3 or 4 months over winter. I added a little more sugar and water and left at room temp. It smelt a bit off for a few days, like the ginger pulp on the surface had gone a bit rotten, but then the smell cleared up and it started fizzing again, and produced another perfect batch of ginger beer, ready for the warm temperatures that have already begun in my part of the world

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Old 03-18-2014, 08:51 PM   #2
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Sounds cool. My Father loves ginger ale, I've been thinking about making some for him. What I don't understand is how it's non alcoholic. Do you boil off the alcohol after it's done fermenting? Sorry, I'm ignorant to soda making.

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Old 03-18-2014, 09:05 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by BBL_Brewer View Post
Sounds cool. My Father loves ginger ale, I've been thinking about making some for him. What I don't understand is how it's non alcoholic. Do you boil off the alcohol after it's done fermenting? Sorry, I'm ignorant to soda making.
Ah, well this is the question really, it kind of depends what is actually in there producing the CO2. Assuming it's some kind of wild yeast then yes, technically there would be a small amount of alcohol, but it's really negligible, since just as with bottle-carbing beer, to produce enough volume of CO2 to carb your beverage up just doesn't produce any notable quantity of alcohol.

I think that is why "grown-ups" used to not let children drink ginger beer/ale, though, because of this tiny residual amount of alcohol, but I am pretty sure it's negligible, you certainly can't taste it.

Maybe one time I will take hydro measurements before and after, and also leave one bottle open so it ferments right out or activity stops and see what final gravity I get there, as well. I could also get some Agar plates and see what grows in there from the starter culture, and see if anyone can identify it!
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Old 03-19-2014, 02:16 PM   #4
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Oo, this process is very similar to what I do - maybe this is one of the sites I followed: http://grist.org/food/ginger-beer-recipe/

Except they don't add lemon, which I would advise...

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Old 05-01-2014, 11:44 PM   #5
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This is one of many links to "ginger bug"
http://wellnessmama.com/8945/natural-ginger-ale/

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Old 05-28-2014, 02:03 AM   #6
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I have been making delicious ginger beer with ginger bug after much research my understanding is that there is yeast and bacterias involved in the process that lives on the roots themselves, as they grow in the soil. I have a feeling that in the primary fermentation the lactobacilius takes over pretty fast because the ph of the brew drops drasticlly. I have also read so many warnings of alcool production and bottle explosions ... Does anyone out there knows how and if it is possible to keep the good bacterias, and contoling the yeast so there are no risks of further fermentation and or explosions? i have read that even in the fridge the yeast stays active and that you have to drink the ginger beer within weeks..Does anyone know how to settle this issue? that would really help me feel better about giving it away to friends...

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Old 07-09-2014, 05:02 AM   #7
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I have been making delicious ginger beer with ginger bug after much research my understanding is that there is yeast and bacterias involved in the process that lives on the roots themselves, as they grow in the soil. I have a feeling that in the primary fermentation the lactobacilius takes over pretty fast because the ph of the brew drops drasticlly. I have also read so many warnings of alcool production and bottle explosions ... Does anyone out there knows how and if it is possible to keep the good bacterias, and contoling the yeast so there are no risks of further fermentation and or explosions? i have read that even in the fridge the yeast stays active and that you have to drink the ginger beer within weeks..Does anyone know how to settle this issue? that would really help me feel better about giving it away to friends...
The only way to control the amount of alcohol is by limiting the amount of sugar. You can then calculate out the maximum alcohol that could be created assuming 100% attenuation. If you stop before that by refrigeration, and if the bottles don't warm up for too long, you probably would be anywhere from a little to much less than your calculation. Also should be noted, if it fully attenuates you'd have a drink with virtually no sweetness.

If you're concerned about friends, just give them the disclaimer that there may be up to X% alcohol by volume as you calculate. If they really can't have, then you'd probably have to go with a non-fermented method of soda making.
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:58 AM   #8
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You are right that in theory the yeast/bacteria will eat away until the sugar is gone but to keep the ABV negligible and prevent bottle bombs you can also pasteurize the finished product. You would need to use glass instead of plastic bottles so that you could put the bottles in hot water without melting. (For procedures on pasteurization just search the forum.) If you only allowed the fermentation to go until it was carbed up and then pasteurized you would have a soda with an ABV of around 0.3 %. There is probably more alcohol in cough medicine than that.

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