Ginger Bug: A Guide to Homemade Fermented Sodas

Ginger Bug - Homemade Fermented Probiotic Soda, fruit and ginger organic drink.

A ginger bug starter is a simple living culture made from ginger root which enables you to create fizzy, delicious, probiotic rich sodas at home. Similar to a sourdough culture, a ginger bug can be kept alive indefinitely with routine feedings of simple ingredients.

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    Making homemade soda is shockingly simple (much easier than making other fermented treats like kombucha or sourdough bread) and the results are healthier and tastier than anything you can buy at the store. You can make everything from a classic ginger beer to a complex creamy root beer soda with a thick foam top--all at home with no carbonation machine. Once you have an active ginger bug, the process of making soda at home can take as little as 2 days from start to finish. The basic process involves making a simple flavored soda syrup, adding your ginger bug soda starter, and then allowing the concoction to ferment for 24-48 hours before bottling in swing-top glass bottles and refrigerating. That's it!
    In this guide, I'll teach you how to create your own ginger bug soda starter from scratch and how to use your new ginger bug to make your own homebrewed sodas.

    New! Dehydrated Ginger Bug Starter

    Live Cultures! Made With 100% Organic Ingredients

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    Snapshot: About Ginger Bugs

    • What is a Ginger Bug?

      A lactobacillus + wild yeast culture used to ferment homebrewed sodas.

    • Ingredients Needed:

      Fresh grated organic ginger, raw sugar, filtered water.

    • Days Until Ready:

      It can take between 5-14 days to start a ginger bug from scratch.

    • Maintenance Feeding:

      Feed daily with ginger, water, and raw sugar.

    • Lifetime and Storage:

      With proper care, ginger bugs can live forever. Store at room temperature and feed daily or store in refrigerator and feed weekly.

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      Ginger Bug: Fermentation Basics

      A Ginger Bug is a living culture of bacteria and wild yeasts cultivated through a wild fermentation process. The microscopic "bugs" that we are cultivating for our ferment live on the skin of the raw ginger root. We'll feed these "ginger bugs" water and sugar to create the ideal environment for their proliferation. The end result of this process is a vigorously bubbly lactobacillus-rich fermented living culture known as a Ginger Bug.
      A happy Ginger Bug starter is all you need to create satisfyingly bubbly sodas at home. When I first started making sodas at home, I was amazed at how much fizz and foam I could create in just a few days with a simple Ginger Bug (see slideshow). If you are new to homebrewing, homemade sodas made with a Ginger Bug are a great way to get started. If you are already a fermenting pro (sourdough, kombucha, etc), then soda-making will be a breeze. In either case, here are some important Ginger Bug basics to know:

      • Ginger Bugs Live Forever:

        Just like a sourdough bread starter, a ginger bug soda starter can continue to live indefinitely with proper maintenance. Proper maintenance includes a favorably warm and dark environment and regular feedings of ginger, sugar, and water. Ginger bugs can be stored at room temperature and fed daily or stored in your refrigerator and fed weekly.

      • Ginger Bugs Make Probiotic Rich Soda:

        Ginger bugs let you create healthy sodas at home. A ginger bug starter works by proliferating wild bacteria which feed on sugar and produce carbon dioxide. It is a fermented food that is naturally high in lactobacillus bacteria. Like all lacto-fermented foods, this process is known to support gut-health and overall wellness. 

      • Ginger Bug Sodas Are Easier Than Kombucha

        Making homemade fermented sodas is significantly easier than homebrewed kombucha. No need for pH testers, a scoby, or multiple fermentation periods. With the exception of a swing-top glass bottle, you likely have all of the tools you'll need to make fermented soda right in your kitchen. It can take less than 48 hours from start to finish to make most soda recipes. Ginger bug sodas are also less alcoholic than kombucha drinks due to the shorter fermentation period. 

      • Ginger Bugs Need Clean Water & Ginger

        As with all fermented foods, certain chemicals can kill the living bacteria involved in the process. To make a Ginger Bug, we need to cultivate the microorganisms from the skin of the ginger root. If you've purchased ginger that has been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, there may not be any bugs to cultivate. Likewise, unfiltered tap water may contain chlorine and other chemicals that can kill your Ginger Bug. Always feed your Ginger Bug organic ginger and filtered, chlorine free water.

