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Jimmy O'Donnell


Evolution • Ecology • Numbers • Computers


Homemade Ginger Beer

A company here in Seattle called Rachel’s Ginger Beer makes delicious ginger beer/ale/brew/soda/whatever. At around $20 per quart, their prices can only be described as laughably high for soda. In a cocktail, the mixer is likely more expensive than the liquor.

dark and stormy

I like ginger beer just fine. But at my core, I am a cheapskate thrifty. This price fascinated me, as the ingredients couldn’t be much more than sugar, water, and ginger, so I dug around for recipes. Turns out it is incredibly easy (and cheap) to make at home.

I was drawn to Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe, which specifies ingredients for 16 ounce batches. It has two major downsides: (1) It requires simple syrup and (2) it requires you to count grains of yeast. Neither are difficult, but they are unnecessarily tedious for this application. For a bartender like him, simple syrup is always on hand and an obvious choice; at home, most folks I know would have to make a batch specifically for this. There is no need for that; sugar will dissolve just fine in the liquid here. I used this recipe to provide an estimate of yeast amounts. If you’d like to make a smaller batch but don’t want to count grains and don’t have an 1/8 teaspoon measure, dissolve a quarter teaspoon yeast in a cup of water, and use one half cup of the result.

The recipe also requires you to peel the ginger before grating it, and yet misses out on an opportunity for more flavor where plain water is added. Instead, I didn’t peel my ginger, and steeped the solids after pressing in the water used for the bulk of the recipe. Likewise, you could substitute some of the water with some fruit juice, though you might want to cut back on sugar. I also made a batch using passionfruit puree instead of lemon juice (pictured below) that turned out great.

ginger beer photo

Ingredients

  • 4 fluid ounces ginger juice (requires about 6 ounces ginger)
  • 8 fluid ounces lemon juice
  • 8 fluid ounces sugar (8 fl oz = 1 cup =~ 200 grams)
  • enough water to make 2 quarts
  • 1/4 teaspoon champagne yeast

Method

  • Cut the ginger into chunks, and pulse in a food processor until completely pureed.
  • Press the results through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Add 4 fluid ounces of the juice to your container (2 liter soda bottle is ideal).
  • Optional: Put the pressed solids into a saucepan, add ~ 2 quarts water, bring to a boil, and then turn off while you finish the rest.
  • Squeeze lemons, add the juice to the bottle.
  • Add sugar.
  • Add the water (or ginger-infused water, if you went that route). It should be cool by now, but just make sure it is not hotter than about 100ºF by the time the yeast hits it.
  • Shake until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add yeast, and shake to distribute.
  • Set in a warm, dark location for 2 days, then stick in the fridge.

Notes

  • Be aware that it could explode! I keep mine inside of a large stockpot, and check on it a few times a day. If it feels extremely hard, I let out a little air.
  • The final product will contain some alcohol. A friend and I made a rough guess at 3%, though I think this is an overestimate (I didn’t take an original gravity reading and we’re both new dads with dadbrain).