Ginger beer plant


Hi, I am in Melbourne, Australia.


I remember fondly the ginger beer that my aunt made when I was a child from sugar, yeast and ground ginger.


I was about to start some and was doing a little research when I found out that this method produces a poor imitation of the rare and original item.


Here is a quote:


The culture is not really a plant, but a group 
of tiny grains, like semi-transparent rice granules. This 'plant' was used to 
ferment this sugar-water-ginger solution until popularity died out and ease 
of using conveniently dried baker's and brewer's yeast replaced it. These 
substitutes produce a gingery beer, but are not the same, just as bread and 
sourdough bread are not the same. The symbiotic qualities of bacteria and 
yeast of GBP, as with all of our cultures, make for a unique live and 
self-propagating culture that produces a truly rich flavor.


The comment about sourdough made me wonder if there is anyone in the community in Australia who may be able to supply me with some of these crystals.

391 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 28

Hello Cielkaye,

My mother used to make ginger beer and I recall that it was really gingery.  I never did find out what the basis of it was.  I always assumed that it was originally yeast based but my efforts, though sometimes highly explosive, did not seem to have the gingery taste that I recalled.

I did manage to get her recipe for Ginger  Nuts that I also remembered as being as hard as the hobs - real tooth breakers and very gingery to boot.  My attempts at making them were pale imitations both in the hardness and taste.

I often wondered whether the matter of taste in both delicacies was due to the passage of time or whether, somehow, the ginger of today is less gingery than it used to be.

Perhaps you could try converting some of your starter over to a ginger/sugar feeding regime or see if it will start fermenting of its own accord.  Not a lot to lose.

Let us know how you go.


Cielkaye 2012 February 28

Hi Farinam


The problem might be in the freshness of the ginger. As the recipe uses a fair bit I will buy it in bulk from a middle eastern spice supplier near me. Very fresh and very inexpensive to boot.


Really want to get my mits on those antique crystals.



farinam's picture
farinam 2012 February 28

Hello Cielkaye,

Most of the weblit suggests that the GBP was a SCOBY and had the character of a gelatinous mass.  Unless it took on some sort of crystalline form when it was dried out.

There are sites out that purport to sell 'genuine' GBPs.

Let me know when you have a brew and I'll come over for a taste test :)


Cielkaye 2012 February 28

Ebay has some 'crystals' for sale from Canada, and I have read about going into yahoo groups to secure some material. I just think that there might be some bod on our site that might have something closer to home.


It is a bugger to be obsessive.



Aurora56's picture
Aurora56 2012 February 28

 Hi There


I had a phase of making Ginger Beer but was then put off a bit when I realised how much sugar I was consuming.  I used to use 'wine yeast' and added some lemon juice and grated fresh ginger (instead of ground ginger powder) and then strained this when bottling up.  It was very gingery.  


Usually this ginger beer will end up being around 4% alcohol so you need to be aware of how much you are drinking if you are going to drive etc afterwards.



Cielkaye 2012 February 29

Yes, the plant my aunt cultivated was a large gelatinous blob. Amazing. Better than looking at goldfish. Very active at times.


Re gingernuts. We love Arnott's gingernuts and buy them all around Australia. They taste different in every state. Some are burning hot, some pastel. Some would do expensive dental work serious damage and others are mere crisps. Go figure.




Cielkaye 2012 February 28

Hi again Farinam


I have a recipe that was published in The Age just before xmas. Pretty much the same as this one, but thanks for searching.



Staffo 2012 February 28

Hi Cielkaye and farinam,

I remember gingerbeer plants at our place - must have been in the late 1960's/ early 70's. Raisins were added to the culture, I am guessing they were used in much the same way that some folk start their sourdough starter. My recollection is of a cloudy sediment in a large flagon and beer bottles charged with the brew and a little sugar - predictable a little explosive during hot Melbourne summers!  Looking at the 1st recipe on farinam's link, I wonder if you could get a more interesting culture going without the initial sugar?

Cielkaye 2012 February 28

That is my recollection exactly. This burbling mass like something from a sci fi movie rising to the surface and subsiding again. It was fascinating. The only bottles that really could cope were the Marchant's ones that had a thick rubber seal. I was too young to appreciate the hot ginger taste, but I loved the concept. Much like I loved the idea of sweet corn and brussels sprouts but hated the taste, but now love them.


Here is the recipe from the Melbourne Age:


This recipes takes three weeks to make.

Week one: Make your plant

1/2 tsp dried yeast

1 rounded tsp ground ginger

1 rounded tsp sugar

250ml lukewarm water

■Put ingredients in a jar that will hold about one litre of liquid. Mix and cover with a clean, open-weave cloth and use an elastic band to hold it in place. Don't
use a lid. It could go BANG!

