A wild, probiotic starter for ginger beer and other delicious homemade sodas

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by Jody Gowans in Beverages, Recipes
November 27, 2017

I love ginger. It adds a bright, peppery zing to many savoury dishes and is considered to be helpful in alleviating 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.

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.

Vibrant, organic grated ginger-


Fermentation Time: 4 days-1 week


  • 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water 
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger (for best results, use organic)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • glass jar


  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 ))


  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

  3. To maintain the bug, feed it 1 tablespoon of sugar every other day. 
  4. Prior to using it in a recipe, it is helpful to feed the bug an extra tablespoon of sugar to make it more active.
  5. 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.
  6. Try to avoid storing the ginger bug near other ferments to avoid cross-contamination 




  1. Julie Brisebois says:

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

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      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!

  2. Steve says:

    Hi 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. Jody Gowans says:

      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.

  3. Medusa says:

    I am curious to know why are you feeding it so much sugar as in every other day?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      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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