How to Make a Ginger Bug Starter for Natural Soda

I have posted pics of my ginger bug on Instagram a couple of times but without directions. When people then ask how to actually make the ginger bug, they probably want more guidance than “mix some ginger, sugar and water together and add more daily for about five days.” But really, that’s about all you do.

Like a sourdough starter, to make a ginger bug, you transform basic ingredients—rather microbes covering the ginger and floating around in your kitchen transform them—into wonderful yeasty goodness that you can then use to ferment your recipe. Also like a sourdough starter, your ginger bug needs regular feeding. I would love to take on more starters but I have hit my limit at four. They are like pets. I don’t want to wind up the crazy cat lady of fermentation.

If you have been yearning to concoct some fermented, probiotic drinks but can’t find a SCOBY to make kombucha—or you find the sight of a SCOBY utterly repulsive—ginger bug might be for you.

Once you have made a lively ginger bug, you can use it to ferment natural sodas like ginger ale and slightly alcoholic drinks like ginger beer. I have also used it to ferment sweetened tea or to make grown-up fizzy lemonade.

My kombucha SCOBY hotel usually induces revulsion, awe or covetousness

WARNING/NON-WARNING: After you have tasted natural soda, you will be unable to drink commercial soda ever again. I make ginger beer for my kids’ dad and he loves it so much, he has broken his 20-year soda addiction. It’s a miracle.


To make your ginger bug, you need only three ingredients:

1. Ginger

Use organic ginger. In the US, non-organic (I refuse to call it conventional) ginger may be irradiated. Irradiation kills the naturally occurring yeasts and lactic-acid bacteria on the ginger which ferment it. Only once have I made a ferment that showed zero signs of life after several days: pickled ginger. I read about irradiated ginger later and realized I must not have used organic ginger. (We almost always eat organic.)

2. Sugar

I use organic cane sugar, rapadura or sucanat. Jaggery should work too. Do not use stevia. You need real sugar. If you want to experiment with things like honey or maple syrup, I would wait until you have successfully made a bug with sugar. Sugar works and you’ll learn how your bug should smell and look.

The sugar feeds the bacteria and yeasts in the bug. The amount of sugar you add to your bug and to drinks may horrify you. I know sugar is terrible. I have read Fat Chance and have watched the documentary Fed Up. But the bug consumes the sugar—not you—and emits carbon dioxide as a result, which adds that sought-after fizz. Once your drinks have fermented, they will contain much less sugar.

3. Water

I use filtered water. If you have highly chlorinated water, fill a vessel and leave it open to the air for several hours or even a day before you’ll use it and the chlorine will dissipate. I haven’t had trouble with chlorine but I do know that too much of it will kill your microbes.

ginger bug ingredients
Ginger + sugar + water + time = ginger bug


Online and in books, you’ll find varying instructions for making a ginger bug, just as you will for sourdough starter. Everyone seems to do it a bit differently. This is just how I do it.

1. In a glass jar, combine about 1 tbsp grated unpeeled organic ginger and 1 tbsp sugar.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir vigorously. Cover your jar with a small breathable cloth to let air in and keep nasties out. I find cheesecloth too flimsy and loosely woven for this purpose. 

3. Feed your bug 1 tbsp grated ginger and 1 tbsp sugar daily. Stir vigorously.

4. Your bug should be ready to use in about 5 days. It will bubble and smell yeasty, have a cloudy yellow color with sludgy-looking white stuff at the bottom of the jar and the ginger will float to the top. My mature ginger bug in the pic above—I named her Mary-Ann because Ginger got all the attention on Gilligan’s Island—is three or four months old.

ginger bug closeup
Mary-Ann on day 1

How to maintain your bug

Once you have established a vigorous ginger bug, you can keep it out on the kitchen counter but you will have to feed it daily—and you will end up with a lot of it. I sometimes keep mine in the fridge and feed it the usual meal once a week: about 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar. First I bring it to room temperature, feed it, let it sit for a few hours and put it back in the refrigerator, unless I want to make a drink!

I compost a little ginger occasionally. Otherwise your pile will grow to huge proportions. You can also regularly strain off the liquid, compost half the ginger-sugar mixture and start fresh—add 1 1/2 cups water and feed daily until it bubbles up again.

The basic recipe for ginger bug drinks

Stir up your bug to get the good white yeasty stuff off the bottom of the jar and strain off 1/4 cup of the liquid. Add that to sweetened tea, lemonade or water in which you simmered a lot of ginger and then sweetened. You can try adding it to juice also. I haven’t tried juice because I don’t buy juice. I would need to make it myself. DO NOT ADD YOUR BUG TO HOT LIQUIDS. You will kill the microbes.

Fill some flip-top bottles with your drink and let them sit at room temperature for three days max. Ferments with sugar can explode (I have never had it happen) so you may want to put yours in a cupboard or closet or in a box in the garage. Don’t let your bottles ferment for more than a couple of days without opening.

