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EASY TURMERIC BUG

A fizzy, golden soda starter made using wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria

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by Jody Gowans in Beverages, Recipes
July 3, 2018

A turmeric 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 turmeric 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.  I use it to make my favourite beverage, turmeric soda.

Turmeric bugs are very similar to ginger bugs, but I find they are more active, and we get the bonus of the golden colour from the turmeric root.  Be careful and wear gloves when handling turmeric.  That golden yellow will quickly stain your hands and everything else it comes into contact with! 

Wear gloves when handling turmeric to avoid stains!

As with ginger bugs, turmeric 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 turmeric.  You can find it at most natural health stores and in the organic section of your grocery store.  If you are not using organic turmeric, remove the peel to reduce pesticide contamination.

HOW TO MAKE A TURMERIC BUG

Fermentation Time: 4 days-1 week

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add grated turmeric and sugar to the jar.

    Grated turmeric and 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 turmeric and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the bug per day.  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.

    Bubbly turmeric bug, Day 3

  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 turmeric 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 turmeric bug near other ferments to avoid cross-contamination 
18 Comments
  1. CJ says:

    Can we use dried turmeric powder? Or do we have to use fresh turmeric?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Absolutely fresh turmeric! It is the microbes, specifically beneficial yeasts, living on the turmeric that are responsible for the fermentation process.

  2. cynthia says:

    Hi Jody
    I have soo many questions:
    1: can you do your bug in a closed jar or it has to be let open and cover with a cloth?
    2: after using your bug can you add some water before putting it in the fridge?
    3: can you chopped instead of grate the turmeric?

    Thanks

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Cynthia- thanks for your interest and questions. This ferment is aerobic (needs oxygen) so the jar needs to be covered with a cloth or coffee filter to encourage airflow. After using the bug, it is best to add water, sugar before you put it in the fridge for storage if you want to take a break. You can also add more turmeric if you want, but it is not absolutely necessary. You can chop the turmeric if you don’t want to grate it.

  3. fabio says:

    Both this and the ginger alternative look great and I will definitely try setting these up on the coming days. Quick question you mention avoiding cross-contamination. Would this be an issue with the ginger and turmeric bug since they are so similar?
    How far should the two fermentations be? Different room, x meters apart? I guess it also depends of how much air circulation the room has? Any tips here and thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Fabio- thanks for your interest and question. When I mentioned cross-contamination, I was referring to ferments with other cultures such as kombucha and kefir. I have read accounts where people have found SCOBYs growing on their ginger ferments. This is a rare occurrence, but worth noting. To avoid this, I put my ferments in different areas in my kitchen (they are not side-by-side). This should be sufficient, don’t sweat it and good luck!

  4. Florian says:

    Having a good experience with ginger bugs, I tried the same recipe with tumeric (same as you propose here). My bug was very active and way quicker than with ginger (day 2, already very bubbly and reactive to sugar)!
    I made the tumeric soda preparation and let it ferment with the bug, at warm temperature, for 4 days. The preparation was very bubbly and active but I also realized that the consistence had turned highly viscous (between liquid honey and egg white)! Did you ever experience or heard about this?
    Many thanks in advance!

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Florian- I have never experienced this with turmeric. From what I have researched, you might have an overgrowth of acetobacter bacteria- the viscosity you are experiencing could be the start of a SCOBY. Did the mixture thin out eventually ? There could have been some cross-contamination, or an inferior batch of turmeric.

  5. Dan says:

    How do you know if it’s the bug is working? Mine looks very cloudy after the 5th night but I wouldn’t call it bubbly?
    Do I persevere or is it a write off?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Dan- if after 5 days, you aren’t seeing any activity, you should start over. It could have been that the turmeric was not fresh enough, it was irradiated and therefore didn’t contain any living microbes. I like to use organic turmeric for optimal success.

  6. Lissa B says:

    Thanks for sharing! Could one use raw honey instead of sugar?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Lissa- thanks for your interest and question. I have seen a few success stories using honey in ginger and/or turmeric bugs. However, for optimal success I would advise using cane sugar. I have also used jaggery (unrefined cane sugar used in Indian cuisine). It works well and adds a caramel taste, but my go-to sugar is cane sugar. It gives me great results and healthy ginger and turmeric bugs.

  7. Catherine O Dubhda says:

    How long does the tumeric bug last for when stored in an airtight container in fridge?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Catherine- thanks for your interest. I have left my bug in the fridge for about a month and was able to revive it. It’s hard to gauge since the amount of microbes in your bug can vary. It helps to add fresh turmeric with the sugar to your bug to help revive it.

  8. Marie-Ève Tremblay says:

    How do you use it? Add sparkling water?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Marie-Eve- turmeric bugs can be used as starters to make turmeric soda. The recipe will be posted tonight, but it is the same method as making ginger beer (https://theculturedfoodie.com/homemade-ginger-beer/), except you use turmeric in place of ginger

  9. Kim Bridgett says:

    Am definitely trying this! Love turmeric! Thanks for the recipe.

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Thanks Kim! It’s my favourite and my little daughter loves it!

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