How To Make Your Own Ginger Beer

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Ginger Beer

As far as I’m concerned, springtime is Dark and Stormy season. As the rain pummels the ground here in the Pacific Northwest, a little window of blue sky nestled between two dark clouds in the neighboring distance makes me wish I were watching the rain fall from across a dark ocean, my little Caribbean fishing boat safe and sound under that warm patch of sunlight.

I’d fill a tall glass with ice and a generous dose of Gosling’s Black Seal rum from Bermuda, then reach into a wooden crate and withdraw a chilly little bottle of homemade ginger beer. I’d sip the cloudy mixture of liquid sunshine and sweet, dark nectar while I mindlessly squeezed a fresh lime into the glass. Feet: Up.

The problem with living in Oregon when this mood strikes is the absence of little wooden shacks that sell cases of fresh ginger beer stacked on back porches. But with some readily-available ingredients, a recipe I’ve been revising for several years – and a few free minutes – I can easily transport myself to that little fishing boat on the sea.

You’re going to need a little bit of equipment to make ginger beer. It’s nothing too tricky (save for one tool) and most of it will last you a lifetime. So follow along, and remember: I promise you that this will be easy.

You have two options for carbonating your ginger beer: you can ferment it in the bottle, or you can carbonate on-the-fly with an iSi soda siphon. While the soda siphon is easier to use, for the sake of authenticity you might want your ginger beer fermented in the bottle.

If you’re going to go the iSi route, pick up a soda siphon and meet me at the next step. The rest of you, follow me.

The first thing on your list if you’re going to be brewing in the bottle is any number of 16-ounce “EZ” flip-top bottles. You can find these on the internet, at a craft store, or at any homebrewing supply place. Pick up a few to start.

Next, find some wine yeast. I use Red Star Premier Cuvee champagne yeast. It’s sturdy, it hasn’t failed me yet, and it’s inexpensive. I pay about a buck for a packet that will make five gallons of this stuff.

Okay, on to making the actual ginger beer.

The only tricky piece of equipment I’m going to suggest is a juice extractor. Pick up the Juiceman Juice Extractor if you’re just going to be making this stuff at home, or the Breville Juicer if you plan on making a lot of it. Sure, you can use a grater, but you’re going to need to fine-strain your grated ginger to avoid any chunks in the final product. For the occasional home user, a Microplaner and some cheesecloth will be fine. But when making this by the case at work, I always turn to my juice extractor. The money is worth it if you want to make a lot of this stuff.

Raw ginger

Peel and juice your ginger. I find that 1½ ounces of fresh ginger tends to work out to roughly an ounce of ginger juice.

This base recipe will make one 16-ounce bottle of ginger beer, so multiply the proportions by the number of bottles you will be using. If you’re going the siphon route, note that the canister will hold 32 ounces of ginger beer. So double the batch, duh.

1 ounce ginger juice
2 ounces fresh lemon juice, finely strained
2 ounces simple syrup
11 ounces warm water (cold if using the soda siphon)

Mix ingredients together. If using a soda siphon, pour ingredients into canister, screw on lid, charge with CO2, shake once, and refrigerate. You’re done.

If you’re using bottles, fill each bottle with 16 ounces of your mixture and add roughly 25 granules of champagne yeast. Seal the cap securely, shake well, and store for 48 hours – no more, no less – in a warm, dark place. After 48 hours have passed, refrigerate immediately to halt the process.

After your bottled ginger beer is well chilled, mix up a Dark and Stormy, sit back, and imagine you’re drifting along with me on that creaky little boat.

UPDATE: An easier and more consistent method for carbonating your ginger beer can be found here.

Cheers, friends. Have a beautiful weekend.

336 Replies to “How To Make Your Own Ginger Beer”

  • Daniil says:

    To 149. Sue:
    I think that You should try plastic cola bottles at first as they allow to test the pressure. And after getting them closed just check them every two hours or so – You should be able to understand how fast it is going.

  • Sue says:

    Daniil: I summoned up my courage and decided to whip up a batch last night instead of waiting until today, so I already used the glass bottles. Thus far, no bombs bursting in air. But, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll post my results when they’re known.

  • Sue says:

    I cracked open my brews on Friday night and they were fantastic! Strong, zesty flavor. Great recipe; I’ll definitely make it again.

  • Daniil says:

    Sue, good! That’s a pity that comments does not allow photos – i think it would be great if someone posted the amounts that were used per bottle, especially yeast amounts

  • Julie says:

    we’ve made this recipe twice now, and it’s turned out great — I don’t think we’ll be buying Bundaberg anymore. Now I think I’m going to get some 32 oz. ez top bottles to brew it in because we drink it too fast!

  • Andrew says:

    Mark, Ted, and everyone else who have used baker’s yeast. I have been using Alton Brown’s 2 liter soda bottle recipe for a month now and it tastes great. I have tried lemons and limes and kaffir lime leaves from the farm I used to work at. The lemon and limes work great, but the kaffir leaves get lost in the drink.

    I have been using bread yeast because that’s the way I first learned it and I don’t live near a homebrew shop. I have been adding about a 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast to it and it is usually plenty carbonated by morning. Since I open it a lot I have been leaving it on the counter in the kitchen where there is always a light on.