      Ginger Bug Recipe: How to Make Your Own Soda Starter

      Ginger Bug Starter Recipe

      This is a foolproof recipe on how to make a simple ginger bug starter at home. Ginger Bugs can be a little tricky at first, and patience is required to ensure that you don't give up on your bug too soon. Find a warm (between 65°F-75°F) dark cabinet to keep your Ginger Bug between feedings. If you run into any problems, check out our troubleshooting guide at the bottom of this article.
      Prep Time 5 minutes
      Fermenting Time 7 days
      Total Time 7 days 5 minutes
      Servings 1 Gallon


      • 1 Quart-Sized Glass Jar


      Initial Feeding Ingredients

      • 8 tbsp Purified Water
      • 1 tbsp Fresh Grated Ginger Root *organic
      • 1 tbsp Raw Sugar

      Ongoing Feeding Ingredients

      • 4 tbsp Purified Water
      • 1 tbsp Fresh Grated Ginger Root
      • 1 tbsp Raw Sugar


      Initial Feeding Instructions

      • Combine all "Initial Feeding Ingredients" into the glass jar and stir vigorously until all of the sugar is dissolved.
      • Cover jar with a breathable cloth and place in a dark, warm location for 24 hours.

      Ongoing Feeding Instructions

      • Once per day, feed your ginger bug by combining all of the "Ongoing Feeding Ingredients" and stirring vigorously until all of the sugar has been dissolved.
      • Your Ginger Bug is "ready" when it is vigorously bubbly, makes a fizzing sound, and a layer of fermented ginger has risen to the surface.

      Using Your Ginger Bug

      • To use your ginger bug to make soda, simply strain out the required amount of liquid from your bug and add it to your cooled soda decoction.


      Helpful Tips For Achieving An Active Ginger Bug:
      • Good Food: Always use filtered water (chlorine free) and organic ginger when making your ginger bug. Pesticides on conventional ginger and chemicals in unfiltered tap water can kill the good bacteria that we need to create our starter.
      • Sugar: Ginger bugs perform better when fed raw sugars (sucanat, turbinado, muscovado, etc.), but cane sugar may be used as well.
      • Oxygen: Ginger bugs need oxygen in order to do their jobs. During the first few weeks of your ginger bug's life, be sure to stir your ginger bug a few times per day (or as often as you can remember). This will help to get more oxygen to your young ginger bug starter and help the fermentation process along.
      • Cozy Environment: Keep your ginger bug in a dark, warm, but not too warm, location. Ginger Bugs prefer temperatures between 65°F-75°F.

      Starting a Ginger Bug: Timeline

      Day 1: First Feeding

      • Initial Feeding.
      • Stir mixture frequently throughout the day.
      • Mixture will appear flat. No bubbles.

      Day 2-3:

      • Feed according to ongoing-feeding instructions.
      • Stir mixture frequently throughout the day.
      • Mixture will appear flat. No bubbles.

      Day 4-5:

      • Feed according to ongoing-feeding instructions.
      • Stir mixture frequently throughout the day.
      • Small bubbles may start to appear on the surface of the liquid.
      • Most ginger pieces are still on the bottom of the jar.

      Day 6-14:

      • Feed according to ongoing-feeding instructions.
      • Stir mixture frequently throughout the day.
      • Larger bubbles may start to appear on the surface of the liquid.
      • Your Ginger bug is ready when bubbly, fizzy, and a good layer of floating ginger pieces has formed on top.

      Need A Ginger Bug?

      Try Our Live Dehydrated Ginger Bug Starter!

      Jumpstart your soda making process with our powerful live Ginger Bug culture. Includes rehydration instructions and instructions for two classic soda recipes.

      Ginger Bug Soda Recipes & Flavor Ideas

      Ginger Bug Soda Recipes and Flavors

      There are many fermented soda recipes out there, but they all boil down to the same process; thus, I've encapsulated the basic process of making fermented sodas at home in the recipe template below. Use this recipe as a template for making any home fermented soda from ginger beer to cream soda. Below this recipe, you'll also find specific recipes for my personal favorite sodas.

      Master Ginger Bug Fermented Soda Recipe

      A recipe template which allows you to make any homemade fermented soda flavor you can imagine! This guide can be used to make homemade ginger beer, root beer, cream sodas, fermented lemonades, and more.
      Cook Time 30 minutes
      Fermentation Time 3 days
      Total Time 3 days 30 minutes
      Servings 64 Oz


      • 1 Gallon Glass Jar w/ Cloth Cover
      • 4 16oz Swing Top Glass Bottles


      Base Ingredients

      • 1/2 cup Active Ginger Bug Starter
      • 8 cups Filtered Cold Water


      • 3/4 cups Fruit, fruit juice, tea, herbs, or roots.

      Delicate Spices

      • 1 Tbsp Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, sassafras, star anise, delicate florals & herbs) *optional


      • 1 cups Sugar (one or more: cane sugar, raw sugar, light brown sugar, molasses, etc.)


