Ginger Beer Plant and Real Ginger Beer
A pleasant tasting carbonated drink may be made from ginger, yeasts and sugar. A simple recipe is described on page 136-139 of Sandor Ellix Katz book Wild Fermentation.
However for those purists and true brewers, we will describe how to ferment and maintain a true Ginger Beer Plant. (DSMZ Strain 2472)
Water should be as fresh and pure as possible. The water is heated or boiled in order to extract as much flavor from the ginger as possible and to dissolve the sugar. The hotter the water and the longer the time the greater will be the extraction. However the greater and longer the water boils the less oxygen there is in the water for the ferment. Distilled water which I recommend, has much of the oxygen removed and therefore should be energenized in a blender or whisked. Add the juice of the lemon, citrus acid, and cream of tarter as soon as the water is below 37C / 100F. Do Not Add the GBP at this Time. Wait until the water, sugar and ginger are at the same room temperature.
The lemon juice and citrus acid helps to ward off pathogens but cover when cooling to avoid contamination. Place container (covered) in a sink of cold water to expedite cooling.
Another method is to heat up only 1/2 of the amount of water to be used keeping the remainder at room temperature of colder and then after extracting combining the two.
Strain through cheesecloth - unless you like your Ginger Beer lumpy. Then add the GBP.
Stand the ferment in a warm spot 1-3 days at 25-30C (77-86F)
Primary Ferment Stage One Establishes the ferment.
The yeasts go into a feeding frenzy breaking down the sugar. The longer the time here the less sugar and the less sweet will be your Ginger Beer. And if you use an airlock or a tight fitting cap the greater the carbonation and the greater the alcohol production. Alcohol will be converted to acids. Leaving a loose fitting fit allows the gasses to escape, alcohol production peaks and is reduced as the bacteria will become more active and working towards converting the ferment to vinegar. An airlock - or a balloon fitted and secured over the mouth of the fermenting container is safe and can be monitored. A tight fitting lid will explode, breaking glass, and is especially dangerous when small children are present.
The yeasts convert the sugar into alcohol and CO2. During the Primary Ferment of Stage One the CO2 is vented out of the airlock or trapped inflating the balloon. Time and Temperature effects how the yeast acts, along with subtle influences by acid and other nutrients. When you see a steady stream of bubbles it is time to bottle. No bubbles usually mean a bad ferment or a open container.
Strain through layered cheesecloth retrieving the GBP.
Fine straining minimizes the quantity of lactic and acetic acid producing bacteria. If you want to reduce the alcohol amount as much as possible and increase the lactic acid as much as possible do not strain. Use a wider mesh to only recover the GBP.
Bottle the ferment. If you wish add additional flavors or Stevia to sweeten without adding additional sugars or contributing more so to the secondary fermentation.
Only use food grade plastic bottles -will have the number 2 inside a triangle on the bottom, The main reason is safety. Plastic has the advantage of telling how much pressure is in the bottle (by feeling the firmness). We recommend using the size bottle that you typical will consume at one time. Once opened Ginger Beer will so flatter and also go more sour. from the action of the acetic bacterium.
Fill each bottle about an inch from the top and screw on the plastic lid firmly. Leaving an airspace will allow some of the CO2 to collect there instead of re-dissolving back into the ferment. If you ferment is leaning towards the sour side then fill the bottles all the way to the top and squeeze the bottle while putting on the cap to remove all the air.
The Secondary ferment is also Time and Temperature dependent. The higher he temperature the shorter the fermenting time. The lower the temperature the longer the ferment. The yeasts and bacteria are also Time and Temperature dependent, as well as knowing that different yeasts are more or less active at given temperatures.
Once bottled and the yeasts still have sugar to feed on, the CO2 has nowhere to go and is captured in the liquid. As the oxygen is depleted, anaerobic yeasts commence production.
In the beginning its a good idea to keep the bottles in a bucket incase one of them goes off.
When you feel the pressure is just right and the bottle is hard place in the refrigerator for the final ferment.
Third Stage. Cold Stabilization. And advanced techniques. Most activity is reduced under refrigeration. Yet this process still produces small percentage of alcohol, and beneficial nutrients. Here the Ginger Beer also mellows out, Chills out as it were !
In a few days it'll be ready.
Drink it cold right from the fridge or allow it to stand at room temperature for awhile and if you care allow it to breathe. All at your pleasure.
Unless you rack and age your Ginger Beer will have sediment on the bottom. This is not harmful at all. It is actually healthy if you care to indulge. Its simply dead yeast cells full of vitamins and minerals. Slowly pour the Ginger Beer into a glass and enjoy life.
By measuring the sugar content with a hydrometer before and after these stages once calculates the alcohol content. Since the ferment is very short and limited Ginger Beer is generally very low at less than 1/2 of 1%
Cold Stabilization. smoothes out an acetic bite and portion of the tartaric acid will precipitate out as crystals. Here adding Potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite may be added to prevent further yeast reproduction. Another process is Filtering: The cloudy or hazy beverage may taste fine, but it does not look finished and many a friend will balk at taking a glass offered. This is why virtually all commercial beverages are filtered. A brilliantly clear beverage is more appealing than a cloudy or hazy one. Sterile filtration is the ultimate act of clarifying , leaving it sparkling clear, and pleasing to look at and virtually incapable of refermenting. Filtration removes yeast, bacteria, and debris also makes it more stable because yeast or bacteria that could feed off residual sugar have been removed. As a result, the amount of SO2 and other chemical preservatives can be reduced. Most of these techniques are not used in home ferments but are discussed in greater detail in our section on Advanced Fermentation.
Quality of ingredients as well as what ingredients are used are of course primary in any ferments be it major commercial endeavors or the simplest home brewer. Two critical factors: Time and Temperatures are sometimes the most perplexing to the home brewer. While really good Ginger-Beer is really simply to make and a rewarding family activity, attention to more and more detail can lead to award-winning ferments and acclaims of astonishments from friends and neighbors. For a greater depth of understanding refer to our Ginger-Beer Plant Research section and Advanced Fermentation.
Ed Kasper L.Ac, Acupuncturist & Herbalist
417 Laurent St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Our liquid extracts are the most potent form of a botanical elixir.
The Happy Herbalistís Pharmacy features fresh-made Remedies Designed Exclusively For You