Billions of tiny microorganisms are constantly flying through the air, a few of which are wild yeasts. While these microbes may seem useless spending their time living on other organisms and blowing around in the breeze, there are many ways people can capture and utilize these tiny lifeforms for different tasks. People use them to aid in the fermentation of food and drink.
Once these tiny yeasts become active in a solution, many tasty drinks can be created with their help, like probiotic lemonades, root beers and fermented sodas.
Many different cultures use wild yeasts to create carbonation and to ferment their products, but an easy, cost-effective treat for students to make at home is non-alcoholic ginger beer. The drink is very carbonated and creates a symphony of bubbles in one’s mouth. But in order to make ginger beer, one must first make the ginger bug.
A ginger bug is a simple mix of ginger, sugar and water fermented by wild yeasts until the substance becomes effervescent. Detailed instructions on how to start a simple ginger bug, and then how to turn that bug into a delicious drink are listed below.
Directions to make bug:
Two cups of filtered water
Two tbsp chopped ginger
Two tbsp white, granulated sugar
Two more tbsp of sugar and ginger (every 24 hours for two to three days)
Pour two cups of water into a sealable container (such as a jar or bowl). Then, mix in the sugar and chopped ginger. Stir thoroughly to ensure the mixture is as combined as possible.
Next, cover the bug in a paper towel or cheesecloth, using a rubberband to tuck down the sides and to keep the piece of breathable material stable. Leave the bug out (preferably by an open window) for 24 hours. Make sure to write down when the bug was started, because it can be difficult to remember how long it has sat out.
Unseal the bug every 24 hours and pour in two tbsp of sugar and two tbsp of chopped ginger. Then, set it back on the window sill to collect more wild yeasts. Remember, when the yeasts are active, it will be possible to see them bubbling and moving within the container.
Repeat this process for 2-3 days, until the yeasts become active, and the mixture becomes bubbly. After using this bug for the ginger beer, it is possible to seal it and put it in the refrigerator, where it will lie dormant — and alive — for a few days. But beware, if left long enough, it will go flat because the yeasts will die.
Now that the ginger bug is finished and has been fermenting for the correct amount of time, it is time to assemble the ginger beer.
Directions to finish the beer:
Eight cups of filtered water
One and a half cups white, granulated sugar
One-fourths cup chopped ginger
Half cup premade ginger bug, strained
Three lemons, juiced
Chop up roughly four inches of ginger root and set aside for later. Then, boil four cups of water in a large pot and add in the chopped ginger root and sugar. After that, reduce the pot to a simmer for roughly 10 minutes, and finally, let the pot and liquid cool. Once the liquid has reached room temperature or slightly below, strain out all chunks of ginger.
Stir up the existing, aged ginger bug, and be sure to fully incorporate the yeasts, sugars and ginger. Pour half a cup of strained premade bug and the lemon juice into the rest of the mixture.
Transfer the solution to a bottle with a cap that seals and leave at room temperature for three to six days before enjoying. Remember that, because pressure will inevitably build up within the bottle, it’s important to open it over a sink. It is possible to store this drink in the refrigerator as well, but be sure to open the bottle daily. This way, pressure can be released and the bottle won’t explode.
Finally, enjoy home brewed, bubbly ginger beer. Oftentimes served over ice, this drink is almost always served cold.
Warning: As in any time using wild fermentation, bacteria cultures are inevitable and most are harmless. However, by using only filtered water and keeping an eye out for bacteria turning dark colors, the dangerous spots can be avoided.