Once you get the hang of making this, you’ll have a feel for when yours has fermented enough. Fermentations go quickly in my kitchen. Yours may go more slowly or more quickly, depending on your environment.

fizzy lemonade
The two bottles on the left contain my fermented lemonade

Ginger Bug


To start

  • tbsp grated unpeeled organic ginger
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

To feed daily

  • tbsp grated unpeeled organic ginger
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar


1. In a glass jar, combine about 1 tbsp grated unpeeled organic ginger and 1 tbsp sugar.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir vigorously. Cover your jar with a small breathable cloth.

3. Feed your bug 1 tbsp grated ginger and 1 tbsp sugar daily. Stir vigorously.

4. Your bug should be ready to use in about 5 days. It will bubble and smell yeasty, have a cloudy yellow color with sludgy-looking white sediment at the bottom of the jar and some of the ginger will float to the top.

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160 Replies to “How to Make a Ginger Bug Starter for Natural Soda”

  1. Thanks for all the great tips. Very helpful for novices and not-so-novices alike.

  2. Oho! I like this. My husband dislikes kombucha, but I bet he’d love this. And the lemonade sounds awesome!

    1. I think he’ll really like it!

  3. Although–I am afraid of explosions. I’ve had more glass jars crack in the freezer (not the same thing, I know) so I’m starting to think I have bad luck. Into the cabinet–surrounded by towels. 😉

    1. I do worry about the bottles. I haven’t had any explode but I have had the occasional one spew out like champagne when I opened it. I’m paranoid so I open my bottles outside or in the kitchen sink with a towel draped over them. I will revise my post and add that info… Thanks!

  4. Does this process make your drink alcoholic?

    1. This turns alcoholic the longer you ferment it–a benefit or disadvantage depending on who’s drinking it 😉

  5. I just got some used swing top bottles from my grandpa and have been using them for lemonade. I’ll have to try making the ginger bug this weeken!

    1. Nice! I love the swing tops and my drinks are fizzier if I use those. The screw top bottles don’t seem to work as well. Good luck with your bug. It’s a lot of fun 🙂

  6. My skobe hotel is also thriving to say the least. Looks like it’s time to brew some Ginger Bug! Thanks for more great inspiration Anne Marie 🙂

    1. That’s great Karen. Hot weather calls for a ginger bug 🙂

  7. Somehow I missed this post till just now. Have ginger and ready to try!
    What happened to the recent post on lemonade? I got it by email, but it’s not here.
    Thank you!

    1. The lemonade is up now, Aggie. I messed up with my scheduling…

      Let me know how your ginger bug goes 🙂

  8. I love the sound of your fabulous ginger bug! It’s gone on my list of amazing stuff to make! Not sure if i can get my hands on organic ginger though :-/

    1. Thank you 🙂 I hope you can find some organic ginger! This is so easy to make and delicious. I’m really happy with the results.

  9. Loved it! I’m totally going to try it! 😉

  10. […] I also want to try making a ginger bug for naturally carbonating beverages, as demonstrated by The Zero-Waste Chef. But, we’ll see how far I get; the bug might become a future goal because I’m a bit worried […]

  11. […] Kefir and Ginger Bugs are also great ways to craft lightly effervescent, pro-biotic, natural “sodas” […]

  12. Does the ginger bug like to be in a cool spot or a warm spot? Because I live in San Diego and my kitchen gets really hot. I currently have the ginger bug in my bedroom’s counter top away from direct sunlight.

    1. Hi Jennifer. From what I have read, I would keep your bug and other ferments out of direct sunlight. How hot is it? The ginger bug will ferment and bubble more quickly after you feed it if it is in a warmer spot. I would worry more about the heat affecting your bottled drinks though. They will ferment faster in a warmer environment so you don’t want to leave them out too long in a hot kitchen. The CO2 will build up faster in a warmer environment. Too much CO2 can lead to exploding bottles or to a geyser when you open your bottle–that’s messy and you lose part of your delicious drink 🙁 So I might put the bottles in the bedroom closet. I like the put my filled bottles in a cupboard because if they do explode (I haven’t had it happen), the mess will be contained.

  13. I forgot to feed my ginger bug and it appears to have developed a scoby on the surface about an 1/8 in thick. Ever had any experience of this happening?

    1. Cool! I haven’t had that happen, Charles. It has happened with my scrap vinegar though. I did a Google search and can’t find any info on SCOBYs forming on a ginger bug. How long did it take to form?

      1. It was about 8 days before I remembered to check. I wonder if there are any uses for it? I will send a picture tonight and will sample some of it and give an opinion on flavor.

        Chuck Johnson Backyard Farmer


      2. Thanks Chuck. I’d love to hear more.

  14. I have just found your fabulous blog, and have started up a Ginger Bug already. Do you have a recipe for Ginger Ale that you can share with me, or other non-alcoholic drinks that my 10 year old can enjoy 🙂

    1. Thank you Chris 🙂 You don’t waste any time! I have a recipe for ginger beer. If you let it ferment for only two or three days, it won’t be alcoholic. Here’s the recipe for that: I also make lemonade with my ginger bug. It’s delicious. That recipe is here: Enjoy!

