Made my second batch of ginger beer the other day, and not sure if different sugars perhaps produced a little more alcohol..

For my first batch, I used 2 cups of pure cane sugar and 1 packet of dry champagne yeast from red star to yield ~1 gallon. I let the bottles sit at room temperature for a little more than a day, then I dropped them in the fridge.

For my second, I doubled the batch, but instead of 4 cups of sugar , I used 3 cups, and ~13 oz. pineapple juice (Reed's uses pineapple juice, so thought I'd give it a try). I also added the cane sugar by making a simple syrup this time to make sure it all dissolves, as well as added some lime--neither of which should have an effect on fermentation(?). I pitched the same red star yeast after letting my pot sit in the fridge for a few hours to cool.

--Edit: I used 1# of ginger/gallon yield and 1 lemon for both. Those didn't change between batches.

I bottled it all yesterday and ran out of bottles (beer's taking them all up!) so I poured the left overs into a Nalgene bottle which I took to work today to see if it's carbonated. To my surprise/satisfaction, when I opened the bottle it announced with a nice 'tssh!' that it was nice and fizzy. However, after drinking a pint's worth, I'm pretty sure this batch is...different.

As a beer-brewing, red-blooded, beard-adorned American, I can tell when I've had alcohol, and I'm 95% sure this ginger beer is a little more 'special' than my first batch. Given I just ate lunch prior to drinking it, it must have at least 2% alcohol to make me even notice anything, or even think about it. My beer brewing experience says this doesn't make much sense, but then I remembered the key difference between this batch and the prior, and one thing I learned from nutritional science in college: fructose is the simplest of sugars, and pineapple juice packs a lot of fructose. The champagne yeast is probably having a party with the stuff--and I'm actually enjoying my Monday at work.

Does that at least pass the smell test? Could champagne yeast have turned that much sugar into a noticeable alcohol content in less than 24 hours? Is there that big of a difference between cane sugar, and fructose? Or was there potentially some weird fungus growing on the ginger root that I used, explaining my general euphoria at work today?

  • just to be clear - you have 3 cups of sugar and 13 fl oz of pineapple juice and some lime to make 2 gallons of ginger beer?
    – mdma
    Sep 9, 2013 at 20:23
  • Yes. And 2 pounds of ginger, and a sliced lemon. :P I was just listing the fermentables. Sep 9, 2013 at 20:52
  • Did you pitch a whole sachet of yeast?
    – mdma
    Sep 10, 2013 at 7:46
  • Um. Packet, yes. If that's what a sachet is... Sep 10, 2013 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


Ignoring the other ferementables (lime and pineapple juice) 3 cups of sugar weights about 600g - or 1.32lb.

Table sugar has a potential of 1.046 points per pound per gallon, which gives an estimated SG of

46 x 1.32 / 2 = 30 gravity units

So your ginger beer would have had an initial SG of 1.030.

I plugged these figures into BeerSmith, which computes the estimated FG at 0.993, and a maximum abv. of 4.8%. (Actual abv. may have been lower if not all the sugar was fermented, or it may have been higher since this figure doesn't include the pineapple juice.)

So, your ginger beer could have been 4.8% abv - no wonder you had an enjoyable day at work! :)

Update: Yes there's a good chance the yeast will have worked their way through the sugar. When one makes a 1.030 SG starter, it can be fermented out within 24 hours, and that's with a complex wort. Your solution was mainly sucrose, which can be fermented fairly quickly - the yeast have to synthesize invertase to invert the sugar. However, fermentation could have gone even quicker if you boiled it with the lime juice and/or pineapple juice since this will provide the heat and acidic environment needed to invert the sugar syrup, turning it into fructose and glucose, which are immediately fermentable.

So, yes, it's quite likely the yeast worked their way through most if not all the sugar.

  • Makes sense. However, how quickly could yeast possibly power through those sugars--at least a ball park figure? I don't know what the population growth/consumption model looks like: I know when I make an ale, it usually takes 12+ hour to become very bubbly and active, but that's usually more sucrose and glucose, and involves a different process, I believe (and yeast, even). Sep 9, 2013 at 22:32
  • Would you suggest not using the simple syrup in the future if I don't want alcoholic ginger brew? Or should I just chill the beers after only a few hours of sitting in room temperature? Sep 10, 2013 at 14:22
  • I would recommend using much less yeast - a sachet/packet of Red Star is enough to ferment 5-7 gallons. If you use less yeast, then it won't ferment quite so quickly giving you time to then chill it. Plus reduce the temperature to the lower end of the yeast's tolerance - 14-15C to reduce the rate of fermentation. Then you can check the gravity to see how far fermentation has come and cold crash it when you want it to stop.
    – mdma
    Sep 10, 2013 at 14:54
  • 1
    Another alternative is to first add only the sugar to provide the fizz - for 2 gallons, 3.4oz/100g will give 3.2 volumes - typical for soda. Leave that to ferment for a couple of days and then chill for 5 days. Then add sugar/juices/etc to taste. You'll have to use a resealable bottle, such as a plastic soda bottle or a growler, and keep it cold after the first couple of days. The advantage is that you know how much sugar has been used to carbonate and you can then add more sugar to taste without that fermenting, because the beer is chilled.
    – mdma
    Sep 10, 2013 at 17:21

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