Naturally-fermented Soda (Using a Ginger Bug) — simply living well (2024)

A couple of years ago, I sent my husband to the grocery store for one piece of ginger. I’m not sure what happened while he was there, but he came home with TEN pieces of ginger. This is not unusual for him - in fact, when we send him on an errand, the kids and I always make bets that he’ll come home with multiples of everything on our list. Quirky and endearing as it may seem, I still felt mildly overwhelmed looking at a sky-high pile of ginger overflowing from the basket on our kitchen counter. I thought of all the usual ways to use it, of course, but then I remembered reading about ginger bugs in Sandor Ellis Katz’s book Wild Fermentation and decided it was high time to try to make one.

If you feel slightly repulsed by the name ginger bug, I hear you, but believe me when I tell you it’s nothing more than a wild-fermented starter culture that can be used to make ginger beer and naturally fermented sodas. Similar to a sourdough starter, making a ginger bug involves transforming a few basic ingredients into a yeasty culture that can be used to jumpstart the fermentation process. Also like a sourdough starter, a ginger bug needs to be fed regularly for up to a week before it can be used to ferment a drink. As far as analogies go, a sourdough starter is to sourdough what a ginger bug is to naturally-fermented soda. It’s also a satisfying substitute for kombucha, in case you’re someone who either can’t get their hands on a SCOBY or can’t get past its unappetizing, slimy appearance.

Here’s how the ginger-bug-natural-soda-making process works: When you mix the ginger, sugar, and water (see ingredients below), the wild bacteria and native yeasts on the ginger (and in your kitchen) start to proliferate and grow. These microorganism eat the sugar in your bug and produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Once you have a healthy ginger bug, you can add it to a sweetened beverage like fruit juice, lemonade, or sweetened herbal tea. The ginger bug will consume the sugar in the drink and transform it into a healthy, bubbly, probiotic-rich soda.

Although the process is really simple, there are a few best practices for brewing a bug:

· Use chlorine-free water. Unfortunately, the chlorine in tap water can kill the microbes in your bug. If you don’t own a water filter, you can remove the chlorine by leaving an open jar or bowl of tap water out overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate.

· Use organic ginger. In the United States, conventionally-grown ginger is often irradiated, which destroys the naturally occurring yeasts and lactic-acid bacteria needed to drive the fermentation process.

· Use real sugar. While honey and maple syrup can be used to fuel fermentation, you’ll have fewer problems and guaranteed results if you use good old-fashioned cane sugar. I know sugar is sort of the enemy in the natural health world and, to be honest, I don’t eat it myself, but the bug needs sugar to proliferate and, besides - much like a kombucha scoby - it will digest most of the sugar and transform it into carbon dioxide. The final product will be very, very low in sugar.

· Seal your jar tightly. Some fermented drinks like to breath during the fermentation process, but a ginger bug does best with a tightly sealed container. Avoid covering it with cheesecloth or a flour sack towel and use an airtight lid instead.



3 cups filtered water

3 tsp organic sugar

3 tsp organic ginger, unpeeled and diced or grated

additional sugar and ginger for daily feedings


1. Combine ingredients in a quart size jar.

2. Seal jar with an airtight lid, shake to mix ingredients well, and place in a warm spot to ferment for 24 hours.

3. After the first 24 hours, and everyday for 4-6 days, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ginger to the jar. The liquid will begin to bubble by the end of the week. Once your bug begins to form and bubble and smell slightly yeasty, it’s ready to use for making soda.

4. You can either use your bug right away to make soda or keep it in your fridge for up to a week.



½ cup of ginger bug, strained

7 ½ cups liquid (sweetened herbal tea or flavored juice)


1. Combine the ginger bug and liquid.

2. Transfer the mixture to a flip top lid bottle like the one in the photo, leaving ½ inch of headspace.

3. Allow drink to ferment for 2-3 days at room temperature.

4. Transfer bottle to refrigerator for up to a few months.


Naturally-fermented Soda (Using a Ginger Bug) — simply living well (2024)


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