Ginger Beer Plant Step-by-Step Guide
Welcome to the Ginger Beer family! If you haven't already,
you can purchase Ginger Beer Plant from our store. You
are now part of a world-wide community that has sustained
this delicious health-promoting drink over many centuries.
Most fermentations, including ginger beer, do not do
particularly well with metal utensils or metal containers
which can damage them.
It is recommended to stick with glass, wood and plastic
when handling and fermenting. Stainless steel is
considered safe for short term contact such as straining or
*When your package arrives, we recommend putting it directly in your
fridge temporarily, until you're ready to feed the plant (preferably the
same day, or within 24 hours).
• Quart or larger jar
• Wood or plastic spoon/spatula
• A very fine plastic/nylon or stainless steel strainer
• Another quart-size or larger container to store the finished drink.
(a clean pop, juice, vinegar or oil bottle works great, too).
• For these items and other personally recommended products,
view our Water Kefir Recommendations page (which has very
similar methods and utensils to ginger beer plant care).
1. The first step is to strain your plant (the grains) and
discard any sugar-liquid in the bag. If the GBP had a long
transit or omits a strong smell, you can do a light rinse
with unchlorined water. Don't worry about making them
'pristine', a quick gentle rinse is sufficient. Note that if you
do rinse the grains, it may rinse off some of the slushy
protective coating from the plant and may temporarily
measure below 2 tablespoons. But don't worry, it will
rebuild the coating during the first batch.
CHLORINE: Chlorine can damage the plant, which is
sometimes found in high amounts in tap. Please refer to
the section above on water under 'Ingredients'.
METAL: If using a metal strainer, stainless steel is considered safe for brief contact. Acids from cultures can interact with and leach
metals (though mostly through prolonged contact), which could disrupt or harm the grains.
2. Now, place your rinsed grains in a clean jar that holds at least four cups (a quart) of
water to start out with. It doesn't really matter whether it's a skinny or a wide jar, but we
have found that the plant does a little bit better in a wide jar simply because the surface
has more air exposure and the grains have more room.
3. For this first batch, add 6-8 tablespoons (1/3 - 1/2 cup) sugar from one of the options
• All white sugar + ginger juice (use about 4 inches worth of fresh ginger root. This is
accomplished by just blending it with some water and straining the juice from the fiber -
don't put the fiber in the ferment, it's hard to remove if you do.)
• 50% white sugar + 50% of a good mineral rich sugar (wholecane, brown, rapadura,
palm, etc) sugar
• 80% white sugar + 20% blackstrap molasses
• Mostly white sugar (roughly 80-90%) with the small remainder a mix of ginger + celtic
or himalayan sea salt and just a little bit of molasses
• A Blend of mostly white sugar, a small bit of unrefined sugar (a spoonful), and 1-2
chunks or slices of ginger.
SUGAR: White cane sugar is the most affordable, and does not overwhelm the ginger or
other flavors that you may wish to add later when bottling. We recommend using white
cane sugar for at least approx. half of the sugar and, if desired, supplement the rest with a
form of less refined sugar such as whole cane sugar, palm (coconut) or blackstrap
molasses for additional mineral support. Molasses can be quite strong flavor wise, so try
experimenting with other unrefined sugars, ginger and/or salts to perfect your flavor
preferances. Dried fruits can work ok too, but is best experimented with later. We have
found that the grains do best with access to dense caloric sugar (white) supplemented
with a smaller portion of high mineral (less refined) sugars and/or ginger. It is hard to have
a ferment do well on white sugar alone, unless your water is very rich, and the ph is right.
HONEY: It's best to hold off experimenting until after you've had the grains for a few weeks
in a 'normal' sugar (as listed above). You can try honey but it is cautioned that due to its
antibacterial properties (especially raw), and different ratios of sugars (higher amounts of
fructose) it may do poorly or temporarily weaken the grains. We highly recommend
experimenting, there are SO many sugar and dried fruit options. But, we stress waiting to
do so until you have enough extra grains to experiment in a separate jar. Check out our
section on sugar types in our Water Kefir FAQ for more sugar ideas and info.
