Ginger beer from scratch

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livo

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A few titbits I've picked up over the last few days of research are,

1) According to one comment I read in relation to a video recipe, the ginger root does not go well in primary fermentation, hence the often repeated steeping and straining, using only the liquid. If it is included, the brew should be racked into a secondary vessel after no longer than 3 days.

2) Another recipe I watched insisted on the use of white cane sugar. The reason given being that it is a much simpler sugar and therefore easier for the fermentation to occur.

Both of these points appear to be well intended and informed advice.

Now, these may have nothing to do with your flavours Jon but I'm certainly leaning that way, luckily before I read them. I've bottled my first batches of 2 experimental runs at 1.5 litres each and I now have a 4.5 litre batch under airlock as of yesterday. So far so good. For 1 I went full ginger beer using a GBP, or bug and the other used ground ginger and a tiny amount of WW Lager yeast (unknown exactly what it is but most likely an ale strain).

I've also been feeding my GBP religiously and today lifted its volume to nearly 2 litres. The piddly little amounts recommended are never going to do a 23 litre batch.

The last thing I'd question is the use of the ginger cordial. I've bought a bottle but my preliminary tasting would not encourage me to use much, if any at this point. That may change.

I bottled at 1.010 with no priming and added 5g lactose / 750 ml. I used PET bottles and they were hard after 24 hours so I burped them. In primary container they were dropping 4 points a day so I'll probably burp 2 more days and then let them sit.
 
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A few titbits I've picked up over the last few days of research are,

1) According to one comment I read in relation to a video recipe, the ginger root does not go well in primary fermentation, hence the often repeated steeping and straining, using only the liquid. If it is included, the brew should be racked into a secondary vessel after no longer than 3 days.

2) Another recipe I watched insisted on the use of white cane sugar. The reason given being that it is a much simpler sugar and therefore easier for the fermentation to occur.

Both of these points appear to be well intended and informed advice.

Now, these may have nothing to do with your flavours Jon but I'm certainly leaning that way, luckily before I read them. I've bottled my first batches of 2 experimental runs at 1.5 litres each and I now have a 4.5 litre batch under airlock as of yesterday. So far so good. For 1 I went full ginger beer using a GBP, or bug and the other used ground ginger and a tiny amount of WW Lager yeast (unknown exactly what it is but most likely an ale strain).

I've also been feeding my GBP religiously and today lifted its volume to nearly 2 litres. The piddly little amounts recommended are never going to do a 23 litre batch.

The last thing I'd question is the use of the ginger cordial. I've bought a bottle but my preliminary tasting would not encourage me to use much, if any at this point. That may change.

I bottled at 1.010 with no priming and added 5g lactose / 750 ml. I used PET bottles and they were hard after 24 hours so I burped them. In primary container they were dropping 4 points a day so I'll probably burp 2 more days and then let them sit.
OK Livo, Now all eyes are on you and we wait in anticipation for taste test results. It will be interesting to note any differences in taste/quality produced from the GB plant.
 

Jon54

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A few titbits I've picked up over the last few days of research are,

1) According to one comment I read in relation to a video recipe, the ginger root does not go well in primary fermentation, hence the often repeated steeping and straining, using only the liquid. If it is included, the brew should be racked into a secondary vessel after no longer than 3 days.

2) Another recipe I watched insisted on the use of white cane sugar. The reason given being that it is a much simpler sugar and therefore easier for the fermentation to occur.

Both of these points appear to be well intended and informed advice.

Now, these may have nothing to do with your flavours Jon but I'm certainly leaning that way, luckily before I read them. I've bottled my first batches of 2 experimental runs at 1.5 litres each and I now have a 4.5 litre batch under airlock as of yesterday. So far so good. For 1 I went full ginger beer using a GBP, or bug and the other used ground ginger and a tiny amount of WW Lager yeast (unknown exactly what it is but most likely an ale strain).

I've also been feeding my GBP religiously and today lifted its volume to nearly 2 litres. The piddly little amounts recommended are never going to do a 23 litre batch.

The last thing I'd question is the use of the ginger cordial. I've bought a bottle but my preliminary tasting would not encourage me to use much, if any at this point. That may change.

