Ginger beer from scratch

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Jon54

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After being disappointed with a Brigalow kit GB, principally because of the artificial sweetener, I decided to try making one from first principles, aiming to make 23L in a Coopers fermenter.

  • 750g root ginger
  • 2 lemons, 2 limes
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • 1kg dextrose
  • 15g Morgans Ale yeast, 4g nutrient
  • 750ml ginger Refresher cordial
I put the ginger through a juicer which yielded 450ml of juice
Hand-juiced the lemons & limes
Put the ginger fibre & citrus pulp in a hop sock and tied off the ends.
Added all juices, brown sugar & sock to 3L of hot water in a large pot and boiled for 10 minutes, primarily to sterilise the sock and contents.
When the pot had cooled I added its contents to the pre-sterilised Coopers FV, topped up to 23L, added the dex and stirred it in.
Pitched the yeast and nutrient at 26°C.
By placing the FV in a shallow water bath, covering it with wet towels and aiming a fan at it I've got the temp down to a steady 24°
SG was 1033 though I only remembered to measure it after I had added yeast and foam was forming.

Question: so far I have left the sock in the FV. Good? Bad?
 
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After being disappointed with a Brigalow kit GB, principally because of the artificial sweetener, I decided to try making one from first principles, aiming to make 23L in a Coopers fermenter.

  • 750g root ginger
  • 2 lemons, 2 limes
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • 1kg dextrose
  • 15g Morgans Ale yeast, 4g nutrient
  • 750ml ginger Refresher cordial
I put the ginger through a juicer which yielded 450ml of juice
Hand-juiced the lemons & limes
Put the ginger fibre & citrus pulp in a hop sock and tied off the ends.
Added all juices, brown sugar & sock to 3L of hot water in a large pot and boiled for 10 minutes, primarily to sterilise the sock and contents.
When the pot had cooled I added its contents to the pre-sterilised Coopers FV, topped up to 23L, added the dex and stirred it in.
Pitched the yeast and nutrient at 26°C.
By placing the FV in a shallow water bath, covering it with wet towels and aiming a fan at it I've got the temp down to a steady 24°
SG was 1033 though I only remembered to measure it after I had added yeast and foam was forming.

Question: so far I have left the sock in the FV. Good? Bad?
Hi Jon54, I can't answer your question but I do want to know more about making ginger beer. Ive been a bit hesitant in starting because I have never tried a home brew GB. I want to make some and bottle it but don't want it to taste like sparkling wine and I would like it to have some sweetness. Any advice you can give would be appreciated.
 

Jon54

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Hey Paddy - I don't have much experience yet. My first attempt (Brigalow mentioned above) failed the neighbour taste-test; her screwed-up face was the give away :D . I had drunk a few bottles of it, blaming the after-taste on artificial sweetener and hoping it would improve, but after a month in the bottle it's still a little odd. "No sweetness" was also a black mark according to neighbour. Her husband reckoned that Sailor Jerry made it drinkable! My theory is that adding a semi or non-fermentable sugar to the recipe should leave residual sweetness after the fermentable sugars have been converted to alcohol. (?)
 
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Hey Paddy - I don't have much experience yet. My first attempt (Brigalow mentioned above) failed the neighbour taste-test; her screwed-up face was the give away :D . I had drunk a few bottles of it, blaming the after-taste on artificial sweetener and hoping it would improve, but after a month in the bottle it's still a little odd. "No sweetness" was also a black mark according to neighbour. Her husband reckoned that Sailor Jerry made it drinkable! My theory is that adding a semi or non-fermentable sugar to the recipe should leave residual sweetness after the fermentable sugars have been converted to alcohol. (?)
Thanks J, I'm trying to cover all bases and I would like to have a sweetish ginger beer so am looking at a couple of options such as back sweetening with Erythritol (a natural sweetener) or maybe adding a ginger beer cordial when pouring. I have made apple cider successfully and like the dry finish as well as the mildly back sweetened version with the erythritol ( it doesn't seem to have an unpleasant after taste in the cider). I'll keep trying to get more info and thanks for your reply.
 