5. If you are adding a lemon wedge (can be irritating for grains, please read about lemons under 'optional
items' below), its easier to do so after stirring. Remember, your flavor will change to be lemon-ginger. Some
people like this, others prefer to omit it. At this point, you can add a lemon wedge (anywhere from 1/8 of a
lemon to a half lemon). If you're unsure what may be on the lemon (wax, chemicals, etc), simply peel the skin
off. It's not advisable to squeeze the lemon, but you can do this at the end after you've strained out the grains
(when you are ready to bottle and/or drink it), if you prefer a stronger lemon flavor.
4. Add 4 cups of spring or mineral or well water. Be sure to allow 1" or so space at the top
(don't fill to the brim). Cold, cool or room temperature is best (never above 90 degees, it will
kill the grains). Stir with a wooden or plastic utensil until the sugar is mostly dissolved. This
will only take a minute or two, as it doesn't have to be perfect. You can dissolve sugar in
boiling water ahead of time, as long as it's cool before using. Your ferment will be as light or
dark as the sugars put into it, so your ferment may be much lighter than the one pictured (if
you use just white and ginger, for example).
Syrups (such as Maple or Rice) and Sweeteners (such as Stevia): Syrups can do ok
but keep in mind that syrups contain quite a bit of water (maple is around 33% water) so
you'll want to adjust by using less water, and adding 1/3 more sugar than you normally
would. Stevia and other sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners (like splenda) will not
nourish the grains. They cannot metabolize the sugars thus they will fail to ferment and
thrive. Coconut water or fruit juice should also be experimented with later (like suggested
6. Cover the top of the jar with a cloth, paper towel or parchment paper held by elastic.
This is so your ginger beer plant can breathe while at the same time protecting it from
contamination like dust and fruit flies.
LID: Putting a tight lid can cause the jar to explode due to the natural carbonation
process taking place. Believe us, this does happen! A loose lid can work ok, but cloth is
best. Air locks work just fine too, if you prefer to use those.
7. Time to let them rest and do their thing! Find a place for your grains out of direct
sunlight. We have personally not found direct sunlight to be harmful, but it's the common
suggestion to avoid it. Store your ferment in the dark or natural light (just not in a beam of
sunlight). The counter or a cupboard is just fine. You can shake/stir them once in awhile
as they ferment (helps redistribute nutrients). Although sometimes helpful, its not
completely necessary and doesn't usually make a huge difference. Check back on them
in a few days! Three to seven days is a usual time frame for ginger beer. In the summer
they may be done around 3 days, and in the winter they can go longer, 5-7 days. You will
learn as you go... it's not critical to get just the right time, so just experiment as you go,
finding when it seems about the right sweetness to you. For example, forgetting them for
an extra week or so should not cause any harm.
TEMPERATURE: Temperature can greatly affect the speed of fermentation (it can take
half as much time during the summer). Experiment and see what tastes right (and
digests right) for you. They will not die if they're ready at 24 hours, but you strain at 48, so
don't worry too much!
8. When the ginger beer is ready, you need to strain them from your fermented
beverage they are in. Set a a fine plastic or stainless steel strainer over a jar or
bowl and pour everything in. Pick out any ginger or lemon. You can eat these,
discard, or even keep in your bottled ginger beer. If you used lemon, you can now
squeeze it into your strained/bottled drink for a stronger lemon flavor if desired.
SURFACE: It's normal to see some grains, foam and occasionally some 'scum'
floating near the top (especially when using less refined sugars and/or ginger or
dried fruits). It's also normal to see a perfectly clear surface, too. Sometimes this
can indicate inactivity though - taste to see if it still tastes like flat, sweet sugar
water - this indicates the grains did not convert much of the sugar. A great way to
understand your ferment better is to taste everything before the ferment begins, so
you know what an unfinished ferment tastes like, and then compare it at the end of
the 48 hours - there should be a difference, explained below:
FLAVOR: Ginger beer is milder than kombucha, but stronger than water kefir, it
should have a noticeable flavor change - like sweet apple cider vinegar with beer
(and ginger if included, etc). Carbonation is usually very subtle (if present at all, at
the time of straining) but will increase when bottled (more on this below).
Carbonation always rises - and with a cloth lid, most of it is escaping
during the ferment. So when you go to bottle your ferment, put a very tight lid on
it, and see if any carbonation develops. If not, adjust by adding a teaspoon of
sugar or a little fruit juice when bottling - this should give it a good kick. You may
also need to experiment with storing it for a day or two outside the fridge, vs inside
the fridge (just keep it in a box or bag outside, in case it explodes! Using swing top
bottles helps because these withstand greater amounts of pressure than other
bottles or jars.
