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What is a Ginger Bug?

 

Have you ever heard of a ginger bug?  No?  I hadn’t either, that is, until just a few weeks ago.  But once I read about it, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

A ginger bug is a natural lacto-fermented ‘soda’ starter.  Lacto-fermentation is an anaeorobic process (meaning without oxygen) by which friendly bacteria and yeast break down sugar to form lactic acid.

Another amazing fermented drink that is similar to ginger bug soda is kombucha soda.  You can read more about kombucha here.

Today we are going to dive into making ginger bug soda, I mean really, how great is that name right?

How Do You Make a Ginger Bug?

 

To make a ginger bug all you need is ginger root, unrefined sugar, and non-chlorinated water (chlorine kills bacteria).  Similar to a sourdough starter, the ginger bug traps wild yeast and beneficial microorganisms, which in turn break down the sugar to produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. 

The production of carbon dioxide produces the fizz or effervescence in the finished ginger bug ‘soda.’  Alcohol is also a bypoduct of the lacto-fermentation process; but don’t worry, the ginger bug isn’t fermented long enough to produce anything beyond negligible amounts of alcohol. 

You might expect the ginger bug soda to be sweet, with the addition of sugar over several days, but it’s surprisingly not.  Remember, the sugar is for the bacteria, and not for you.

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

 

While I’m generally skeptical about most health food claims, there appears to be consensus that fermented foods are all-around good for you.  Heck, people have been fermenting food for hundreds of years.  It’s how they were able to preserve food before refrigeration.  

In the words of Sandor Katz (who has written several books on fermentation): “Fermented foods are alive.  Industrially processed food is dead.”

Here are just a few benefits of fermented foods.

  • Fermentation not only preserves nutrients, but breaks them down into more digestible forms.
  • Fermentation creates new nutrients; microbial cultures create B vitamins (including folic acid, riboblavin, niacin, etc.).
  • Fermentation removes toxins in food.
  • Some ferments function as antioxidants, scavenging harmful free radicals from the body.
  • Fermented foods are rich in lactobacilli (aka health enhancing probiotics like those found in yogurt); they promote the growth of healthy flora in the intestine which helps with digestion.

 

Watch Out For Commercially Fermented Foods 

 

Now that I’ve told you about some of the health benefits of fermented food, I must also warn you that most commercially available fermented foods (found in stores) have been pasteurized, which kills off all the good microorganisms such that you lose all of the aforementioned benefits. 

So best to ferment foods at home yourself.  Plus it’s fun and easy.  The microorganisms essentially do all the work.  You just need to sit there and wait patiently while the microorganisms do their thing.

You can see that after a couple of days in the bottle, the ginger bug soda is nice and fizzy and bubbly.

It really helps to have these flip top bottles!  I love mine and use them all the time!  In fact I am getting ready to buy a second case!

ginger bug

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Customizing Ginger Bug Soda With Tea or Juice

 

You can use any type of fruit juice, tea, or herb for your ginger bug ‘soda.’  I made a couple of batches so far: The first batch with a combination of watermelon juice (you’ll need a juicer for that) and hibiscus tea, and the second with black cherry juice.

To make hibiscus tea…

Bring 48 ounces of water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add 3 tablespoons organic hibiscus flowers and 2 cinnamon sticks, and let it steep for 20 minutes.  Strain.  You can sweeten with a little sugar or honey if you like (about 2 tablespoons, more or less to taste).

You can even make your own fermented root beer ‘soda’ with an assortment of herbs and roots (including sassafras and sarsaparilla).  Definitely want to try this next.  You can order all sorts of interesting roots and herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Fermented Ginger Bug ‘Soda’

Ingredients

    For the Ginger Bug:
  • ginger root
  • unrefined sugar
  • unchlorinated water (chlorine in water will kill off or inhibit some of the beneficial bacteria)
  • For the Ginger Bug 'Soda':
  • 1/4 cup ginger bug liquid (from above)
  • 1 quart fruit juice and/or tea

Instructions

  1. For the Ginger Bug: Mix 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 cups of unchlorinated water in a clean class jar. Cover with cheesecloth or coffee filter and secure with a rubberband.
  2. For the next 5 to 7 days, add 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons unchlorinated water. After 5 to 7 days, the ginger bug will begin to foam and bubble, and is ready to use.
  3. For the Ginger Bug 'Soda': Mix 1/4 cup of the ginger bug liquid and fruit juice/tea, and transfer to flip top bottles and allow to ferment for 3 days at room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill before opening.
  4. Note: Once you have your ginger bug, you can store in the fridge and feed 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons unchlorinated water once per week.

