Ginger Beer

homemade ginger beer

I am not advocating anything illegal here. I merely want to point out that unless authorities ban ginger, sugar and water, anyone under the age of 21 or living in a dry state such as Tennessee can make alcoholic ginger beer pretty easily.

Ginger beer tastes like grown up ginger-ale with a spicy kick that burns the back of your throat in a pleasant sort of way. I haven’t actually measured the alcohol content (apparently I need a hydrometer) but I would guess by my ginger beer’s effects that it comes in around the low to mid single digits.

Ginger Bug

To make ginger beer, you first need to make a ginger bug, a starter that will ferment your drink and transform ordinary ingredients into delicious bubbly goodness. I have read ginger beer recipes that call for commercial yeast and they probably taste good but I prefer to ferment everything in sight via the microbes present on food, in the air, and on my hands. Have you watched the Portlandia clip “We Can Pickle That”? My younger daughter says I’ve crossed that line.

You’ll find my instructions for ginger bug here. Basically, you grate up a tablespoon of ginger, combine it with a tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup or so of water and feed your bug more ginger and sugar daily for about five days until it bubbles vigorously, smells yeasty and the ginger floats (notice the floating ginger in my bug in the pic below). At that point, you can start your ginger beer (or other fermented drinks like this lemonade or this hibiscus soda).

ginger beer ingredients

Ginger Beer Ingredients

  • Water. I don’t have a problem with chlorine in my water but if you do, fill a large vessel with water half a day or so before you’ll brew your drink and the chlorine will dissipate. You want to do this because chlorine kills microbes. Without microbes, your drink will not ferment.
  • Sugar. I usually use evaporated cane sugar for my ginger beer. Any type of plain sugar will work.
  • Ginger. I have messed up ferments by adding too much salt, by fermenting them too long (mushy dill pickles anyone?) or by just neglecting them and failing to notice problems like a mushy top layer (at least you can scrape that off and fix it). But only once did a ferment refuse to bubble to life—my attempt at pickled ginger. I later read in The Art of Fermentation that non-organic ginger may be irradiated, which kills the microbes. I must not have used organic.
  • Lemon (optional). Occasionally I toss in some lemon if I have it on hand. Add a few tablespoons or to taste.
  • Measurements. I roughly follow a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar : 4 cups diluted ginger-water : 1/4 to 1/2 cup ginger bug liquid


1. Cut up five or six inches of organic ginger into 1/8-inch pieces. You may want your ginger beer less or more spicy than mine. You don’t have to peel the ginger but I do so I can then make candied ginger out of the ginger pieces. I follow this Alton Brown recipe and flavor kombucha with my candied ginger. So good!

sliced ginger

2. Place the ginger and three cups or so of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

simmering ginger

3. While your ginger simmers, stir your ginger bug up. Be sure to incorporate all the white yeasty residue at the bottom of your ginger bug container into the liquid. This is microbe gold. Strain out about 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid from your ginger bug.

strained bug

4. When the ginger has finished simmering, strain out the ginger pieces. My liquid reduced by half.

ginger water

5. In a large vessel, combine sugar and ginger water. I added 1 cup of sugar. After the sugar dissolved, I added about 7 cups of room temperature water to dilute and cool off my very strong ginger water. You can make a big vat of ginger water in a large pot but it will take a while to cool down. YOU MUST LET IT COOL BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT STEP. Heat will kill your microbes and your ginger beer won’t ferment. No booze for you!

6. Once your mixture has cooled to room temperature, add any lemon juice and the liquid you strained off your bug.

7. Pour into clean, flip-top bottles. Set them aside for a few days before transferring to the refrigerator. Drink them within a week or so.

If you let your ginger beer ferment longer, it will contain more alcohol. But be careful! The carbon dioxide building up in the bottles can cause them to explode. I have never had this happen (and hope I never do) but to be safe, I usually put my bottles in a cupboard to contain any possible disasters. I usually “burp” my bottles every couple of days—open them by rocking the lids back and forth gently and slowly to let out carbon dioxide.

bottled ginger beer

After you brew ginger beer a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much ginger and sugar to use and how long to ferment your drink. I suggest you take notes to help figure out what works best in your kitchen.

Happy brewing!

47 Replies to “Ginger Beer”

  1. […] Source: Ginger Beer | The Zero-Waste Chef […]

    1. Hi-
      Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I’ve been using it and love it! I wanted to note for any other brewers who are living at altitude, like me, you’ll need to burp your bottles much more frequently. 🙂 I’m at 6,600ft and find I have to burp the bottles in the morning and evening to avoid explosions- even during cooler temperatures.

      Thank you again! You’re blog is the best!!!

