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I want to make ginger drinks (bourbon, hot tea, ginger ale). In all cases, I want to create a ginger syrup that I can then add to bourbon, hot water, soda water to get my desired drink. I have tried the following methods:

  • Slice ginger thinly, put in boiling water for 1 hour
  • Chop ginger very finely, bring water to boil, cover, steep one hour
  • Chop ginger very finely, bring water to simmer for one hour
  • Puree ginger and small amount of water in vita mix

In all cases, I've found that I need to remove the leftover ginger, as it would just settle out of a drink. I've tried it with varying amounts of sugar (from none to 1:2 sugar:water). What I'm left with is a pretty good product, but the ginger has a lot of flavor left in it. In fact, I can use it again with the same process and still get a good result.

I would like to get a very strong product with minimal life left in the ginger, so that I can minimize the amount of ginger I use. I'd also like the syrup / extract to be as strong as possible to minimize the amount I add to my drink. To top it off, I would prefer the process not be to laborious or time consuming.

How can I maximize the extraction of ginger flavor in to a liquid?

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6 Answers 6

To increase flavor extraction (and this applies to ALL flavors, not just ginger):

  • Simmer for a prolonged period (more time to extract flavor).
  • Puree or finely mince the ginger, then strain it out with a fine chinois or cheesecloth. Smaller pieces allow water to more easily penetrate, and allows flavor compounds to be extracted more quickly
  • Stir frequently; this greatly reduces the time you need to cook the ginger, by ensuring flavor compounds reach an equilibrium throughout the mixture, rather than being concentrated at the surface of the ginger pieces.
  • Cook the same ginger multiple times with fresh water each time. This will extract more flavor than doing one batch cooked 3x as long, and also more than cooking the same ginger with 3x as much water. Each batch will be less flavorful, of course, but after 3-5 batches, you should have most of the flavor out.
  • Reduce the ginger water after extraction to concentrate the flavor. This will be especially helpful when combined with multiple batches.
  • Add alcohol to the water, as many flavor compounds are oils, and thus more soluble in alcohol than water. This is excellent to combine with reduction, as the alcohol is easily evaporated.

All of these approaches are based both practice and the chemistry behind extractions, which is what you are doing here.

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This probably warrants an experiment, but is the a differene between simmering the same ginger three times for an hour each and simmering once for three hours? –  yossarian Jul 26 '11 at 14:03
It doesn't need an experiment, because I already know the answer: yes. It comes out of solvent chemistry; multiple extractions are more effective than a single larger extraction, especially with substances having a limited solubility in the solvent you're extracting into (say, extracting flavor oils into water). For the math & science behind it, examine the link here: people.rit.edu/lprsch/scha312ext_a.html –  BobMcGee Jul 26 '11 at 15:26
I really should post a layman's explanation of how liquid-liquid and solution-equilibrium chemistry apply to cooking. Trying to decide if it's worth the effort to write & post a couple pages on the subject or not; especially since I hated that part of my inorganic and analytical chemistry courses. –  BobMcGee Jul 26 '11 at 15:37
Interesting. Thanks. –  yossarian Jul 26 '11 at 16:10
One property of ginger though is that the spiciness is cut about in half when you cook it, so while this would extract more flavor it might actually extract less heat from the ginger than if you keep the ginger fresh. Maybe juice it first when it's fresh to get spice and then boil what's left to get flavor? –  pjreddie Feb 21 '13 at 5:09

What about juicing the ginger? That method is also espoused, e.g., for making ginger beer. I've done it before and it works quite well. You could also try infusing the ginger in the spirit by letting chunks of ginger soak inside the bottle for a week or two. Finally, if your budget is limitless, you could also try using a rotary evaporator to make a ginger extract.

Edit: If you don't have a lever juicer (like the one shown in the first link), another method that I've used before is to grate the ginger into a cheesecloth (or even a paper kitchen towel will work) and squeeze; you'll get about a teaspoon of juice per inch of ginger root. I often use that to add ginger flavor to dashi stock, which works quite well.

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If only my budget was limitless! I don't really want to infuse as I'd like one liquid that I could use in many drinks. If I put it in bourbon, then it's not so good for morning tea (at least if you have to get to work). –  yossarian Jul 25 '11 at 17:21
In that case, I think juicing would be a good option. I just edited my answer with another option for juicing. –  ESultanik Jul 25 '11 at 20:23
Juicing it and then freezing the result in small cubes (using standard ice cube templates) always worked very well for me. –  Hennes May 20 '13 at 18:52

Do you want the flavor of raw ginger, or cooked ginger flavor? Ginger contains several not very water soluble flavors, some of which are converted by cooking into different not very water soluble flavors.

To maximize flavor, you want the ginger mashed as finely as you can make it. That increases the surface to volume ratio of the stuff which in turn maximizes extraction.

Whether you cook or not, consider adding some alcohol, vodka should work, say 20-50% by volume to the mash, or the mash after it is cooked and cooled, and letting things steep overnight. The alcohol should increase the efficiency of extraction of the not very water soluble flavor oils. Filter afterwards of course, a coffee filter and a collander will work for that if you're not in a hurry, perhaps with a cheese cloth step to catch most of the bigger chunks.

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Slice ginger thinly Soak overnight at room temp by just covering it with grain alcohol:water (1:1) or vodka/water 1:1 Drain and use the liquid

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How about trying a pressure cooker. I've tried it once and the flavor was great but I also added sugar and was too sweet. So next time, which is today, I'm going to with-hold the sugar and sweeten it later. I'm using 2 cups of minced ginger to eight cups of water. I can always reduce the mix later if need be, but I doubt I will have to. I'm also adding the zest of to lemons. JB

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Cut up ginger into thin slices and steam for 30 mins. Then air dry the ginger. This process concentrates the ginger and also slightly changes the ginger to a different form which will warm the body more than simple fresh ginger extract.

To use, put some of the dry ginger in water and boil them together ( do not put the ginger into boiling water ) Boil for about 5 mins.

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