  15. Thanks for your reply. Great, this is going to be fun!! 🙂

  16. Leonard Whittington says: Reply


    Thank you for all the awesome info regarding naturally fermented sodas, using a bug… I have a bug and was wondering if one could (instead of composting) use the excess ginger that accumulates from feeding one’s bug regularly, to bake ginger biscuits or some other possible uses you could recommend?

    Thank you in advance


    1. Hi Leonard. I haven’t tried that but it sounds delicious. I sometimes use the ginger to flavor kombucha and it works well. If you try baking with it (or doing anything else), I would suggest tasting the ginger first just to make sure it still tastes gingery. Also, will you please let me know how it works if you try it? I love this idea.

      I am roasting vegetables tonight and, inspired by your question, I’m going to try adding a teaspoon of grated ginger from my ginger bug to them. It might be good. Thanks 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  17. I have a question about the ginger bug.IHave had a bug going for 6 days now.When I feed it and stir it ,it makes bubbles then stops,are those the bubbles I’m looking for or does it need to be bubbling all the time on it’s own?

    1. Hi Kathy. It will bubble when you stir it and then pretty much subside except for the odd gurgle. Good luck with your ginger beer. It’s SO delicious!

  18. Hi, Thanks for your post. It’s the first I’ve heard of this. I’m a newbie to all of this. Would coconut sugar work in place of cane sugar?

    1. It should work Alissa. I have used coconut sugar for kombucha and that was delicious. I recently used sucanat and didn’t like it as well, which I found really odd. Rapadura works too.

  19. Hi, I’ve successfully made my gingerbug! 😊 I was planning on making a blackberry soda. But when making the blackberry can I use maple syrup or should I stick with sugar? Thanks !

    1. Oh yum. That sounds really good. I haven’t tried maple syrup with ginger beer (or any other soda) but it sounds really good. I did try to make kombucha once with maple syrup and my mother started to shrivel up. She didn’t like it. But I have heard of other people using it with success. What if you tried some bottles with maple syrup and some with sugar?

  20. Is the ginger bug supposed to taste sweet? It’s been going for 5 days and tastes a little like sugar water. I know in Kombucha, most of the sugar is processed by the SCOBY. Is it the same for the ginger?

    1. Hi Phyrē, I just fed my ginger bug a few minutes ago and tasted it. Mine is sweet and VERY gingery. It burns a little going down. The microbes do eat the sugar like a SCOBY. If you left your bug for a long time, I think it would turn vinegary eventually. I haven’t let mine go unfed long enough that it has reached that point. Do you have any of the white residue on the bottom of your jar? That’s the good yeasty stuff that will ferment your ginger beer when you make it. ~ Anne Marie

  21. Reblogged this on Dolphin and commented:
    I read a post on fermented lemonade…it sounded so yummy, but I cannot tolerate whey (not recommended on GAPS diet nor on the autism diet against gluten, dairy, soy, and corn). So I went searching for another way to ferment lemonade, and found this wordpress page. I can’t experiment with it right now, but plan to as soon as possible…fermented lemonade sounds refreshing as well as good for you with probiotics. Enjoy.

    1. Thanks for the reblog 🙂

  22. Hi, question re: maintenance. To keep it alive and going, but using it occasionally, how much do you take out to use it but also keep it growing? cheers, sorry if it’s clear – I get confused easily!

    1. Hi there, sorry I haven’t answered this until now! It is a little confusing when you’re just starting out with your bug.

      So after I strain off the liquid to make a drink, I take quite a bit of the ginger out, up to half. Then I add more water (if I used a cup, I’ll add about a cup), another tablespoon of ginger and another tablespoon of sugar. My bug is about 1 1/2 years old now and is doing well with the routine.

      If you use your bug only occasionally, I would store it in the refrigerator. That way you can feed it less often and you will add less ginger to it over time. Sometimes I keep mine out, sometimes I keep it in the fridge. All my starters are like pets that need constant attention and I sometimes need a break from them.

      I hope that helps. Enjoy!

      1. It does, thanks!

  23. Thank you so much for this blog post. I started my first ever komucha and my first ever ginger bug last weekend and I’m so excited try making homemade sodas for myself and my grandkids. Until I found your post, I couldn’t find any information on how to maintain my bug. Your post has answered all my questions… at least, the questions I have so far.

    1. Wonderful! I’m glad you found my post useful. Ginger beer is my favorite drink to make these days. I hope you and your grandkids enjoy your natural sodas 🙂

  24. Hi, I have a whitish, waxy film on the top of my bug is this okay?

    1. Hi Rach, I haven’t had that happen so I looked this up on the Wild Fermentation website and found someone who had the same situation. They just scooped it off daily. Here is the link to the discussion: Go there and search “white film.” From the sounds of it, it’s not a problem.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply, I had thrown a couple out, my latest one has just done it again, and I was very careful not to overfeed it this time.

