Ginger Bug 101

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A ginger bug is a naturally effervescent slurry made from ginger, sugar, and water. The wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria on ginger naturally populate to create a naturally fizzy drink!

I found something online last week and I haven’t slept well since – I’ve been up too late reading, absorbing, learning.

I found the /r/fermentation subreddit, and read about fermenting all sorts of foods:

  • The difference between lacto-fermentation and yeast-fermentation.
  • That you ferment hot sauce, that one was news to me.
  • How to make kraut.

And this weird little thing called a ginger bug. There were lots of threads about ginger bugs – apparently, these are popular.

I had to try.

This recipe is dedicated to trying new things!

Looking down into a jar filled with minced ginger and water slurry. It has fermented and created bubbles.
8 days, and my bug is doing great

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What is fermentation?

There are 2 main types of fermentation:

  • Lacto-fermentation is the fermentation started either with salt (the traditional way) or whey (a different whey – get it! ha). The premise behind it is to create a probiotic food using salt/salt brine to keep the bad bacteria at bay and help proliferate the good bacteria. *Lacto-fermentation the traditional way is dairy free – the bacteria produce lactic acid, not lactose, but those with dairy issues should avoid eating foods fermented with whey. *
  • Yeast fermentation is pretty straight forward – just like when making bread – the yeast eats the sugar and creates waste, namely CO2 and Ethanol. The CO2 is what makes things bubble and gives rise to bread, and beer. The Ethanol is what makes you feel good. Ha.

Why would I eat something fermented?!

The benefits of fermented ginger are numerous! This fermented ginger bug is a powerhouse.

It is very beneficial to your health to eat fermented foods, especially lacto-fermented foods as they are probiotic. Probiotic intake is incredibly important for your gut health, and as some of us know, gut health leads to all over better health.

I know the word fermentation is kind of a major turn off, but don’t think of it like that. It’s not like leaving a sippy cup full of milk behind the couch for a week (or two!). Many fermented foods are delicious, and not only are they tasty, but they are also, in many cases, probiotic foods.

What else? 

Industrialization has changed the way we (humans) ferment foods. Fermentation can be kind of fiddly, and it’s rare that each batch tastes exactly the same as the one before it.

In the past, fermentation was generally done by brining slightly smushed vegetables in a salt solution, nowadays, commercially available “fermented” foods are processed with vinegar and pasteurized. The acetic vinegar brine and pasteurization effectively kill all of the lactic acid bacteria, voiding the health benefits of the fermented food.

A tall mason jar filled with minced ginger and a creamy yellow coloured slurry of sugar water. There are visible bubbles of carbonation throughout.

Back to the ginger bug. What Is it?

What is it? A slurry of ginger, water and sugar, that is fermented until bubbly and foamy. The good bacteria and wild yeasts in the ginger itself populate and eat the sugar in the mixture.

Just as a baker uses sourdough to leaven bread, and a brewer uses a kombucha scoby to brew kombucha, we can use a ginger bug to make a naturally effervescent soda.

How does it make fizz?

One of the main ginger bug uses is a naturally fizzy drink! My favourite way to use a ginger bug is to make a “pop”.

When the fermented ginger bug is added to sweetened fruit juice, the microorganisms begin to eat the sugar in the juice. As the microorganisms eat the sugar, they release CO2 making the slurry effervescent.

Science! Or something!

How do I know when my bug is ready?

You’ll know when the ginger bug is ready by looking at your jar. The water with floating ginger chunks will have transformed to a slightly opaque fizzy bubbly liquid.

Ginger bug tips & tricks

After dutifully following a popular ginger bug recipe on my first go, I found that it just didn’t work. I also found it kind of annoying to have to grate the ginger and do it daily. So I modified the recipe:

  • PEELING the ginger root isn’t necessary – rinse and wipe, and leave the peel intact.
  • MINCE – it’s faster, it’s easier and it’s less mess. Mince the whole root and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for your daily feedings.
  • TRY to use organic ginger if you can find. Conventional ginger may have been sprayed or irradiated, killing the natural yeast and bacteria.
  • USE simple sugars! It might work with maple syrup, but it works best with simple, easy to dissolve sugars. Use plain old granulated white sugar. Avoid non-caloric sugars – they will not work.

Water matters:

Try to use filtered or spring water. Tap water often has chlorine or other chemicals that can affect your ferment.

We have a reverse osmosis system, and I use water from that, it works great.

Not fizzy?

My countertops are granite – and they run a bit on the cool side, and I feel that this is the reason I didn’t get really good bubbly, yeasty, reactions until day 7/8.