Notes

Equipment Needed For The Ginger Bug: Clean class jar, Cheese cloth or coffee filter, rubberband

Equipment Needed For The Ginger Bug Soda: Flip top bottles washed with vinegar and hot water, and rinsed (soap can kill the beneficial bacteria, so use white vinegar)

http://wholelifestylenutrition.com/recipes/drinks/organic-fermented-ginger-bug-soda-recipe/

About Linda Schneider

Linda Schneider currently calls Washington, D.C. home after residing in Chicago for the past 10 years. Linda’s blog http://www.wildgreensandsardines.com focuses on seasonal recipes. Her cooking is largely based upon what she finds at local farmers’ markets and inspired by her travels near and far. Linda has a background in alternative medicine (chiropractic), exercise physiology, and nutrition. She often dreams about lazy days in the Mediterranean.


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Join the Conversation

25 thoughts on “Organic Fermented Ginger Bug Soda Recipe”

  1. Defensesoap says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe of Ginger Bug Soda. I liked it. I
    will definitely make it.

  2. mamakichi says:

    Thank you for your instructions and recipe.  Can this be done with vegetable juice, for example a carrot & beetroot juice?
    How long will it keep in the fridge?
    Many thanks

  3. sudio says:

    What about the sugar in this.. will that be eaten up in the fermantation process?  I am concerned about the sugar.

  4. hallecottis says:

    @sudio Yep, the sugar is needed for the fermentation process, but you are correct…there is only a trace once the soda is ready!

  5. Lindas says:

    @mamakichi I haven’t tried it with vegetable juice, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.  Carrot and beet juice sounds interesting.  Now I’m curious to give it a try with vegetable juice.  Let me know how it turns out it you give it a try.   It will start to loose its fizz as it sits in the fridge, so best to consume within 3 to 4 days, a week tops.

  6. Sarah Rooney says:

    It is not good to use honey because it is a natural anti-biotic. It will kill what you are growing.

  7. Dawn says:

    So do I keep adding the sugar,water,and ginger each day until the foam and bubbling start?

    1. Brittany says:

      Yes, I also have the same question as Dawn. Continue adding sugar, water, and ginger EVERYDAY for 5 – 7 days?

      1. Linda says:

        I added the sugar, water, and ginger everyday for 5 to 7 days. It got bubbly, but not super bubbly. But the soda still had a nice effervescence to it.

  8. Lyn says:

    Hi, A friend and I are into our 7th day with the ginger bug and nothing is happening. I used turbinado sugar and she used sugar and molassas. What are we doing wrong? Thanks in advance.

  9. jacki says:

    Hi
    what an exciting find! I make my own ginger and turmeric kombucha tea and was looking for an extra kick, this sounds like just the thing.
    I have a question … when making up the actual soda with your choice of tea or juice, do we add to a bottle – 1/4 cup of ginger bug and then top up the bottle with our tea or juice. Thanks J

    1. LInda says:

      I mixed the ginger bug with the tea/juice together, stirred gently, and then transferred to the flip top bottles.

    2. Dana Smith says:

      Hi Jacki, I’m interested in the ginger and turmeric kombucha. I make kombucha with ginger in the 2nd fermentation but had not heard of adding turmeric. Do you just use the fresh root for the 2nd fermentation? Thanks!

  10. Lyn says:

    It’s day 10 and absolutely nothing is happening. It’s so cold in our kitchen I wrapped a heating pad set on low around the jar thinking it might help. Nothing. I’m about to abandon this project.

    1. Linda says:

      My ginger bug wasn’t super bubbly, just a tiny bit of bubbles, but when I mixed with the juice/tea and let ferment a few more days, it did have a nice amount of effervescence/fizz, so there was CO2 production happening.

  11. Ray ray says:

    Soooo, when I ferment my juice/ginger bug on the counter top in flip top jars, they are closed? Yes? Then check everyday for taste and proper bubbles? 3 days or so? Then how long will the juice/ginger bug soda last in fridge for?

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      I would think several weeks or longer. My kombucha soda (which is fermented) gets fizzier with more time. It is never around long enough past 2 weeks so that is why I give you that answer…could be longer!

  12. joan says:

    Just a quick question if using tea does it need to be sweeten with sugar or just plain black tea?

  13. Kristin says:

    I read through most of the comments, but didn’t see my question.. When storing my “bug” in the fridge, does it need to be cloth covered or can I put a lid on it? Thank you for all the great info!

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