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 Breakfast & Drinks
Homemade Ginger Beer & Ginger Beer Bug

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Homemade Ginger Beer

I must admit I have never been a fan of fizzy drinks, or even cold drinks to be honest, but since discovering naturally fermented ginger beer that has all changed. I initially began making it to provide my kids and partner with a natural and cheaper option to bought summer drinks, but this ginger beer is so delicious and beneficial that now I am finding I need to make a batch up at least once a week to satisfy my thirst as well as theirs.

Unlike carbonated drinks that can leave you feeling bloated and full, naturally fermented drinks are more like a tonic, feeding your belly with immunity boosted beneficial bacteria, which helps with digestion, increases energy levels and can even aid in weight loss.  

This ginger beer is not too sweet, almost a little dry, but incredibly thirst quenching, with enough spiciness and hit to give it a valid place in your fridge as your Friday night sundowner.  

This version of ginger beer was adapted from a recipe our lovely neighbours gave me when they ran a very inspiring Winter School course in our community recently, and it is by far the best ginger beer recipe I have come across. Because it is fermented in a large vessel for a few days before bottling, you seem to have more control over the fizz. Burping the bottles daily once it is bottled will help to prevent it from exploding later – something we all worry about when we are beginning to experiment with making our own ginger beer! I have only had one bottle explode before (at 1am no less!) but that was because I was playing around with how much ginger bug and sugar I could get away with adding. This is the point I realised the sugar to bug ratio is a delicate balance, and by adding too much sugar too much fermentation can happen too fast – hence the exploding bottle!

  

A healthy ginger beer always begins with a healthy ginger beer bug, (you can find my Ginger Beer Bug recipe here), and it does take time to get to know your bug and understand how it needs to be treated in different environments. Likewise, with the ginger beer itself your first batch may not be perfect. It may be too dry for your liking, or have too much fizz, or not enough. There are a lot of variables at play such as the time of the year, the quality of your ginger, and the temperature while the ginger beer is brewing. But if you have a bit of patience and take the time to learn from your mistakes, then you will be rewarded with a thirst quenching, delicious all-natural fizzy drink, all for the cost of some ginger, sugar and time. 

Makes 4 litres

Ingredients 

  • 100 grams fresh ginger, preferably organic, finely grated 

  • 1 cup raw sugar 

  • 1 ½ cups water 

  • 200 ml bubbly active ginger beer bug, fed twice the day before using, then again the morning you intend to make ginger beer, 2 – 4 hours before making 

  • 4 litres water, rainwater or untreated is best 

  • Optional: 1-2 lemons 

 

Method 

  1. Place the grated ginger into a pot with the first measure of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 8 - 10 minutes with the lid off until the ginger is softened. 

  2. Remove the pot from the heat and add the raw sugar, stirring to dissolve. 

  3. Measure out the remaining 4 litres of water into a large bucket or large wide mouthed glass vessel. Add the ginger and sugar mixture and mix it in to cool it down – if you add the ginger beer bug to hot water you could kill it.  

  4. Once mixed, add the ginger beer bug and mix well again. If using lemons, clean them, cut them in half, squeeze the juice in and then put the juiced halves in too, skin and all. **This is the perfect time to feed any remaining ginger beer bug.

  5. Sit the lid on the top of the bucket or vessel without sealing it – just sit it on top. If you don’t have a lid a large plate will do. 

  6. Place the bucket into a warm part of the house out of direct sunlight. I put it about a metre away from our fireplace in the corner of our lounge – in winter the fire keeps it a nice temperature and in summer this is also a dark warm part of our house. 

  7. You will keep the bucket here for 2-3 days, stirring at least once every day before replacing the lid. 

  8. When you begin to see little bubbles around the edge of the bucket or through the glass, take a bit of ginger beer out and taste it. It won't taste fully finished yet, or have a huge amount of fizz, but you are analyzing the sweetness and dryness of the drink. If it has that classic dry ginger beer flavour and isn’t too sweet, you are ready to bottle it. 

  9. Drain the ginger beer into another large bucket or pot with a colander and cheesecloth placed over the top. Squeeze the cheesecloth out well. Using a funnel, pour the ginger beer into clean plastic or glass bottles – see note below. Ensure you leave a decent amount of room at the top of each bottle to give the bubbles room to expand. Secure lids tightly. 

  10. Now that your ginger beer is bottled you are going to put it back into a warm place. At this stage I find the landing at the top of our stairs is the best area as the temperature is consistently warm.  