      1. Your blog not you’re blog. Yikes.

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi Elvira. I’m glad you like the ginger beer and thank you so much for sharing that important information. Exploding bottles are no joke! Thanks also for the kind words about my blog . ~ Anne Marie

    2. Hi Anne-Marie,

      I’m a little late to this post but I was wondering if you could clarify something for me: do you add water to your ginger bug once you strain off the liquid you’re going to use? Or does the liquid come from the ginger itself after the first feeding? Thanks!

      1. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi Ana, I strain the ginger chunks out of the ginger bug until I have my 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup of ginger bug. I don’t add water to the strained liquid. BUT I do add more water to the jar of ginger bug to replenish it and keep it going, along with some fresh ginger and sugar. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  2. I HAVE to make this! We love ginger beer.

    1. It’s my favorite drink Colleen. So delicious and easy to make. And inexpensive too! I forgot to mention that in the post.

  3. This is a great recipe. I once made ginger beer myself, and it was even simpler than that. I mixed up ginger, water, sugar and yeast and just let it brew away. Probably not as good as yours, but it got pretty strong after forgetting about it for a week!

    1. That sounds delicious too. My daughter once made lemonade that way. She added yeast, bottled it and let sit for several days. It was very bubbly and tasty. I like simple 😉

  4. It looks so beautiful and delicious!! What a fun project!!

    1. Thank you! It is so much fun to make. And incredibly delicious!

  5. I am so going to do this in January!!! 😀

    1. It’s SO good Malu! And easy to make too once you get the bug going (which is also easy to do). Let me know how it turns out 🙂

      1. Will do, Anne-Marie! 😀

  6. Can you use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar?

    1. I haven’t tried that, Jenn. I would experiment with some of your bug and see how it works. I have read about people using honey or maple syrup for kombucha and it can either work or kill the mother. It’s just trial and error. If you do try this with honey or maple syrup, will you please let me know how it goes? Also, if you use raw honey, you’ll have all the good microbes from that in there too. I think that might taste really good (but I’m just guessing). So, now you have a few experiments to try: pasteurized honey, raw honey and maple syrup 😉

  7. There’s no way anyone could get sick from
    This is there? I made some and I’m kind of nervous to drink it😁

    1. Fermentation is very safe. Fermented foods are full of good bacteria that crowd out any bad guys. It should be fine. I think the only think to watch out for is mold growing on top of the surface (not under as mold needs air to grow). So if you don’t see that, you should be okay.

  8. I Will try this for sure !
    Do you think I can add a bit of my levain to ferment this ? ?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Isabela,

      It’s really good if I don’t say so myself. Have you had bread kvass? That has sourdough starter in it. I’ve made it only a couple of times and it didn’t turn out that well (although it was WAY MORE alcoholic than anything else I’ve made, so if that’s a bonus for some). I need to try again I think…

      ~ Anne Marie

  9. I just made my first attempt at the ginger bug and ginger beer. The beer after sitting for 5 days popped when I opened the bottle, but wasn’t carbonated… any ideas on what might have happened?!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Tam. Hmmm, that’s strange that the bottle popped but you have no fizz 🙁 Is there any carbonation at all? How does it taste? There are so many variables that could affect your ginger beer. How bubbly was your ginger bug when you added it to the ginger beer concoction? Was the liquid cool when you added the ginger bug? What kind of sugar did you use? What is the seal on the bottle like? If it is loose, the carbon could have escaped but since it popped, it sounds like there was some in there. ~ Anne Marie

    2. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Oooh, I just thought of something else. How often did you burp the bottles? I have one bottle that has such a tight seal that the carbon dioxide builds up in there like crazy. I can bottle the exact same drink in that bottle and a few others, and the one with the super tight seal produces more carbonation. If I don’t burp that bottle often, it will probably spew all over the place when I finally do open it. But if I open it too often, then I will release all the carbon dioxide. So opening frequently can be a factor too.

      1. That seems really tricky. If i were to do this i would just use a regular 12 oz or 20oz jar and screw it very tight. It confuses me now because i didn’t know that if you burped it too frequently it would lose the bubblyness. Would it still keep its alcohol content?

  10. I am new to this and excited to try it out. Do yall have any idea for how long it stays safe/good opened and unopened once in the fridge? Thank you!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      It will continue to ferment in the fridge. It will be fine to drink but will have little sugar left in it, so how long you let it sit in there is a matter of taste. If you leave it for weeks, be sure to burp the bottle occasionally (say once a week). I found a forgotten bottle of it in a friend’s fridge and was, well, a bit afraid to open it. It made a huge pop when I did. I covered it with a cloth and put it in the sink to avoid ginger beer spewing all over the ceiling. The carbon dioxide had really built up inside. So look out for that.