NattyJ

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Thanks J, I'm trying to cover all bases and I would like to have a sweetish ginger beer so am looking at a couple of options such as back sweetening with Erythritol (a natural sweetener) or maybe adding a ginger beer cordial when pouring. I have made apple cider successfully and like the dry finish as well as the mildly back sweetened version with the erythritol ( it doesn't seem to have an unpleasant after taste in the cider). I'll keep trying to get more info and thanks for your reply.
Made one a little while back. It was bone dry. No sweetness to talk of.

Mine definitely required sweetening at serving and I used Sodastrean style cordials. I definitely couldn't drink it without it!
 
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Thanks NattyJ, I'm thinking of trying something like Jon54's recipe I found some fresh ginger today for $12.99/kg so bought a kilo. I think I want to stay away from the kit GB's unless there is more support for them on the various forums.
 

Luxo_Aussie

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From my experience, you can add some malt (maybe 1.5-2kgs for a 23L batch, mashed low) to get a touch of sweetness but this needs to be a very light touch as adding too much thickens the body of the batch which needs to be dry. I mix of Maris Otter, Caramunich, Munich & Wheat would work well to give you some dimension - but don't use Malt Extract as a substitute as it always leaves it thick and sweet.

Best idea would be create some 5L batches (as you can mini-mash on the stove) and then play with ingredients before scaling up!
 

Jon54

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Just measured the current SG (day 8). Days 1, 5 and 8 were 1033, 1006 and 998. Smells good, tastes terrible... no sweetness is expected but a bit sour - concerning?
 
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Hmm Sour J, I was wondering about going down NattyJ's path and adding GB cordial, (to taste), after pouring, this might solve my dilemma and maybe your sourness issue.
Thanks Luxo, I may well go down the path of a small batch first. but am leaning toward an alcoholic dry GB then adding the cordial but want more feedback on the outcome. I'm also interested in various recipes using fresh ginger I likeJon 54's above but would like to substitute the cordial for sugar so am looking at advice on quantities.
I'm on two threads at the moment and was hoping to bring them together so if you guys don't mind can we continue discussions on the thread "Ginger beer + extras" I appreciate your help.
 

Narapoia

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I've made a couple batches of all grain ginger beer - pale malt with a ton of caramel and toffee malt to add body and residual sweetness but it's still pretty dry. So I back-sweeten to taste. In the glass add a small amount of hot water then 1-1.5 teaspoons of sugar or honey (orange blossom honey is the best) dissolve then pour the beer on top. Doesn't add too much hassle.
 

kdchap5

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My experience with Brigalow mirrors yours - although one neighbour did say ''it was quite drinkable' after he had kept it for six months! I threw most of mine away. I wont be using that kit again!

Second batch - using a Morgans kit plus some Buderim preserved ginger added to the 'mash' was very good! Low on carbonation but very tasty with a decent 'punch'
 

Jon54

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Just checking on the prevailing wisdom of how long to ferment for before bottling. I had thought that bottling should follow when fermentation stops... when SG is stable, the krausen subsides, little sign of activity/bubbles. That might occur around day 7.
But I'd read on a couple of threads (that I can no longer find), nah keep going for at least another week.
My GB is on day 10. Activity slowing but still a thin layer of scum and some bubbles breaking the surface.
What say you?
 
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Narapoia

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Just checking on the prevailing wisdom of how long to ferment for before bottling. I had thought that bottling should follow when fermentation stops... when SG is stable, the krausen subsides, little sign of activity/bubbles. That might occur around day 7.
But I'd read on a couple of threads (that I can no longer find), nah keep going for at least another week.
My GB is on day 10. Activity slowing but still a thin layer of scum and some bubbles breaking the surface.
What say you?
There's a lot of discussion on this topic around the interwebs. Typically the active fermentation is done inside 7 days - there are those that advocate another 7 for the yeast to 'clean up' after itself by eating through some of the undesirable fermentation by-products. There's conflicting opinion on how much of a difference this makes but seems to be more pronounced for some yeasts. Clean fermenting stuff like US05 is what I mostly use and I have seen no difference between bottling on day 10 vs day 14. I haven't tried bottling on day 7 though - maybe others with some experience doing so could chip in.
 