  25. OMG! I just have to say that this post & your responses to questions answered all my questions. Questions that numerous youtube videos, websites and blogs did not. Thanks for your help! 🙂

    1. Great! I’m glad you found the info helpful. Enjoy your ginger beer 🙂

  26. […] Ginger bug is naturally fermented sugar and ginger used as a starter for homemade sodas. It contains wild yeast that naturally grows on ginger if you let them, the same way as when you make a sourdough starter. Read a recipe on how to make ginger bug here. […]

  27. […] this case, we add pieces of ginger as well. Alternatively, ginger beer can be made from so-called ginger bug – a colony of wild yeast obtained by wild fermentation of […]

  28. I have 2 ginger bugs going. I’ve made it before with no problem. Now the bugs are a pale white colour that you can’t see through. One smells quite yeasty and the other like rotten food. Neither have a ginger taste. It has been hot here and there is no a/c. This is my 2nd attempt in 2 weeks as the other 2 went the same way. I don’t want it to ferment as I don’t drink. What am I doing wrong? Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    1. 🙁 Sorry about your bugs. A yeasty smell is good but rotten food doesn’t sound right. My bug get cloudy with some white residue on the bottom (that’s the good stuff) but overall it’s a yellow color. Maybe you need to feed it more sugar??? Everything definitely ferments quicker in hot weather. Last summer, my kombucha would ferment in three days (it’s usually seven). I felt like I had a part-time job making kombucha! You could try using the yeasty one. Here’s a forum about ginger beer. I didn’t find your question, but someone did talk about a white film forming on theirs: Sorry I don’t have a better answer.

      1. I just started a ginger bug yesterday, and it’s already started bubbling. I’ve been stirring it a lot, every time I think of it. But my house is really hot – sometimes up to 85 degrees (no AC, live in Denver). I was wondering what the hot weather would do to my ferments and now I know. I had two quarts of beet kvass going, and one of them kept getting consistently moldy, REALLY moldy, and turning a funny fluorescent color (I eventually decided to toss it). I was worried that may have been due to the heat. Now I think it may have been because the moldy batch got a little bit of yogurt in it when I was straining out the whey. Anyways, I think the ginger bug is kickin’ due to the heat. But the frequent stirring seems to help a lot.

      2. Wow! Your ginger bug is advanced! Yes, the heat will speed up ferments. My kombucha is ready after only a few days in the summer. During cooler weather, it takes about a week. I’m sorry to hear about your kvass. Kvass also ferments very quickly and mine is also prone to mold. If you have a bit of white mold, from what I’ve read, it’s okay. You just scrape it off as best you can. But fluorescent doesn’t sound good. Oh, you can also make it without the whey. The whey just speeds up the fermentation, which you don’t need from the sounds of it. My last batch didn’t have whey in it. Speaking of that last batch… I cooked some beets in my pressure cooker and used merely the peels to make that kvass! It made a small amount, maybe not even two full 16-ounce flip-top bottles, but I was pretty thrilled to get kvass for basically free. Enjoy your ginger beer! It’s so so good!

  29. I started my ginger bug about 5 days ago. I am very excited about this hole experience. I have been feeding it everyday (1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of ginger). It still hasn’t made bubbles. Is this normal? The weather over here is really hot. I though that by now I would be ready. Anything suggestions?

    1. Hi Agathe,

      Sometimes ferments can take a little longer. Be patient and it should come to life. If it doesn’t start to bubble in the next several days, it could be that your water has a lot of chlorine in it and that is killing off microbes or your ginger is not organic and so possibly irradiated, which would kill the bacteria and yeast on it. I have fermented lots of different things and have messed up several by adding too much salt, neglecting my culture, or forgetting to cover it up so fruit flies fell into it…but everything has come to life and bubbled EXCEPT when I tried to pickle ginger. It just would not come to life. Just sat there in its jar doing nothing. So I think the ginger I used wasn’t actually organic. I hope this helps and that your ginger bug perks up soon. ~ Anne Marie

  30. How warm is too warm for a ginger bug? I made a gallon of blueberry juice and it cooled to about 110 degrees. Would that be too warm to sustain the ginger bug or help it ferment faster? If it fails.. Could I add a second dose of ginger bug or would I have to start over?

    1. Hi Joan, you should let it cool down to room temperature. 110 can kill your microbes. If it fails, you’ll basically just have blueberry-ginger juice. If it hasn’t gone bad, I would add some more ginger bug to it. I haven’t tried that but it sounds like a good idea. You should be able to tell quickly if it’s not fermenting–I’d say in a day or two. It won’t be carbonated at all and it won’t have a boozy smell to it. ~ Anne Marie

  31. Thanks for the great information. I have just started making fernented drinks. I have 2 ginger bugs going and I have found that spring water and unrefined sugar work best. My most recent bugs have been fizzy within a day or two although I have let them go 5 days just to be sure they will work. It was helpful to know that the ginger should float and there should be a cloudy white substance on the bottom. I had not read that on other sites. I made root beer yesterday. We will see how it turns out. My ginger ale turned out very well.

