Ginger Beer: A Probiotic Summer Drink

I try to get as many beneficial bacteria in my diet as possible. Right now in my kitchen I have a healthy, bubbly sourdough starter, a jar of sauerkraut fermenting away on the counter, a jug of kombucha on top of the fridge, a gallon of fermented lemonade inside the fridge that’s almost gone, a ginger beer bug on my night stand, and homemade yogurt sitting on the dryer.

I try to keep the ferments at least 15 feet away from each other (which is a challenge in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment) so they don’t cross ferment. You don’t really want bacteria from another strain landing on your kombucha or yogurt, because over long periods of time it will change your scoby/culture into something else entirely. It can weaken your cultures, mutate the strains of bacteria and even kill your “bug”.

I am having a lot of fun with fermented beverages right now. We are really enjoying the lacto-fermented lemonade, and it goes really fast. As the weather warms up, it is the perfect time to start experimenting. Ginger Beer is another really easy beverage to make yourself. It is tangy and sweet and bubbly and would be an excellent soda pop replacement for anyone trying to break that addiction.

Ginger Beer Bug

Small glass jar

1 1/2 cups purified water

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp ground ginger powder

Mix ginger, sugar and water. Cover jar with a coffee filter or towel and leave on the counter at room temperature. Every day feed the bug 2 tsp of sugar and 2 tsp of ground ginger. Around day 7 you should see bubbles when you stir the bug. That means it’s ready. Don’t panic if this takes longer, I have had it take almost 3 weeks in the winter.

While it’s fermenting away, work on finding a good container for your ginger beer. Most people use empty 2 liter soda bottles, because it is easy to tell if your beer is ready with plastic (by squeezing). I have used plastic bottles and 2 small beer jugs that we got from a local micro-brewery. (a great source for cheap fermenting supplies BTW) You can also reuse 1 gallon milk or water containers. What I really should do is buy a fermentation lock for these glass jugs. They are like $2, I don’t know what I’m waiting for….

Ginger Beer

3/4 cup sugar

4 lemons

1 gallon purified water

your finished Ginger Bug

  • If you’re  using several smaller containers, just mix this in a 1 gallon pitcher and pour into the smaller containers by funnel.
  • Let the sediment settle to the bottom of your ginger bug. Pour the liquid off of the top, into the pitcher.
  • Add the juice of 4 lemons, sugar and water. Stir to mix it all up. (leave the sediment in the original jar, you’re going to need to keep this alive for future batches)
  • Pour the beverage into the gallon jug, pop bottles etc…leave 1 inch of head space. Cap tightly.
  • Leave to ferment for at least 7 days. The longer it sits the more sugar the bacteria consume.  Now comes the fun part (and this is why plastic is easier)

Every day squeeze your plastic bottle or jug. When it gets really tight and full of air and there is no more ‘give” it’s ready and should be placed in the refrigerator immediately. If you are using glass, you look for bubbles and can test for carbonation by opening the jug. You’ll see an explosion of bubbles in the jar when you remove the cap, just like when you open a soda pop. It’s ready.

You can also (and I have) not carbonate it at all. I have mixed this in a 1 gallon juice pitcher and covered it loosely with the lid and just let it sit there for 7-14 days. It tasted exactly the same and was delicious, just not carbonated like soda. I honestly don’t particularly like carbonation, I never was a big fan of soda. So I usually bottle half of it tightly and the other half I leave uncovered so the fermentation gasses can escape.

How to Keep Your Ginger Bug Alive

After you’re finished making your ginger beer, you are left with your original “bug”. Which is a glass jar with about 1/2 inch of ginger sediment in it.

Add 1 1/2 cups purified water to the jar

Mix in 2 tsp sugar

Mix in 2 tsp ground ginger powder

Every day (or when you remember) feed the bug with ginger and sugar and stir. After you are finished drinking up your ginger beer, your bug will be ready to make more. It is a very easy “scoby” to maintain and almost impossible to kill once it gets really bubbly. Every time  you make a batch of ginger beer, remember to reserve that sediment in the bottom of the jar, and you can make ginger beer forever.

Has anyone tried making this with fresh grated ginger? I tried it twice, and both times it was a flop. I don’t know what I was doing wrong.

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