The Complete Guide To Homemade Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is a delicious drink that has many different personalities. It can be light, bubbly, and sweet. It can be spicy, rich, and warming. It can even be dry, crisp, and alcoholic. Making homemade ginger beer is a fun way to experiment with the diverse and complex flavors of this spicy root. 

The best part about homemade ginger beer is that it is a fun project for beginners and pros alike. In this guide, we will take a look at three methods for making ginger beer at home, covering easy, intermediate, and advanced recipes. 

Whether you choose to spend just 1 hour on making your ginger drink or 2 weeks making a well-fermented traditional batch, the ingredients will all be simple, affordable, and straightforward. After you start your own ginger beer beverage, make sure to check out our FAQs for troubleshooting help along the way! 

What is Ginger Beer?

Ginger beer is a low or non-alcoholic beverage that is strong-flavored, aromatic, and oftentimes spicy. It’s made by fermenting ginger, sugar, and water with yeast, and then carbonating the beverage in a bottle. It’s a probiotic drink that is rich in lactobacilli which supports a healthy digestive system while increasing the absorption of nutrients. 

Ginger beer can be made with a ginger bug or by using yeast. Both methods include a period of fermentation which helps mature and intensify the flavors of the ginger. Fermentation also increases the alcohol content of the beverage and reduces the amount of sugar in the final product.

The cultivation of ginger root has been documented as far back as 500 B.C. It was widely used medicinally and for flavoring in India and China. As ginger crops migrated into the Caribbean, Africa, and eventually to Europe, it took on a new form and became a popular alcoholic beverage called ginger beer. The ginger beer brewing method began in Yorkshire England in the mid-1700s and had gained popularity in the rest of the world by the early 20th century. 

Ginger Beer Vs Ginger Ale

straining ginger beer

Ginger beer is a fermented beverage that is achieved by using yeast and natural microorganisms in the environment to strengthen the flavors. It’s flavors are zesty and come with a kick from the natural spiciness of the ginger root. 

Ginger ale is not a fermented product and can be easily produced by adding carbonated water to a ginger syrup. This method often leads to mellower and smoother flavors due to the ability to control the amount or strength of the ginger syrup. Ginger ale was popularized in the prohibition era when an alcohol-free alternative to ginger beer was needed. 

Health Benefits of Homemade Ginger Beer

ginger on a scale

Ginger root is a powerful medicinal plant used for many ailments. Most popularly, it is helpful for stopping or preventing nausea, inflammation, and cramping. In addition to treating these symptoms, ginger is an antimicrobial root that can also help protect the body from unwanted pathogens, such as harmful bacterias found in food. 

These benefits come from gingerol, an active compound oil that is found in the ginger root. It contains high amounts of minerals such as copper, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. 

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has conducted studies that suggest ginger can be effectively used to treat the following:

  • Drug withdrawal symptoms
  • Respiratory issues
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Indigestion and gas
  • Low appetite 

Probiotic Benefits of Ginger

The fermentation process helps to elevate the nutritional value of ginger beer significantly by cultivating probiotics. These microorganisms help to support and balance your gut flora and help to fight off or limit the toxic bacteria in your digestive system. The following conditions have been treated with probiotics and have yielded positive results: 

  • Antibiotic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Infant colic
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum diseases
  • Hay Fever
  • Asthma
  • Acne
  • Urinary tract infections

As you can see, the medicinal properties of the ginger and probiotics can provide many health benefits, and they both strongly support the digestive tract. Ginger beer is a great drink for those who have frequent tummy aches, nausea, or indigestion issues. It can be taken before meals to help support the digestion of a variety of foods. 

Beginner (Level 1) 2 Hour Ginger Ale Recipe

Rachel Dennis

If you’re looking for a quick way to make a ginger beverage, this ginger ale recipe is excellent for making an old-fashioned soda at a fraction of the time it takes to ferment ginger beer. This recipe is also alcohol-free, making it a great choice for those with an alcohol sensitivity or for those who abstain. 