I bottled at 1.010 with no priming and added 5g lactose / 750 ml. I used PET bottles and they were hard after 24 hours so I burped them. In primary container they were dropping 4 points a day so I'll probably burp 2 more days and then let them sit.
1) I was a bit sus of including the root fibre and did remove it from the fermenter after 3 days. Have seen heaps of vids though where the root is coarsely chopped or grated and dumped in with other ingredients.
2) By the taste of my brew I doubt there was any sugar left and it had all been fermented.

I hear you re the cordial. It probably contributed sugar but no identifiable flavour.
Your carbonation sounds promising. Looking forward to hearing the results. 👍
 

Nick the Knife

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FWIW as someone who recently had to bin an entire batch of ginger beer (brewed from scratch with home grown ginger) - I'd backsweeten upon serving with a concentrated sugar solution.

I read up on all the options and went with sweetening the lot with an artificial sweetener (Aspartame) - ended up undrinkable (IMHO) as I despise that very overt taste that comes with those. Was a terrible choice but I am certain others would have been as bad or near enough.

Keep it simple - some folks might like it dry - otherwise you do to your taste each time. Kinda gutted I didn't do this way but you live and learn.
 

livo

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I hear you nick, but who wants to make 30 long necks and then add sugar syrup to every glass served? I know it isn't what I'm hoping to achieve.

Well the carbonation in the bottles is going to be tricky to control by the looks of it. Certainly bottling at 1.010 is too early, with burping absolutely essential. Surprisingly, the GBP bottles are gassing up and surging to the top more vigorously than the yeast batch. I have 2 bottles of each and they are quite different but both required release twice yesterday. I also have a small bottle that is 50 / 50 which was made up of the remnants of both mixed together, topped up with water and a pinch of extra sugar. It goes nuts when the lid is cracked, like a Grand Prix champagne bottle.

The common thread with the YouTube videos is small batch (1 US gallon), bottle and bench for a couple of days then whack in the fridge to halt the carbonation. Sweetness comes from un-fermented sugar. Again, this is not what I'm hoping to achieve. Warnings about over-carbonation and bottle bombs immediately tell me that it isn't what I'm after. So I have to hope that complete primary fermentation (100 % dry), added non- fermentatable sweetener and measured priming is actually an achievable outcome. So far I haven't seen anything that achieves this so who knows.

Bargain of the day yesterday was 1.5kg of "seconds" ginger root for $2.00 instead of $60.00. I happened to be in the large green grocer when a worker was sorting and re-stocking the display. I asked what he was going to do with the stuff he was breaking off and discarding and he said I could have it as seconds. 2 bucks for the lot.
 

Nick the Knife

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I hear you nick, but who wants to make 30 long necks and then add sugar syrup to every glass served? I know it isn't what I'm hoping to achieve.

Well the carbonation in the bottles is going to be tricky to control by the looks of it. Certainly bottling at 1.010 is too early, with burping absolutely essential. Surprisingly, the GBP bottles are gassing up and surging to the top more vigorously than the yeast batch. I have 2 bottles of each and they are quite different but both required release twice yesterday. I also have a small bottle that is 50 / 50 which was made up of the remnants of both mixed together, topped up with water and a pinch of extra sugar. It goes nuts when the lid is cracked, like a Grand Prix champagne bottle.

The common thread with the YouTube videos is small batch (1 US gallon), bottle and bench for a couple of days then whack in the fridge to halt the carbonation. Sweetness comes from un-fermented sugar. Again, this is not what I'm hoping to achieve. Warnings about over-carbonation and bottle bombs immediately tell me that it isn't what I'm after. So I have to hope that complete primary fermentation (100 % dry), added non- fermentatable sweetener and measured priming is actually an achievable outcome. So far I haven't seen anything that achieves this so who knows.

Bargain of the day yesterday was 1.5kg of "seconds" ginger root for $2.00 instead of $60.00. I happened to be in the large green grocer when a worker was sorting and re-stocking the display. I asked what he was going to do with the stuff he was breaking off and discarding and he said I could have it as seconds. 2 bucks for the lot.
No thats less than ideal but if you compare this pretty benign task compared to losing an entire batch (which I think is a real risk with the wrong artificial sweetener or cleaning up just a single bottle bomb, it's the better option IMHO).

