GINGER BUG – THE EASY STARTER FOR HOMEMADE GINGER BEER & FIZZY DRINKS

Date: novembre 27, 2017

I love ginger. It adds a bright, peppery zing to many savoury dishes and is considered to help alleviate nausea.  I usually add it as a flavouring to my kombucha or to jazz up sparkling water.   When I used to drink soda as a teenager, my favourite was ginger ale.  But if you look at the label, there is no mention of ginger in the ingredients- just a lot of sugar, preservatives and “natural flavour”. You can make your own healthier version of ginger ale (or ginger beer) as well as other sodas at home using a ginger bug.

WHAT IS A GINGER BUG?

Organic Ginger Root

A ginger bug (also known as a “wort”) is a starter culture used to ferment sweetened beverages.  The bug is a wild ferment, utilizing the naturally present lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in the ginger root.  As with kombucha and kefir cultures, when added to liquid and sugar, these beneficial bacteria and yeasts consume the sugar and produce carbon dioxide and ethanol.   The result is a fizzy, tart, crisp and flavourful fermented beverage.

My ginger bug!

Ginger bugs are easy to start and maintain.  Once established, the bug can survive for a long time with some simple care (see instructions below).  For best results, try to use organic ginger.  You can find it at most natural health stores and in the organic section of your grocery store.  I personally only buy organic ginger since I find the taste stronger and it is more active than non-organic ginger when added to fermented beverages.  If you are not using organic ginger, remove the peel to reduce pesticide contamination.

GINGER BUGS- NOT JUST FOR GINGER BEER!

Vibrant, organic grated ginger

Ginger bugs can also be used as a base for any other flavoured fizzy drink you enjoy!  I recommend using ? to 1 cup of ginger bug per litre/quart of water + flavouring, fruit juice or herbal tea.  Ginger bugs can also be used as an alternative to milk kefir whey to make sodas, such as this delicious lemon raspberry soda.

HOW TO MAKE A GINGER BUG

Fermentation Time: 4 days-1 week

INGRÉDIENTS

  • 500 ml (2 tasses) d'eau filtrée 
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger (for best results, use organic)
  • 2 cuillères à soupe de sucre cristallisé
  • bocal en verre

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add grated ginger and sugar to the jar.
Grated ginger and granulated sugar

2. Add water and stir well.

3. Cover jar with a coffee filter or clean cloth.  Leave to ferment at room temperature (18-22?C (55-75?F ))

FEEDING THE BUG

  1. For the next 4 days,  add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the bug.  Stir the mixture well after each feeding.  
  2. After about a week, the bug should be bubbly, healthy and ready to be used as a starter.
3 day-old bubbly ginger bug
  • Pour maintenir le bogue, nourrir 1 cuillère à soupe de sucre tous les jours. 
  • Before using it in a recipe, it is helpful to feed the bug an extra tablespoon of sugar to make it more active.
  • After using the strained liquid from the bug to make your desired beverage, top off the jar with filtered water and sugar.  It is not necessary to add more fresh ginger, however, if after subsequent uses you find the bug is less active, add fresh ginger in addition to sugar.
  • If you need to take a break, store the ginger bug in the refrigerator.  To revive it, leave it at room temperature and resume feeding it until the mixture becomes bubbly again.
  • Try to avoid storing the ginger bug near other ferments to avoid cross-contamination 
  •  

    35 réponses

    1. Hi Jody! I am still keeping up with my ginger bugs and the great soda I make with it, thanks to your help!

      I have had the same 2 ginger bugs since October 2020. I keep adding water every time I use it, and more fresh grated ginger, plus I feed it sugar every second day if it seems not so bubbly, or only 1 time a week if it is very bubbly. It was going great all winter, house temp at a fluctuating average of 20C. Now the heat is off mostly and it goes down to 17 or 18C most of the time. The bug temperature itself is about 18C. Having trouble keeping the bug bubbly these days..

      1. what is the life of a bug? is mine “too old” now?
      2. can I put the bug in the window and if yes, is direct sun ok or should I shield it somehow?

      thanks for your advice!

      1. Hi Sharron- congrats on the lifespan of your bugs! I can’t really tell you how long they last. If you are noticing reduced activity you can try feeding extra sugar and adding more fresh ginger. The microbes do become more active with higher temperatures, but I have not read any positive input on placing ferments in direct sunlight. I always leave my ferments in an alcove, cupboard or anywhere out of direct sunlight. Make sure the water you are using is not chlorinated. Maybe switch up where you source your organic ginger. You might have to start with a new bug if you don’t see any improvements. Good luck!

    2. Hola. Tengo mi cultivo con jengibre, est? burbujeante pero en la.base hay una levadura o un asiento grisaceo. Se puede consumir as

      1. ?Gracias por su interes y apoyo! Parece que tu fermento est? activo. el residuo en el fondo del frasco podr?a ser levadura / microbios muertos.
        esto es muy com?n en muchos fermentos. Siempre que no haya moho creciendo en la superficie del fermento, ?est?s a salvo y el fermento es saludable! ?Salud!

    3. I?m enjoying your blog. I made a starter, it got nice and bubbly and then added it to my gallon jugs. Usually within two days the solids have been pushed to the top of the bottles due to the activity. This time that is not happening. Is there anything I can do to restart it?