It will have a strong sweet flavor for those who enjoy a more intense ginger beverage. It’s easy to create a milder drink by using less ginger concentrate or simple syrup. Although this drink won’t have probiotic benefits, you’ll get plenty of nutrients from the boiled ginger root.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 2 quarts (about 1 liter)
Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup (approximately 5 ounces) of fresh ginger root
3 cups of water
1 cup of sweetener (you can use agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, or sugar)
¼ cup of fresh lime or lemon juice
1 quart of sparkling water

Equipment:

Funnel
Fine mesh strainer
Jars for concentrate and simple syrup
1-liter bottle
Knife or grater

How to Make the Ginger Concentrate:

  1. Peel your ginger by using a spoon to gently scrape the skin off. 
  2. Chop, dice, or grate the ginger into small pieces.
  3. Simmer the diced ginger in 2 cups of water on medium in a saucepan for 30 minutes.
  4. Pull the saucepan off the heat, cover, and let it steep for an additional 15 minutes. 
  5. Strain the boiled mixture through a fine mesh strainer. You can discard the ginger or save the pieces (you can add them to a smoothie for a fibrous ginger boost)

How to Make the Simple Syrup:

  1. Grab a second saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add your 1 cup of your sweetener to the boiling water and stir until dissolved. 
  3. Let it cool and store it in a jar.

How to Put Your Drink Together:

Let your ginger concentrate and simple syrup cool off and store them in glass jars or bottles. When you’re ready to assemble your ginger ale, mix 1/2 cup of ginger concentrate with ⅓ cup of sweetener. Add some fresh lemon or lime juice and add ½ cup of sparkling water to carbonate your beverage. 

Your simple syrup and ginger concentrate can be saved in the fridge for up to one week. 

Intermediate (Level 2) 3 Day Ginger Beer Recipe

homemade ginger beer

This ginger beer recipe is perfect for those who want a fermented beverage but don’t want to put the time and attention into starting a ginger bug from scratch. This method relies on brewer’s yeast, which eats the sugar in your beverage and creates a tangy effervescent ginger beer in just a few days. 

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Approximately 2 liters
Total Time: 60 minutes

Ginger Syrup Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp grated fresh ginger

Ginger Beer Ingredients

7 cups water (preferably filtered)
1/8 tsp brewer’s yeast
Ginger syrup (above)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Equipment

Plastic 2-liter bottle or 2 1-liter bottles
Funnel
Fine mesh strainer
Grater box

  1. Peel your ginger by using a spoon to gently scrape the skin off. 
  2. Use a grater to finely grate 3 tbsp of ginger. 
  3. Put the ginger, water, and sugar in a saucepan at a medium heat. Dissolve the sugar into the mixture by stirring with a spoon.
  4. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, turn off the heat. Let the mixture sit and steep for 1 hour.
  5. Strain the ginger syrup through a fine mesh strainer and remove (or reuse) the solids. 
  6. Place a funnel on top of your 2-liter plastic bottle. Add yeast, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and filtered water. 
  7. Put the cap onto your plastic bottle. Shake vigorously until the yeast completely dissolves. 
  8. Store the bottle in a dark area for 2 or 3 days, until the ginger beer is fizzy. Open the bottle slightly each day to check the carbonation. 
  9. When the product is carbonated and ready to drink, put it in the fridge. Drink your ginger beer within the next two weeks. 

Advanced (Level 3) Ginger Bug Recipe 

ginger bug

While making ginger beer in the most traditional way takes extra care and time than the above methods, it is also the simplest method, consisting of only ginger, sugar, and water. This method relies on cultivating the natural yeasts from the air and allowing the ginger to ferment organically without added substances. 

When ginger, sugar, and water naturally ferment together, they form what is known as a ginger bug. The bug starter can be maintained over a long period of time if you consistently add more ginger and sugar to it. When you are ready to brew your next batch of ginger beer, you can remove a quarter to a full cup of your ginger bug from the fermenting mixture and add it to sugar water to create your next batch of ginger beer.

It will take you about 5 to 10 days to make a ginger bug starter. Once it’s ready (which you can identify by bubbling on the surface) you can move on to creating your ginger beer, which will take an additional 6 to 8 days. In total, this process will take about 11 to 18 days, about a 2 week process. 

However, once you start a ginger bug, you can periodically feed it and keep ready for your next brew, significantly shortening production time. Then it will only take you about a week to produce your batch. 

