#29 Deb’s GF Ginger Beer

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Raining, raining, raining…

Couldn’t pick a better day to stay inside and make up a brew. Plus, I really needed to get on with it, seeing as the supplies of the previous GB were running low, and the warmer months are coming on.

I stripped the recipe right back to basics, after my over-spiced previous attempt. This also takes advantage of ingredients that are easy to get a hold of:

  • 2kg organic Ginger, chopped.
  • 3x lemons (I actually used 1 standard lemon, and 2 Lemonade lemons, which are sweeter and more like a yellow, sour orange…)
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • 200g Dextrose (Coopers, available at any supermarket)
  • 300g Maltodextrin (aka Corn Syrup, or brew improver, also available in any supermarket. Coopers also do a Brewing Sugar, which is a mix of maltodex and dex. Not sure of the ratio, but if you were to use this, use 500g).
  • 2x cinnamon sticks
  • 2tsp Irish Moss (natural copper finings – you can usually find finings in the homebrew section of supermarkets also)
  • 4-5g Yeast Nutrient (diammonium Phosphate; use 1g per 5lt. This is something you may need to get from your local HBS. You need this if you are not using malt, as there is not enough nutrient for the yeast cells to munch on, nutrient which is normally present in malt. If you don’t need to make it gluten-free, then try using malt instead of the other sugars; it will taste more like beer with ginger however, so there is a definite taste thing happening here also.)
  • 1x packet Morgans ale dry yeast (this was left over from a kit. Other wise, I think I would strongly recommend Safale US-05).

Chop the ginger (I use the bamix) and the lemons (peel & all), and stick it in a pot with lots of water and boil. I let it boil for a couple of hours. I then drained the liquid, added more water and boiled more. The idea is to get as much of the ginger flavour out of the solid as possible. Oh, and strain it – you don’t want solid dregs in your barrel! When I finished this process, I had about 5 litres of a gingery soup.

I then add the cinnamon and brought to a gentle rolling boil. Added the Irish Moss (instructions on how much to use and when to add will usually be found on the packet) – finings are optional, but they help you end up with a crystal clear brew at the end of the process. With this stuff, I needed to add 1/2 hour before the end of the boil.

I then added the sugars, stirring so as not to let any of it clump or stick to the bottom (this will burn the sugar and affect the flavour). Corn syrup (maltodextrin) is used to add more body and head to your brew. If you are making beer from grains, this is usually unnecessary, but I find it useful in GB’s, Ciders, and Meads. Its not a fermentable sugar, but will increase the original gravity of the brew.

Once this has boiled for long enough (in this instance, 1/2 hour was enough), I took the pot off the heat and let it cool. Since I will be making between 20-25lt, I will need to add cold water; thus I usually let it cool down to about 40°C (roughly equivalent temperature to what comes out of your hot water tap). Once the water is added to the desired volume, I find this usually brings the entire wort down to mid-20’s.

This is important, as yeast requires pitching at correct temperatures. Check your packet of yeast for instructions, but pitching temps for kit yeasts are usually ~24°C. Too hot will kill the yeast cells; too cold will keep them dormant. With dry yeasts you can either sprinkle them directly into your fermenting barrel, or you can make a starter. A starter for dry yeast is simple: 1 cup boiled water, cooled to pitch temp (check packet for this), and sprinkle the yeast into this and leave for 15 minutes. You’ll come back and find a paste. IMPORTANT: make sure the vessel you use, and anything that comes into contact with the yeast is properly and thoroughly sterilised!

Which brings me to the next point. Ensure your fermenting barrel, and anything that will come into contact with the brew (such as a stirring paddle/spoon) is sterilised. Supermarkets also sell this stuff. Napisan works, but requires a lot of rinsing. I will often use it for sterilising my barrels, but I also use a no-rinse product I buy from my local HBS, especially for bottles and for spraying onto stuff I’m about to use. Methylated spirits is good for constantly spraying your tools (stirring paddles, etc), as the alcohol allows it to evaporate at air temperature.

Check the gravity of your brew before pitching yeast. This is done using a hydrometer – again, something that can be bought in the homebrewing section of supermarkets, but also at your local HBS. Record the level. When your brew is finished, you will take another reading, and then this gives you an indication of alc/vol level. Gravity readings also tell you when a brew has finished fermenting, as the reading will be the same 2-3 days in a row.

This brew had an Original Gravity of 1.046

Once the brew has cooled to pitching temp, add the yeast nutrient and stir thoroughly, followed by the yeast. Then seal up your fermenting barrel, and give it a good shake. Yeast also needs oxygen to multiply, so regularly giving your GB a shake and getting lots of bubbles is a great way to help things along. Again, when using malt, this is not so necessary, as malt has everything yeast needs to do its thing.

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One Response to “#29 Deb’s GF Ginger Beer”

  1. Peter Says:

    Tasting note: organic ginger definitely tastes better! However, this recipe does lack what I believe to be a vital ingredient: Lactose. This might offend those with lactose intolerance; however a small amount of milk sugar into this recipe definitely provides a sweetness (but not a sugary sweetness) that complements the dry warmth of the ginger.
    This drink is certainly an indulgence however, and maybe we shouldn’t get too hung about its nutritional quality – it as after all an alcoholic beverage! Deb gives it the thumbs-up!

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