  11. The next day release a little bit of pressure by gently opening the lid of each bottle. Do this the following day as well and have a small taste of one of the bottles. If it now has ample fizz and tastes like ginger beer, it is ready. If not, give it one more day. This is something that you will get better at gaging the more you make ginger beer. Once ready place into the refrigerator and consume within 7 - 10 days. 

**Plastic gives a much better fizz to your ginger beer, so we use recycled 1.5 litre fizzy drink bottles that we have sourced from family, and we just keep reusing the same bottles. If you are using glass bottles, the ones with the flip top stoppers are the best for keeping the fizz in. 

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Recipe
bug recipe

Ginger Beer Bug

It is incredibly satisfying making your own ginger beer bug, and it never ceases to amaze me how by combining three ingredients together a whole living organism can be created. Essentially when you are making a bug such as this, you are harnessing the yeast in the unpeeled ginger and giving it life by feeding it with sugar and oxygenating it in water. If kept in a relatively warm spot, fermentation will take place in a matter of days. You will then have a ginger beer bug that will need to be kept warm and well fed! 

It is a very exciting process, but I understand it can feel a bit daunting – after all you are bringing something to life, and once you have done this you have to tend to it to ensure it stays healthy and active. But like anything, once you give it a go you will find it is not as tricky as you may think, and you will begin to understand and get a feel for the whole process. It will take time and patience, and there may be failures, but if you persevere you will get to know just by a glance and a sniff of your bug what condition it is in, and how to remedy any problems it might be encountering. I have included some troubleshooting and ginger beer bug maintenance tips at the end of this recipe. 

It is important to use organic or spray-free ginger, and you should keep the skin on when grating – the skin contains the greatest amounts of yeasts and bacteria. You should also avoid using chlorinated water if you can help it, as the chlorine will hinder fermentation.

 

Ingredients 

  • Fresh ginger, preferably spray free or organic (keep the skin on) 

  • Raw sugar 

  • Unchlorinated tap water, preferably filtered or rainwater 

Method 

  1. Begin by taking ½ cup of water and placing it into a jar with a teaspoon of grated ginger and a teaspoon of raw sugar. Give it a good mix and place a lid on top but don’t tighten it, you just want it sitting on the top of the jar to allow fermentation to begin. Put in a warm place out of direct sunlight - I find the top of the fridge is a good area to keep it. 

  2. Every day at around the same time add another teaspoon of grated ginger and another teaspoon of raw sugar, and stir in well.  

  3. After 5 days or so you should begin to see bubbles. When this happens, up the measurements to a tablespoon of grated ginger, a heaped teaspoon of raw sugar and a splash of water (about 40-50 ml), always remembering to stir your bug well each time you feed it. 

  4. Continue feeding every day in this fashion until you have an active bubbly bug – this could take another 5 or so days. A good sign your bug is healthy is if you see the ginger floating on top, and if you can hear the bubbles when you remove the lid. Once it is at this stage, your bug is ready to use. 

  5. The day before you are going to make ginger beer, feed your bug twice about 6 hours apart, and then feed it again the morning of the day you are planning on making ginger beer. This will ensure you have a very active bug to work with. 

 

Ginger beer bug maintenance 

  • During the warmer months feed your bug once a day, as the warm weather will mean the bug will eat up the sugar faster than in cold weather. In winter you may only want to feed it every 2-3 days. This all depends, however, on the warmth of the area you are keeping it - if you have your bug living next to a fire all winter you may find it still needs feeding once a day. 

  • Whenever you empty bug out to make ginger beer, always feed the remaining bug in the jar straight away. 

  • You can store the bug in the fridge for around a week if you are going away – just make sure you feed it directly before refrigerating. When you return, pull the bug out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before resuming your feeding regime. It will take a few days to become really active and bubbly again, but once it does you are ready to resume making ginger beer. 

Trouble shooting tips

  • If you notice your bug becomes darker and starts taking on a vinegary smell, tip over half of it out, feed it, stir it well and take note that maybe you haven't been feeding it enough, or maybe it has gotten too large in volume. A bug that is used often and kept small will always be healthier than a bug that is not used often enough and is allowed to increase too much.  

  • If you have a large volume of bug but you want to keep it all to make large batches of ginger beer, pour it into 3 or 4 jars instead of one. This way you will have 3 or 4 ginger beer bugs to maintain and feed every day, but you will be able to make much larger quantities of ginger beer, while also keeping your bug healthy and small. 

Ginger Beer Bug
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