If you’re not seeing bubbles in the first few days, don’t give up. You’ve just got a cool kitchen!

Not making pop right now?

You can allow the “mother” to rest in the fridge after you strain off some of the liquid, remembering to feed it once a week – 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp ginger root.

If your bug has been resting for some time, you may need to siphon off some liquid, and remove some of the solids, this is ok! Try to keep the jar at least half full.

To use a rested ginger bug, simply feed it, remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before using.

Use your bug to make homemade soda!

To make a naturally fizzy soda at home;

  1. mix 1/4 cup of the starter with 4 cups of a sweetened, flavoured liquid,
  2. pour it into a bottle with a tight seal, like a flip-top lid, leaving 1/2-1″ headspace.
  3. Allow the soda to ferment at room temperature for up to 3 days. (Avoid going longer than 3 days between openings).
  4. Store unused portions of soda in the fridge to slow fermentation.

Wondering what to use as a base for your soda?

  • sweetened and cooled tea
  • fruit juice
  • simple syrups mixed with water

📖 Printable Recipe

Looking down into a jar filled with minced ginger and water slurry. It has fermented and created bubbles.

Homemade Ginger Bug Recipe

Allyson Letal
Ginger Bug 101: What is a ginger bug anyways? Learn the uses, benefits, recipe, as well as how to make, care for and feed your own ginger bug.
4.37 from 19 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Ferment Time 8 days
Total Time 8 days 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine clean eating
Servings 1 litre
Calories 25 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large ginger root approx 4-6 inches unpeeled, minced
  • 2 tbsp sugar + more
  • 2 1/2 cups filtered water

Instructions
 

Grow Your Ginger Bug:

  • Day 1: In a clean – not sterilized, just clean, quart sized mason jar, add 2-2.5 cups of water.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp of your minced ginger root and 2 tbsp sugar.
  • Cover loosely with coffee filter, nut milk bag, anything breathable. Set in warmish spot in your kitchen away from direct sunlight.
  • Day 2: add 2 more tbsp sugar and 2 more tbsp minced ginger, stir, recover.
  • Days 3 – 7: feed the ginger bug just as you did on day 2.
  • Day 8: Strain the ginger bug and use the probiotic liquid to make stuff fizzy!

Make Homemade Soda:

  • Mix 1/4 cup of the starter with 4 cups of a sweetened, flavoured liquid.
  • Pour it into a bottle with a tight seal, like a flip-top lid, leaving 1/2-1″ headspace.
  • Allow the soda to ferment at room temperature for up to 3 days. (Avoid going longer than 3 days between openings).
  • Store unused portions of soda in the fridge to slow fermentation.

Resting the ginger bug:

  • Strain off 1 cup of liquid.
  • Place the ginger bug in the fridge in a closed jar.
  • Feed your ginger bug weekly with 2 tbsp fresh minced ginger, 2 tbsp sugar, and 2 tbsp water.
  • If your bug has been resting for some time, you may need to siphon off some liquid, and remove some of the solids, this is ok! Try to keep the jar at least half full.
  • To use a rested ginger bug, simply feed it, remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before using.


Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 25kcalCarbohydrates: 6gSugar: 6g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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74 Comments

  1. Once you strain the ginger bug at the end, you are left with a lot of dried out ginger. Are you supposed to throw that away, or do you leave the old ginger in the jar, fill the jar with fresh water and start over?

    1. After you strain the bug, add more waterp, sugar and ginger. You can leave it at room temperature and keep feeding it daily by adding sugar and ginger or you can store in the fridge and feed weekly bringing it to room temperature when needed and resuming the daily feeding.

    2. The ginger that you speak of IMHO is great put into salads, just a little at a time, it is probiotic, the kind of sweet / sour / picante,bursts really liven up the salad.

    3. A friend who told me about making the ginger bug puts the used ginger into his compost when it’s finished, I am going to do this as well, it would be a shame to waste all of that lovely ginger.

  2. When your ginger fement it feeds on the sugar. Does the fermented liquid have the same amount of glucose and regular sugar afterward?

    1. HI Debbie,

      It doesn’t have the same level of glucose, but to be totally honest, I have no idea what the level would be or how much of the sugar is consumed by the ginger bug. Hope that helps!

      1. It depends on how long it is allowed to ferment. Eventually all of the sugar will be consumed by the bacteria and the Gingerbug will convert to a ginger vinegar. But that takes about 30 to 60 days to happen. The ginger pieces at that point will be pickled.