Activity and Bobbing Grains: If you jostle the jar or
lightly tap it against the counter you may see some
tiny fizz that raises to the surface. You most likely will
not witness bubbles without disturbing the jar in some
way (your ferment will not look like a bubbling fish
tank!). This is a good indication of proper activity. It's
sometimes normal to see grains traveling up and
down while fermenting, but it's also normal to NOT
see any movement. It's not an indication of a poor
ferment if they are not moving (unless all other factors
of failure to ferment are present). In fact, most of the
time, they do not bob or travel. When the conditions
are just right (you may find in a particular season, with
a certain amount of sugar, and certain ingredients)
the grains will grow and ferment in such a way that
their shape traps carbonation bubbles in their matrix
termporarily, which is what lifts them up, and then
eventually the gas dissolves and they sink back down
again. But it sure is fun to watch, when the
phenomenon does occur!:)
INACTIVITY: If your grains are not doing well (ie, no ferment, disintegrating),
they most likely need more mineral support. We recommend trying a different
recipe (as suggested in step 3) which may be all you need to get them going.
Problems usually arise under 2 condtions: too many various unrefined
ingredients given to them right away (after arriving at your house, they are slow
metabolically and this is too much to process) or if they aren't given enough
minerals (such as just white sugar and a lemon). The grains are hardy and will
almost always perk up even after several ferments fail - you are not really on a
time clock, they're quite patient, so try a different combination and go from there!
9. Now its time to bottle your ginger beer and put the grains back into their jar.
Measure out 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of grains and place them back in your jar (does
not need to be washed each time), or a clean jar. In the 'Extra Grains & Storage'
section below you'll find ideas for what to do with extra grain growth. Now pour your
strained drink into another jar to store. Clean pop, juice, vinegar or oil bottles work
great. Glass is the preferred storage material. Plastic and metal tend to leach when in
contact with acidic liquids. You can drink it right away or chill it. Ginger beer tastes best
(ie, fresh, rounded flavors - in our opinion) within 48 hours of being chilled, and begins
to take on a more dry 'adult' beverage flavor after being bottled for a few weeks.
EXPLOSIONS: When storing, try to keep the lid on a tad loose, to prevent explosion. If
you're aiming for more carbonation, fill the bottle within 1/4" of the top, and put the lid
on tight, but 'burp' it each day (open the lid, then close back up) - this prevents
explosions but still allows carbonation to build up.
FIRST FERMENTS: Occasionally, the first batch or two will have an off odor. Although
generally safe, you may want to discard the first few batches. Although usually fine
upon arrival, its good to let your grains acclimate to your home, water source and
sugars and become fully balanced before regular consumption. If it has a strong 'nail
polish' odor, wait until they balance. If it persists, rest your grains in clean water in the
fridge for a couple of days, changing out the water daily.
Important Note Before Drinking Ginger Beer:
Ginger Beer contains very large amounts of good
bacteria and yeast as well as being acidic (from the
high amounts of healthful lactic acid, ph around 3-5).
For a few people's bodies it can be a little bit of a
shock. Everybody reacts to it differently, so we
always recommend starting out slow to see how your
body takes to it. The majority of people do not have
any adverse reaction, but if you do, usually it's just a
matter of starting out slow and slowing increasing
over time. Start with a tablespoon and go from there.
If you are sensitive to sugar and tiny amounts of
alcohol, it is generally tolerated better on a full, rather
than empty stomach, such as after lunch.
NOTE: When people say they are drinking ginger
beer, they are referring to the liquid created.
However, it is fine to eat small amounts of the grains
themselves, too, which are of course an excellent
source of probiotics.
FLAVORING: Half the fun of ginger beer is flavoring.
When you've got it strained and bottled, you can
experiment with many different flavors and
techniques. Add in some of your favorite fruit juice,
veggie juice, or squeeze in some fresh lemon, lime
or orange. You can even add fresh or dried fruit.
Raspberries are delicious. A teaspoon of vanilla
extract (per 1-2 cups), a stick of cinnamon, some
grape juice, or some more fresh slices of ginger are
excellent as well.
10. Now simply repeat! If you wish, scroll down to view more options
and recipe variations for making ginger beer for your next batch!