I respect if you want to try another way but I took the time to post up as I'd had such a complete misfire on mine - which really sucked as it was a terrific underlying brew.

The more you read and the more you will find that doing a naturally sweetened GB is quite hard - there's a reason why all the kits for it are artifically sweetened. If you can find an artificial sweetener you like, it's an easy problem to solve but i despise all I've come across - even the newer ones just taste like shite (IMHO).

So assuming you want a fully brewed product - that is sweetened the only ways i found are:
- backsweetening at the time of consumption (which is what i've recommend)
- backsweetening using lactose (I ruled this out as it was not cost viable for the large batch I had, I think it was going to take around $80 worth of lactose to bring to desired level - but could be cost viable for small batches)
- as IIRC wine makers do, use potassium sorbate to 'neuter' the yeast - keg it and then carbonate with CO2.

Am sure there's other ways - but it's a tricky one to balance the carbonation level correctly but having a level of sweetness still there. I'll be interested to see which route you go haha but you have been warned. ;-)

Nice score on the ginger - perhaps with the savings you can splurge at your LHBS on some lactose.
 

livo

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I agree with you completely nick, and I was not intending to disparage your comment in any way. In fact, you have very helpfully reinforced what I was already thinking. I also hate artificial sweeteners intensely. I detest diet and sugar free anything. What size batch did you throw out if it was going to use $80 worth of lactose? The guy at my local HB shop recommended 10 g / litre and my trials are using less than that. I haven't tasted yet, but I'll probably burp the bottles again today and refrigerate one of each to taste test tomorrow.

So far almost everything I've seen is small batch, home recipe, kitchen sink, naturally fermented GB, that makes about 6 bottles, and there is no degree of repeatability guaranteed. In fact, you could say they all just use a lot of guesswork and hope. You have to burp bottles and try to guess when to put it in the fridge to provide the correct amount of residual sugar and toy with avoiding explosions. Cross your fingers kind of stuff really. The only video I've seen of someone making 23 litres is hardly realistic as the guy used 6 kg of sugar and appeared to have no real idea what he was doing. No hydromter readings were taken and his end result is unknown.

Pasteurisation and / or sterilisation along with forced carbonation are not somewhere I really want to go. I saw one video where the pre-carbonated bottles were sat in a boiler of hot water (at a specified temperature) for no specific amount of time. The temperature of the water bath was measured, but internal temperatures were not known, and the presenters just assumed they had reached an adequate temperature to kill the fermentation process. I doubt that randomly raising the temperature of glass bottles, already under pressure, is a very safe practice.

I did a quick calculation the other day and each bottle of my test samples cost around $1.00, so it isn't really a cheap thing to do. Home grown or bargain purchase ginger will make it better but still, as you found out, failure is a total loss. You can buy 1.25 litres of Kirks for $1.50, take off 100 ml and replace it with 40% EtOH and you have 3% ABV sweet GB. Totally repeatable, cost effective and it works. Vodka and Ginger Beer.
 

Nick the Knife

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I agree with you completely nick, and I was not intending to disparage your comment in any way. In fact, you have very helpfully reinforced what I was already thinking. I also hate artificial sweeteners intensely. I detest diet and sugar free anything. What size batch did you throw out if it was going to use $80 worth of lactose? The guy at my local HB shop recommended 10 g / litre and my trials are using less than that. I haven't tasted yet, but I'll probably burp the bottles again today and refrigerate one of each to taste test tomorrow.

So far almost everything I've seen is small batch, home recipe, kitchen sink, naturally fermented GB, that makes about 6 bottles, and there is no degree of repeatability guaranteed. In fact, you could say they all just use a lot of guesswork and hope. You have to burp bottles and try to guess when to put it in the fridge to provide the correct amount of residual sugar and toy with avoiding explosions. Cross your fingers kind of stuff really. The only video I've seen of someone making 23 litres is hardly realistic as the guy used 6 kg of sugar and appeared to have no real idea what he was doing. No hydromter readings were taken and his end result is unknown.

