The Basics // How to make a Ginger Bug
A ginger bug is a culture of beneficial bacteria, that can be used as a basic carbonated beverage starter. It is made out of three simple ingredients: sugar, purified water, and ginger root. Sodas made with a ginger bug are a good alternative to coffee, or soft drinks that you might seek for your afternoon pick me up. These lacto-fermented beverages contain numerous valuable minerals ionized from a small amount of sugar, along with lactic acid & beneficial lactobacilli, which promotes all around good health, aids with digestion, and reduces thirst, allowing you to power through a labor intensive day. Not to mention, these probiotic drinks are tasty and refreshing, & you only need a few basic tools.
What will I need?
- One quart mason jar with lid + band
- Measuring spoons
- Purified water
- Organic ginger root, unpeeled
- Cane sugar (yes, cane. Don't try to substitute with rapadura or any other sweetener. It won't work, trust me. I use this one.)
Step One - Creating a Ginger Bug
- Fill the mason jar up with water- about 3/4 of the way or 2 1/2 cups.
- Roughly chop 2 teaspoons of ginger root (with skin) into small 1/2 inch squares (paysanne)
- Add the ginger to mason jar
- Add 2 teaspoons of cane sugar to the jar
- Snuggly secure the lid and give it a shake to dissolve the sugar
- Place in a cabinet or an area that stays out of direct sunlight and is relatively warm (preferably about 65-80 degrees)
- Add a teaspoon of ginger + a teaspoon of sugar each day, for a few days until the mixture is vigorously bubbly. This should take anywhere from 4 - 8 days depending on your environment. The first sign of carbonation will be a distended lid.
- Once your bug is vigorously bubbly you can start making sodas! Follow the steps below to learn how to feed & maintain your ginger bug.
Side Note: Ginger root is rich in yeast and lactic acid bacteria, so it should become fizzy relatively quickly. If your ginger bug isn't producing a fizz by day 12 discard it and try again. Take a look at your ingredients- make sure you're using purified, chlorine-free water, cane sugar, and your ginger is organic. If you're worried about keeping the temperature consistent consider buying a seedling mat. (I like this one) The mat is an unnecessary tool, but if your house is exceptionally cool it aids with starting a ginger bug, and sodas. If you are still running into issues consider purchasing your ginger root from a farmers market. Most of the ginger imported into the United States has undergone irradiation. Even though organic produce cannot be irradiated (according to the USDA) I have still failed with organic ginger root from a chain grocery store. Feel free to comment below or message me with any questions or issues.
Feeding & Maintaining your Ginger Bug
To keep the ginger bug alive and continue growing it, you will need to feed it regularly.
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar + 2 teaspoons paysanne ginger root to the jar, stir well
- Repeat every 4 or so days. Once your ginger bug is established it will be pretty resilient. If you are going out of town or aren't going to use your bug for a couple weeks place it in the back of the refrigerator. Once you are ready to use it again take it out and feed it for a couple days.
Using & Replenishing your Ginger Bug
- Making sodas- you can find many different recipes for sodas online, but I like to experiment with tea, fresh squeezed juice, and beet kvass. My "rule" is to fill the container about 1/6 of the way with strained liquid from the ginger bug, and the rest with the juice of my choice. Then I leave it out for 12-16 hours depending on the ingredients, and the weather. You can use it to make Root Beer, Ginger Ale, fruit sodas and more. Some of my favorite combinations are grapefruit & lavender, golden ginger beet kvass & meyer lemon juice, and cherry vanilla Root beer.
- After you make sodas you will need to make more of your ginger bug. I always try to reserve about 1/4 cup of my bug at all times, so the bacteria can repopulate the new water quickly. When replenishing your ginger bug fill with water up to the shoulder of your jar. Make sure to always leave space at the top for it to "breathe".
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar + ginger root and feed everyday until vigorously fizzy again.
Side Note: If ginger root starts to accumulate after a few weeks, remove a couple spoon fulls before the next feeding. Keep the ginger bug culture away from other cultures & ferments like kombucha, sourdough starter, sauerkraut or it can cross culture.