    My problem is that recently I have been getting pounding headaches that correspond with having finished a glass of the ginger beer. This has been happening for a week now and I cannot remember if it started after I started leaving it out instead of putting it in the fridge.

    Does anyone know why I would be getting headaches? I know that brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast are both saccharomyces cerevisiae, but are bred for different characteristics. Are there any harmful by-products as a result of using baker’s yeast for brewing? The ginger beer only lasts for a few days before I drink it and am ready for a new batch, so it isn’t around for that long.

    My guesses right now are:
    1. baker’s yeasts produces the wrong kinds of alcohols
    2. leaving it in the light causes the yeast to produce some by-product that the body interprets as a toxin.
    3. The yeast life cycle is short and they are producing new yeasts and the death of the 1st generation produces a toxin.
    4. This is an unfortunate coincidence.

    There is plenty of sugar in there and I know the yeasts are still alive because the bottle becomes hard again within a few hours and over time the drink becomes more dry.

    I would love to hear what people have to say, I would hate to have to give up my new favorite drink.

  • Sea Dog says:

    This is a great site and very interesting dialog. I have not tried making my own ginger beer but will be shortly. Before I do, I thought I would give back to the site and answer some questions. Particularly Andrew’s, regarding headaches. I have some experience brewing beer from kits and all grain.

    Yeast: Yeast eats stuff, creates alcohol, CO2 and more yeast. If the yeast is eating sugar it produces a “good” ethanol. If it eats something else it can produce a “bad” alcohol and can be dangerous (I don’t know if yeast eating ginger pulp is good or bad). The amount of yeast you start with only affects the time it takes for it to become carbonated. As long as you have live yeast, sugar and a temperature suitable for the yeast, it will multiply creating alcohol and CO2.

    Andrew’s headaches are more likely the result of something else growing in the ginger beer but it could be that the yeast had something besides sugar to eat. Both are bad, pour it out.

    When brewing beer the most important thing is working in a clean environment and sterilize everything that comes in contact with the sugary solution you are creating. This is because bacteria and other bad stuff would love to eat the sugar and reproduce and make bad stuff. That is one of the reasons the sugary solution in beer is boiled. Brewers also make a yeast starter solution a day or two before they brew. This is so they can add active yeast to their brew, minimizing the time it takes for the yeast to eat the sugar. If the yeast eats the sugar first it is less likely for bacteria to.

    After the boil, they rapidly cool the sugary solution, poor it in a fermenting vessel, add the yeast and put an airlock on it. The air lock allows the CO2 escape and prevents air from getting in and contaminating the batch. A few days later, the yeast has eaten all the sugar and created alcohol. At this time the beer is bottled, additional sugar is added and it is capped. The amount of sugar is controlled so that there is enough for the beer to be carbonated but not explode. There are many factors that determine the amount that is “just right”.

    Since this site is devoted to low alcohol ginger beer it is difficult to incorporate beer brewing techniques. Other then keeping EVERYTHING clean. Wipe your work area down with soap and water or maybe water and a bit of bleach. Run your funnel, bowls, bottles, spoons… through the dish washer with a small amount of detergent or vinegar.

    Go to a home brew shop, get a yeast starter kit (a glass flask, air lock, corn sugar, yeast and instructions). Do not use low temperature yeast. Start your yeast 2 days before you are ready to make your ginger beer.

    Follow Jeffery’s instruction but mix it up in one vessel (bowl, pot, mixing cup…) and then add your yeast solution. Yeast solution of about 5% to 10% your total volume of the ginger beer should be sufficient. Mix it up and poor it into your bottles leaving the recommended air gap and cap it. It should only take a few hours for the bottle to carbonate. Use at least one plastic bottle and do the “hard test” once it gets hard put them all in the refrigerator to cool them and make the yeast go dormant. Remember, temperature, the type of yeast and the amount of sugar, effect how long it will take to carbonate more then the amount of yeast used. So keep checking. You can refrigerate your unused yeast solution, add more sugar solution to it and use it for your next batch. If they are not carbonated enough after refrigerating you can take them of and let them warm up to activate the yeast. Then put them back in the fridge so they don’t explode.

    You should also be able to boil your solution, cool it, add the yeast and bottle it as I described. I do not know how this will effect the flavor but there will be less chance of contamination. Stainless steel is the best to use as a vessel (less off flavors will be absorbed by the solution).

    The reason to add active yeast (from a starter) is to minimize the time needed out of the refrigerator, decreasing the chase of bad stuff growing and ruining your batch.

    I hope this helps and keep others from getting sick or headaches.

    Sea Dog

  • Andrew says:

    It may be the sanitization that I was skimping on, I think I only rinsed out my bottle between the times I emptied the bottle and made a new batch. I left it sitting out for days releasing the pressure as needed. So maybe the yeast was eating things other than sugar. Thank you for the tips. I’ll try it again with better sterlization and refrigerating the drink in between pours.

  • Bill says:

    Sea Dog –

    Nice post!


  • Brian says:

    I noticed that your final product, isn’t clear. Does this matter? Can I make this with Stevia as I don’t really like the sugar hit of most soft drinks?

    thanks for any info.

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