Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Benoit Chabord
Recipe by Benoit Chabord
Words by Amandine Paniagua
Published April 12 2022
Updated April 15 2022
Our ginger beer recipe is a one-step fermentation. However, it requires preparing in advance a "ginger bug", a very concentrated yeast and good bacteria environment that will be able to outcompete all other "bad" bacteria when we brew the beer later.
First, cut half of the ginger into 1 cm cubes, keeping the skin. That's where the good bacteria are. Set aside the other half.
In a jar of ½ litre, add the cut ginger and 2 tablespoons of sugar, then fill half of the jar with filtered water. Never use water straight from the tap as it contains chlorine that will kill the beneficial bacteria necessary for the fermentation process. If you do not have a filtering system, first boil your water, let it cool, and add it to the jar. Loosely close the jar without tightening.
Add an extra 1 cm ginger and 1 tablespoon of sugar the day after, lightly stirring the mixture. Repeat for the next 4 days.
After 5 days, your ginger bug is ready to be used for bottle fermentation. You can keep your ginger bug jar for a while. Ours sits on the kitchen bench. Before using again, add 1 tablespoon of sugar 24 hours before re-activation.
Collect four 1.5 L plastic bottles. We got ours from our flatmate's sparkling water bottles. It needs to be plastic as the bottle will expand during the fermentation process.
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar into 2 cups of boiling filtered water. Set aside.
Add the ginger to a food processor or blender, cover with filtered water and process at high speed until pureed.
Add 2 cups of cold filtered water to the bowl to reduce the temperature. You want the dissolved sugar water to be lukewarm or colder to keep the coming yeast and bacteria alive.
Using a cheesecloth, filter the puree in the sugar water. Add half of the mason jar of ginger bug liquid without ginger pieces—you can top up your ginger bug jar with water and add sugar if you want to do another batch later in the week and set it aside.
Your bowl now contains the dissolved sugar, filtered ginger puree and ginger bug liquid. Divide the content between the four plastic bottles at roughly the same level. Top up each bottle with filtered water and screw the cap.
Store the bottles in a warm, dark environment—ideally between 20 and 25 degrees, for 5 to 7 days. Your ginger beer is ready when the bottles are hard, similar to soda bottles. Time to rejoice! Remember to place it in the fridge before drinking to make it fresh.
You will probably see pale, dusty deposits at the bottom of the bottle. That is fine as it is yeast and good for you and your gut. Before serving, gently turn the bottle upside down a few times to spread the yeast goodness in the bottle.
Open ginger beer bottle will keep in the fridge for up to one week. Ours are empty after one hour around. Enjoy!
Pleasantly sweet with a touch of spice, this homemade ginger beer is the ultimate cheerful drink. Sip fresh out of the fridge or as a go-to mixer with your preferred spirit. A favourite of the house for the past years, this ginger beer is always popular at flat dinners, BYO drinks parties or festivals. We never liked the store-bought varieties, which were too sweet for our palate, yet making a homemade version was an opportunity to control the amount of sugar in the drink. And it is so easy to make!
The idea came from Benoit, as he loves experimenting with fermented food. After producing kombucha, he was looking for a change, another type of fermentation process, and so came the ginger beer. Studying hundreds of Youtube videos and online recipes, Benoit refined and found its magic formula, resulting in a faster and easier process than making kombucha, with one-step fermentation happening straight into the bottle.
Low alcohol beverage, ginger beer is the fruit of the natural fermentation between activated ginger skin and sugar mixed with water. The good bacteria developed on the ginger have a feast on sugar. A by-product of this combination is carbon dioxide, giving fuzziness to the drink. The final "beer" should have a low sugar level, as most of it has been transformed into CO2 and created carbonation. It will have some residual alcohol but should be well under 1%. Overall, ginger beer tastes like happiness.
Regarding its origins, it isn't easy to acknowledge a precise birthplace between Jamaica, England or Ireland. Still, ginger beer came out of the spices trade between the Caribbean and the Orient in the mid-1700s, undoubtedly inherited from British colonisation, with high popularity in Canada, the US, and Australia. Today, we re-visit and make our own.
In terms of alcohol content, homemade ginger beer should contain less than 1%, so it won't make you drunk. However, following the same principle as kombucha, we recommend passing on ginger beer for pregnant women or those breastfeeding. Same for children.
There are many benefits worth noting for those who can consume ginger beer. A source of beneficial lactic acid bacteria, fermented drinks such as ginger beer are rich in probiotics. These bacterias support the digestive system, improving digestibility, gut balance and immunity while alleviating health gut issues. In addition, ginger beer also benefits from the power of its main ingredient, ginger. This root contains gingerol, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, strengthening the overall immune system. Ginger helps decrease inflammation and cholesterol levels while reducing nausea, chronic indigestion, or period pain if taken at the beginning of the menstrual period.
In the end, another essential positive to consider about this homemade ginger beer is the cost. In New Zealand, low quality store-bought fermented ginger beer is found at NZ$7 for 1.5L, and organic ginger beer is NZ$12 for the same amount. Ginger can cost NZ$15 per kilogram, so approximately NZ$6 for ginger for this recipe, and sugar NZ$2 per kilo, here 90 cents, so a total of NZ$7 for 6 litres. We consider filtered water to be kind of free. Overall, one bottle of our recipe will cost NZ$1.75. That and a bit of your time. Priceless.
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