I have already posted a general recipe for using water kefir grains to turn sugar and water into a carbonated probiotic beverage, and today I’m posting a more detailed recipe for my favorite flavor of water kefir: ginger ale.
This post has been delayed because my water kefir grains suffered some neglect recently while I was recovering from surgery and I wasn’t sure for a while that they were going to survive. They’re still not going quite as strong as they were before that, but they are fermenting and carbonating just fine, simply a little slower. Because of that, (and possibly also affected by the warmer spring weather) I still haven’t gotten my timetable down for maximum carbonation. Because of the health of the grains and the temperature and possibly other smaller factors can affect the exact speed of fermentation, it will probably take you a bit of experimentation to achieve maximum carbonation anyway.
Here are the carbonation tips I do have:
*Cap the jar tightly on the second fermentation to trap all the carbonation gases inside.
*Make sure you don’t ferment too long, as the carbonation with start to dissipate after it peaks. (I think this is my current problem, as my water kefir is getting fizzy in its original ferment, but is flat by the time we drink it.)
*On this last batch, instead of doing a true second fermentation, I put the jar of ginger and water kefir in the refrigerator to ‘steep’. The carbonation seemed to improve slightly, so I may incorporate this strategy into my further experiments on timing for peak carbonation.
In this recipe I assume that you have already followed the steps in my basic water kefir tutorial, and have a jar or pitcher of fermented water kefir that’s ready for flavoring and a second fermentation. Note that my original tutorial makes a half gallon of water kefir, while this recipe is for flavoring a quart. This allows you to split your water kefir for different flavorings if you’d like, but you can also simply double the flavoring recipe to make a half gallon of ginger ale.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
The water kefir already contains some excellent strains of probiotics, and adding fresh ginger supercharges its good effect on the digestion. I find this fermented ginger ale to be mildly energy boosting, easy on an upset stomach and overall a very good and gentle digestive tonic.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
My husband prefers this drink with a slightly shorter original fermentation time so it’s sweeter, while I prefer it with a moderate length fermentation so it has a bit stronger flavor, but we both enjoy it both ways. My husband thinks ‘ginger beer’ conveys the sense of the flavor better than ‘ginger ale’, but either way, this recipe is husband approved.
(A note on flavor: if the water kefir is over fermented it can develop an overly sharp, funky/musty flavor. My husband says it smells like vomit at this stage. If your water kefir isn’t going over well with your family, try experimenting with a slightly shorter fermentation time and see if that helps.)
Fermented Ginger Ale
1 quart unflavored water kefir
1/2-1 tsp freshly grated ginger
optional: 1 tsp cinnamon chips (pieces of cinnamon stick NOT baking chips)
Grate the fresh ginger into the water kefir. (I like to use a grater similar to this.) Half a teaspon will give you a mild and mellow ginger ale, while a full teaspoon will give you just a bit of sharpness to the ginger flavor, more link a typical ginger tea. If you like a very spicy, intense ginger ale flavor (along the lines of Blenheim), you could reasonably increase the ginger to 2 tsp or more. Experiment a bit and see what level of ginger flavor you prefer in your ginger ale.
The flavor with just fresh ginger is quite good, but sometimes I like to add about a teaspoon of cinnamon chips to add some depth and balance to the flavor, depending on whether I’m in the mood for the simple sharpness of plain ginger, or the more rounded complex flavor of ginger with cinnamon.
Cap the jar tightly and let sit on the counter for 1-2 days. Strain out the ginger (this mesh strainer is very handy for this sort of job) and drink immediately or refrigerate. (I often just refrigerate the whole jar with the ginger still in it and strain out the ginger as I pour it into my glass when I drink it.)
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