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Approximately 1 liter of ginger bug starter
Total Time: 5 – 10 days

Ginger Bug Ingredients

5 tbsp of finely grated ginger (leave the skin on, this helps the fermentation process)
5 tbsp sugar
3 ¼ cups of filtered water

Ginger Bug Equipment

Glass quart jar
Breathable cloth or coffee filter
Rubber band or string 

  1. Mix the water and sugar together in your glass quart jar
  2. Add 3-5 tbsp of ginger into the jar
  3. Dissolve sugar by stirring the mixture
  4. Cover and secure the jar’s mouth with a cloth or coffee filter and rubber band.
  5. Put the jar in a dark area of your home for 3 days
  6. Stir the beverage twice a day
  7. On day three, bubbles will begin to emerge on the surface of your ginger water. Add 1 tbsp of grated ginger and 1 tbs of sugar for 2 days. 
  8. When the bubbles have increased and the bug seems “alive”, you are ready to use it for your ginger beer
  9. Read more about how to maintain your ginger bug in the FAQ section below

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Approximately 1 liter
Total Time: 6 – 8 days

Ginger Beer Ingredients

3 ½ cups of filtered water
5 tbsp of sugar
¼ cup of ginger bug starter
3 tbsp of grated ginger
1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice

Ginger Beer Equipment

Glass quart jar
Breathable cloth or coffee filter
Fine mesh strainer
1-liter plastic bottle

  1. Mix the above ingredients together in your jar until the sugar dissolves
  2. Cover it with your breathable cloth of coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band or piece of string
  3. Check the jar every day to see if bubbles are forming on the surface. By day three you should see plenty of bubbling activity.
  4. Use your fine mesh strainer to strain the liquid into your 1 liter plastic bottle. 
  5. Let the ginger beer continue to ferment and carbonate for another 3 – 5 days. It will be ready when the bottle is very tight and you are unable to squeeze it due to the pressure. At this point you can slightly unscrew it and release a little CO2. 
  6. Store your ginger beer in the fridge to slow down carbonation and fermentation when it is fizzy enough for you and ready to drink. Consume your ginger beer within 2 – 4 weeks. 

Alcoholic Ginger Beer

It can be challenging to determine the exact amount of alcohol in your ginger beer without using a hydrometer. In general, the alcohol content in your homemade ginger beer will be between .5% to 1.5% if you are only fermenting your batch for a couple of days. However, you can get your ginger beer up to a 4% – 5% ABV easily and it can even reach up to 11% ABV with expertise.

Here are some ways you can increase the alcohol content in your ginger beer:

  • Let the ginger beer ferment in it’s plastic bottle for 10 – 14 days. This will allow the yeast to convert more of the sugars into alcohol. 
  • Place your ginger beer in a warmer area when it is fermenting. This will speed up the yeast’s metabolism and create more alcohol in your batch overall. 
  • Add a juice to your ginger beer to provide it with much more sugar. Since yeast converts sugar into alcohol, this is a very straightforward way to provide it with more “fuel” for the conversion.
  • Use a champagne yeast instead of brewer’s yeast. Champagne yeast eats nearly all of the sugar in a beverage, leaving it very dry (not sweet) and with a clean light flavor. You can keep adding sugar each day of your ginger beer’s fermentation to increase the alcohol content overall. 

With each of these methods, make sure to regularly check the carbonation of your ginger beer to avoid an explosion. More alcohol production means that more CO2 production and carbonation can build up very quickly. Make sure to “burp” your ginger beer 1 to 2 times a day when implementing these methods to increase alcohol content. 

You’ll also end up with a relatively dry ginger beer if you are increasing the alcohol content, so you may have to sweeten to taste at the end of the fermentation process. 

Ginger Beer FAQs

Should I burp my ginger beer?

It can be a good idea to “burp” your bottles, which means that you’ll gently release the carbon dioxide that has built up in them. This can be done every two to three days. In warmer climates, the fermentation process will go faster. Make sure to burp your bottles more frequently if the temperatures are hotter in your home. It’s also a good idea to put your bottles in the fridge for 20 minutes before you open them to avoid a messy fizz. 

