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Ginger beer advice, first brew ever

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jollos

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Hi,

Firstly, i'll let you in on an interesting little fact... until 3 months ago, I didn't drink for 12 years, and now, I find myself on a brewer's forum..lol.

Now that I am back on or off the wagon (whichever it is), I am partway through my 1st attempt at brewing ginger beer, but, feel slightly unprepared and was wanting advice on how to proceed.

I have followed the instructions here:

http://www.makewine.co.nz/instructions-and-recipes/alcoholic-ginger-beer-recipe

to sumarise, it is ginger, chillies, lemon juice and rind, 500 grams raw sugar, 5 litres of water, champagne yeast.

I have it in a 25 litre fermenter.

About a week in a room which is fairly steady temp of 22 degrees and it it noticeably bubbling when i examine.

Step 8 in the instructions is where I am not sure about, "leave until fermentation stops, or it doesnt taste sweet anymore" - how long would one expect this to take? and would I just wait until bubbles stop and give it a taste?

The subsequent steps involving bottling are then to back sweeten and bottle, ferment for a bit more, then fridge to slow down fermentation. Is this the recommended approach? How long could one expect ginger beer to be stored in fridge at this point?

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and consider a response, it is much appreciated. I look forward to your advice and to sinking my teeth into an interesting new hobby.f
 

5150

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G'day Jollos,

With regards to working out when fermentation is complete it is best to get yourself a hydrometer. They aren't expensive and is the best way to work it out, it'll also let you know what your alcohol content is if you take original and final gravity readings.

With regards to back sweetening and letting them ferment more be very careful of not creating bottle bombs. I would recommend using PET bottles and you can give them a squeeze to help working out the carbonation level.

Best of luck with it all.
 

jollos

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5150 said:
G'day Jollos,

With regards to working out when fermentation is complete it is best to get yourself a hydrometer. They aren't expensive and is the best way to work it out, it'll also let you know what your alcohol content is if you take original and final gravity readings.

With regards to back sweetening and letting them ferment more be very careful of not creating bottle bombs. I would recommend using PET bottles and you can give them a squeeze to help working out the carbonation level.

Best of luck with it all.
I shall grab one tomorrow.... dare I ask how to use it?? :)
 

jollos

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Well...never mind how to use it but, any idea about what final gravity readings I should be looking for with a ginger beer?
 

jollos

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so, I got myself the hydrometer and just took a measurement. it looks to me to be around 1019. What this really means in the scheme of things, I am unsure. The surface of the water is stills showing plenty of bubble action.

I took my 1st taste, still tastes sweet and also tastes alcoholic, although without a noticable body.

Any advice on how to proceed would be much appreciated.

Regards :)
 

decr

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1019 is very high, and like you say it tastes sweet. It's definitely not done. These things take time and patience (I lack both btw) but the more you give it the better the end result is. I didn't read the recipe, but my champagne yeast ciders take at least 1.5-2 weeks to finish and they come out dry as (EC-1118). If you don't have much unfermentables in there you should hit close to 1000 when done, also depends on the yeast.

Just keep the lid on and let it do its thing. Good luck.
 

jollos

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decr said:
1019 is very high, and like you say it tastes sweet. It's definitely not done. These things take time and patience (I lack both btw) but the more you give it the better the end result is. I didn't read the recipe, but my champagne yeast ciders take at least 1.5-2 weeks to finish and they come out dry as (EC-1118). If you don't have much unfermentables in there you should hit close to 1000 when done, also depends on the yeast.

Just keep the lid on and let it do its thing. Good luck.
Thanks...i'll just keep an eye on it..maybe test it every few days.

Thanks for your advice
 

jollos

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Took another measure today and kind of excited lol...down to about 1008 from 1019 a couple of days ago ☺
 

jollos

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I happy to say, the SP is down to 1000 or I guess 1.000 (hoping my terminology and understanding of the readings correct). From what I have read, if the reading is the same tomorrow, then I should be right to back sweeten and bottle, or, if the reading goes down, keep it brewing until it becomes a consistent reading for a couple of days in a row? Out of interest, it still seems to be bubbling away in the fermenter quite well.

If I could quote the recipe, they say to do what is outlined below, basically back sweeten and bottle, let it carb up a bit and it is right to drink. They did offer other options (link at top if you are interested) but this method seemed most kosher. Is this what you guys would advise?

I note below that they say to drink fairly quickly... is this advised, or is there a way to store for an extended period of time.