  11. After you make the ginger beer do you replace the liquid in the ginger bug and continue to feed it o do you compost the leftover ginger bug and start a new batch?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Yes, I replace the liquid and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger and a tablespoon of fresh sugar. If the ginger is really old and past its prime, I’ll compost half of it before adding the fresh ingredients. Occasionally I’ll have to do this when the ginger bug has become too alcoholic. It doesn’t seem to matter how much fresh ginger and sugar I add, I can’t bring it back. I hope that helps.

  12. […] home Wines, whisky, beers (?) – this is going to be tough, I might start out by just making ginger beer  Chocolate Dried Italian sausage/salami – Haven’t found some without packaging yet, […]

  13. One question, how do you down scale the Alton Brown recipe for the 5/6 inches of ginger that you use for this ginger beer recipe, I really do not want to peel a pound of ginger at a time? I am hoping to do the same as you and use the candied ginger in my kombucha recipe. Thank you!

  14. […] Here is the full recipe for ginger beer. […]

  15. […] you’ll need to make your ginger beer and the ginger beer itself. Find my ginger beer recipe here: Find my naturally fermented hibiscus soda from the video here: […]

  16. […] you’ll need to make your ginger beer and the ginger beer itself. Find my ginger beer recipe here: Find my naturally fermented hibiscus soda from the video here: […]

  17. Dear Zero Waste Chef 🙂

    I am very new to this (fermentation in general). I love ginger beer and I cannot waite to make it on my own. The only tiny problem I have, is that I do not have the space for more than one (two at best) 1L bottle in my fridge at the time. I have read through your recepie a few times now, and i cannot figure how much it makes. Could you please specify or maybe help me out, how to reduce to amount a make, so I do not end up with way more than I have storage space for.

    Kind Regards

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Ellen,
      The recipe makes a little over 2 litres so I would cut the amounts in half. And you may want to make half anyway, since you’re just starting out. I hope that helps.
      Anne Marie

  18. I’m going to guess you don’t watch much television! I don’t, and people always ask what I do instead. Kitchen projects, of course! And sewing, tidying, reading, but mostly kitchen projects!

  19. hi. is the ginger necessary for it to turn fizzy? or can i sub a fruit of some kind? im not big on ginger but id love to have homemade soda

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Dawn,
      This is a great question. I make hibiscus soda and fermented lemonade with my ginger bug. Those still have some gingery flavor but it’s not as intense as ginger beer. Here is the hibiscus soda: and here is the lemonade: You can also use a ginger bug to ferment sweetened tea or juice, or tea flavored with juice. There are many possibilities. You can also make a bug out of turmeric. I can no longer easily find organic turmeric so I haven’t tried that yet and don’t know how it would taste. I’m really curious! I hope this helps. ~ Anne Marie

  20. Jennifer Scheffel says: Reply

    Hi there, just made my first batch and it’s been fermenting five days in bottles; I’ve burped twice and it’s now in fridge…not sure how many times to burp before putting in the fridge. A thin layer of what looks like yeast has developed at the top (I have a photo and could send if there’s some way to do so). In your experience, does this happen? Is it safe to drink? Thanks for the recipes!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jennifer. You could send me a pic on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter if you are on any of those (@zerowastechef). As you make this more often, you’ll get an idea of how often to burp it. Mine is very carbonated so I burp it every two days (or even daily). If you burp it and it doesn’t pop much, you can wait longer. I often get a thin layer on the top of ginger and probably yeast and also bubbles. If the layer is mold, it will look like mold. I hope that helps! ~ Anne Marie

  21. What can I do with the leftover ginger that was cooked. I was thinking of using it for gingerbread or cookies. Some people make candy. I am concerned about it being stringy. I thought maybe I could make something good to eat with it, instead of throwing it into the compost. Thanks-

  22. Anne Marie; Many thanks for this, and the ‘bug’ post. I’ve got 3 bugs on the go. Yours, a modified version with cream of tartar and champagne yeast and, — one which is what my questions is about — using ginger juice from a masticating juicer which normally extracts things like the white pulp while extracting out the fibres. But, I was curious if one could simply cold press the ginger for the ginger beer rather than boiling it. My hypothesis is the less heat the more benefits you would experience. I’d love your thoughts!


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Yes, more beneficial! Do you have one with cream of tartar and one with champagne yeast or are those both in one of the bugs? What does the cream of tartar do?

  23. Anne Marie, I really enjoyed these posts thank you. I have a hypothesis I’m curious of your opinion on; could one use a masticating juicer instead of boiling the ginger? I’m theorizing that since the mastication process extracts everything but the woody fibres this is more beneficial than heating/boiling. Thanks again for sharing your process!


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Ryan, I haven’t tried that but it sounds like a great idea! If you try that will you please let me know how it works? You could just make a simple syrup with the water and sugar, let that cool down and then add the ginger juice.
      Anne Marie

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