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I'm planning to make some ginger beer. I want it to be non-alcoholic, and I am ordering some wine yeast to ferment it. I have two questions about yeast, though, since I am new to fermenting anything.

1) Do I need to kill the yeast off with anything before it is safe to drink? I've read some online articles that say that ingesting active yeast is dangerous.

2) How much alcohol will develop by the time enough fermentation has occurred to get fizzy?

EDIT
I really know next to nothing about alcoholic beverages. I just don't want to get drunk/tipsy on a glass or two of this stuff, and I will (if it turns out good) be serving it to some friends as well. The recipe I'm going to follow is here.

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Ingesting active yeast is not dangerous. If it was people drinking unfiltered craft beer or any kind of real yogurt would have died off centuries ago. The worst that can happen is that too much yeast may upset your stomach or your digestive process for a day.

Its hard to say how much alcohol you'll get because its really depends on how active you let the yeast get before you chill it down and how cold you keep it after that. I think that you'll likely find with that high degree of acidity in the posted recipe it won't be too hard to keep it in check. I wouldn't expect more that 2%.

If you are really concerned with the alcohol level I'd recommend one of two things:

  1. Get a hyrdometer and learn how to use it to determine the amount of alcohol produced.
  2. Invest in some equipment that will allow you to carbonate without using yeast at all. Its called forced carbonation. Using something like a CO2 charger and a carbonation cap. (You're really making soda at that point but who cares if it tastes the way you want?)

As for the yeast choice, the recipe you posted seems to just use active bread yeast. That shouldn't really be a problem for such a short ferment. If you really wanted to you could go up to a neutral ale yeast like a Fermentis US05 or as mentioned, champagne yeast. I think champagne yeast is a bad choice if you are concerned about alcohol because it will likely be more aggressive of a fermentor in this recipe and it'll be more difficult to control the end product. (And by more difficult I am really gearing that statement towards someone with little fermentation experience. No offense I hope.)

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    There is a rare medical condition where live yeast lives in the gut and they get drunk from eating food. Auto-brewery syndrome, biology is so cool! 😀 – Evil Zymurgist Jul 7 '16 at 13:04
  • I think I'll buy a hydrometer and play around with it. I really don't want to do forced carbonation, at least not at first. I want to find out what it's like to brew it. Also, I suppose it will help that I'm planning to brew it at fairly cool temperatures. 52°F or so. – BenjiWiebe Jul 7 '16 at 16:08
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Well, I've never brewed anything non alcoholic but I know adding yeast to it will result in fermentation and produce alcohol.

I suppose you could mix up/infuse the ingredients in your recipe, boil it to sanitise it (to maybe kill off any wild yeast) and cool it rapidly. Alternatively, you could use the correct amount of Sodium Metabisulfite (Campden tablets) to sanitise your ginger and other raw ingredients if you want to avoid boiling it.

Your last point refers to what we call bottle conditioning/secondary fermentation where you would bottle (or keg) the brew after primary fermentation is done with some carefully measured sugar or other fermentable ingredient to activate the dormant yeast into making enough C02 to produce bubbles. Since you don't want to end up with alcohol, you would probably need to force carbonate it in order to get the fizz you require.

As for ingesting yeast being dangerous - where did you hear that? Can you cite your sources? Most yeasts (At least the ones used to brew and bake) are probiotic (literally means: for life in Latin) and are actually good for you.

  • No it isn't worth citing. :) It was on yahoo answers or somewhere like that. Just wanted to make sure, though. As to the alcohol, I should clarify. I know some alcohol will be produced, but I'd prefer if it stayed down <1% ABV. – BenjiWiebe Jul 6 '16 at 2:29
  • You could use a wine or a champaign yeast (or a standard ale yeast or baker's yeast really) but I don't think you'll be able to keep alcohol to under <1%. Your final ABV will really depend on the amount of fermentables (the quantity of sugar) in your wort, your batch size, the brewing temperature, the amount of yeast you pitch, the yeast characteristics etc. There are too many variables to control. Even the weakest "session" ales I've seen brewed come at 2.5-3% ABV. You might be better off avoiding yeast altogether and force carbing your brew after you've dialed in your recipe. – Jay Sidri Jul 6 '16 at 2:59
  • Thanks for the info! Please check my edit, I included a link to the recipe. Does that change anything? – BenjiWiebe Jul 6 '16 at 5:49
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We have made naturally carbonated root beer in the past, the alcohol produced in the short time it takes to carbonate in bottles is negligible. Probably same or higher alcohol content in the dregs of a bottle of grape juice after a few weeks in the fridge. Keep tasting the soda from time to time to monitor the carbonation level, some tough little yeast beasts will continue to work, so don't plan on keeping it in the fridge for months!

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One can use yeast for a fast ferment in an attempt to keep the alcohol down and just produce enough gas to carbonate the drink. Something like 4g per bottle (equivalent to brewers "priming" their beer) should do the trick. But it does produce a (very) weak alcoholic drink.

One ("the real") way to make alcohol free ginger beer is to use "Ginger beer plant" which is a SCOBY (complex culture) comprising lactobacillius and saccharomyces. That does produce alcohol but in very small amounts. In the main it produces lactic acid and carbon dioxide (for carbonation). This is the traditional ginger beer that was given to children in Edwardian England. "Lashings and lashings of Ginger beer!" It is also full of friendly bacteria and can be used to make water safer to drink by a process of biological purification.

  • Ginger beer plant sounds like the way to go. I've got a hydrometer now (arrived this afternoon) so maybe I'll try my wine yeast first, and see how much alcohol it produces in how much time, and then move on to ginger beer plant. Thanks for your informative answer! – BenjiWiebe Jul 13 '16 at 1:25
  • [link]gingerbeerplant.net/[/link] – barking.pete Jul 15 '16 at 23:28

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