      Make a Decoction/Soda Syrup

      • Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with 8 cups cold filtered water.
      • Add 4 cups of the cold filtered water to a stockpot and bring to a boil*.
      • Add your soda flavoring ingredients such as teas, roots, herbs, or fruit and reduce to a simmer for 15-30 minutes. For earthier root beers, allow the roots to simmer for 30 minutes.
      • Remove decoction from heat and add any optional delicate herbs or spices*. Mix thoroughly and let steep for 5-30 minutes until desired flavor is achieved.
      • Strain the liquid into a mixing bowl and add 1 cups of sugar*. Mix until sugar is dissolved.

      Make Your Ferment

      • Pour the syrup decoction into the other 4 cups of cold water in your gallon-sized glass jar*. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
      • Once cooled, add your strained ginger bug starter and mix to combine.
      • Cover the jar with a breathable cloth and place in a warm, dark location for 24-48 hours.

      Bottle Your Soda

      • Check your soda after 24 hours and look for a thin layer of foam developing on top. Depending on the environment, this can take between 24-48 hours.
      • Once foamy, use a funnel and ladle to fill swing-top bottles with your soda.
      • For light and fizzy sodas and ales, place your swing-top bottles into the refrigerator immediately after bottling. For longer ferments and root beers, place your swing-top bottles back in a dark, warm location and allow to ferment for no more than 24 hours before refrigerating.
      • Your homemade fermented soda is ready to enjoy once cold. Serve in a mason jar over ice cubes and garnish with fresh herbs and fruit.


      Helpful Tips for Making Ginger Bug Sodas:
      • Bottling Soda: Once your mixture is placed into swing-top bottles, pressure will build up in the bottle due to the continued fermentation process. I recommend bottling your soda and refrigerating within 12-24 hours. This lets some pressure build up for a bubbly soda pop; however, it is possible for too much pressure to build up in the bottle and possibly explode if left to ferment for longer than 24 hours. For this reason, you should "burp" your soda if you will be letting it ferment in the bottle for longer than 24 hours. "Burping" is simply the process of slightly opening the swing-top bottle to release some pressure before closing the bottle up again. 
      • Fresh Fruit Juice Sodas: When making fresh fruit juice sodas (such as lemonade), the boiling step may be skipped. Instead, add your fruit juice to 8 cups of cool water. Mix in sugar until dissolved and then add your ginger bug starter. 
      • Preserved & Pasteurized Citrus Juices: Beware of preservatives or other ingredients in store-bought juices which may inhibit the fermentation process or kill your ginger bug altogether. I've had issues particularly when using some brands of pasteurized lemon juice. For this reason, I always use fresh juices. Also, adding a lot of citrus can increase the acidity of your soda mixture and slow down the fermentation process. Try adding citrus juices right before bottling your soda.
      • Delicate Herbs & Spices: Boiling water can cause delicate spices to take on a bitter flavor. Certain fresh herbs (such as basil and lavender), spices (cinnamon, star anise, licorice, vanilla), and floral ingredients should be added to the decoction once removed from heat and allowed to gently infuse. 
      • Sugar Types: The typical rule of thumb for fermented sodas is 1-2 cups of sugar per gallon. You can add more or less depending on your taste. You can use plain cane sugar or combine various kinds of light and dark sugars for depth. Fermented root beer recipes, for example, use a combination of dark molasses and light sugars. 
      • Ginger Bug Temperature: You must wait until your soda mixture has cooled down to room temperature before adding your ginger bug. Temperatures above 90°F can kill your Ginger Bug. 

      Making ginger beer at home produces results that are far superior to what you can buy in the store. You can tailor the spice and quantity of ginger to exactly your preferred amounts. I like my ginger beer extra spicy, so I add the full 3/4 cups of grated ginger (flavoring) and a few slices of fresh jalapeno--but you may prefer less spice.

      Ginger Bug: Spicy Jamaican Ginger Beer

      • Base Ingredients: 1/2 cup ginger bug starter + 8 cups water.
      • Flavorings: 3/4 cups of fresh grated ginger
      • Delicate Spices (optional): 1-3 jalapeno slices, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice.
      • Sugars: 1 cups sugar (try combining 3/4 cups cane sugar with 1/4 cup light brown or raw sugar for more depth).

      Follow the instructions for the Master Ginger Bug Soda Recipe.

      Ginger Bug Maintenance & Storage

      Maintaining your Ginger Bug is as easy as feeding it ginger, sugar, and water routinely. It can be kept alive and stored someplace dark in your kitchen or tucked away in a refrigerator if you don't plan on making sodas regularly.

