ginger bug - fermented starter culture for homemade ginger ale

How to Make A Ginger Bug | A Starter Culture for Naturally-Fermented Sodas

Ginger bug… a fermented slurry of fresh ginger root and sugar that you maybe didn’t know you needed. It’s a nearly fool-proof fermentation adventure you should saddle up for. With all the medicinal and nutritional benefits of ginger root, plus the digestive magic of probiotics, learn how to make a ginger bug for crafting simple, delicious, and much healthier homemade ginger ale and other naturally fermented sodas.

HERE YOU’LL FIND:
What is a Ginger Bug?
How to Use a Ginger Bug
The Health Benefits of Ginger
How to Make a Ginger Bug
Ginger Bug Tips, Tricks, & FAQs
Recipe for Ginger Bug

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What Is A Ginger Bug?

Ginger bug is a wild fermented mixture of minced (typically unpeeled) fresh ginger root, cane sugar, and water. The natural yeasts and bacteria on the skin of the ginger and in the air feed off the sugar to thrive and as a result, they produce carbon dioxide (ie. the bubbles). As the yeasts and bacteria consume more sugar, more carbon dioxide is produced.

Ginger bug is an active colony of wild yeasts & beneficial bacteria used as a starter culture to make things like homemade ginger ale, fizzy natural sodas, & other probiotic beverages.

As a starter culture, a ginger bug is not unlike the kombucha mother or SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast used to make kombucha. It’s not unlike the mother found floating around at the bottom of a bottle of raw apple cider vinegar or a sourdough starter used to make bread. Kombucha mothers make kombucha, sourdough starters make sourdough bread, and ginger bugs make naturally fermented sodas like homemade ginger ale and root beer.


How To Use A Ginger Bug

Ginger bugs are primarily used for making:

  • homemade ginger ale,
  • any variety of fizzy drinks from herbal teas (like an herbal root beer),
  • or naturally fermented sodas using real fruit juice.

You can use your ginger bug to kick off the fermentation of any of these beverages and end up with your own homemade, naturally-fermented beverages made of only good things.


The Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger bug has all the medicine of ginger root, plus the magic of probiotics. For thousands of years, many traditional cultures have used ginger to help with digestive ailments and nausea, amongst other things.

Today, ginger is commonly used to treat many of the same ailments and modern studies have proven ginger root to have the following medicinal properties:

  • Antioxidant
  • Expectorant
  • Carminative
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Circulatory stimulant
  • Anti-nausea (antiemetic)

As a sweet, pungent, warming, and stimulating plant, ginger is as delicious as it is medicinal. And not like it needs any more plant magic, but adding in probiotics just kicks it up a notch!

The probiotics in the ginger bug, namely Lactobacillus bacteria and a whole slew of wild yeasts, can help to provide additional support for:

  • our metabolic health,
  • our digestive health,
  • and the health of our immune systems.

Compared to conventional sodas, like ginger ale and root beer, that you can purchase at any grocery, sodas made from ginger bugs are a much healthier choice. Not only are they without artificial colorants and flavorings, as well as unnecessary mountains of sugar often coming from genetically-modified and highly processed high fructose corn syrup, homemade sodas made from ginger bugs come with additional health benefits.

Did you know that frequent consumption of conventional sugary soft drinks have been linked to higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic inflammatory diseases?

While the homemade, naturally fermented sodas made from ginger bug still contain sugar, we’re able to control the quantity and type of sugar, making them a much better choice.


How To Make A Ginger Bug

Making a ginger bug is as easy as stirring together minced or grated ginger root (skin on), non-chlorinated water, and cane sugar. The rest is up to nature.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to make a ginger bug and the basic method. For the full detailed recipe, skip to the end of this post.

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Pint-sized Glass Jar
  • Cheesecloth (or clean scrap of cloth)
  • Rubberband (that will fit around the mouth of your glass jar)
  • Cheesegrater or Sharp Knife & Cutting Board

Ingredients:

  • Organic Fresh Ginger Root
  • Organic Cane Sugar
  • Non-Chlorinated Water

Method:

