We always have various fermentation experiments bubbling away throughout the house, but when India's 3 month long Covid 19 lockdown began we knew it was time to try our hand at brewing our own booze! It's easier than you think and super delicious.
Here's what you need to know before getting started.
To brew ginger beer, you need a sterile environment. This means sterilizing ALL of your equipment - anything that will touch the brew - this includes pots, spoons, funnels, and of course, your brewing vessel. The easiest way to sterilize is to make a solution using 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. Rinse all your utensils and allow to air dry on a clean cloth. Rinse through your whole brewing vessel and allow to completely air dry before using.
You need a brew vessel, ideally made of glass, and an airlock. An airlock lets air out of your brew (which is essential because it will be producing CO2 gas and that gas needs to escape) without letting oxygen back in. This is critical for alcohol creation because oxygen will encourage the production of acetic acid (vinegar!) instead of booze.
Most brewers would use something like this car boy & airlock, pictured left.
However! If you don't have these things, you can always do some Indian जुगाड़ | jugaad and make it work with what's around you. We started brewing in a 20 L Bisleri water jug. The type that you pay a small deposit on and can refill. To the lid of that jug, we drilled a hole and siliconed in some small plastic tubing and then ran that tubing into an empty kombucha bottle filled with water. This created an airlock! I can't recommend brewing in plastic, but hey, making it work with what you've got, that is how you achieve self-reliance!
We have made damn successful batches using both champagne yeast and english style ale yeast. The champagne yeast yielded a fizzier and slightly more acidic-tasting brew, while the ale yeast had less intense carbonation and a very balanced overall taste. You can buy brewing yeasts from any home brew stores - which are plentiful in the USA but hard to find in India. India folks can buy online here.
We have not tried with basic bread yeast, but my intuition would tell me it would yield a low percentage final product -- maybe 3-4%.
Different yeast varieties have different alcohol tolerance; champagne and ale yeast can give you a final brew of 8-14%.
What is happening is that yeast is consuming the sugar in your brew and converting that into carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide is escaping through your air lock or one way air valve. The longer you leave your ginger beer brewing, the more sugar the yeast will consume and thus the more alcohol that will be created. In our climate, we have brewed our batches for 10 days, and that yields a drier and stronger brew. Your climate might be different. After 1 week, taste to check. You may want yours to be sweeter with a lower alcohol percentage, or you may want it drier with a higher one. Totally up to you!
After the initial fermentation, you will siphon or pour it into bottles and seal them off. *You can use old beer bottles and a crown capping machine or reusable glass swing pop top bottles. Once in the bottle, the brew with carbonate and pressurize. This process can take up to a week in cold climates or as little as 1 day in hot places. Check frequently to ensure you don't over-carbonate and risk bottles exploding.
Folks, it's easier than you think! Get brewing and give it a try!
Recipe for a 20L jug / 5 gallon jug
1 kg ginger
200 gms fresh turmeric (optional; substitute for 1 tablespoon turmeric powder)
2 tablespoons of ground spice mix (optional; think cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper)
4 kg sugar
12-15 grams of champagne yeast or ale yeast
Make the ginger concentrate: boil sliced/crushed ginger, turmeric and spices in 6-10 L of water for 1-2 hrs until it’s a strong tasty brew! Add sugar and dissolve.
Sanitize everything by running diluted ethanol through it (mix of 30% water, 70% food grade ethanol). This inlcudes: spoons, strainer, vessel to activate your yeast, the brewing vessel, the airlock, etc. Anything that touches the brew.
Activate your yeast about 30 minutes before you are ready to combine everything. Use the instructions on the yeast packet -
Funnel your mixture into your fermentation jug, mixing with cool/room temp water.
Add activated yeast to your still warm brew in the fermentation jug. Make sure it's not warmer than about 30 C. Put on airlock.
Wait 1-2 weeks. Put in bottles, wait another 1-3 days to carbonate. Fridge + drink.
I would like to thank Stuart Muir Wilson, my friend and Permaculture teacher, in Melbourne, Australia for this recipe :)
I would also like to officially state that our home brew is for our consumption only! We are not selling this or doing anything commercial with this product.