      • Counter-Top Ginger Bug Maintenance:

        If you plan on keeping your Ginger Bug at room temperature, then it will require daily feedings of 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 4 tablespoons filtered water. I make sodas frequently, so I feed my Ginger Bug daily. To make life easier, I use my food processor to shred a bunch of ginger (which I store in the fridge) to make feeding my bug easier.

      • Refridgerator Ginger Bug Maintenance:

        A Ginger Bug can be kept alive in a semi-dormant state at lower temperatures in a refrigerator indefinitely. It will need routine feedings (I feed my fridge bugs weekly) of 1 Tbsp grated ginger root, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 4 tablespoons of water. When ready to use, simply remove your bug from the fridge, give it a feeding, and allow it to sit at room temperature for a few hours. Your bug is ready to use when it is vigorously bubbly again.

      • Ginger Bug Use Maintenance:

        After removing some of your Ginger Bug starter to make a soda, replenish your bug with a standard maintenance feeding before placing it back in its fermenting location. You can also make a new Ginger Bug ferment using some of the liquid from your original Ginger Bug as a booster. I like to do this if a recipe calls for more Ginger Bug than I have and I need to make a big batch. Take 1 Tbsp of your Ginger Bug starter and add it to 1 Tbsp grated ginger, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 3 tablespoons water. Let it ferment overnight and give it another feeding in the morning. 

      How to Kill Your Ginger Bug

      Much like a sourdough starter, Ginger Bugs can die when their environment no longer makes them happy. A Ginger Bug is a living culture and they are not shy about telling you when they are not enjoying their set up. Here are the main culprits behind Ginger Bug fatalities:

      • Chlorine, Preservatives, and Pesticides: A Ginger Bug is a living culture of bacteria and yeasts; thus, any chemical designed to kill bacteria and yeasts will kill your starter. Use filtered water as well as fresh, organic ingredients to ensure a happy, healthy bug.
      • Temperature-Excess Heat: Unlike a sourdough starter, your Ginger Bug will die if exposed to warm temperatures above 90°F. Do not put your Ginger Bug in a warm oven to ferment. Do not add your Ginger Bug to a hot soda mixture.
      • Temperature-Excess Cold: There is mixed advice on the internet about whether or not a Ginger Bug starter can be frozen. I've experimented a few times and the answer for me is a big fat "NO." When exposed to freezing temperatures, my past Ginger Bugs have all died.
      • pH: While you don't need pH testing strips for soda making, it is important to know that Ginger Bugs (lactobacilli cultures) prefer pH's between 5 and 8.
      • Improper & Inconsistent Feeding: The living cultures need food to survive. If you haven't fed your Ginger Bug in a while and it isn't performing, chances are it has kicked the bucket.

      The good news is--there is always a chance that your Ginger Bug isn't dead, but simply in an unhappy dormant state. In the What's Wrong With My Ginger Bug? section below, I'll help you to troubleshoot some common Ginger Bug problems.

      Is My Ginger Bug Dead?

      If you suspect that you've killed your Ginger Bug, there is a simple test that you can administer to check for signs of life.

      • Step 1: Remove 1 tablespoon of liquid from your "dead" Ginger Bug starter.
      • Step 2: Combine your tablespoon of starter with 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover with a towel and allow to ferment for 24 hours. If your mixture is bubbly, then your original Ginger Bug is alive. If the mixture is flat, then your Ginger Bug is likely dead. If you are still unsure, give the mixture another standard feeding and check again in 24 hours.

      What's Wrong With My Ginger Bug?

      Like any wild fermentation, Ginger Bugs can be finnicky little cultures. A happy Ginger Bug is easy to spot: bubbly, has a fizzy sound, and lots of floating ginger. A sad Ginger Bug is also easy to spot: no bubbles, no sounds, sunken ginger, and the growth of undesirable molds and yeasts. There could be a variety of causes for your Ginger Bug's problems, but most of them can be easily corrected with a little troubleshooting.  It also helps to keep notes about your soda making process, ingredients, and any changes to your Ginger Bug's routine to help you better identify problems. Below, I'll cover some of the most common Ginger Bug problems and potential solutions.

