Lacto-fermented Ginger Ale

Picture of Lacto-fermented Ginger Ale
I love making homemade ginger ale because I get to control the ginger's strength. I like it strong. I've even found my personal upper-bound. From my kitchen notebook:


1:5 ratio of freshly made ginger juice to balance of other ingredients roughly following instructions at Homemade ginger ale is too much ginger. One glass made my stomach hurt.

This recipe doesn't make it quite that strong, but you can increase the ginger as much as you want. It is a different take on ginger ale, and uses lacto-bacteria found in whey to carbonate it. You can make fresh whey (and wonderful cream cheese) from yogurt by wrapping yogurt in a cheese cloth or a dish towel and letting the whey drip out over 24 hours -- How to Make Whey Instructable here.

I prefer this version over the yeast-carbonated ginger ale because the lactic acid gives it a slightly sour bite.

1 small piece of ginger about 1 cubic inch, micro-grated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp fresh whey
1 qt. water

Mix everything thoroughly in an air-tight container, and let it sit at room temperature for 3-7 days. You may need to bleed off some CO2 depending on temperature. Refrigerate once it's fully carbonated.

In one batch, after a day at room temperature, I poured the ginger ale into a different container, because I was concerned that the old metal cap on the glass bottle shown in the images would not hold. As it turns out, the plastic cap on the new bottle actually cracked under the pressure! I have since started reusing glass bottles that held carbonated water, which are intended to hold pressure.
jd991 year ago
Looks great! Gotta try this one
I have used this to make ginger-ale. I found your recipe too strong so I cut back on the ginger.

I tried sauerkraut whey and sure enough, no kraut flavor, last week I re-inoculated one batch with whey from pickled hot peppers I was doing. Bad decision. Hot pickled pepper ginger ale!
My husband would love that. :D

Some people do put capsicum (the chemical responsible for the heat in peppers) in their ginger beer.
Would it be possible to use a champagne bottle for this?

I read that champagne yeast creates more pressure at least than making beer does. Would that be adequate for making the ginger ale according to this recipe? I know that breaking glass or popping lids/corks is a big fear when it comes to this, so I just want to make sure.
jthiels4 years ago
Does this ginger ale actually get carbonated throughout (ie fizzy) or does it just produce CO2 gas in the bottle?  I have tried to make this twice but have just gotten a nice, slightly sour ginger drink without carbonation.  The second time, which seemed more dynamic, I used warm water (just under 110 F) as that is a happy temperature for Lactobacillus.  But both times I got space under the lid and no internal carbonation :-(  Could it be that Michigan in the spring is not warm enough?  
I had to look this one up.

Some species of lactobacillus never do (acidophilis), other species always do, and still others will release CO2 only under certain conditions (maybe depending on oxygen levels).

It might be that some brands of yogurt can produce a fizz, others not.
This is tricky, because it is hard to time right.  Sometimes its done in a few days, sometimes weeks!  Also the size of your containers can make the difference.  2 liter soda bottles (meant to hold carbonation) seem to be the quickest for me and my friends who brew ginger ale, but it does vary even from house to house, depending on the sugar you use. 

Note: Never try this with containers that aren't meant to hold carbonated beverages!  A friend tried heavy duty juice bottles, and one evening ended up with a cap exploding off and going through a ceiling tile during a party.  Beautiful 3" hole, and the plastic cap embedded itself in the beam above!  Be careful when brewing anything with carbonation!
ewilhelm (author)  jthiels4 years ago
Yes it does, but I've recently found that the fermentation rates are highly variable.  I'm in the middle of making 5 gallons of this for a friend's wedding, and plan to fully ferment all the sugar in a vented (bubble lock) container, then add a little more sugar and continue fermentation in sealed containers to carbonate. 

I'm taking pictures, and will post a full Instructable when I have everything figured out.  
jthiels jthiels4 years ago
 Also, just FYI--if you are fermenting, don't be skimpy with the sugar or sweetener.  You are feeding the Lactobacillus or the yeast, not your stomach!  Those organisms need the sugar to work.
smokeyj5 years ago
Would a fermentation lock used in beer making solve your pressure problems?
jmengel smokeyj4 years ago
No. The beer making airlock is a low pressure relief valve. Which will allow the CO2 produced to escape rather than carbonate the beverage. In beer making, after primary fermentation with a low pressure airlock to turn most fermentable sugars into alcohol, a small additional "priming" change of sugar is added and the liquid capped in bottles for carbonation at pressure.
elucify4 years ago
Others mentioned using 2l soda bottles. They're ideal for homemade soda, because you know they can handle the pressure (up to a point).