  1. Grate the ginger. You’ll want to leave the skin on as it contains many beneficial organisms that will be helpful to the fermentation process. Wash the ginger root under cool, running water and then either grate or chop finely.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Swirl around until all ginger sugar is completely dissolved. Then cover the opening of the jar with several layers of cheesecloth, a clean scrap of cloth, or even a dry washcloth. Secure it with a rubber band. Leave the jar out at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  1. Every day for 3-5 days, feed the ginger bug. It’s alive!! Every day you’ll feed the ginger bug a little more minced ginger root and cane sugar to encourage the fermentation process. Each time, swirl until sugar is completely dissolved.
  1. Let it get good and bubbly! You’ll start to see bubbles form as soon as the first day, however, sometimes it can take a little longer. As soon as it’s good and bubbly (3-5 days), put a tight-fitting lid on the jar and move the ginger bug to the refrigerator. Use to make naturally fermented sodas or ginger ale within one week.
ginger bug recipe for making homemade ginger ale and other naturally fermented sodas from fruit juice and herbal teas

Ginger Bug Tips, Tricks, & FAQs

When making your ginger bug, there are some important things to note:

  • Use organic ginger root if possible. We want the natural wild yeasts and bacteria that live on the skin of the ginger root to help our ginger bug ferment. Conventionally grown ginger root is often irradiated to increase the storage longevity, which kills the natural beneficial yeasts and bacterial. Plus, there are the chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides used in conventional agriculture. If organic ginger root is inaccessible, be sure to peel your ginger root. Just know that this may hinder fermentation.
  • Use non-chlorinated water. We want those beneficial yeasts and bacteria alive and thriving! Chlorinated tap water can have detrimental effects on our culture. If at all possible, use filtered, non-chlorinated water.
  • Do not use non-caloric sugar substitutes. I know sugar gets a bad rap, but those yeasts and bacteria need it to thrive. Be sure to use caloric sugars, not sugar substitutes like monk fruit, stevia, or sugar alcohols like erythritol. I’ve only used natural cane sugar, but I imagine coconut sugar or maple syrup could work as well.
  • Not seeing any bubbles? If you’re not seeing any bubbles form, consider the above. Are you using organic ginger, non-chlorinated water, and a caloric sweetener? Room temperature can also affect the fermentation process. Fermentation will happen more quickly in warmer environments and slower in colder environments.
  • Not ready to use your ginger bug quite yet? Transferring your ginger bug to the refrigerator will help to slow down the fermentation process. However, it won’t stop it. If you’re unable to use your ginger bug within a week of transferring it to the refrigerator, feed your bug an additional teaspoon of sugar and minced ginger once a week to help keep it alive.

More Ginger Recipes You’ll Love

Ginger Mint Whiskey Hot Toddy
Ginger Turmeric Herbal Honey
Gingerbread Donuts with Molasses Icing
Creamy Ginger & Turmeric Salad Dressing

creamy ginger turmeric salad dressing and sauce (vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)
ginger mint hot toddy with licorice root
gingerbread donuts with refined sugar-free molasses icing (vegan and gluten-free)

For more plant magic & herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on ➡️ Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, & snag my herbal 📚 eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts & Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. 🌿 And please don’t forget to tag me in your snaps 📸 @_botanyculture_. I love to see all the plant magic you make happen!

Ginger Bug | A Starter Culture for Naturally-Fermented Sodas

Course: DrinkCuisine: FermentsDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

10

minutes
Ferment Time

3-5

days

Making a ginger bug is as easy as stirring together minced or grated ginger root (skin on), non-chlorinated water, and cane sugar. The rest is up to nature. Use this starter culture to make your own naturally fermented sodas or ginger ale.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon organic ginger root, grated (with skin on)
    (+ 2 more teaspoons for each day of fermentation)

  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
    (+ 2 more teaspoons for each day of fermentation)

  • 1 cup non-chlorinated water

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Swirl around until all ginger sugar is completely dissolved. Then cover the opening of the jar with several layers of cheesecloth, a clean scrap of cloth, or even a dry washcloth. Secure it with a rubber band. Leave the jar out at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  • Every day for 3-5 days, feed the ginger bug. It’s alive!! Every day you’ll feed the ginger bug a little more minced ginger root and cane sugar to encourage the fermentation process. Each time, swirl until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Let it get good and bubbly! You’ll start to see bubbles form as soon as the first day, however, sometimes it can take a little longer. As soon as it’s good and bubbly (3-5 days), put a tight-fitting lid on the jar and move the ginger bug to the refrigerator. Use to make naturally fermented sodas or ginger ale within one week.

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how to make a ginger bug for naturally fermented sodas and ginger ale

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.

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