    1. Great! I’m so glad your ginger beer was a success, Joy. Root beer sounds delicious. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

  32. I’m now making Komboucha & ginger beer thanks to your sight. BUT, before I kidnapped daughters scoby, I was experimenting on trying to get a more vinegary ginger bug. I succeeded, BUT, since I love the Komboucha too want my ginger bug back to ginger bug. I restarted one but used 1/2 cup of previous ginger bug liquid. It’s still vinegary, also the Komboucha was about 1 foot away. Is it possible they are mixing? Is there a distance to keep? I just started a new bug from scratch bug sign the colder weather here in New England I’m wondering if I’ll run out of gingerbeer before it’s ready to use. And wondering if the 6 feet distance I now have is good enough.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Six feet sounds good to me (especially since I have a tiny kitchen!). I always keep my sauerkraut away from my sourdough starter, ginger bug and kombucha. I haven’t had a problem with my kombucha and ginger bug not getting along but I have read that can happen. I had to restart my ginger bug recently too. It was just way too alcoholic (I can’t remember if it was super vinegary or not). I tried to feed it to bring it back but after several days realized it would just be easier to start a new one. I hope you can get yours going in time before you run out!

      Anne Marie

  33. Robert Frankfurt says: Reply

    Do you ever just drink the Ginger Bug? I mix it with Sparkling water and love the flavor and texture of it w/out it being too sweet! Thx!, Rob

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      That’s a great idea. I have so much ginger bug right now. Thanks!

  34. I made a ginger bug, I fed it for five days and then I got sick and forgot about it for two… I ran to check on it feeling somewhat better today but am unsure how to proceed, I didn’t feed it for two days but it looks to be fizzy on top still, what do I do from here? Can I use it? Do I feed it? Or do I toss it and start again? Help! Thank you?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Tina, I’m sorry I’ve been slow to respond. I’ve been out of town most of the month. I would say keep feeding it and see what happens. If it has fizz, it has life. If you do have to start over, you’ve wasted only a bit of ginger, sugar and water. I hope that helps. Good luck! ~ Anne Marie

  35. […] did make my ginger bug, but I used brown sugar because it was all I had on hand, and it really just fizzled a little bit.  […]

  36. says: Reply

    Hi ! I just finished making my first ginger bug. Can’t wait to try the Ginger beer and lemonade recipes !
    Thanks for the good ideas, I want to limit my store-bought soda intake 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Great! I hope you like the ginger beer and lemonade. They’re really delicious. ~ Anne Marie

  37. You are AMAZING!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Lilly 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  38. I am struggling with my ginger bug. First I made it with a piece of ginger I had left over and it started to bubble a bit. But then when I ran out I bought new and made sure I got organic – but maybe it wasn’t?
    It stopped bubbling all together and I have been feeding it every day for a week now. My Kombucha has during the same time fermented quickly (compared to the colder seasons here) and I use the same water for both. However, I saw your comment above about chlorine in water – could it be that? Or could it be my ginger now is pickled.. and if so what did you do with your pickled ginger? I don’t wanna waste it! Suggestions welcome!

    Btw! I just got The Art of Fermantation book today it’s such a beautiful fantastic book. I am now learning about even more interesting natural sodas.. 🙂

  39. […] suivant les conseils trouvés ici, et là, j’ai préparé deux trucs : un ginger bug (je connais pas les termes techniques dans la […]

  40. Anne- Marie, I followed your recepie for the ginger bug to make some lemonade and I warnt to store the ginger bug in the fridge in the meantime. Do I have to close the jar with a lid?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Corinna, sorry I am slow to respond. I put a lid on mine in the refrigerator. If you leave it in there for a while, open the lid occasionally to release carbon dioxide, say every week or so…you’ll likely feed it that often anyway but if you don’t get to it, at least open the jar. Enjoy your lemonade! ~ Anne Marie

  41. A few fruit flies got into my ginger bug…not many. But is it ruined or can I just strain it and keep going?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Gigi,
      Well I would say it’s a personal choice. I found this thread on the Wild Fermentation website about fruit flies in kombucha: I hope it helps. I have had fruit flies in my kombucha and they laid eggs. Since I feed this to other people at workshops, I tossed the whole thing 🙁
      ~ Anne Marie

  42. Hi Anne Marie, I made my ginger bug about a week and half ago, leaving it a bit longer because it’s cooler here in Australia at the moment. It was bubbling nicely and looks like you described. I made my lemonade two days ago and opened it today but it was completely flat. No bubbles at all. I used filtered water at room temperature and organic lemon juice. Maybe it’s still too cool here? (About 12 degrees c during the day) I was worrying it would explode so decided to open it. It makes delicious cordial but I’d hoped for bubbles. Do you think I should have left it for longer? Do you see bubbles in the bottle? I couldn’t see any.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Kate,
      You have probably polished it off by now. Yes, I see bubbles in the bottle when I make it. It’s a good idea to open it just in case. You can close it up and set it aside again. If it’s not at all bubbly, you can also try adding a small amount of sugar. How did it taste? Had it fermented? There are so many factors at play. The seal may not be very tight on the bottle or the room could be cool. You could also try adding more ginger bug to it next time.
      ~ Anne Marie

  43. What did you use to grate your ginger? A microplane seems too fine. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, I am so excited to try making my ginger bug.

