Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

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Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

Postby Phil on Wed Mar 11, 2015 1:52 pm

All, I'd appreciate feedback on this. I'm an experienced home brewer. Long story short: I made an active ginger bug and added it to a ginger beer concoction, and 4 days later, the ginger beer shows no sign of fermenting. Details below.

I made my first ever ginger bug, fed it daily for 4-5 days, and it was moderately active, i.e., not completely foamed over, but with noticeable bubbles.

I made a 1/2 gallon wort of ginger beer by simmering ginger with demerara sugar, then after 1/2 hour added lemon juice and peel. I used the proportions in Artisan Drinks (Lindy Wilmoth).

I cooled the wort to 98 degrees, and pitched 1/2 cup of the active, strained ginger bug into the ginger beer mixture, and shook in a jug gently for 5 minutes (per homebrewing technique to distribute yeast), and put an airlock on the jug.

I have stirred it twice daily for 4 days, and there is no sign of any fermentation. There is certainly some some of cloudy trub at the bottom of the jug, but no bubbling activity. I placed the bug in the fridge and will re-activate it and pitch more bug and sugar into the wort to try to get it to activate. I'm not sure how much more time I should give it.

Please let me know why an active ginger bug, pitched into wort at a survivable temperature, would not ferment my ginger beer. Notes of possible errors:

1. Did not use filtered water, but the ginger bug didn't seem to mind. I cooled the wort by adding 1/4 gallon room temp water to it. Our water has no perceptible chlorine taste, but that might be a factor.
2. The pitch temp was 98. I read that this was within a survivable range.
3. Fermentation (room) temp is probably 55-65 degrees (I live near San Francisco). Too cold? It is stored in a dark place.
4. Demerara sugar should work, and the wort is plenty sweet. I used plain brown sugar for the bug.
5. Was 1/2 gallon too much liquid for 1/2 cup ginger bug? I read multiple times that you use 1/4 cup per quart.
6. Shaking not good for lactobacillus?
7. Let ginger bug ferment longer? I read somewhere that you want the early yeast to die off to make way for another yeast.
8. Airlock prevents helpful yeast from entering wort? I used the airlock because my first ginger beer attempt using cake yeast had a terrible gassy off flavor. I speculated that it had become infected while exposed to the open air.
Phil
 
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Re: Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

Postby Christopher Weeks on Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:28 am

Hopefully someone with more experience will come along and answer, but I've fermented five (I think, it's been a while) sodas from ginger bugs, so I can talk to it a little bit. I'm just going to ramble on a little and maybe some of it will be helpful and maybe not...

First, my best guess (wild speculation?) is that 98 was too hot for the colony in the ginger bug that at thrived at 60. I bet you didn't kill every last organism, but I bet you shocked them and if they're going to recover at all, it'll take time.

Of the five sodas that I'm thinking of, three of the ginger bugs worked just great and two failed to thrive and I ended up pitching some or another commercial yeast. I never really knew what went wrong with them. I'm glad though, in retrospect, that my first couple worked fine -- it allowed me to develop a casual attitude about success.

I think that I usually just dump the entire bug (perhaps reserving a little to colonize a new bug) into my brews -- way more than 1/4 C per quart. Maybe more like 3 C per gallon or 3 times what you used.

I think that I've never used an airlock, just some cheesecloth, for soda since exposure to a little acetobacter, etc. won't matter in such a short ferment, but I doubt that caused your stall -- the amount of organisms colonizing from the air must be minimal compared to those introduced in the bug. I guess maybe if my suspicion about thermal shock to your bug is right, that population crash, coupled with the airlock preventing any new colonists would keep things slow.
Christopher Weeks
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Re: Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

Postby Phil on Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:13 am

Christopher, thanks. That sounds like a reasonable prognosis. I had read about temperature and volume ratio, but I'll try altering both next time around. Thanks for your feedback.
Phil
 
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Re: Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

Postby Phil on Thu Mar 12, 2015 11:36 pm

Update: I took the ginger beer to be (or not to be) out of the dark room this morning. When I got home from work it was finally beginning to ferment! The delay suggests to me that either or both factors you pointed to are correct. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this leads. I have a bunch of ingredients for root beer that I can't wait to brew...
Phil
 
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Re: Ginger bug was active, but ginger beer not fermenting

Postby Christopher Weeks on Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:31 am

Great news! Hopefully it'll be delicious.
Christopher Weeks
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