  3. Hi. You don;t drain the whole ginger bug once fully fermented. It’s just like bread starters where you remove a small portion, then re-feed it and allow it to ferment again. Typically, you add about 1/4 cup of your bug to a quart of sweetened liquid, then place into bottles (grolsch-style bottles are great), being aware that you may have to burp them over the few days of fermentation to avoid explosions. Once fermented, you should place the bottles into the fridge.

    Unless you can feed your bug daily, you can store your bug in the fridge and feed it once weekly, then when ready to use, bring it out and feed until bubbly (as before), then use for your sodas again.

  4. 4 stars
    Hello, good afternoon!!
    I was wondering if the bug could be added to water with a simple lemon and honey concoction, and drank that way?

    1. Immari, I am not sure, but I guess it would be worth a try in small quantities? I think that refined sugar is much easier for the “bug” to digest, but I could be wrong!

  5. 4 stars
    Hello, good afternoon!!
    I was wondering if the bug could be added to water with a simple lemon and honey concoction, and drank that way?

  6. 4 stars
    Hello, good afternoon!!
    I was wondering if the bug could be added to water with a simple lemon and honey concoction, and drank that way?

  7. My Ginger bug keeps on going opaque and becoming very thick, even slimey, sometimes by day 3. This happens repeatedly and I have had very few good bugs which have made wonderful ginger ale. What could I be doing wrong?

    1. I am not sure, at all! This is a great question, hopefully, someone else who’s reading this can chime in with better advice

    2. @Chrissie, the same thing keeps happening to mine! idk what to do, it smells ok (I guess) and used it a few times. Sometime good, sometimes the product comes out yeasty (anytime I add orange it gets yeasty). Maybe not sterilized right? my bug was open to the air with cheesecloth on top of my jar.

    3. @Chrissie, I found that I have to use Berkey filtered water for every
      step of the process. I was rinsing my ginger before grating in my tap water (which is filtered but the filters needed to be changed) and I was killing the ferment and that’s how sensitive it is!

  8. I had strongly boiled fresh ginger slices in water to add extra flavor before adding miso for soup. When I tasted the water it was way too spicy for the soup. I poured a tea I it full & added honey, figuring on a ginger, honey, lemon tea later.

  9. Hi! I’m very curious if the ginger bug infuses a distinct ginger flavor into whatever you add it to? Or is it purely for fermentation and doesn’t add much ginger flavor at all?

    For instance if I add 1/4 cup of my fermented ginger bug to 1L fresh pineapple juice (w water & sugar) will the final result taste like ginger-pineapple or will the ginger flavor be more subtle and the pineapple will be more pronounced?

    Thanks!!

    1. I didn’t find it to be overly gingery. Does it have some ginger flavour, yes but it’s not spicy and intense as if you were gnawing on a raw ginger root!

  10. I made some soda with my ginger bug yesterday. 3 of my 6 are starting to gain the bubbles. What’s up with my other 3?

  11. What happens when you forget to feed your bug one day during the first week of daily feeding? Can I feed it the next morning and continue?

  12. The direction say to add the bug to a sweetened liquid to make a soda. Do i have to do that? or can I just drink the buglike it is?

  13. Hi, I am doing a ginger bug but after day 8 it still doesn’t seem to be bubbling a lot. The room is not warm so this is the cause I guess. In order for the ginger bug to be ready to use, shall I have to wait for longer? Shall I continue to feed it daily (I think there is already a lot of sugar to be consumed in the jar)?
    Also, today I have put the bug’s jar in warm water just to see if this helps a bit to foster more microbial activity….

    1. Yes, it definitely needs to be a warm environment for active fermentation. While it will ferment at colder temperatures, you really want to keep it warm so that the fermentation takes hold before any potential bad bacteria or mold. The cupboard above your fridge might be warmer than the rest of your kitchen!

    2. @Ally, shall I continue to feed the bug? Or should I just wait untill it ferments more (and put it in the fridge while temperature increase)?
      Unfortunately I don’t have a cupboard above my fridge…:-(

    3. @Antonio, At the very start we had the same problem. We added a bit of yeast and it was off and running. We’ve never had to do it again, after about 20 batches of ginger beer

    4. @Antonio,
      I always use a heating matt (for seed starting) when I ferment. It gives more predictable and consistent results. Some ferments are picky and don’t do well in cold rooms. Heating matt will get things going, just keep an eye on it because the ferment will be intense. If heating matt doesn’t work its because there’s not enough sugar in the ferment. If either of them doesn’t work, your yeast is probably dead. Rinse your jars multiple times – it might be the soap you’re using.