That's it! Congratulations on your first home-made ginger beer! It really
is a fool-proof process and the grains are quite resilient, so don't worry
too much, people have been making this for centuries! Have fun,
experiment and enjoy!
Concerning the next batch: It is just fine to start with the same jar (can be reused for several weeks if desired), or a clean jar and all
new ingredients (as described in the steps above). Some people like to carry over a little of the ginger beer liquid from the last batch (1/4
cup per quart for example) to the new batch. While this is not necessary, it may sometimes help with the ferment. Try with and without to
determine in your situation if it has any helpful results.
Concerning 'Secondary Ferments': To avoid harming the grains, a majority of flavoring is done in a 'secondary ferment'. This is after
the grains have been taken out and you are bottling. You can add whatever flavors you want at this point, without any worries as to
harming your grains. Remember that adding fruit juice or sugar only temporarily increases the sugar content and after leaving it for a day
or two a portion of the juice or sugar will be converted (even without the grains, ginger beer is full of probiotics able to metabolize sugars.
Be sure to keep the lid on a bit loose to avoid explosion. If you want good carbonation, invest in a swing top bottle (withstands pressure,
so you're less likely to be dealing with an explosion!). You can also just stick it in the fridge, the flavor will slowly infuse the liquid, even
when cold. There are limitless combinations you can try with this! Included at the end of this guide are just some of the delicious
combinations you can try!
Note on Storage Life: The finished ginger beer will continue to ferment even without the plant. Storing it in the fridge will dramatically
slow down the process though, and allow you to enjoy it for about a week. It will still be drinkable far after this (it doesn't 'spoil') but it will
become more acidic and/or increase in alcohol and change flavor through time. Be careful whenever storing in an air-tight bottle,
especially glass, because the pressure can build up and explode the bottle (even sometimes in the fridge). You can 'burp' it by opening
the lid to release the pressure (once a day), then sealing it again. Or use specially designed bottles, such as swingtop bottles.
If you need any further help beyond this guide, feel free to email us at any time at email@example.com.
Extra Grains and Storage
Sometimes this process is called the 'Secondary Ferment' because it is
without the grains, where you are adding in more sugar and/or fruit and flavors,
and letting it further ferment a day or two. The reason to add more sugar is to
aid in carbonation. Fruit juice also works great for adding carbonation (with no
need to add extra sugar). You can let it rest at room temperature or in the fridge
for this process (just make sure to 'burp' the bottles, especially if left out of the
fridge. For special bottles like the one above (which don't explode as easily as
normal jars and bottles), view our swingtop bottle page.
After your first few batches:
As you continue to make ginger beer your plant may grow. It grows at a slower rate usually than grains such as water kefir. At that point, you can either
increase your recipe accordingly, or store them (it's always a good idea to have some back-up on hand!). They also are a good addition to a compost pile! :)
Eating the plant is another way to get a mega dose of probiotics. Start with a very small amount of balanced, healthy grains and see how your body responds.
Unlike milk kefir grains, these are rather bland and flavorless, but have a fun crumbly rubber texture. We still like eating them ourselves once in awhile (as do our
dogs and chickens!). You can also blend them in with your drink or smoothies (throw in some bananas and strawberries for fun!). Everyone is different and some
people may be sensitive or not quite use to the sheer number of good bacteria and yeast contained in the grains. As with all things, listen first to your body.
How to store your extra grains:
Freezing - best for medium to long term storage
Freezing is probably not the best option, but if you prefer, here is what to do! To freeze, rinse your plant if you wish with water (no chlorine, no heat) and then
gently pat them dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. You can take them directly out of a finished batch and just pat them dry (they will be more sticky, but
rinsing is not absolutely necessary).They will still be damp, now take them and roll them in a bowl of sugar until well coated. Then fill a freezer bag or jar with a
generous amount of sugar and bury them in it (to protect them from air, moisture and freezer burn). You can also try freezing them directly in their ginger beer
jar, but it is much more damaging, since the water expands as it freezes. It's recommended the plant spends no longer than six months in the freezer. However,
some have had success reconstituting frozen GBP after more than 2 years (though we can't say what the quality or health of it was this point!).If you have a
self-defrosting freezer, you can try freeze-drying your plant at home. Try to start with small grains of uniform size (gently separate larger grains with your fingers
to make smaller if necessary). Place your plant on a porous, non-metal surface, such as some nylon suspended above a cookie sheet. Allow them to freeze
openly in your freezer for about 3-5 days. This will only work in a self-defrosting freezer that is able to wick away moisture as they freeze, allowing them to dry.