Thanks all for your input so far... I realise i am probably one of those annoying noobs. im am though, very much looking forward to sipping my 1st brew :)

  • Sweeten to taste using sugar. Dissolve additional 60g sugar in a small amount of hot water, cool and add to your ginger beer. Mix through well. Bottle in bottles suitable for pressurised containment. This is a balancing act. Wait a few days and hope it has the right amount of carbonation. Open and if right immediately chill the rest of the bottles in a very cold fridge and drink fairly quickly. Your ginger beer will probably taste the best using this method BUT it is the most difficult to get right. The sugar in the ginger beer that sweetens it will keep fermenting until it is all gone. This will also be too much carbonation and your bottles when opened will turn into a rather impressive geyser. Even in a cold fridge the yeast may continue to ferment slowly increasing the carbonation. A good way to judge when it is ready is to bottle in PET bottles. Have your ginger beer about an inch from the top. When putting the lids on squeeze the bottle so the level of ginger beer is very near the top. When the bottles are hard your ginger beer should be ready.
 

jollos

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ok... so final post on this one... this has to do with getting the carbonation right.

I bottled yesterday, after adding sugar as suggested above to prime and back sweeten. I squeezed bottled, sealed lid and left overnight. This morning bottles were firm. I opened and tasted one and decided that there was not enough sweetness to balance the strong ginger so I made a syrup and added to each bottle, re-squeezed.

This evening, one was firm enough, so I gave it a try. Maybe a tad undersweet still, but palatable all the same. Happy for my 1st try, guys at work on Thursday will be the real judge though.

What I would like to know, is if there is a secret to carbonation... do I just let the bottles get firm and that is as good as it gets, or, if I were to release the pressure and reseal, would I get a higher level of carbonation? Will carbonation be maintained after breaking seal and chucking back in fridge?

I plan to store in fridge, would it be worth, if not drinking a whole bottle at one (I doubt this will come up) but if I were to drink half a bottle, would it be worth squeezing a little and letting warm up again to re-carbonate.. is that a thing?

Thanks for your help with my potentially silly questions :)
 

jollos

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I guess I am really unsure about this step... I read about people aging their ginger beer for weeks and beyond but I really can't imagine how this would be achieved without bottles and or all of the sugar fermented. Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)
 

mtb

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jollos said:
I squeezed bottled, sealed lid and left overnight. This morning bottles were firm. I opened and tasted one and decided that there was not enough sweetness to balance the strong ginger so I made a syrup and added to each bottle, re-squeezed.
Bear in mind that full carbonation of your ginger beer will alter the flavour; one night's bottle carbonating is not going to change much. After bottling it's recommended to not modify the brew at all - mostly because of infection risk - and if the final product isn't sweet enough, serve it in a glass with something extra.

jollos said:
What I would like to know, is if there is a secret to carbonation... do I just let the bottles get firm and that is as good as it gets, or, if I were to release the pressure and reseal, would I get a higher level of carbonation? Will carbonation be maintained after breaking seal and chucking back in fridge?
There's no secret, per se. After your beer is done fermenting (ie the yeast has consumed all the fermentable sugar available), you're good to bottle it. You add a little syrup/sugar/whatever the kit suggests to the bottle when bottling so that the yeast has a little extra sugar to consume, and in doing so, it produces a predictable amount of CO2 which carbonates the beer and pressurises the bottle. People get bottle bombs because they bottle with too much fermentable sugar left in their brew, either by bottling before fermentation is finished or by adding too much sugar/syrup to the bottle at bottling time. It can happen due to infection as well.

If you add the recommended amount of sugar/syrup to the bottles at bottling time, and the hydrometer readings were consistent over 48hrs beforehand, your beer will carbonate well assuming you store it around 20C. Don't refrigerate them until at least one week at room temp to be sure bottle carbonating is complete - yeast don't do their thing at low temperatures and you want to avoid high temperatures as well.

Try to avoid opening bottles and resealing / attempting to repressurise. Just follow the above instructions, as well as the various guides you can find using the AHB search function, and you'll be fine.
 

jollos

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Thanks for talking the time to respond mtb, it is much appreciated. I think my challenge is, that opposed yo beer (which i don't drink) is that it is desired that some sugar remains for taste therefore this becomes a bit of a balancing act. Particularly aging without exploding. I could just play it by ear but don't want to end up forming a bottling habit that is just plain wrong. Iĺl leave it to you guys if you wish to add any further advice or expertise..thanks heaps
 

mtb

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There are methods to backsweeten without adding fermentable sugar that are common in ginger beer production, although I haven't tried any myself. Search ginger beer recipes here and elsewhere on the net and you'll find such suggestions, like Splenda. Some taste better than others though, apparently.
 