  14. Hi! I was wondering if there is a way to open the bottles holding the finished Ginger bug soda without it spraying everywhere? Or should I burp it daily? When I opened the bottles after 3 days the pop sprayed out like a fountain haha

    1. HA! that’s an active bug you’ve got! I would try burping them at least once a day. Once they’re fully chilled in the fridge some of the carbonation dies down a bit too.

    2. @Ally,

      I would like to know how long is the fermented juice drink safe to drink from a micture of ginger bug and a grape juice.

      basically the taste of 1week old juice and 3month old juices taste as good as those of 1 week old juices.

      stored in a room with random temp of 26 to 30 deg. Celsius.

      1. When I make kombucha (which is very similar to ginger bug drinks) I let it sit in a closed bottle at room temperature for up to 7 days. After that, the carbonation becomes really strong and puts stress on the bottles and I like to avoid bottle blowouts. I also find that depending on the strength of my starter (or ginger bug) the longer I leave it the more it consumes all the sugars and tastes very very vinegary. My recommendation would be to allow the second ferment to go for 3-7 days depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature in youre house, test it during the fermenting time and place it in the fridge for long term storage once you’re happy with the flavor and tang!

  15. I recently got into the whole ginger bug thing. Ginger ale, ginger syrup, ginger beer. I intend to do ginger vinegar. As I do a lot of Asian dishes, I am using straining and product in sauces and stir fries. Most dishes use ginger and sugar to some degree or they do now.

    1. I am very similar! I love getting deep into something. I have been stuck in a fermentation vortex for a while here and I am loving it!

  16. I only use 1 tbsp of each grated ginger and sugar to maintain my ginger bug, either once a day on the counter or once a week in the fridge, and its been fine.

  17. I just wanted to tell you that it is not true that noncaloric sugars won’t work. For my very first ginger bug, I used allulose and fermentation was faster than cane sugar. I had bubbles before 24 hours. I am not sure where you are getting that from, but it would be best for you to test each sugar alcohol like allulose or erythritol before making that suggestion. Allulose is a no-brainer. If you were to take an already carbonated or regular soda, if you add allulose to that drink, the drink’s carbonation would recarbonate immediately and spill over. Try it for yourself. I have video documentation of my use and results of using allulose

  18. I kept my bug going for about a year but recently left it about 2 weeks or more before feeding, it was in the fridge. It now tastes very acidic and isn’t bubbling when I feed it. Do I need to make a new bug or can it be rescued?

  19. Anyone ever use ginger bug for “sourdough” bread? Just had a great loaf using milk kefir, thinking ginger bug may work too!

  20. Hi, great recipe, make 4 litres at a time, super easy.
    The only issue I have is some how I manage to kill my bug on a regular basis, not sure if it’s because I’m being too kind and over feeding it?? How often should the bug be fed once it’s prattling away?
    Cheers

  21. I made a ginger bug and after a week it was bubbly so I put it in flip top jars like you said and added my juice. 20 hours later on of my jars exploded. Thankfully it was in the middle of the night so no one was near it. I was aware of needing to burp it at least every 3 days but why did it ferment so fast? What should I do differently to prevent another explosion.
    Btw….the other jar of pop that didn’t explode tasted amazing!

    1. Oh my gosh, so sorry to hear about the bottle bombs! Your bug must have been super happy. I have been making bugs and kombucha for a long time and never had them get that angry in less than 24 hours! What kind of bottles were you using? What kind of juice – I know that pineapple juice can make a pretty rowdy ferment pretty quick!

  22. I started my ginger bug about two weeks ago. It’s doing great and the last few days I’ve been straining about 1/2 cup and drinking it plain (delicious!) or adding it to plain seltzer. So good! Then adding back the water that I’ve taken out along with daily feeding. My quart jar is about full of ginger now. Do I discard some of the ginger before feeding? I’m confused as I don’t see how it doesn’t become overrun with ginger.

    1. If you find you have too much ginger you can absolutely remove some – it’s a lot like a sourdough starter – just need to keep a bit to keep the fermentation alive!

  23. I just put together this recipe ginger bug and was wondering if it can be multiplied by two or more without any issues arising. While I’m at it what about all the other recipes you offer?

    1. Yeah, this recipe can be doubled for sure! If recipes can be doubled that information is included within the body of the post. Generally, you can get away with doubling small batches of cookies, breads, and baked goods. Fermenting recipes can often be doubled. Avoid doubling canning recipes, specifically jam. Hope that helps!