When they are dry, store them buried in sugar in the freezer (in a jar or bag) or in a vacuum-sealed bag.
Dehydrating - best for long term, convenient and/or transportable storage
1. Pat your plant grains dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. You may rinse them ahead of time if you wish In chlorine-free water.
2. Lay out on a clean surface. A cloth or paper towel works well for non-fan drying, a plate, wax paper or any clean surface (non-metal) works fine for forced air
drying. Skip to step 6 if you have a fan or dehydrator.
3. If you don't have a fan, cover loosely with paper towel to protect them as they dry, this will take about 2-5 days, depending on room temperature and humidity.
4. Check them as they are drying, flipping them around half-way to expose the damp parts near the bottom.
5. If you have a fan, lay them out as mentioned in step 1 and angle a low or medium force of air towards them (just be careful not to blow them away!). If you
have a dehydrator that can do 80°F or less, than this is an acceptable method as well. They will dry in about 12-48 hours, depending on room temperature and
6. You can stop the drying when they appear almost dry but are still barely squishy if you are storing them for a short period of time (such as a week or two).
They are slightly more active and fresh in this state. Otherwise proceed to the next step.
7. When the grains are completely dry (hard, small, and depending on sugar, either clear or a shade of light to dark brown) put them into a plastic bag or jar with
cotton balls (to absorb excess moisture) and store them at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Dehydrated grains can successfully be reconstituted after a
year or more.
Refrigerating - best for temporary storage
If you need to store them temporarily, you can always put them either in their own ginger beer or in a little plain water in the fridge. They can even do ok without
any liquid, placed in an airtight jar. The colder temperature will greatly slow the fermentation process. This is the best method of storage if you're planning to take
a break of about a month or less. It may take a batch or two to fully reactive them. If you're taking a longer break, dehydrating is recommended.
Alternate Fermenting Recipes
Visit our new recipe section (water kefir section, but works for both!) for
flavoring ideas and turning your ginger beer into tasty smoothies, italian sodas,
sparkling juice drinks and even using it as a leavener in bread and pizza!
Additional Thoughts and Tips
A Note on Instructions: There are alternative ways to make Ginger Beer - and each will give you a different resulting flavor. Below is a
good starting recipe. At the end, we will list some variations to try out.
Note: Ginger beer plant's size can range from almost mush, to about the size of a puffed pea. You will need a very fine strainer to properly strain it, and not lose
the grains through and have them in your drink. Fine stainless steel strainers (such as oxo) or plastic strainers (such as the ones we carry) are about the size
you need. We offer a couple choices in our products page, including fine mesh lid strainers.
1 quart water
1/4 cup GBP
2 Tbsp. of sugar
1/2 lemon (peeled, unsqueezed - allow to float)
4-5 slices of peeled fresh ginger
Dried fruit, such as apple or fig
OR even a fresh pineapple core
Check for flavor in about 2-3 days, and then add another 2 Tbsp of sugar if bubbling has stopped (active fermentation). Then either
airlock it for a few days or let it ferment in the sun for another few days; go by the taste.
1 quart water
2 TBS GBP
1/4 cup sugar first day
Some dried fruit and a tablespoon rapadura
Add in another 1 TBS sugar each day, for 4 more days.
Based off a recipe from Raj B Apte:
4 cups water
Handful of fresh ginger, unpeeled, pounded/crushed.
Simmer on low heat 20 minutes in a saucepan , turn the heat off, and allow to cool for several hours. When cool, place in a cloth and
squeeze all the juice you can into your jar.
50g of ginger beer plant (about 1/4 cup)
100g of sugar (a 10% solution - about 1/2 cup)
You may also add calcium carbonate and/or cream of tartar, a pinch each, if you don't have hard water.
Swirl until dissolved, cover loosely, and allow to rest for a day at room temperature.
It's done when there is persistent, sudsy foam on the surface.
Decant through a fine sieve into another container.
You may have to pick out bits of ginger amidst the GBP.
The drink may now be adjusted for sugar (it needs a fair amount more, say 100g - another 1/2 cup), for more tang you can add 10-30
ml lemon or lime juice (2 + teaspoons) or anything else to taste.