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Hey Jon, this is a really interesting topic. I've been through this with beer and it varies depending on what you are brewing and the yeast you use. I started out with ales and found bottling after fermentation, about 7 days, was fine. But now that I brew only lagers (my preference) I have found that my best results have been ( and they are constant) by fermenting for two weeks then placing into a second FV and leaving for another two weeks. I have been using 34/70 yeast at 11 degrees for this process. This has made a noticeable difference to the clarity and crisp finish to my beers. I have also done this method with apple cider using Lalvin C1118 champagne yeast at 16.5 degrees with excellent results. So my thoughts are that leaving the ferment for an extra 7 days will help rather than hinder the process if you are using ale yeast.
 

Jon54

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Hey Jon, this is a really interesting topic. I've been through this with beer and it varies depending on what you are brewing and the yeast you use. I started out with ales and found bottling after fermentation, about 7 days, was fine. But now that I brew only lagers (my preference) I have found that my best results have been ( and they are constant) by fermenting for two weeks then placing into a second FV and leaving for another two weeks. I have been using 34/70 yeast at 11 degrees for this process. This has made a noticeable difference to the clarity and crisp finish to my beers. I have also done this method with apple cider using Lalvin C1118 champagne yeast at 16.5 degrees with excellent results. So my thoughts are that leaving the ferment for an extra 7 days will help rather than hinder the process if you are using ale yeast.
Thanks Paddy... as it happened I bottled yesterday (Day 11) just before reading your post! My ferment temp range was 22-24 and that was with wet towels and a fan 😃. A fermentation fridge with temperature controller is in my future.
 

livo

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I've just started a "Ginger Bug" or "Ginger Plant" and I'm hoping to make old school ginger beer. I remember the occasional glass bottle exploding under the house (under my bedroom to be exact) when I was a kid.

I watched one youtube video this morning of a guy (Aussie) who had sweet GB when he did a taste test in a later video. I feel it was all wrong but who knows? He used 6 kg of sugar in 23 litres (potential ABV of 13.3%) and then added the priming sugar at bottling. That's not counting the sugar from the ginger. He only fermented for a week and then bottled. As far as I could tell, he took no hydrometer readings. I believe he used a Brigalow Cider yeast as it had a packet of nutrient included which he thought was extra yeast. He said it was sweet and compared it to a less sugar version he made after all the comments that he'd used too much. The lower sugar version was dry "like wine" which at least suggests full fermentation of the sugar. I suspect the sweetness in the first batch was because the fermentation was incomplete. He either bottled too early, in which case he will have GB Bombs soon, or the high ABV killed the yeast. The latter is doubtful as he had carbonation. I wouldn't want to have been on his clean-up duty. Maybe he was lucky and drank them all before they popped.

Anyway, I'm going to use his basic principles but use way less sugar. I'm thinking about 1.5 kg in 25 litres to get around 3 - 3.5% once primed. Now I know that fermentation will be slow as I'll be using the bug instead of yeast, but I'm also expecting it to ferment out dryish. From my experience with Apple Cider, I found the solution was to use some lactose (unfermentable) to leave a residual sweetness.

At $25 - $35 / kg for ginger, I'll be using my fresh root for maintaining and feeding the bug plant, so I went to the Indian Grocer and bought a 1 kg jar of ginger paste. The label says 100% ginger so fingers crossed. I'll make up a mix of 750 g and the juice and zest of 5 or 6 lemons with the sugar in hot water and then strain it before adding cool water up to 24 litres. I'm hoping 1 litre of active ginger bug will kick it up to get started.

I have 3 dozen home brew designed swing top bottles so I'm planning on using these. (Note: not reusing modern brown glass as shown in the video, ie; not designed for re-filling). I'll add the lactose along with the priming sugar once primary fermentation is complete.