      1. Hi Clark- thanks for your interest and support! It could be that your bug is “tired”. You can try feeding it extra sugar and adding some new ginger. If there is still no activity after a day or 2 of this feeding, you will have to start over with new ginger. It could be that there is not enough yeast on the ginger you are currently using. Good luck!

    4. Salut Jody
      I am trying to make the ginger starter and followed your instructions. Initially (day 2&3) there was some bubbling, but since then no bubbles. Any suggestion or should i start over? Thank you

      1. Hi Tom- try and feed it extra sugar and perhaps try with a new source of ginger. It is possible that the ginger you used did not have enough beneficial microbes to kickstart the ginger bug. Make sure it is organic, and be sure to stir the bug daily. If you don’t see any activity within a week, start over with new ginger.

    5. Hola mi bicho de jengibre lleva ya sus 7:d?as, pero tiene un olor un poco feoy es amargo, lo he estado alimentando a diario, es normal esto?

      1. Hi Anita- for the upkeep, refill the jar with the amount of water you originally used in your bug (2 cups in this recipe), and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. The measurements do not have to be exact for a good bug, but you do have to keep up the feeding to maintain it.

    6. After using the ginger bug, we should add water n sugar again, then how long after this could we use the ginger bug again? The day after or should we wait and feed the bug daily until next 5 or 7 days?

      1. Hi Susy- yes, you can re-use the ginger bug. I have had the same one for two months- I added more water to top it off and feed it sugar every day or two. When you see lots of activity (bubbles), the bug is ready to be used again. It’s hard to say how quickly it will take the bug to be ready as each bug is unique (temperature, population of yeasts, etc)

      1. Hi Jeni- No, you can’t use stevia, you will need to use sugar- it is the food for the yeast living in the ginger. Please also note that the sugar content will be reduced by the end of the fermentation.

    7. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
      I had a question, on the third day after I started the bug it was very bubbly but now (day five) there are only a few small bubbles on the surface. Is this normal?

      1. Hi Terri- try and feed your bug some more sugar and give it a good stir. If you see very few bubbles in the next days, try adding more ginger. We’re dealing with living ingredients that sometimes don’t behave exactly as we want them to!

    8. Salut Jody,

      When you use some of the ginger bug to start ginger beer, are you only using the liquid or also the grated ginger floating in the water? For example, do I just pour the 1/2 to 1 cup bug into my ginger beer container without straining out the solids?

      1. Hi Karla- Thanks for your interest and question. Yes, you are correct to use the liquid of the bug only. The recipe for ginger beer calls for “?c Strained Ginger Bug starter (using liquid only)”. After using the liquid from my ginger bug, I top it off with more filtered water, add some sugar and let the bug energize for the next time I want to use it. I occasionally add some fresh ginger as well if I notice the bug is starting to wane.

      1. Hi Susan, Yes I do wash the ginger, even if it is organic- produce can pass through a lot of hands, so I want to be sure nothing nasty took a ride on the ginger along the way. The microbes are present within the ginger so don’t be afraid of washing them off.

    9. Salut,
      Thanks a lot for the recipe. If I wanted to make 4luters of ginger beer at a time, can I start the bug with double or triple the amount of water, ginger and sugar? Or should I rather make 2 or 3 bugs? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

      1. Hi Jo- the exact amounts are not required for ginger bugs. The amounts given in the recipe are guidelines- if you are over or under by a bit it won’t affect the bug. You can double or triple the recipe, but the key is to have an active bug. Make sure that it is very bubbly when you want to use it to make ginger beer (or whatever soda you choose to make)

    10. Salut Jody,
      Thank you for your great recipes.
      Out of curiosity, before I start, wouldn’t you need to also add more water to the starter bug to maintain it?

      Thanks,
      Kirsten

      1. Hi Kirsten- thanks for your interest and question. Yes, you should add more water to the bug when you remove some of it to use for fermented sodas, just make sure to also add sugar. To really help liven up the Bug, you can also occasionally add some fresh, grated ginger.

      1. Hi Fiona- thanks for your interest and question. Yes, I’ve seen this before. Did you see activity while fermenting your turmeric bug (bubbles)? If your bug was active, the biofilm (SCOBY) that formed is ok, as long as it isn’t fuzzy, which would indicate that you have a mould infestation and you will have to toss this bug and start a new one. Sometimes there can also be cross-contamination from other ferments. I always keep my bugs (turmeric, ginger) in a cupboard separate from my kombucha, milk kefir and vegetable ferments.

    11. I forgot to add the sugar and ginger for 3 days while starting them. You think I should start over from scratch?

      1. Hi Julie- thanks for your interest and question. You might still have a window where the microbes are still alive. I would try adding fresh ginger and sugar to your bug, give it a good stir and repeat for a few days. If there is still no activity, you can start over with a fresh batch of ginger and sugar. Good luck!

    12. Salut Jody
      In things like Ginger Bug and Beer would it not be nice to add another level of flavour by use something like organic Agava or Raw Honey instead of granular sugar?
      Both for favour and not using refined sugars?

      1. Hi Steve- sure, you could use Agave syrup, jaggery or sucanet. Honey can sometimes cause issues as sugar source for the yeasts, but it doesn’t hurt to experiment- if the bug doesn’t thrive, you can always start a new one. Using these other sugar sources would give a more caramel-like flavour to the ginger beer.

      1. It is not critical to feed it every other day (sometimes my bug goes for about 3-4 days without a feeding) but it is still necessary to continue to feed to keep it alive since it obtains its nourishment from sugar.

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