Naturally fermented and lacto-fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha are more popular than ever but did you know that ginger can be used in much the same way to make ginger bug?
The name is a little strange but making your own ginger bug is quite simple — all you need is ginger, water, and sugar.
Just like sourdough starter and kombucha scoby, once you’ve established your ginger bug it will keep growing and you can periodically scoop some off to make homemade ginger ale, root beer, or ginger beer.
The fermentation process not only creates beneficial bacteria to improve digestive health but it also adds natural carbonation.
The microorganisms in the ginger bug feed off of the sugar and create carbon dioxide (aka fizzy bubbles) as a by product, leaving you with a fizzy, tasty homemade soda that also boosts gut health and immune system response.
How to Make Ginger Bug
Ginger bug is simple to make and you can find all the ingredients in most large grocery stores.
Ginger and sugar are the primary ingredients, and it’s up to you as far as whether you use organic ginger versus standard ginger, granulated sugar versus unrefined cane sugar, etc.
Some guides on making ginger bug insist on only using organic, peeled ginger and unrefined cane sugar but we’ve had success with all variations.
The basic environment you’re creating — ginger, sugar, and water — is a simple one that bacteria and yeast will literally eat up and those little beasties aren’t very particular or finnicky at all.
If you prefer organic and unrefined ingredients, go for it, but don’t let the lack of them hold you back.
We like to use a quart size Mason jar for our ginger bug starter.
Add two cups of filtered or distilled water to your Mason jar and stir in two tablespoons of sugar.
Grate two tablespoons of ginger and stir that into your jar. Cover the jar loosely — we like to use a coffee filter and rubber band — and let it sit on your kitchen counter or any place reasonably warm for about 24 hours.
For the next week, you’ll add one tablespoon of grated ginger, one tablespoon of sugar, and one tablespoon of water every day. Be sure to stir the mixture well when adding ginger, sugar, and water each day.
After a few days the mixture should start foaming slightly at the top when you stir it, which means the yeast and bacteria are doing their thing.
Your ginger bug will also start looking more like a slurry, with ginger pieces accumulating on the bottom, opaque liquid in the middle, and then another layer of foamy, floating ginger on the top.
It should also develop a slightly yeasty smell after a few days — another sure sign that you’re on the right track.
Don’t despair if nothing seems to be happening after three or four days. Keep adding the daily dose of ginger, sugar, and water and give it some time, as local conditions can cause your ginger bug to get off to a fast or slow start.
Using Ginger Bug
If all goes well, after a week or so you should have a healthy ginger bug percolating away in your Mason jar.
Maintaining it is much easier than starting it, as you just need to top it up with more ginger, sugar, and water periodically. We tend to add one tablespoon of ginger, sugar, and water every three or four days, although exact timing isn’t critical.
You can also refrigerate your ginger bug at this stage and feed it once a week.
As far as using your ginger bug, our favorite recipe is for homemade ginger ale but you can use ginger bug in all sort of homemade sodas as well as a starter for ginger beer.