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I'm a novice fermenter who loves ginger beer, so I thought I'd try to make my own. I ordered some ginger beer plant from these guys and followed their guide: http://www.yemoos.com/gingerbeerguide.html

For my first batch I added 1/2 cup white sugar, GBP, and the juice of 4" of ginger root to a quart of water. I let it sit covered with cloth for 4 days, then I strained the liquid into two swingtop bottles and added 1 tsp. of white sugar to each bottle. I put the bottles in the fridge and "burped" them every day. After 3 days I tried the ginger beer, but it was too flat and sweet. The problem seemed obvious to me: I didn't allow enough time, and the fridge was too cold, for good fermentation.

For the second batch I added 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, the GBP I separated from the 1st batch, and ginger juice to a quart of water. This time I let it sit for 7 days. I strained the liquid into 2 bottles again, but did not add extra sugar (I think I must have been scared of too much sweetness at the end). I did not put the bottles in the fridge but let them sit for 7 more days, opening them daily to release pressure (of which there didn't seem to be any).

Today I poured one of the bottles into a glass and a thick sludge came out. I tried a sip, and it did seem to have an alcohol bite to it, but this is definitely not what I had in mind.

What did I make? Is it salvageable in any way? But most importantly, how do I avoid this in the future?

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I think what you made was a yeast cake. Even though you strained it there is still the little guys floating around in it. When you put it in the fridge it's called cold crashing and will make most of the trub and yeast floating around drop out.

Is it salvageable.... well it depends on how much sludge. Personally if it's that much I would dump it.

My recipe is as follows. I get ginger root and cut it up in to small thin sticks after it's skinned. Then I simmer for 15-20 min like you're making tea. Do not boil it. You'll boil off some of the oils if you do. I then strain the liquid and put that in to the fermentor (about 1 cup per gallon) with sugar water and cyan pepper(the cyan pepper makes it hold that bite and burn for months.) Mix and aerate I use US 05 yeast. It takes about 6 days. I then cold crash for 3 days. Rack it in to a bottling bucket and mix in 1/4 cup of brown sugar water per 2 gallons so the bottles carb up. Let sit in a warm place (70) for 3-6 days and then cool and serve.

The amount of sugar added to the water I can't remember off the top of my head. But there is a ratio just google it you should be able to figure it out based off of what your hydrometer says. This is for a ginger ale.

For a ginger beer it would require an all grain process or an extract process, and from what I'm gathering you don't have that equipment.

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