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Caring for your ginger beer plant

by Amber Fairweather |

FAQ: General information on how to care for your grains (Ginger Beer culture specific information below)

Whether you’re making milk kefir, water kefir or ginger beer, the grains or rather organisms/cultures used in the fermentation process need special care to unfold their maximum potential and provide you with the healthy beneficial bacteria that they are known for. Here are some general tips and guidelines on how to care for your cultures and ensure that your fermentation process is successful.


Is it true that I shouldn’t use metal spoons for stirring?

Yes, that is right. Metal tends to react with most cultured foods and cultures should therefore not come into contact with cultures for a prolonged time. For making kefir, stainless steel is acceptable, though you should avoid any prolonged contact with any of your culture to avoid damaging them. Plastic is more suitable, but of course is not ideal for our environment and at Symbiota we aim to get a balance between looking after our earth and our cultures. We therefore advise to only expose your grains to stainless steel for a very short time, such as when straining them after the fermentation process is finished. Avoid all other metals.


Do I need to rinse grains/ cultures between making batches?

No, there is no need to rinse your cultures unless your cultures have been left to stand for longer than their suggested times and they have started to smell “off”. To try save them, you can rinse them with filtered water and try rebrewing them several times to see if they regain life. 


Do I need to rinse my fermentation jar between making batches?

There is no right or wrong answer. Some people prefer to use a clean jar for each batch, but this is not necessary. Some people simply rinse their jars between batches while others leave their jars until there is a build up and their jars start looking scummy. Jars that have a build up will contribute to faster fermentation times, while clean jars will result in a slightly slower fermentation time. What is important, is that when jars are cleaned, they are fully rinsed with clean water so that there is no soap residue. Soap residue will affect the bacteria.


Can I use plastic containers and bottles to make or store kefir and ginger beer?

We don’t recommend using plastic for various reasons. Not only does it have a negative impact on our environment but plastic can also leach undesirable chemicals into your fermentations. Therefore, glass is the best option for fermenting any kind of food or drink. However, if you have a plastic bottle lying around that can be tightly sealed, these do work very well for second stage ferments. They limit explosions and support a great carbonated finish to your second ferment.


Ginger Beer Plant

Ginger Beer Plant (GBP) is not actually a plant, but a symbiosis of 2 organisms, a yeast fungus and a lactobacillus. Both are quite rare, and in this form have been around since the 1700s. Use GBP to make your own ginger beer or use it in a variety of different flavoured recipes.


Can I make my own GBP?

No, ginger beer plant is NOT the same as a ‘ginger bug’ (see out ginger bug recipe here) which can be made at home. Most people confuse these two ferments. Ginger beer plant is made up of two very specific organisms, Saccharomyces florentinus and Lactobacillus hilgardii. One of these bacterium being very rare and the other fairly common. It is extremely difficult to get the two to marry together symbiotically and work together as the ginger beer plant does, hence its rarity.


Can I reuse GBP?

Yes, your GBP can be reused indefinitely if looked after properly. It can, however, be sensitive and is not as robust as other cultures. It survives just fine when looked after correctly but does not like being neglected and is susceptible to being cross cultured from other cultures. So, although all cultures should be kept 1.5m away from each other, it is important to adhere to this rule for you ginger beer plant or culture.


What do I do if I want to take a break from brewing?

There are 2 ways of making your GBP dormant for a while. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge in you sugar solution as per instructions/ recipe which will last for months. Just check regularly for signs of mould and ideally change the sugar solution fortnightly without exceeding 6 months of storage in a fridge.


What sugars should I use for my ginger beer plant culture?

Ginger beer plants like either white sugar or rapadura sugar. Avoid using other type of sugars, especially sugar substitutes such as agave or honey. These will damage you culture.

If you have any unanswered questions please let us know at info@symbiota.co.nz and we will add the required information:)

Happy fermenting!