I’ve played with the recipe a lot over the past years to make it as simple and consistent as possible, but really it is incredibly forgiving.
Ingredients – all imprecise and flexible:
shy 1 cup sugar – slightly less than a cup works for me, but I don’t like it too sweet.
1/4 tsp dry yeast
grated fresh ginger about 1 handful (1/4 cup)
2 or so tablespoons of lemon juice
Equipment: empty 2 L (or thereabouts) plastic bottle with screw top, funnel (s), chopstick (or something to jam the ginger through your funnel), grater, empty flip top bottles, sieve.
Mixing the ingredients
- Add sugar and dry yeast to empty bottle (you’ll need the funnel).
- Fill about 1/4 of the bottle with warm tap water. You want the water warm to get the yeast going. Yeast doesn’t like it too hot, but since it’s going in a big bottle, I’ve never killed it yet.
- Shake to get the sugar and yeast dissolving.
- Grate ginger leaving the skins on (feel free to peel them if you’re so inclined, but it really just wastes some of the ginger and is work for nothing). The amount of ginger you put in is directly related to the strength of the ginger flavour in your end product. Don’t be stingy.
- Pour the lemon juice onto the ginger (I do this in the cup I measured my sugar in) and stir them just a bit. I’m not sure this stirring is critical but the ginger reacts and changes colour so I do it in the hope it gets more of the ginger flavour into my drink.
- Jam the ginger/lemon juice mix through the funnel into your bottle with the sugar/yeast water mixture.
- Add more warm water until the bottle is about half-full. This allows expansion as the yeast bubbles away.
- Screw the lid on tightly, shake the whole thing thoroughly and set the bottle aside.
Proofing stage 1
- Leave the ginger beer mixture to stand for 5-7 days. This varies dramatically based on the amount of yeast used (more yeast, less time to ferment) and the room temperature (warmer room, faster fermentation). If the room is a pleasant mid-20s and you’ve used about 1/4 tsp of yeast, it takes about 5-7 days for the ginger beer to get ready for decanting.
- During this proofing stage, open the bottle once a day to let out any gas that builds up. When you’ve had a lot of gas (you’ll learn to judge this pretty quickly) for about 2 days in a row, the ginger beer is ready to be bottled.
- Fill your bottle of ginger beer to the top with tap water.
- Shake gently to mix the ginger beer and water.
- Wash your bottles (I just use a bit of soap and tap water).
- Fill each by pouring your ginger beer through a sieve so the chunks of ginger get left behind (they are great for the compost bin). Leave a bit of space at the top of your bottles for expansion of the yeast gas.
- Close the bottles and set aside.
Proofing stage 2
- Open your bottles once a day (this is why the flip top is a good style of bottle) to let the gas escape.
- When you’ve had a good “pop” upon opening 2 days in a row, your ginger beer is “done”. This takes 5 days or so, with the same caveats as for the first proofing stage.
- Move the bottles into the fridge or in a cool cellar to stop the fermentation process.
- Continue to open each bottle weekly to let any gas escape. Even when cold, the gas continues to build up. I didn’t know this with my first batch and had a really messy explosion under my house when one bottle quite literally blew its top.
Serve, drink and enjoy.
The end result is a lightly carbonated fresh drink. Not too sweet.
I’ve checked a couple of mature bottles and it turns out they have about 1.5% alcohol – not a problem for me but I don’t know how sensitive people are to alcohol. It’s certainly less alcohol than beer but admittedly more than a soft drink.