■Each day add one tsp of ginger and one tsp of sugar. Repeat for one week.

■Meanwhile collect and clean plastic bottles (glass could explode). Smaller bottles get a better fizz, but regular 1 or 2 litre milk or water bottles are fine. You're
making about 14 litres.

Week two: a bit more fortifying!

■Top your 'plant' up with 500ml of warm (not hot) water. Each day, stir through two tsps of ground ginger and two tsps of sugar. Do this for one week.

Week three: It's time to bottle it!

You'll need a 20-litre container, a funnel, some muslin cloth [cheesecloth], an elastic band and your bottles.

■Mix 12 litres of warm water with 250ml of strained lemon juice and 1.75kg of sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

■Stretch the muslin over the top of the 'plant' jar and secure with the elastic band. Strain liquid into a bowl.

■Add the strained 'plant' (not the goop) to the warm water mixture. Stir well and pour into bottles with a jug and a funnel. Leave 2–3cm between the ginger
beer level and the lid of the bottle.

■Set the bottles aside for one week in a cool spot.

End of week three:

■Test your ginger beer — it should be fizzy now. Drink with lots of ice, and with gin, vodka or lime. Or drink it straight from the bottle, with no fancy stuff!

Makes 14 litres

fredericah 2012 February 29

The gelatinous grains in the quoted comment sound like water kefir grains.  There are a number of great recipes for making ginger beer using kefir.

stoneground 2012 March 7

I have made traditional ginger beer out out the plant bacteria you described.  It is like nothing you have ever tasted and good for you (the bacteria digests the sugar into fructose). 


The is a guy, Dominique, in South Australia who cultivates bacteria for all kinds of fermentation.  I recommend his cultivation and warn you it may take some time because he has a waiting list.  His email is [email protected]

This is an excerpt from his website:

Ginger Beer Water Kefir I have discovered the addition of 2 to 4 tablespoons of fresh ginger root juice per 8-cups of sugar solution, produces what one of my list members referred to as a marvelous ginger root beverage similar to ginger beer. SKG grow well with added ginger root. I have come to the hypothesis of the possibility that SKG may well be the original mother-culture for preparing ginger root beer. I came to this conclusion for the fact that today among ginger beer brewers, it is common to prepare what is referred to as a Ginger Beer Plant. This is by mixing sugar, ginger root powder and active brewers or bakers yeast, and feeding the so called ginger beer plant with the addition of more sugar and ginger root powder each day, over 7 days. This mother-culture [Ginger Beer Plant], is added to a large volume of sugar/water and a little lemon juice, and brewed for a number of days. This is followed by bottling and storage to produce a root beer with natural carbonation.

It is suggested that SKG were brought back by English solders on their return from the Crimean War, and the mother-culture was originally referred to as a Ginger Beer Plant. If this was the case, then quite possibly due to the lack of SKG, someone along the line with an understanding in basic fermentation, may have decided to prepare a variety of the plant as a substitute for the real deal [SKG], as explained above [Just as I recognised that milk kefir-grains can be substituted for SKG to produce a variety of water kefir, because I did not have SKG in early part of 1980s--- necessity is the mother of invention].

ginger water kefirI discovered that when first including fresh ginger root juice to brew SKG that were not previously brewed with ginger, and those SKG were only just acquired from another source, and which were only growing 5% to 10% by weight per each 2-day brewed batch, initial growth of the grains over the first 2 or so batches with added ginger was quite remarkable. A growth surge of more than 160% increase at 48 hours has been observed. Although the large percentage increase was variable for a while, increasing between 50% to 100% by weight at 48 hours was common, with added fresh ginger root. However, when using the exact same ingredients and the same measured amount of SKG, growth stabilized between 90% to 120% increase per each 2-day brewed batch.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 March 7

Greetings all,

After my earlier advice to just try something, I decided that I should put my money where my mouth was and do it myself.

So, I have been, for several days now, adding sugar and finely chopped ginger root to a jar part filled with water.  And lo and behold, after a couple of days, it was noticeably producing gas.  It certainly smells nice and gingery and no signs of mould or other nasties.  Then again, given the astringency of ginger juice, it is probably a pretty good antiseptic/antiwhatever.

Although most recipes talk about a weekly cycle, I think I will run for a couple of weeks before I try making a brew.

I know this is all a bit away from sourdough but I am hoping that as it will be a wild yeast etc base and will go down well as an accompaniment for some sourdough product or other the moderator won't mind.


gjcantley 2012 March 7

I think that what your are after is definitely Sugary Kefir Granules. ( SKG ) Have a look this website it has all the information that you could possibly want. SKG is not a scoby ( symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast ) that is Kombucha, another fermented drink. The website owner is Dominic N Anfiteatro and he is in Adelaide, South Australia. A quick search on Google for Kefir will find him. Cheers, George.

