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I've been brewing ginger beer with raw cane sugar and have always found the short window between when the mixture becomes recognizable as ginger beer and when it turns into face-melting acid is quite enjoyable. I was just wondering though, does the type of sugar have an impact on that window? If I switched to a highly processed table sugar, would that result in a more or less acidic brew? I never buy white sugar and don't want to waste a brew, so if anyone knows, please share your experience.


I'm using real ginger beer plant (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) as my fermentation agent

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1 Answer 1

Some ginger beers are fermented with a ginger bug or a combination of brewer's yeast and lactobacillus. Depending on what bacteria can be co-resident with the yeast, acidity can happen. Lacto should produce a "lemony" acidity. Kombucha and some wild fermentations can also have acetobacter, which produces a vinegar taste. The type of sugar won't have a large impact on flavor, especially in the presence of strong flavors from lacto or acetobacter or the ginger itself. In a "normal" fermentation (one where bacteria is kept at a minimum), sugar just ferments out and produces alcohol, but some sugars are harder to consume by some yeast, leaving some residual sweetness and flavor. Is the "face-melting acid" flavor like lemonade or like vinegar or something else? I suspect the acidity is due to fermentation characteristics (like bacteria) rather than the type of sugar used, but it's a bit hard to tell without more information. In a sour-style beers, yeasts (like Brett) or lacto or other sour bacteria will consume the remaining sugars after the primary yeast has finished, getting more sour over long periods of time.

EDIT: I was checking in on a sour mash this morning and a couple of things occurred to me. In a sour mash, you are attempting to control what bacteria grows by controlling the temperature. Acetobacter; the vinegar component in the Ginger Plant inoculation, grows best at around 77-86 F (25-30C). By lowering the fermentation temperature you could limit the bacteria production and favor the yeast. I sort of like doing the opposite with Kombucha (ferment with a brewbelt to keep it at 78+F to favor the acidity and ferment for longer).

Also, if you are re-using your culture (GBP), the culture will change composition over time to favor the conditions, so the vinegar taste (acetobacter to yeast ratio) would be enhanced over generations by using higher fermentation temperatures. By the same token, using a lower fermentation temperature and harvesting, you will discourage the acetobacter population (raise the yeast to acetobacter ratio) in the culture over time, producing a more neutral flavor.

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I'm using (real) Ginger Beer Plant, a not insignificant detail, I'll add it to the question. It basically turns into vinegar. One batch was extremely sour, no sweetness and probably around 10% alcohol which was "bitter sweet" so to speak. –  Fo. Jul 2 '14 at 20:04
Yeah, a 'ginger bug' is just another name for starting the fermentation with a ginger root and sugar. Most of the time, I've seen it used to carbonate ginger ale or root beer. If you use it for the primary fermentation for (ginger) beer, it's definitely going to be co-resident with bacteria, like a Kombucha mother or scoby so letting it ferment out a great portion of the sugar is going to produce some vineger or sourness. If you wanted a cleaner fermentation, use a neutral ale yeast and carbonate it with the ginger bug when it's finished. –  Wyrmwood Jul 2 '14 at 20:52
I'm not sure if I need to make this clarification, but I will just in case: ginger bug and ginger beer plant are entirely different things. A bug would be like leaving tea and sugar open for days to capture wild yeast and start fermentation, whereas plant is just like a SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. I've never used bug, always used plant. –  Fo. Jul 2 '14 at 21:06
Either way, if you don't like the taste, then I recommend you try something different ;-) –  Wyrmwood Jul 2 '14 at 21:10

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