Pasteurisation and / or sterilisation along with forced carbonation are not somewhere I really want to go. I saw one video where the pre-carbonated bottles were sat in a boiler of hot water (at a specified temperature) for no specific amount of time. The temperature of the water bath was measured, but internal temperatures were not known, and the presenters just assumed they had reached an adequate temperature to kill the fermentation process. I doubt that randomly raising the temperature of glass bottles, already under pressure, is a very safe practice.

I did a quick calculation the other day and each bottle of my test samples cost around $1.00, so it isn't really a cheap thing to do. Home grown or bargain purchase ginger will make it better but still, as you found out, failure is a total loss. You can buy 1.25 litres of Kirks for $1.50, take off 100 ml and replace it with 40% EtOH and you have 3% ABV sweet GB. Totally repeatable, cost effective and it works. Vodka and Ginger Beer.
Oh thats ok - I didn't take it as disparaging - we all have our own opinions and I know there's been times when I just need to 'try' my way to find out it wasn't the best idea - so I've no issue with others doing the same - and that said you might find the results more to your liking than I did. But if a batch sucks - I prefer to bin it and replace it with one that doesn't.

It was around 30L of Ginger Beer IIRC - I do think your LHBS has given you dodgy info on that sweetening with Lactose as it's far less effective by weight than sugar in 'sweetening' things.

So it's 20-40% as effective as Sucrose - so you'd need 2.5 -5x as much by weight to get the same effect. No way 5g/L is making any difference as thats the same as 1-2.5g of sugar and 5g of sugar is a single teaspoon!

If you're guessing and having to burp bottles I've REALLy consider using PET bottles instead of glass - bottle explosions can end up doing some major injuries.

Comparing Kirks with Vodka to a quality homemade GB is chalk and cheese.

I do plan to do again - as I reserved ginger from last harvest and it's growing well - but I'll go with a smaller batch - likely closer to 15-20L and will be sweetening on consumption with chilled sugar syrup. I'm not sure of your resistance to whats the easiest and BEST way to do it - as you literally just get a chilled glass - add some of the syrup, top up with the chilled, dry GB - stir slightly - and drink. Easy to adjust - almost impossible to get wrong, cheapest and easiest. Heck decanter and pour back into the bottle if you must drink directly from it - but I prefer a nice glass as it's quite an aromatic product as well.

Regardless there's a bunch of ways to do it - depends on what suits you best. :)
 

livo

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Oh, I haven't given up and I'm open to all possibilities. I'm right in the middle of experiment #6.

Edit: Nick, everything I'm reading says that $80 worth of lactose is way too much for 30 litres. I paid $9 for 500g so $81 would buy 4.5 kg. Beer Essentials brand recommends 500g ($8.60) per 22 litres and I've also read recommendation of 8 oz in 5 gallons (235g in 20 litres). These figures equate to approximately 10 - 20 grams per litre. Your dosage would have been close to 150 g per litre. Old mate at my local HBS knows his stuff, as you'd expect, so I trust his recommendation to use only 10 g / litre and accordingly, I've started at half that to see what it's like. I can always add sweetness buy I can't take it out.
 
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Jon54

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Livo said "...the presenters just assumed they had reached an adequate temperature to kill the fermentation process. I doubt that randomly raising the temperature of glass bottles, already under pressure, is a very safe practice."

I saw that one Livo and although I appreciated why they were doing it, the pressure potential made me shudder.

Having struck out 2/2 GB's I'm sitting back for a bit to see what you and Nick come up with. The challenge of pouring an already sweet alcoholic GB from the bottle is a worthy but thorny one.
 

livo

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Well first taste test today, Jon. It's my Birthday so why not? All I can say is conquering this is going to be tricky, and as you know, most coverage is for let's say, "hobby kitchen GB" in 1 gallon batches. I did come across an interesting video out of NZ this morning from 9 years ago (and the taste testing follow up), that is worth investigation as it was "a half batch" at 10 - 11 litres. However, unfortunately the end of primary fermentation and bottling stages were missing completely, so I have no idea what the final gravity was prior to bottling, but the guy did make GB, bottle it and leave it in the bottle (PET) for nearly 5 weeks without reporting bottle bombs and his carbonation was good. This is what I'm interested in.