Cielkaye 2012 March 7

Hi Farinam


Good luck with your brew. I am on the trail of genuine GBP. The afficiondos of this are adamant that it has no relationship to kefir. Their forum is most emphatic about this. My plant will most likely come from the UK. I will let you know when I am able to grow enough for you to play with.

mees 2012 June 21

Really sorry to bump this old thread, but I was wondering if you ever did manage to get a Ginger Beer Plant and if so, how it compared to your memory.


I have done a lot of reading on the net about this "real" Ginger Beer Plant, and what you are describing as your memory of your aunt's Ginger Beer Plant is really interesting to me as just started a plant myself four days ago - but naturally as opposed to buying it from the "real" GBP people.  It is gloopy and I think it's going to end up like your aunt's big gelatinous mass if I just keep feeding it.  Only time will tell, as I can't find any descriptions of how it it supposed to develop.  Your amazing description is one of a few I have found which make me believe that my own starter is on the right track.


To be honest, I am actually quite skeptical that what is being sold as is "real" GBP is really "real" at all.  It sounds very different to what your aunt had, and what your aunt had sounds more "real" than what those people are touting.  The plant that is being help up as "real" comes from a German microbe bank, and there is actually NO information as to the source of the original microbe, or the ag of it - just a lot of romanticizing and wishful thinking.  And yet there is now a small industry in the sale of this bug with many people jumping on the bandwagon to say that this is the ONLY GBP plant in the whole world, and that if you don't buy it, then you can't make "real" ginger beer!!!


As a person who also bakes sourdough bread, this "real GBP" nonsense gets up my nose.  The whole reason we bake sourdough bread is to use wild organisms and fermentation to create healthy and nutritious breads.  As an added bonus, this process is often cheaply achieved - you don't have to buy commercial yeast, and you don't have to buy someone elses starter.  The same applies to lacto-fermented drinks - which is what ginger beer is.  You don't have to buy a "plant"/starter from anyone because the microorganisms which start the fermentation process in your ginger beer are already on the ginger root!


So anyway, with all that said, because I am getting a gelatinous occurence in my own non-bought, non-bandwagon ginger beer plant, I suspect that I am on the right track to creating a ginger beer plant similar to what you are describing.   All I have done so far is put two cups of water in pitcher, roughly chop up about an inch from a finger of ginger root (including the skin, which is where one would expect there to be more microbes), place the chopped ginger in the water and add two teaspoons of sugar.  The water in my area is not chlorinated but is very hard and contains a lot of calcium and a bit of iron, so I suspect this is helping.  And the sugar I used is refined beet sugar because that's the main type of sugar we can buy here.  I also had a plant going with palm sugar, but it was not happy until I gave it beet sugar instead.  From what I have read, the SCOBY in GBP likes monosacharides, so presumably if I could feed my organic ginger beer plant with glucose, it would probably be even happier. 


I also read that nitrogen makes the GBP microbes happy, so I have now started another medium which contains a half teasoon of marmite in addition to the sugar and water and chopped ginger.   This has only been going for a day and it looks happy, but I'll wait and see what happens.


If people are interested in this, please give it a go yourself.  I wonder if the yeasts and other microbes found on Australian ginger roots might differ slightly to those in Europe and therefore create a slighltly different and more unique ginger beer plant!   The recipe I used to culture my ginger beasties was one I found by accident on a Gaurdian newspaper blog in the UK which was trotting out the same tired old "REAL GBP" sales pitch:  If you read down in the the comments section, someone posts a recipe for ginger beer plant via wild fermentation.


If anyone tries it, please update this thread.  I want to hear if anyone esle gets gelantinous occurrences in their GPB (I believe it's called dextran and is produced by Brevibacterium vermiforme, which, along  with  Cielkaye's description of her aunt's GBP, makes me more convinced this is the way that a GBP plant is started).


Cielkaye 2012 June 22

 I still have not bought a GBP as I have been watching my pennies and have a lot of other things happening. I do intend to though. I agree that there is a lot of waxing lyrical out there about it, and I am inclined to believe that there are two different things that call themselves ginger beer. When I got started making sourdough, I made Jim Lahey's amazing bread that uses just the teensiest bit of yeast, and there are those that think this is close to sourdough. I don't think so, but I do think it is terrific, and I still make it occasionally for a change. The ginger beer my aunt made when I was a child was fantastic, but I do believe now that there is this thing called GBP that might be different/better. I really think we would need to set up a taste test to know. I hope you have success with your plant whatever it is. Maybe you are creating a crazy new hybrid. Let us know what it tastes like.

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