Other option I've seen is to add a teaspoon of invert syrup when you open the bottle but that seems to be a bit of a pain to do. I have seen recipes using malt extract, honey or even molasses to obtain some sweetness. Lactose worked for the cider so I'll try that first. I feel that some people think home-made alcoholic GB should taste like Kirks or Saxby's soft drink. Mind you, the cans you can buy do just that at 4.5%.

I might have to plant some ginger in the dirt.
 
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Hi Livo, the lactose has me interested. I am enjoying success with my apple cider and have used erythritol in half the batch to slightly sweeten it (I used 15gms per litre and didn't have any unpleasant aftertaste) Both the dry and the weetened where a hit. The 15gs/L didn't make it sweet but rather less dry, a slight sweetness if that makes sense. I would be interested in knowing what kind of aftertaste if any the lactose produces and how much you use.
 

livo

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Lactose is available at HB stores as a sweetener for stout, cider, ginger beer and wine. Under $10 for 500g, which is the recommended dose for 23 litres. You can get it elsewhere. As a non-fermentable sugar it will provide approximately half the sweetness of the same amount of cane sugar and from my memory, it had no discernible flavour or after-taste in cider.

It does raise the specific gravity of the brew so this needs to be taken into account if you add it into the fermenter at the start. Your fermentation will finish at a higher FG. How many points? I'm not sure of ppg for it and looking it up says either 31, 35 or even 46, so I guess you would need to test it dissolved in water to see.

I just read that sweet stout can contain 7% lactose, which would be 70 g /litre or 1.610 kg in 23 litres. I can't remember how much I used in the cider as it was over 10 years ago, but it wasn't anywhere near 1.5 kg.

Lactose by Beer Maverick

From this using 454 grams (1 pound) of Lactose in 23 litres (6 US gallons) would raise the specific gravity by approx 6.8 points (41/6 = 6.83333 repeat). Safe enough to say that 500 grams in 25 litres would add about 7 points to the SG. It is stated that lactose can be added at any stage during the fermentation process, so assuming 1 tsp weighs approximately 7.5 grams (1.525 g/cc), a bottle dosage at priming of 2 tsp per 750 ml bottle would work out to be approximately 2%.
 
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Lactose is available at HB stores as a sweetener for stout, cider, ginger beer and wine. Under $10 for 500g, which is the recommended dose for 23 litres. You can get it elsewhere. As a non-fermentable sugar it will provide approximately half the sweetness of the same amount of cane sugar and from my memory, it had no discernible flavour or after-taste in cider.

It does raise the specific gravity of the brew so this needs to be taken into account if you add it into the fermenter at the start. Your fermentation will finish at a higher FG. How many points? I'm not sure of ppg for it and looking it up says either 31, 35 or even 46, so I guess you would need to test it dissolved in water to see.

I just read that sweet stout can contain 7% lactose, which would be 70 g /litre or 1.610 kg in 23 litres. I can't remember how much I used in the cider as it was over 10 years ago, but it wasn't anywhere near 1.5 kg.

Lactose by Beer Maverick

From this using 454 grams (1 pound) of Lactose in 23 litres (6 US gallons) would raise the specific gravity by approx 6.8 points (41/6 = 6.83333 repeat). Safe enough to say that 500 grams in 25 litres would add about 7 points to the SG. It is stated that lactose can be added at any stage during the fermentation process, so assuming 1 tsp weighs approximately 7.5 grams (1.525 g/cc), a bottle dosage at priming of 2 tsp per 750 ml bottle would work out to be approximately 2%.
Thanks Livo, that's great.
 

Jon54

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I've also been reading up on back-sweetening using lactose or erythritol. I hear the lactose adds a certain 'mouth feel' that not everyone likes. The erythritol got thumbs up from a few reviews.
PS My GB (recipe at the start of this convo) has been 7 days in the bottle. They are pressuring up but not 'hard' (brown plastic bottles).
 

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