If you’ve ever sipped a Moscow Mule — or any variation there of — then you’ve no doubt tasted the kick of ginger beer in your glass. But have you ever wondered how to make ginger beer at home?
Believe it or not, if you love ginger beer, it’s never been easier to make it yourself at home. If you can gather a few ingredients and follow a simple guide, you can make delicious ginger beer. Once you’ve made it, you can concoct your own Moscow Mules or just enjoy it by itself, perhaps with your garnish of choice.
Just What Is Ginger Beer
Despite being labeled as a beer, ginger beer it actually does not always have alcohol in it and it can easily be whipped up with a combination of lemon juice, water, yeast, sugar and ginger.
In essence, you should think of ginger beer as ginger ale with a kick.
Making Ginger Beer
The first thing you need to do is to make a ginger bug, sometimes called a ginger starter. Think of this sort of like a wort if you’re into homebrewing. This ginger bug — once you’ve mixed all the ingredients together — creates a natural yeast you’ll need later when it’s time to ferment your beer.
To make the starter, you mix fresh ginger — read below on the benefits of good ginger — with distilled water and a tablespoon of sugar. Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients into a jug, you can cover it up with a towel and then store the jar somewhere warm.
Once you’ve created the ginger starter and stored it away, you need to feed it in order to keep it going. Think of it almost like watering a plant. Basically, what you need to do is add two teaspoons to your starter each day, one of sugar and another of ginger. Add those ingredients and mix them up several times a day. You’ll do this every day for about a week in order to help facilitate the production of yeast.
As you feed your starter over a week’s time, you should notice that bubbles pop up when you stir. That’s good. That means your mixture is fermenting. Just make sure you keep adding ingredients and mixing your concoction constantly.
Don’t Discount The Ginger
Since ginger beer is right in the name of the beverage, it’s obviously vital to the success of your beer. Because it’s so important, you want to make sure you’ve got good quality ginger as part of your lineup of ingredients. You want ginger with smooth skin and when you strain it, you want to make sure to squeeze all you can out of it to get the most flavor.
Time To Brew
With your starter good to go, now it’s time to focus on actually brewing your ginger beer. All you’ll need to do is dump distilled water into a container and then add a cup of your starter, sugar, ginger and lemon juice.
Once you’ve added the right ratios of ingredients, it’s time to store your mixture again. As you store it, you should occasionally taste it and add sugar if you need to. One thing to watch out for is how much sugar you add. Adding the right amount can give your ginger beer the perfect touch of sweetness. Adding too much can kill the probiotics in your mixture.
You’ll notice during the storing process that bubbling will take place as natural yeast is produced. When that happens, your ginger beer is ready to enjoy. You can bottle it or store it however you choose, and add additional spices to kick up the flavor.
Kicking Things Up A Notch
If you’re new to making ginger beer, you may just be ready to enjoy the fruit of your labor when you see those bubbles and yeast form. But if you’ve made it before and you’re looking to change things, there’s a lot you can do to make your ginger beer even better.
What can you do?
For starters, if you want a truly carbonated drink, you can add fizz to it. All you need to do is bottle your beer without filtering it first. Carbonation will happen naturally and you’ll have that same pop and fizz you expect from your favorite soda.
One of the great things about ginger beer is you can tweak the flavor very easily. By adding just a few ingredients, including your favorite spices, to a saucepan and add it to your mixture before you bottle it.
If you add flavors and you want them to meld, you can let your mixture ferment again and then bottle it. Over time, you may find that you enjoy certain combinations of flavors more than others.
Navigating Tricky Waters
There are plenty of benefits and pleasure to be derived from making your own ginger beer. But make no mistake, it can sometimes be an extremely tricky process. If you’re new to it, there are any number of things you can do that will result in your creation not turning out as well as you hoped.
One thing you have to know as you learn how to make ginger beer at home, is that your ginger starter can spoil, sometimes very easily. What does that mean for you, the ginger beer maker? It means you need to keep your kitchen clean and all of your equipment clean. If you notice any mold once you’ve made the starter, throw it out and start again. It can be frustrating for sure, but it’s better to be healthy and take your time then to press on and put yourself at risk.
As previously mentioned, you’re going to need to add sugar during the fermentation process. But what may happen is that the yeast that’s created will absorb all the sugar you add. When that happens, it makes your ginger beer less sweet. To ensure that you get that sweetness you’re looking for, add sugar just before you bottle your beer.
It’s also important to keep in mind where you store your ginger beer, how you store it and how long you store it for. Storing it in the refrigerator can get in the way of fermentation and usually keeps for about a week if you do that.
Use plastic bottles when you’re storing your beer too. Glass bottles can have pressure build up inside them and you might end up with an explosion of glass in your house if you pop the top on a glass bottle. If you open any bottle, make sure you open it pointing away from you.
Once you’re ready to bottle ginger beer, don’t bottle it if you don’t see any bubbles at the top of your mix. Bubbles mean you’ve got probiotics in your mix and it also means your ginger beer won’t go flat. Probiotics can improve your mental health, help balance your digestive system, and can even promote heart health.
The Health Benefits Of Ginger Beer
Not only will your homemade ginger beer taste delicious, but there are several potential health benefits you can gain by drinking it. While there are no studies looking into the benefits of ginger beer, ginger has been found to have many benefits. Those include:
- Soothing an upset stomach: If you were ever told when you were a kid to drink ginger ale when you’re sick, there’s a good reason because it can calm your stomach.
- Protecting your heart: Ginger has been proven to help lower blood pressure and perhaps even lower cholesterol, so by drinking ginger beer on a hot day, you may be giving yourself (somewhat) of a cardiovascular boost.
- Anticancer properties: Ginger has been shown in studies to possibly have some anti-cancer properties, especially for those who have colorectal cancer.
If you’re going to undertake making ginger beer at home, you’re likely doing it for the same reasons people do anything: you want to try something new and you want to have fun.
There’s no doubt that making ginger beer, or homebrewing or making your own spirits can be fun, especially because it gives you a chance to experiment.
But if it is something new you’re trying, there’s a chance that it’s not going to go perfect the first time. If it doesn’t, that’s OK. As you’ve read, making homemade beverages like ginger beer can be fun, but it can be tricky.
If things don’t go right the first time, just keep at it. If you find yourself stuck on a particular step or not sure how to complete a certain step in the process, YouTube and the internet can be an invaluable tool.
It’s often said that nothing worth having comes easy and that’s true whether you’re working hard at your job, building a shed, making ginger beer or planting a garden. With time and patience, you can make delicious ginger beer every single time, and tweak it to make it just the way you want it.
The key is to have fun!
(this post was contributed by a reader of this blog, if you would like to contribue an article reach out to Big Robb)
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