    How do you make ginger beer once you have an active ginger bug? I have a one gallon jar where I used to make my kombucha (I see a 2 gallon now), can you drink the ginger drink directly and how long would it take to ferment 1 gallon of ginger beer?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I just use a knife to chop it but you can also grate it. I’ve done both. Here’s the recipe for the ginger beer: It should take a few days to ferment but you can let it go longer. I like to bottle mine after I make it to build up some carbonation. It’s VERY active and fizzy, so I burp it every couple of days, sometimes every day. I have some brewing now in the cupboard and it looks very vigorous. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thank you so much. I just bottled my first batch we will see if anything happens. The ginger bug was very bubbly by the 5th day so I hope it works, fingers crossed!

      2. Hi! I just sampled a little taste of the ginger beer, and it is very sweet with low (but some) carbonation. What would you suggest I do to play up the carbonation and play down the sweetness? I always let my kombucha ferment for a couple of weeks as I like the more astringent sour taste. Thank you so much for your help on this.

      3. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi there. Are you using flip-top bottles to carbonate yours? If so, I would just leave the ginger beer in there longer. The microbes will eat the sugar and excrete carbon dioxide. That should make it less sweet and more carbonated. Be careful that you don’t leave your bottles resting too long though, as glass bottles can explode. I would open the tops after a couple of days to release carbon dioxide. If not much comes out, wait longer before opening the bottles the next time. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  44. pfeifenschwesterjan says: Reply

    Thanks a lot for your great article. I want to make a syrup which I can add to carbonated water later. So I thought it would be best to kill of the microbes of the ginger bug by boiling it because I want to stop the fermentation process and to avoid the bottle of syrup explode in the fridge. Maybe I also add a little alcohol to make it last longer. Any experience or thoughts on that?

  45. Hi
    I’ve had my ginger but going for about 2 weeks or so now and used your recipe to make ginger beer on Boxing Day but now my big appears to have died – help!! I had
    Awesome bubble activity (first with bacteria bubbles really quickly and then after a couple of days full yeast bubbling) but now for some reason it just looks flat! I haven’t tried the ginger beer yet to see what action that has but just wondered if you had any experience with the big flattening after a pitch? I was hoping it would revive after a few days but so far it has not.
    I didn’t use your big recipe but have been adding 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (store bought as that’s all I have and has always been same supermarket), 1 teaspoon of raw caster sugar and then a ‘slosh’ of filtered water (room temp).
    Any help or advice would be amazing!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Belinda, sometimes my bug will go too alcoholic and I don’t like the taste. Then I’ll start over. That usually takes several months. I would add more sugar (maybe you meant to type tablespoon of sugar, not teaspoon). Is the ginger floating at all? Do you have white yeast around the bottom of the jar? Those both indicate that the ginger bug is producing yeast. How does it taste? Can you tell if it has fermented from the flavor? I have never added commercial yeast to mine but I wonder if a pinch of that might revive it.

      How did the ginger beer turn out? If you “burp” a bottle, you’ll know right away if there is any carbonation in there. You’ll get a nice pop if there is and nothing if there isn’t. If it’s a bit flat, just let it ferment longer and don’t open it.

      I hope this helps. Happy new year! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Hi Anne Marie,
        Happy New Year!
        Thanks for the response. No it was just 1 teaspoon of sugar that I was using to the 1 tablespoon of ginger. This is what the recipe I had found stated. Over the last couple of days I had tried to up the sugar as thought it might want more food, but to no avail. The ginger has now stopped floating and I don’t really see the white yeast around the bottom of the jar anymore. Tasting it, it just tastes sharp, but not fermented.
        I burped one of the bottles of ginger beer and it only had the slightest of fizzes. So who knows where it has all gone wrong. I am in Australia and it is summer at the moment so I don’t think being too cold would be a problem.
        I might try and keep feeding it with an increase in sugar and maybe a pinch of yeast, but also I have just created a new bug this morning using your recipe above just to see if I can get one going again.
        Maybe I took too much of the yeast out when I pitched, but then you would think I would have a nice heavy carbonation to my ginger beer?!
        So new to this all, but determined to get it happening!
        I have sourdough and kombucha sitting in the same corner, hopefully they aren’t bad for each other?!?

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hello! Sometimes it’s easier to start a new bug than try to revive one. I’ve had to do that a few times. Actually, I often ending up making a new one every six months or so. Yes, I think it’s fine if the kombucha and sourdough hang out together. A few people have told me they feed kombucha to their starter! I haven’t tried it but it sounds intriguing.

