Banana beer is a weak alcoholic beverage that is popular throughout Africa. It is made by fermenting
bananas with a cereal flour (often sorghum flour). It is sweet and slightly hazy with a shelf life of
several days under correct storage conditions. The processing method and ratio of ingredients used
varies widely from country to country and with personal taste. In Kenya, banana beer, made from
sorghum or millet flour, is known as urwaga. In Uganda, banana beer is known as lubisi. This
technical brief describes one traditional method, and suggests ways in which the hygiene and safety
of the product can be improved.
Roast ground cereal
Raw material preparation
Only ripe bananas (Musa species) should be used to make the beer as these have a high sugar
content, which is necessary for the fermentation. Over-ripe bananas should not be used as they may
spoil the flavour of the beer. Unripe bananas should be left to ripen before they can be used.
Ripening can be speeded up by warming the fruit. During the rainy season, unripe bananas can be
left to ripen laid on a hurdle over the fire where the cooking is done. During the dry season
bananas can be ripened by making a pit in the ground, covering the sides of the pit with green
banana leaves, packing the bananas into the pit and then covering them with banana leaves and
earth. On one side of the pit a little ditch should be dug for a fire so that warmth and smoke can
enter the pit. This takes about six days.
The bananas should then be peeled. If the peels cannot be removed by hand the bananas are not
sufficiently ripe and should be left for longer.
The first step is the preparation of the banana juice. It is important to obtain a high yield of clear
banana juice that is not spoiled by browning or contaminated by spoilage micro-organisms. Ensure
that the vessels used for pulping the banana and extracting the juice are clean before use.
Knead the bananas until they are soft and pulpy. Use a stiff grass to help knead and squash the
banana pulp and to extract the juice. The pulp residue will remain in the grass. Pour off the
extracted juice into a large clean bucket or similar container. This banana juice is non-alcoholic and
can be diluted and drunk at this stage if desired.
Add clean boiled water to the extracted juice (one volume of water for three volumes of banana
juice). It is necessary to dilute the banana juice so that the concentration of soluble solids is low
enough for the yeast to ferment the juice. Grind the cereal (sorghum or millet) and lightly roast it
over an open fire. Add the roast cereal (1 part cereal to 12 parts juice) to the diluted banana juice.
Cover the bucket with a clean lid and leave in a warm place to ferment for 18 to 24 hours. The
ground cereal improves the colour and flavour of the beer.
After fermentation the beer is filtered through a sterilised cotton cloth.
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