      • Problem: My Ginger Bug Stopped Bubbling

        This is one of the most common issues soda makers run into with their Ginger Bug. A Ginger Bug can stop bubbling for a variety of reasons. The good news is, there is a good chance that your Ginger Bug is still alive. Here are some reasons your Ginger Bug may have stopped bubbling:

        • Dead Bug: Do a test to see if your Ginger Bug is still alive.
        • Too Young: Is your Ginger Bug less than a week old? It may not be active enough to maintain bubbles between feedings.
        • Hungry: When was the last time you fed your Ginger Bug? Ginger Bugs stored at room temperature should be fed daily.
        • Too Cold or Too Hot:  Cool temperatures will slow down the fermentation process (resulting in less bubbles) and hot temperatures can denature your bugs (also less bubbles).
        • Too Much Alcohol: Sometimes, your Ginger Bug solution can become overly fermented and cause your bugs to enter a dormant state. This can result from improper feedings and sudden changes to feeding proportions. 

        Solution: Check the "How to Kill Your Bug" section and make sure that your Ginger Bug wasn't exposed to any life-threatening conditions. If you think that your bug is alive, give it a feeding and try moving it to a different location.  Check again in 24 hours. If your bug alive but not bubbling, you can use 1 tablespoon of your old bug to jump start a new Ginger Bug that will be ready to use in a few days. 

      • Problem: My Ginger Bug Has Mold

        Mold can grow on your Ginger Bug for a variety of reasons:

        • Leaving your Ginger Bug uncovered while fermenting
        • Contamination of utensils and/or ingredients
        • Very warm and humid fermenting location
        • Ginger pieces exposed to air for too long

        Solution: If the mold is black or multi-colored, it is best to play it safe and dispose of the ginger bug solution. Sanitize all of your equipment that may have been exposed to the mold. Keep your Ginger Bug covered with a clean towel while fermenting at room temperature or in an airtight container if storing in the fridge. 

      • Problem: My Ginger Bug Has Yeast

        Kahm yeast forms a white film on top of your Ginger Bug or soda ferment. It can be caused by any of the following:

        • Contaminated equipment, utensils, or environment
        • Very warm and humid fermenting location
        • Ginger exposed to air for too long

        Solution: Kahm yeast is not dangerous and, technically, will not cause harm to your Ginger Bug or future sodas. You can remove the layers of visible yeast; however, the mixture will still be contaminated with yeast spores and the growth will return. In most cases, it's best to throw out the bug or soda ferment, sanitize your equipment, and start over.

      Ginger Bug Soda: Troubleshooting Quick Guide

      Inevitably, you are going to run into some issues on your soda-making journey.  You can have the best laid plans and still end up with a flat soda that leaves you scratching your head. Homebrewing using wild fermented cultures means that things don't always go as planned. Luckily, there have been many homebrewers who have failed and figured it out so that you don't have to. The table below is an ever-growing list of Ginger Bug soda making problems and their potential solutions. As I discover more problems (and inevitably fail at my own soda making), I'll update this list with more tips. Be sure to bookmark this page!

      Problem Potential Cause Solution
      Ginger Bug Stopped BubblingNew bug; Needs food; Too hot; Too cold; Went dormant; Dead bug.Test to see if your Ginger Bug is alive. If alive, feed, change locations, wait 24 hours. Start a new Ginger Bug using 1 Tbsp of old bug starter.
      Ginger Bug Has MoldUncovered ginger bug, too much air exposure, contaminated utensils, warm + humid fermenting locationThrow away ferment, sanitize equipment, and start over. Keep new ferment covered in a dark, dry, location no hotter than 70°F.
      Ginger Bug Has YeastKahm yeast can form for the same reasons as mold.Short term ferments: remove floating layer of film. Long term: discard ferment, sanitize equipment, and start over.
      Ginger Bug Slow To StartPoor ingredients, lack of oxygen, cold fermenting location.Use filtered (chlorine free) water and organic ginger, stir your new ginger bug starter multiple times per day during the first week, place your ginger bug in a warmer location.
      Ginger Bug Soda Not FermentingAdded ginger bug while mixture was too hot; Used ingredient in soda that killed Ginger Bug; Did not add enough Ginger Bug starter to soda mix; Ginger Bug was not active/fed; Soda mix needs more time to ferment; Did not add enough sugar to soda mixture;Wait until soda mixture is below 90°F before adding Ginger Bug; avoid pasteurized fruit juices or products with preservatives; use 1 cup starter per gallon of soda mixture (1/2 cup per 1/2 gallon); Use a bubbly, active Ginger Bug starter; Wait 24-48 hours for your soda mixture to form a foam layer; Use 1-2 cups of sugar per gallon of soda.
      Fermented Soda Not Fizzy After BottledSwing top bottle not holding pressureReplace the pressure seal of your swing top bottle.

      Frequently Asked Questions About Ginger Bug Starters

      Yes, you can drink a Ginger Bug straight. Think of a Ginger Bug as a probiotic-rich gut shot. It will have a potent beer-like fermented taste that's slightly fizzy. 

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