  46. Oh no! I just realised I might have grated my ginger on a board that had lemon juice on it!! Is this bad? Have I killed it completely? Or is it likely to come back?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I think that would be fine. The fresh lemon juice would have extra microbes that I think the ginger bug would like. That shouldn’t kill your ginger bug. Oh, how warm is your kitchen? Have you had a cold spell? Maybe your ginger bug needs a sweater 🙂

  47. Hi Anne Marie. Absolutely love this recipe! Ginger beer is my favourite drink by far. I made this a few months ago with great success. But since then every ginger bug I have started has become overrun with mould on top. Do you have this problem or do you know where I’m going wrong?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Rose. Oh no! I haven’t had that happen. Is your kitchen very warm? How long before the mold sets in? You may just need to stir it more frequently (several times a day) to aerate it and prevent mold from setting in. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  48. Thanks for the article! I am very excited about the ginger bug and have tried three times the last month and failed each time. the first time I realized I didn’t use organic ginger. The next two times, I have used organic ginger, non-chlorinated water, and sugar and it begins to bubble on day 3, and so I add more sugar and ginger and then the next day no bubbles. I keep feeding it for another week and nothing. Once it starts to bubble do you just stop feeding it? Am I killing it by continuing to add it sugar and ginger once it starts to bubble? I figured that three days was not long enough (even though bubbling) and so continued to feed it and it always stops bubbling by the next day. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I have all sorts of roots and spices to begin making homemade root beer and ginger beer and definitely eager to get it going. Thank you for your help!:-)

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My pleasure, Hannah. I hope your ginger bug turns out better this time. I’ve been hearing this a lot lately–people start their bug, it bubbles and then nothing. I wonder if it’s cold weather (is it cold where you live?). You aren’t killing it by continuing to feed it. That should keep it lively. Does the ginger float at all even though you don’t see bubbles? Yeast should settle on the bottom also–you’ll see some white stuff. Does it taste like it’s fermenting? It will have a tang to it that the plain ginger, sugar and water won’t have. Good luck! ~ Anne Marie

  49. What do you do with the ginger after you strainit into a drink? I feel bad throwing it away!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jordan, Lately I have been using just the bits of ginger to ferment hibiscus tea. I’ll add a heaping tablespoon to a 16-ounce bottle. Works really well! Almost too well. The last bottle was super carbonated. I had to put it in the fridge to calm it down. We just polished it off last night. Really yummy. I also sometimes add the strained ginger bits to flavor my kombucha. ~ Anne Marie

  50. Thank you for the recipe! I have tried it 3 times in the past month and was hoping you could help me. The ginger bug starts bubbling great, almost foaming, then goes flat on day 3 and grows a thin layer of fluffy white mold. I have changed the container, the stirring tools, and use Winn Dixie purified water. Do you know what might be going wrong? Every single batch has grown that white fluffy mold on top. Do I spoon it out and continue feeding the bug?
    Thank you so much!

    1. Did you cover it?

      1. Wendy, toss it if it gets mold. Make your Ginger Beer or other fermented drink on day 2 when the bug is bubbly. Trying to keep it going longer, doesn’t always work well for me either, plus I think it just makes a more vigorous “soda” when it is at it’s most bubbly stage.

      2. Avi Rosenberg says:

        How much alcohol will a drink made with this contain, I’ve heard of you ferment for 2 days it’s about 1%. Is this true?

  51. Do you think it is possible to do more with the left over ginger from the bug or after it has made the drink rather than compost it? Another ferment in cooking?

  52. Thanks for your recipe. I started a ginger bug with 3 c of water filtered and two tsp of grated ginger and two tsp if organic confectionery sugar. Another recipe said sugar didn’t matter but that organic is better. SO my question is do I replace ginger bug liquid taken out as you instruct above? Cup for cup and add more ginger and sugar? Also I made a fermented lemonade with honey wTer and fresh lemon juice. It was fermenting or so I thought so I added 1)2 c of the ginger bug to it. It was a tall 2 qurt capped bottle. Now hopefully it will ferment. What do you think?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Sheila,
      Yes, I would replace the bug you strained off with the equivalent amount of water and add sugar and ginger daily as before but use your organic sugar since it’s working better. If you added that much ginger bug to your lemonade, it should ferment. Be sure to burp it (open and close the lid) so the carbon dioxide doesn’t build up too much in there. If, when you burp the bottle, you don’t get much of a hiss, don’t burp it for two or three days. As you ferment more, you’ll get a better idea of how long to let these carbonated drinks sit. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  53. Hello!
    We left our ginger bug a little too long without feeding it and now we have a mother (like a kombucha mother) sitting on top. Don’t get me wrong, it smells wonderful but can I just continue as is or should we remove the mother? Maybe it’s because we keep the ginger bug in the same cupboard as our kombucha and June? PS. Just fell on your blog, cannot wait to try your natural soda recipes ; )

  54. Maren Thalhammer says: Reply

    Hi Anne Marie, thanks for the great recipe! Just tried it and I am very much looking forward to the resu. I was just wondering if you can use screw top bottles as well, as I only had old wine bottles at hand now.
    Thanks! Maren from Germany

  55. If you want to make a gallon of ginger bug, can you just scale up the ingredients? Also would you use a scaled up amount for the feeding of it?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Chris, I have never made that much but I would increase the initial ginger, sugar and water by the same multiple that you’d need to get a gallon. For feedings, I think you can be a little more conservative. So if you multiply everything by 10 (I haven’t done the math, I’m just giving an example), I would do a little less for the feedings. I sometimes feed mine only a teaspoon of each and not a tablespoon and it works. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

  56. Thanks, I will try that. The recovery time on the ginger bug should be quicker using a large batch. When a recipe only takes one cup at a time.