An important thing in scientific experimentation is to use standards. Unfortunately, I broke a hydrometer and had to use a different one so I can't be sure my Initial and Final readings are any good. I'm hopeful they are good enough but there were a few unusual readings that don't really make sense, like gravity going up after it's bottled even though there is vigorous fermentation occurring.

However, that said, I was pleasantly surprised, although there is a long way to go. I'm going to prepare a Word document, "The Ginger Beer Chronicles", which I will make available to anyone interested. The stuff I have recorded already, in less than 2 weeks, is too voluminous to try to enter it as forum posts.

Short story so far though is that fresh root ginger with GBP is superior to ground ginger with yeast for ginger flavour and mouth heat / spiciness. However, the ground ginger batch seemed to hold more sweetness and for some reason was less vigorous in bottle conditioning which resulted in lower carbonation. The fact is that if you let it go, it does go dry. My 50/50 bottle, which was remnants from both tests with added water and sugar plus lactose fermented down to 1.001 and was completely dry.
 

livo

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Here are links to the 9 - 10 year old videos from NZ. If you haven't already seen these, this looks the best I've seen so far and closest to a repeatable process which ends in a bottled GB that appears to be stable. (I must have watched, or started to watch, over 50 by now.) I've asked the poster about the bottling process as that part is missing. The DME amount could be varied by substitution with dextrose or even cane sugar or even possibly completely replaced. I don't know if the crystal malt is necessary, but it is certainly not too difficult to include.

Anyway, it is certainly a direction I'll be looking into. To start with I think I would simply blend 375 g of ginger for that amount of wort. He used 350g but recommends 500g or possibly grating it.

Big Red

Tasting Big Red
 

Jon54

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Just watched those - thanks for the links. My recipe and process not unlike his so I'm reassured by his observation that the taste improved between 2 and 5 weeks in the bottle. If mine still tastes off I will suspect that it was contaminated. I hereby own up to dropping an unwashed hydrometer directly into the fermenter to measure OG. 🤫
 

Nick the Knife

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Oh, I haven't given up and I'm open to all possibilities. I'm right in the middle of experiment #6.

Edit: Nick, everything I'm reading says that $80 worth of lactose is way too much for 30 litres. I paid $9 for 500g so $81 would buy 4.5 kg. Beer Essentials brand recommends 500g ($8.60) per 22 litres and I've also read recommendation of 8 oz in 5 gallons (235g in 20 litres). These figures equate to approximately 10 - 20 grams per litre. Your dosage would have been close to 150 g per litre. Old mate at my local HBS knows his stuff, as you'd expect, so I trust his recommendation to use only 10 g / litre and accordingly, I've started at half that to see what it's like. I can always add sweetness buy I can't take it out.
The cost per weight was far higher for me - living rural. I might have those figures off as being that I ended up 'fluffinf' on the whole brew, despite the intial primary ferment being quite delicious - I might have unconscious 'purged' it from my memory. I just recall it wasn't cost effective to do at the price for lactose I could access.

It's interesting the whole 'Ginger Plant' vs 'Commercial Brewing Yeasts' debate. The former is notoriously hard to do properly - and has a very high risk of infections as you're essentially cultivating whatever wild yeasts are on the fresh ginger you form a starter from.

My gut call would be that a well selected commercial brewing yeast would be a vastly superior choice - though would love to hear about blind testing results if it were ever compared to an otherwise identical GBP brew.

Looking forward to your 'Ginger Beer Chronicles'.
 

Dave70

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Has anybody tried to sweeten with stevia? About 250 times sweeter than sugar and won't ferment.
Most artificial sweeteners taste like shit but perhaps its less shit being plant derived. ( insert appeal to nature fallacy..)
Or using a yeast with a low attenuation?
The whole sweet cider / ginger beer thing seems a tough nut to crack.
How the hell does Bundaberg do it? Its not rocket science.
 