Maheel

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i dont know about your recipe but the Morgans brand Can and Kilo GB i do is pretty sweet

thinking i am going to do 2 batches today :)
 

laxation

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mtb said:
There are methods to backsweeten without adding fermentable sugar that are common in ginger beer production, although I haven't tried any myself. Search ginger beer recipes here and elsewhere on the net and you'll find such suggestions, like Splenda. Some taste better than others though, apparently.
I used lactose for a hard lemonade. It's still conditioning in the bottle though so not sure how it has turned out...

Apparently lactose is half as sweet as sugar - just to keep in mind when bottling. It goes in when putting everything in the fermenter. Your recipe also says you can mix it in before bottling. This would be much better than mixing in more sugars, which can ferment and explode.

For your hydrometre, in case you haven't found out yet, you just wait until you have a steady reading over a couple of days (i.e. it isn't dropping any further). That means it has stopped fermenting and is safe to bottle.

Edit* Just read that recipe. Looks good, except for the stirring every 2 days.
I had always thought doing things like this increases the risk of infection - and has a bed effect on the beer by mixing the sediment. Does anyone do/recommend this?
Is it different for ginger beer maybe...
 

mtb

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Nah I'm with you on that laxation, refrain from dicking with the brew unless necessary. Give the fermenter a little rotate to swirl the beer, if you have to agitate solid matter ie ginger root.
 

jollos

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Thanks for your further feedback. You are right about the bucket, I did end up buying a fermenter, but did make some amateur mistakes. Firstly, I did not get a hydrometer in the beginning, so, found myself taking lid off fermenter every day, looking for the yeast in action, I will ensure that I keep the lid on for the next batch. Secondly, I put all of the solids into the brew, and then tried to bottle from fermenter, the solids proved troublesome. Next time I will try bagging the solids in muslin? Even with these mistakes, i'm comfortable that the ferment went well.

Regarding kits, I am kind of a puritan in what I put into my body nowadays and try to avoid an excess of weird processed foods, do kits fall into this category, I don't know? But I must say, those cider kits, as easy as and nice as they might be, do look kinda processed. Same deal with artificial sweeteners, sugar is no doubt bad in excess, but I would take a little bit of sugar over an artificial substitute, and, no doubt would prefer the taste.

I am not overly concerned about exploding bottles (although don't want that), I feel that if I can get the right level of carbonation and refrigerate (in pet bottles) then I should be happy and I think the yeast should slow right down. I am just not sure about the best way to achieve as I have not yet been through the process and am inexperienced with the behaviour of yeast for carbonation. I have read lots of stories about "geysers", but, whenever I have checked the bottles when firm, they are slightly carbonated, but, nothing ever towards a geyser.

so... I think I have been doing the wrong thing and periodically releasing the pressure on containers when firm... maybe I need to just leave them sealed and let the pressure and carbonation build up more? Any further advice for a noob?
 

jollos

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So I got to thinking about carbonation this morning, and considered that maybe the bottles need to reach a certain pressure in order for carbonation to stop entering cavity in bottle, and kind of remain within the liquid...I'm no physicist (sorry to have given you the wrong impression), but does this sound like I am on the right track?

With my new theory in mind, I think I made a mistake by periodically releasing pressure which might lead to a drier brew. Currently bottles are firm but have a bit of give in them and have been so since last night... I will leave them as is until all of that give is gone, then cool one and test. Will let you know the outcome, if you care, lol.

Cheers, as always, any further input would be awesome.

Thanks again
 

laxation

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I'm not sure of the effect opening the beer has...
All I know is you should probably stop it :p

Brewing really needs two things. Sanitation and patience.

For your next one, try leaving it all alone until it is ready.
Add non-fermentable sweeteners instead of regular sugars.
Bottle it and leave it alone until the carb drops have done their work.
If it isn't sweet enough after it is carbed, don't add more sugar to the bottle - just buy a bottle of ginger cordial and add it to your glass to taste.

If the beer is dry, it's because you added sugars that ferment. This increases the alcohol level but doesn't sweeten the brew. Maybe this is because you opened the bottles, I dunno...
 
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