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Ginger Bug 101

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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Jump to:

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.
Yield: 1 litre

Homemade Ginger Bug Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Ferment Time: 8 days
Total Time: 8 days 5 minutes

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.

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:

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


Make Homemade Soda:

  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.


Resting the ginger bug:

  1. Strain off 1 cup of liquid.
  2. Place the ginger bug in the fridge in a closed jar.
  3. Feed your ginger bug weekly with 2 tbsp fresh minced ginger, 2 tbsp sugar, and 2 tbsp water.
  4. 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.
  5. To use a rested ginger bug, simply feed it, remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before using.


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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 25Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

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Share Your Thoughts

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Heather

Saturday 22nd of January 2022

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?

Ally

Saturday 22nd of January 2022

I don't see why you couldn't - but it would likely taste not very good?

Mary

Sunday 19th of December 2021

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?

Ally

Monday 20th of December 2021

It's like sourdough, pretty resilient, just keep on trucking with the next feed!

Blair Sabiston

Wednesday 8th of December 2021

can 1 ginger bug make many different drinks

Ally

Thursday 9th of December 2021

You bet! You don't need a whole lot of ginger bug, it's a lot like sourdough!

Amber

Sunday 11th of July 2021

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?

marlene Barrett

Monday 22nd of November 2021

@Ally, Hi! Trying this for the first time.. what if I do jot have a quart size jar?

Ally

Thursday 22nd of July 2021

They may simply take a little longer! Let me know how it goes!

Rachel

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

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!!

Rachel

Saturday 26th of June 2021

@Ally, Ah perfect, thank you for sharing!!

Ally

Saturday 26th of June 2021

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!

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