When I buy homemade ginger beer (in South Africa), there are often small black raisins floating in it, about 1cm in diameter. Why did the makers decide to put them in?

  • Aren't raisins used in wine making or something to determine when a certain gravity is reached?
    – GHP
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 14:36
  • In mead making, raisins are sometimes added as an additional nutrient source and to add body via the grape tannins. My guess is that this was originally done for ginger beer for the same reason, and the raisins were just never taken out. The practice has probably just persisted as a matter of tradition.
    – valverij
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 16:22

7 Answers 7


I'm not sure if this is true in ginger-beer making, but in mead-making, raisins are sometimes added to supply nutrients for the yeast. The all honey and water mixture which is the mead starting point cannot host a very healthy yeast colony without the trace minerals supplied by the raisins.

Maybe it is the same for ginger beer...

BTW. If you can get your South African supplier to share, please post their ginger beer recipe (as part of your question, or as a comment on your question, or even as a comment on my answer). I am sure that I am not the only person here who would be interested in seeing how things are done there.

  • This is honestly the most likely reason. It was probably done for nutrients back in a time before nutrients like Fermaid K and GoFerm, and has probably just persisted as a matter of tradition.
    – valverij
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 16:24

Putting a few raisins in a bottle before you cap it, will let you know when its carbonated as the raisins, will float to the top after. They sink at first.

  • top tip, thank you. I regularly make Christmas beer by adding dark sugar,spice (and NOW raisins) to an otherwise bland kit. Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 12:09

The skin of sultanas or raisins have natural occurring yeast needed for the fermentation process.

Older recipes typically used a 'ginger bug' derived from the yeast on sultana skin in stead of brewers yeast. It is not coincidental for the sultanas to float as this indicative of the fermentation process active also within the swollen sultanas.


I'm South African and my grandmother used to make ginger beer all the time when we were little and it always had raisins in. Unfortunately she is no longer around for me to ask her why but whatever the scientific reason is, I think it's the traditional way to make ginger beer in South Africa. I loved the raisins and will be adding some to my recipe!


Because somebody there likes raisins?


Simply put it tells you when the ginger beer is ready to drink. When you add the raisins they rise and fall but when the yeast has converted enough of the sugars the raisins float. You can also eat them. They are really tasty.

Did not know this was a South African tradition.

  • 1
    "...when the yeast has converted enough of the sugars the raisins float" - This is not entirely true, as it depends on the final density of the ginger beer in relation to the variable density of the raisins. Given all of the CO2 produced by the yeast, the raisins will also float during the primary fermentation. In mead making, I've seen raisins both float and sink after primary.
    – valverij
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 16:29

This was also done in New Zealand. I am making it again using fresh ginger because the dried doesn’t seem to have the same bite. I have a 3 part process, first you make a bug with grated ginger sugar and water, when this is bubbly make up 5 lts water 300 gm sugar and 300gm fresh ginger that has been chopped in a processor, bring to boil and extract flavour, let this cool. Once cooled add 250 mls of the bug and let ferment for 3 or 4 days. Then bottle. I am using swing top glass bottles and this is where the raisin question comes in. I’ll try it out.


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