Pour into a soda keg or flip top bottle.
Leave it out for a second day and then chill for a few days.
Based of a traditional UK recipe and one of our personal favorites:
8 cups water
1 to 1.5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon ginger beer plant
fresh ginger root - amount: about the length of your palm (approximate amounts are fine)- Peeling is not necessary.
Rinse ginger under very hot water. Blend the ginger root in a blender with a cup or two of water until very well blended and fine.
After you have blended your ginger root, pour it through a very fine strainer into your fermenting jar.
After all the ginger water has passed through, grab the fibrous root left over and squeeze several times until all that fresh ginger juice
is extracted and you are left with a clump of damp fiber (which you can compost, throw away , etc).
Put the ginger beer into your jar full of ginger juice and add the sugar and cream of tartar.
Top off the water until you hit 8 cups (ginger juice accounts for some of it).
Stir everything very well.
Let sit about 3-7 days. 5 days is a good point to start with.
You can adjust your next batch if you find this one too sweet or too dry/bitter. In the winter it will need more days to ferment, and in the
summer, less days.
You should end the ferment basically when it is slightly sweeter than you'd like the finished product to be, because you will now be
bottling it for another 5-7 days (use a strong swing top bottle, or other beer bottle made for this task). This will allow it to carbonate and
continue to ferment and develop all the wonderful complex flavors that ginger beer is loved and known for. Open outside or in your
shower just in case! I've had this explode in my face before. Others have had their living room sprayed with sticky ginger beer and it's
'fragrance' for weeks (so you've been warned!;)).
A note on Ingredients and Fermentation Times:
Ginger: The above recipe uses simmered fresh ginger. But dry ginger can be used as well as a powder or in chunks. It does not
need to be simmered. Fresh ginger can be used without simmering as well. These produce very different flavors and can be used
singly or in combination. See some further notes on ginger towards the top of the guide, under ingredients.
Spices: Many spices and dried (un-sulfured) or fresh fruits may be added, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, rose water, and cardamom
butthis in entirely a matter of taste. See some further notes on added ingredients towards the top of the guide, under optional
Fermentation time: Some people add all the sugar at once, as above and possibly bottle with some additional sugar. Others add
small amounts of sugar daily for a week.Typically a short fermentation produces a nice, sweet ginger beer with a cleaner and clearer
ginger taste. The longer fermentation can produce a thicker body, with a somewhat drier, more fermented flavor. In either case the
total sugar is similar, and additional sugar may be added at bottling if desired (for added sweetness or carbonation help). Some
spices or other flavors can be added at bottling (like rose water and lemon) rather than during fermentation.
Cream of Tartar: It seems to be used to improve the ph, 'head' and add a mild bitterness to the brew.
Protein: A pinch of protein powder now and then can improve the formation of polysaccharides. This gives a better head and a more
viscous mouth feel. Too much and you'll get gooeyness. This is more of a brewing thing, and is not necessary.
180gm ( a little under 1 cup) sugar
1L (4 cups) water
4 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp lime juice
2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Ginger Beer Plant (about 3tbsp)
Mix all and let ferment 3-7 days, checking for desired taste,
then strain, bottle and repeat.
Note on starting out: White sugar & ginger is more of the traditional way to do ginger
beer. However, if it has trouble starting out, try adding a little bit of molasses or try using
the 2nd option of half white and half mineral rich sugr until it gets stronger. Then switch
back to white sugar and ginger if desired.
*Minerals help your grains to function and properly metabolize sugars. Filtered water is low in
minerals and can perform poorly. Distilled and reverse osmosis water are even worse, and
can inhibit the grains from metabolizing the sugars, make for a very poor ferment and can
even kill the grains long-term. If filtered water is your only source of water, additional minerals
may be necessary (filtered water removes about 94% of the natural calcium present in water.
Tap water can work fine if the chlorine level is low enough. Many people have no issues using
it. If you're concerned, letting it sit out (open, no lid) 24 hours allows chlorine to evaporate (as
does boiling for 10 minutes or so). Chloramine (another form of chlorine sometimes used to
treat water) does not evaporate though. Tap water is worth experimenting with after you have
acclimated your grains to your home for a week or two.
We recommend starting out with spring or mineral water and then testing on back-up grains
with your tap or filtered water before using one type exclusively.