Nick the Knife

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Has anybody tried to sweeten with stevia? About 250 times sweeter than sugar and won't ferment.
Most artificial sweeteners taste like shit but perhaps its less shit being plant derived. ( insert appeal to nature fallacy..)
I strongly considered Stevia - however the reports on it was that it was very polarising even amongst folks who use and enjoy artificial sweeteners. Having a distinct bitterness to it for many. That said it cannot be worse than the Cole's brand sweetener I used in the end...ugh!

Had my first swig of it and INSTANTLY thought,"Oh ****....I cannot drink this!" You then wait a few secs and think, perhaps its not so bad, a squeeze of lemon or similar might hide it, so try again. And it's a definite,"Nah all have to go!"
 

livo

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I tried Stevia a few years ago in tea and coffee and threw out a $10 odd container of it almost immediately.

I'm about to post my first "chapter" of the chronicle. I'm not sure how long I'll do it. Takes too much time at the keyboard. However, there are already some weird things going on. I agree that the GBP v yeast is going to be tricky. I am heartened by my initial tests and having watched the Dino videos, I can see that this may be a possibility.
 

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Nick the Knife

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@livo
FWIW great job popping up your GB Chronicles, not sure if it will ever make it to paperback BUT is a good read:
- love the childhood memory stuff about your Father doing it and the smells in the house, am sure many of us can relate to that.

- like your candid admission of things that didn't quite work out, often there's a tendency for folks to airbrush these out of our histories but I think its refreshing for members to see sometimes despite ones best efforts underwhelming results can occur.

- Not sure on that old recipe for the GBP, from what I can gather a GBP is essentially the same fungus & bacteria combo thats used in making Kombucha. I used to make this for many years until I tired of it. After the initial feeding with chopped up fresh ginger, adding more of this each day seems odd - as it's the source for the fungus & bacteria - the sugar being the food. While it's possible you're adding more source bacteria/fungus it's doubtful to have tangible impact compared to the growth from the initial dose. I reckon you could just do the sugar alone and get the same results. Or I wonder if anyone has made alcoholic GB using a kombucha scoby? You'd have same sweetening issues but unsure of the level of alcohol it'd tolerate before stopping to ferment it.

- Curious, writing this as I read - in test 1 & 2, after bottling you say you burped the bottles daily. Why is this? I can only assume you felt the y were going to over carbonate?

- I'd be cautious using honey to add extra residual sweetness - as I considered this myself but it's very fermentable, leaving a mild taste but otherwise not a huge impact for the cost. So if put into the primary I suspect it'd add very little sweetness to the end product.

- I'd also be very cautious with your spice adjuncts - each to their own but folks add birdseye chillis, cinnamon, cloves etc - dunno maybe I'm dull but I think that correct quality ginger, with mild citrus top notes and just enough sweetness is hard to beat - alcoholic Bundaberg GB or Saxbys is good as well (recall buying them from the corner store after Saturday morning's cricket match) would be ideal - and they have very few other spices in them.

- I notice you used lemon juice. Have you considered using citrus zest instead? Far more flavourful and doesn't cause the pH issues that I suspect lemon juice might. I used lime and lemon zest removed with a potato peeler in mine - worked very well from a flavour aspect.

- I suspect you're correct, the chalky mouth feel is from the ground ginger, which is very fine - fresh is definitely the way to go , though in a pinch I do feel you could 'bulk out' your recipe with ground if stuck - but far from ideal.

I empathise with it taking a while to write - you could always just do a 'video diary' on Youtube but when you post it there set to private - so that it cannot be searched & found - and just place the link here. Saves you time to get up to additional tests etc.

Great job by you.
 

Dave70

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For what its worth, the best tasting kombucha I've made used this product (below) in the 'second' fermentation.
Its sugary and gingery - crushed root and extract. The symbiotic SCOBY community clearly cant rip through sugar like brewers yeast because even after a month it was drinking very sweet, effervescent and delicious.
Now, there's also provision to make 'hard' kombucha buy using more sugar and a small amount of something like EC-1118 in the 'second' ferment. Then the third step is where you add the flavour component.
Most recipes claim around 4% abv. 4%?! ...snigger...

I'll be giving this a shot next time around. If it finished even half as sweet and sparkly and the kombucha I'd be happy.
Maby we're just brewing the wrong product?

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