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I am sitting here at the computer. Waiting.

Waiting, waiting for my homemade ginger ale to call. Suddenly, he breaks into song: I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone. Hello, speak up, is there ginger ale there?

These hang ups are getting me down.

In a world frozen over with over fermentation. Let’s talk it over, let’s go out and paint the town.

Cause I’m waiting by the phone. Waiting for ginger ale to call me up and tell me I’m not alone…

End song plagiarization. Start recipe plagiarization.

So, I’ve been wanting to try out making some homemade ginger ale for awhile now. The idea came to me in a dream. Well, not really in a dream, because I wasn’t asleep. Actually, I was awake and this was no waking dream or nightmare. Actually squared, I was already on the interweb looking for a cheap recipe to try out.

The thing with all these ginger ale and ginger beer recipes is that they often require huge amounts of labor, time, time, time, time and weird ingredients, in that exact order. For the ginger beer, you have to make something called a “plant” and feed it. No thankee. Dude, I’m not going to keep adding sugar and yeast to a bottle for 2 weeks to produce some crappy tasting, slightly alcoholic ginger swill that I could just buy at Trader Joe’s.

But I found one ginger ale recipe that seemed pretty simple, both in ingredients and procedure.

Plus, it was written by a Professor-guy.

Man, that’s enough to convince me. Who would you rather trust with potentially exploding ale – a 30 year old mummy [sic] blogger or a Professor-guy of Biology and Chemistry?

The math, it should be done.

So I tried it out and the results are sorta detailed below.

The Professor-guy’s Homemade Ginger Ale

1 cup sugar — $0.30
1 lemon — $0.30
2 tbsp grated ginger — $0.25
1/4 teaspoon yeast — $0.15
water — negligible
2 liter plastic bottle

Total: $1.00

OK – you probably want to grate up the ginger first. This took me the longest time, even with a really good microplane zester thingy. I just have the habit of grating knuckles and fingertips when going too quickly. You can use less ginger – we actually felt like it needed MORE, but then we’re ginger eating maniacs.

Get the plastic bottle and make sure it’s clean. Oh, dude, I would NOT use glass bottles. No way. Using that much yeast makes it ferment like a fermenting madman. Just know that I will not be held responsible for any inadvertent boom-booms. Trust me, or rather, trust the Professor-guy whose recipe this is.

Get a plastic funnel, pour the sugar and yeast into the bottle. Shake it a little. Get a glass measuring cup, stick the ginger in it. Juice the lemon, and pour it into the cup as well. Swirl it around.

Now dump that lemon-ginger mofo into the funnel. Professor-guy said to not worry about it sticking in the funnel. Fill up the unwashed glass measuring cup with clean water. Pour that into the funnel and it’ll wash all the remains into the bottle. Damn, I like this Professor-guy – such attention to detail.

Fill up the remaining space in the plastic bottle with clean water. You can use the funnel if you like. Just don’t fill it up too much. I actually left about 2 inches at the top, though Professor-guy says 1 inch is OK. Cap it and shake to distribute – turn the bottle upside down to make sure the sugar is not sticking in the crevices.

Now comes the sketchy part – leave the bottle in room temperature for between 8-48 hours. I would say to put it in a bomb-proof bag, but not everyone has one of those. The reason for the great range of time is that the temperature of the room and the efficacy of the yeast can be REALLY different.

So how do you know it’s done – you kinda “squeeze the bottle forcefully”. So much for science! If you can’t really dent it in, then it’s time to refrigerate it. Then chill it in the fridge overnight. When you’re opening it the next day, make sure to open it slowly. Dang, there’s a lot of gas in there.

You’ll want to strain it into a glass, unless you like bits of ginger and lemon floating around in your glass. I actually do – feels more homemade.

This entire recipe was copped from Professor-guy. Thank you, Professor-guy.

Some quick thoughts – I didn’t use a standard 2 liter bottle because I didnt’ have one at home. I used one of those harder plastic containers, but it seems to work the same way.

However, I found my ginger ale bottle got rock hard within like 5-6 hours! This is probably because I used double the yeast recommended by the professor. I did not have any inadvertent boom-booms, but this is probably not recommended. However, it did produce some passable carbonated ginger ale in a shorter time. I used the Fleischmann’s instant active yeast packets.

I’ve heard you can use dried grated ginger with similar results, but we always have the fresh stuff around. I thought the lemon juice was just for flavoring, and Professor-guy indeed said it was optional. However, I’ve seen another person say it’s important to balance the pH or something. I’ll let the other Professor-guys (or gals) comment on that.

The refrigeration is actually necessary to stop or slow the fermentation process, so make sure you put the bottle in the fridge before it has a chance to get really sketchy. Because the liquid is cold, the sugar sometimes doesn’t dissolve right away, and that may affect the time as well. I might experiment with using a simple syrup instead of sugar next time.

Overall, the ginger ale was surprisingly good. In my humble non-Professor-guy opinion, it was more of a “lemony soda drink with a ginger taste”. But I’d much rather drink this than Sprite.

It lasts for a few days in the fridge. For grins, on the 3rd day I dumped a little more sugar and yeast into the bottle to see if it would make it more fizzy again. I left it out until the bottle got hard, and then refrigerated it. That actually worked pretty nicely, except it tasted a little too much like breadahol (alcoholic bread) than it probably should.

On the subject of alcoholic content – I don’t think that there’s that high a level of alcohol in this type of homemade ginger ale. I think if you keep on “feeding it”, it might get higher. It certainly tasted more like alcohol after I tried adding more yeast. Well, maybe some of the Professor-guy-types out there can weigh in on that.

Anyhow, at about $1 a bottle it’s a pretty nice drink to sip, while waiting on the phone.

[Editor's Note: I am not a Professor of Grungology, but Magic Bonus points will be given if you knew the song I was singing. Without googling it, genius.]

3 Responses to “Homemade Ginger Ale”

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  1. Trish Says:

    There’s a recipe on about.com for fresh ginger ale that you don’t need to ferment, I would probably try that before exposing my home to sticky messes from possible explosions. It’s faster, plus I’m not sure about the baker’s yeast for drinking; wouldn’t brewer’s yeast taste a lot better? I’ve never tried it but I’ve read beer made with baker yeast tastes horrible, so I would think this ginger ale should too, but you think not. Anyway, the ginger syrup mixed with club soda sounds promising; maybe you could try that and tell us which way is better?

  2. Orchid64 Says:

    I’ve read about homemade ginger ale in many places, but really can’t work up the enthusiasm to try it. I think they’ll have to start serving it at restaurants where I can sample it and see that it is superior to the canned stuff and then I might be motivated to try… but, in Japan, that doesn’t seem very likely. ;-)

  3. jenn Says:

    somebody to shove, soul asylum. actually had to think about it for a minute, that song came out when i was a freshman in high school.




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