I am making ginger beer. I’m using basically raw ginger and honey and fermenting with bakers yeast. I’m getting somewhere between 2% & 2.3% ABV in testing. I don’t want any alcohol in the ginger beer as I want my kids to drink it. As I see it I have two options:

  1. Pasteurize : After fermentation then pasteurize to remove alcohol. But there will still be alcohol present and it’s not as effective as one thinks I believe, so have no idea how to test for sure.
  2. Don’t Ferment: Make Cordial, Keg and force carbonize.

Question: If I follow option 2 won’t my ginger beer taste different? Doesn’t the fermentation step add the flavor by the yeast producing byproducts?

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Will the ginger beer taste different if you don't ferment? Yes. but mostly because you will have a sweeter product because the yeast didn't consume the sugar you put into it. You may want to adjust your sugar levels down a bit, or you may not.

There could be some minor taste differences because of the lack of yeast by-products but with a 2.3% ABV ginger beer, not much is going on in this regard, especially if you use a yeast with a clean profile. Some yeast strains do add spiciness or fruity character, but I'm assuming you're avoiding those.

One other benefit of no fermentation, is that the ginger beer should taste more gingery. This is because fermentation blows off a bit of the aromatics, and you want to keep those in to improve the taste.

If you do not want any alcohol - Do not ferment.

That's it, no way around it. There's no home-kitchen method of removing all the alcohol. Sure you could boil off a lot of it, but not all of it.

Pasteurisation does not remove all the alcohol, it will remove some of it, but as you get less and less alcohol in the solution you need to raise the temperature - it's not a trivial operation, "heat to X-degrees & wait" wont do it.

Humans (probably all mammals) have a complex relationship with ethanol. Our senses are honed to search it out (probably because it becomes present in ripe fruits). So ginger beer without alcohol, even with the same sweetness will taste different. You could add some yeasty flavours by dissolving some yeast extract spread (e.g.: marmite, vegemite), but now I've typed that, I must admit: it sounds nasty.

So - what to do...

Make a cordial, carbonate it. Experiment. Make the best tasting ginger cordial you can. Get your kids involved, ask them to judge, do a tasting panel. Play with the amount of lemon juice & sugar. Use different sugars: raw, molasses, palm-sugar, coconut-sugar, try with lime juice, add other spices.

All that said, when I was a kid, we just fermented it with whatever yeast came off the sultana/raisin skins we made the starter / "ginger bug" with.

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