GINGER: Ginger juice from fresh ginger is the best way to extract all the minerals and
nutrients. If you are using just white sugar, then this is the best method. You can
experiment with ginger slices, ginger chunks, dried ginger or ginger powder, but it will
likely need more mineral support such as mineral rich sugar or molasses. Avoid fresh
ground ginger that comes in bottles at the grocery store - it usually has additives that
can irritate. Tip: Scalding ginger root (plunging into boiling water for a minute or so) is a
good option for avoiding any contaminants found on the skin of the root. Some people
do this, however some find it unnecessary. Some people simply run hot water over the
root to rinse it, or they peel it. It's up to you. Scalding can change the flavor a bit (makes
slightly more mild vs sharp, which some people like).
Optional items (with caveats) : (as shown in green square at the
Muslin bag: to hold your ginger in during the ferment. This is
somewhat convenient for keeping the plant and ginger separate if the
ginger has been shredded, but it isn't necessary. Keep in mind it can
sometimes hinder the grains access to nutrients a bit, too. This
functions best for holding tiny dried fruits, herbs, teas (middle item in
the pic below) or finely shredded fresh ginger that sticks to grains that
you may eventually experiment with. Cheese cloth can also work very
well, and is more porous. Avoid nylon or other plastic mesh bags -
which can leach plastics as they interact with the acids in the ferment.
Lemon: This is truly optional, and only works for some people
(depending on local water mineral composition and other
ingredients used). Many times it can be irritating* (but not
detrimental short term) for the grains. If you decide to experiment,
use a small wedge, and simply place it in the ferment (don't
squeeze the juice in). Organic is best, washed well, if non-organic
or unsure of cleanliness, just peel the rind off (which contains
waxes, chemicals etc). Some people like the flavor this lends,
some don't. Sometimes it can help with the ph of the ferment as
well, depending on your water and other ingredients you're using.
*If you like the flavor, but your grains are irritated by it (grow less,
crumble a bit, acquire a dusty coating) simply stop using it in the
ferment (the grains will recover), and add a little slice or squeeze
into your strained, bottled drink to flavor it. (as pictured to right)
Dried unsulphured fruit: Fruit (although somewhat
untraditional for ginger beer) adds to the flavor and nutritional
dimension of the beverage. Hold off on experimenting with
these until later though. They are especially helpful if you're
using only white sugar, as the dried fruit supplies minerals that
processed, white sugar lacks. Using dried fruit with unrefined
(brown) sugar can be 'overkill' and can lead to yeasty or even
slimy ferments (too much yeast and/or minerals is the likely
culprit). Use small amounts to find the threshhold of tolerance. If
it seems too much, simply cut back or omit next time, the grains
will re-balance. Avoid sulphured fruit (a preservative added to
most dried fruit that can suppress or highly irritate the grains). A
handful of dried fruit per quart is sufficient (see pic below,
including note on 'amount of dried fruit'. Cutting up the dried fruit
can help release more nutrients and flavor.
Amount of Dried Fruit: You can visually get
an idea here of about how much a 'handful' is.
You can get by with less than this, too. The
fruits pictured work well with ginger beer,
either by helping nourish the grains, lending a
great flavor, and in many cases, both.
NOTE: We have found some fruits like dried
strawberries just don't do much for the flavor OR
for the grains. Raspberries on the other hand,
work very well for flavor (but don't help the
grains much...and dye them temporarily).
Banana can be ok, but is sometimes a bit 'oily'
and doesn't lend as much flavor as you'd think.
Keep in mind some of these fruit will dye your
grains a bit! But the dye is temporary - it will
fade when you stop using the 'culprit' ingredient.
Usually pink and red fruits are the ones to dye.
A Note on Fresh Fruit: Fresh fruit is tricky and can irritate the grains (enzymes, antibacterial properties, weak organic acids). Most
people find this works exceptionally well after fermenting. Simply add fresh fruit, or fresh fruit juice of your choice to your strained, bottled
ginger beer to flavor it. You can temporarily ferment juices such as grape or apple, but over time it can be irritating to the grains. Store
bought juice is pasteurized and contains preservatives, both of which really reduce the effectiveness of the ferment. We encourage you to
experiment with fresh juice (freshly squeezed 'raw' apple cider or blend up some grapes in a blender to make your own grape juice!
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