Why is my ginger beer not fizzy?

two bottles of ginger beer

Your ginger beer may not be carbonating because it needs more time to build up CO2 in the bottle. Remember that when you place your ginger beer in the fridge or another very cold area, it will slow down the fermentation process and take longer to become fizzy.

If you’ve kept your drink in a warm environment for a few days and haven’t noticed much fermentation (indicated by bubbles and an intensification of flavors) you may need to “feed” your beverage with a little ginger, sugar, or ginger syrup. A little goes a long way with this so make sure to add no more than .5 – 1 tsp of sugar at first. 

How do I measure alcohol content in ginger beer?

Ginger beer will become increasingly more alcoholic the longer it is left in a room temperature environment to ferment. You can expect your ginger beer to have an ABV (alcohol by volume) ranging from .5% to 6%. It’s common for the alcohol content to be on the lower side of this scale.

Using a champagne yeast can help to increase the alcohol content. Since it’s impossible to determine the exact amount of alcohol in this process, you may want to invest in a hydrometer for more specific results. 

If you would like to make sure there is no alcohol in your batch, make sure to follow our beginner’s recipe which is fermentation-free and will have an ABV of 0%. 

How can I adjust the sweetness of my ginger beer?

pouring sugar in a jar

When your ginger beer has finished fermenting, it may have lost a good amount of sweetness due to the yeast eating the sugar during the fermentation process. You can simply add more sugar to taste. Make a simple syrup that is 1 part sugar and 1 part water, or add an agave nectar to sweeten, to avoid the graininess of granulated sugar. 

You can also add more sugar at the beginning of the process once you get a feel for the sweetness of this recipe and know how much you would like to adjust it by. 

A quick note on too little sugar: If you don’t put enough sugar into your ginger beer, your beverage may take on a sulphuric smell. This is because the yeast is starving and will produce sulphur as a reaction. If you add more sugar to “feed” the yeast, the smell will go away within a day or two. 

Can I use glass bottles to ferment my ginger beer?

Since your ginger beer is rapidly creating CO2 as it ferments, it is very important that you DON’T use glass bottles during this process. Even with stronger glass, your ginger beer could explode at any time. Stick with plastic bottles or invest in an airlock lid that can be flexible under pressure.

You CAN use glass for bottling and storing in the fridge, after the fermentation has stopped. Even in the fridge, be mindful not to let them sit too long without checking them. Although the fridge slows down the fermentation process, it may not entirely halt it.  

Can I use other kinds of sweeteners in my ginger bug? 

It’s important that you use sucrose sugar with your ginger bug. This sugar is easy for your ginger ferment to break down and eat. Sweeteners like honey and syrup are not acceptable for this process. Some types of sucrose sugar include granulated table sugar, panela sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, brown sugar, and turbinado sugar. Each one will impart a slightly different flavor and color into your ginger beer. 

How do I feed my ginger bug?

If you’re storing your ginger bug at room temperature, you’ll want to feed it 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp of water a day. If you want a lower-maintenance solution, you can store it in the fridge and feed it 1 tbsp of ginger, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 1 tbsp of water once a week. 

When you start making ginger beer with your starter, you will need to replenish more of the water. After taking ¼ cup of the starter for each batch, add another 1/4 cup of water, 1 tbsp of ginger, and 1 tbsp of sugar to the ginger bug.

How do I take a break from or store my ginger bug?

Make sure to store your ginger bug in the refrigerator when you’re not actively using it. It can stay healthy for up to one month in the fridge without needing any additional ginger or sugar added. 

Summary 

Rachel Dennis

I hope that this guide has helped you to decide how to get started with homemade ginger beer today! If you can’t choose a favorite method, do one at a time, and then taste test to decide which method produces the best beverage for you.

Although there are instructions and guidelines to follow when fermenting ginger root, it’s also important to remember that this is a deeply intuitive process. You will eventually get a sense for your batch, understand it’s rhythm, and needs as a living creature. This is the most exciting part about the fermentation process. It opens up a whole new world to you in the convenience of your kitchen, and there’s much to learn from the small but mighty microbes that make up much of our world. 

Let me know how your ginger beer journey has gone so far by leaving a comment below! 

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