- Fill them to within about 1" of the top.
- Crank that cap down firmly.
- Let them sit in a warm place.
- As the lactobacilli produce CO2, the bottle will get progressively firmer.
- Refrigerate when the bottles feel hard--when there's only a bit of "give" when you push with your thumb.
- Feel up the bottles at the grocery store (when nobody's looking, of course) to get a sense for how firm they should be.
- If after a couple of days, the bottles are still soft, let them sit overnight in a warm bath.
- If they're still soft after that, open a bottle, and if there's no hiss, re-inoculate.
- If you reuse the bottles, always use them for the same kind of drink. I made Ginger Ale in a bottle I'd previously used for Birch Beer. The result wasn't very pleasant.
- Be sure to keep your ginger ale at refrigerator temperature at least 24 hours (so I've heard) to let the cold drink absorb as much CO2 as possible. Cold water can hold much more gas than room temperature, but once it's cold, it takes awhile to diffuse in.

I'm going to try using lactobacillus to make root beer, instead of using yeast.
imajem5 years ago
The Co2 can be bled off by covering the neck of the bottle with a fairly large balloon like home wine makers use very successfully.  In tall pepsi bottles or gallon jugs.  Works great!
CargilB5 years ago

I attempted this for the first time last week. It was a disaster LOL! I made it with dried yeast and decided to only put in a couple of table spoons of sugar and left it for a couple of days. I opened the bottle slowly at first to let some of the gas out, then the top burst open and my whole kitchen was under bad ginger beer! I saved half a cup that didn’t go down very well and tasted of yeast.


I’m very keen to try out the whey option now. Do you have any tips on opening the end result in a safer manner?

ewilhelm (author)  CargilB5 years ago
Try fermenting at a lower temperature, or bleed some CO2 off after a day or so.
awesome! ill give it a try and hope of rthe best! 

xZCodmaNZx5 years ago
 Im made ginger ale and my science teacher said that you could use yeast in stead of whey but, it did not work out please help.
To make the soda culture, you take a quart of non chlorinated water, some chopped up ginger and some sugar. Add a little sugar each day and in about a week you have the starter. Whatever amount I use, I add that much water back. And add about a teaspoon or so of sugar everyday. And occasionally add some more ginger. I don't put it in the refrigerator and have not had a problem with it. I can tell it's still alive because of the pressure on the lid.
I started using the ginger based soda starter (instead of whey) in my sauerkraut and kimchee. Seems to be working fine.
Mtalus5 years ago
I have a batch going with whey and a batch with homemade kraut juice. I'll let you know how it goes.
Mtalus Mtalus5 years ago
Both taste great. I was worried that the kraut juice would carry some cabbage flavor with it, or that it would be a mixed culture and yield off flavors. I may be a convert.
ewilhelm (author)  Mtalus5 years ago
Awesome! If you not just a comment, post an Instructable with your recipe.
Javin0075 years ago
Ah, interesting that you've had problems with the carbonation cracking your caps. I'll have to create my "root beer" 'ible to show the trick I use to make carbon pressure release valves on the caps. I've never had the problem since I stole the idea from a home root-beer kit I got one year from my brother. Home-made sodas FTW!
Mtalus5 years ago
Wow. I'll have to try it. I've been yeast prejudiced evn though I sometimes use mixed cultures to brew Belgian inspired beers. Even then I usually do a sour mash and kill off (boil) the critters before pitching my yeast.
Interesting, I wonder if kraut juice could substitute for whey.
ewilhelm (author)  Tool Using Animal5 years ago
Yes, it can. In fact, I have a jar of "mixed sauerkraut" juice in the fridge that I use to inoculate new batches of sauerkraut, and could easily be used for this too. Just leave out the salt, because the kraut juice probably already contains enough.
Alright then, it's set up, I'll let you know how it goes. I am a little bit concerned that the kraut was preserved with "sodium benzoate". Meh, we will see.
ewilhelm (author)  Tool Using Animal5 years ago
If the kraut has been preserved, all the bacteria are probably dead.
Yeah, it's been 22 hours with no sign of fermentation, guess I'll pick up some yeast at the store later. Awful hard to find "live" kraut without going to Wholefoods. I don't do yogurt, being lactose intolerant.
Goodhart5 years ago
I like my Ginger ale (ginger beer) with a touch of capsicum in it ;-) But that could easily be added to this recipe......
Ninzerbean5 years ago
I LOVE ginger in all forms, I am going to make this today - my lemon tree has lemons, my yogurt has whey, I have ginger. I'm all set. Thank you!