  57. Is there a way to kill the bug once it is bottled? I can’t pasturuze it because I use plastic bottles. Thanks

  58. So I have tried a couple of times now to make a ginger bug. The first couple of times failed. They started to bubble, then when I added sugar and ginger again on the 3rd day, it just stopped and would not come back. I was using standard white sugar and distilled water. I don’t know the provenance of the ginger, but it was from Sprouts, so likely organic? This time I decided to use purified water and after 3 days, it was only just barely bubbling. I found some demerera sugar and added that on night 3, and the next morning came out and saw a half an inch thick layer of foamy bubbles that smelled VERY yeasty, almost like wine! I figured that maybe that sugar must be what worked? I covered it with a coffee filter and canning ring, though I have some silicone airlocks too I could use. I made some ginger ale by simmering some ginger and demerera sugar in some purified water and putting it in a 2 qt jar, with about a half cup of the bug. It’s bubbling on top, but smells VERY yeasty, almost alcoholic-y. Is that normal?

  59. Hello! I recently bought a fermenter for yoghurt, sauerkraut, rice wine, pickes and other fermented delicacy. I’ve never done ginger beer before, but I was wondering if I could use my fermenter for creating the bug / doing fermentation. I can set up the temperature and incubation time to will (from 25 to 65 C, and from 1 to 99h). I can’t find anyone online using these for anything else than yoghurt. I was thinking since it keeps the temps steady, it would actually be a good tool. Anyone has any recommendation for what temperature and time I should use for this? I live in Australia, so temperatures wouldn’t be bellow 25 in summer in the house anyway.

  60. Can i use the ginger bug liquid to replace whey and ferment vegetables with it?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Cindy,
      Yes, that will work. Enjoy!
      Anne Marie

  61. Thank you.

  62. I don’t know if anyone else has found uses for their spent ginger root from their bug….but I just added some to blueberry muffins I made, so wonderful and no waste.

  63. Amen I started my bug a few days ago. I opened it up and stirred it vigorously but forgot to feed it for the first two days after I made it (I missed that part in the recipe) I have fed it since but I’m just wondering if I should toss it? Thank you!!

  64. Ann Marie! I started my ginger bug but missed the part where you have to feed it everyday, is there a way to save it? The bug LOOKS bubbly, like somethings going on, but I starved it for so long!

  65. Hello! I’ve had my ginger bug -Sullivan- going for about 3 weeks now and he is loving life! We are headed on a trip soon though, and I was curious about putting him in the fridge. Do you fasten the lid on while it’s in the fridge, or do you simply leave it covered with the cloth? Also, will he be okay in the fridge for two weeks with no feeding? Thanks for the recipes! We have a batch of ginger beer fermenting right now– on day 2, and can’t wait to see how it turns out! 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Bethany,
      I’m happy to hear that Sullivan is doing well 🙂 He will be okay in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I would feed him right before you leave and than again as soon as you come home. I’d also put a lid on him while he is in there.
      Have a great trip!
      Anne Marie

  66. Jillian Bohrer says: Reply

    Hi! So you dont use any champagne yeast to get your ABV up? just the yeast in the bug and some extra sugar is enough?

    1. Hi Jillian,
      I don’t know what the alcohol content is. Fairly low usually unless I let it sit for a long time and then it’s higher. I have very low tolerance I can really sense even small amounts. I use only the wild yeast that develops in my ginger bug to make this. It makes delicious ginger beer. Very carbonated also.
      ~ Anne Marie

  67. Jessica Cloutier says: Reply

    When storing your mature ginger bug in the fridge should the ginger still be floating at the top? My liquid seems to be darker than yours in the photos, and my ginger has all sunk to the bottom.

  68. Stella Stewart says: Reply

    i had a very active bubbly ginger bug (Laurence), and i had to put the lid on for transport but put it on too soon after feeding and i assumed . he died because was no longer bubbly, even after feeding it. but being the lazy person i am, i left him on the counter with cheesecloth over it and now it seems to be bubbly again, can i still use it to make something even after a week of no feedings?

    1. Hi Stella,
      I would taste Laurence and if he is sweet and sour and not boozy, I would feed him once, maybe twice, and then make something with him. Enjoy!
      ~ Anne Marie

  69. Hi! Thank you for this recipe! Where do you buy organic ginger?

    1. Hi Joshua,
      I can get it at a mom and pop independent grocer near me and also at Whole Foods.
      ~ Anne Marie

  70. Hi Anne Marie! Thanks so much for the recipe! I’m on day six of my ginger bug so far but I’m not having the results I was hoping for… some ginger is floating at the top but not all. There’s white sediment at the bottom and it’s not bubbling but does smell quite yeasty… does this sound like what happened to you when you used non-organic ginger?

  71. […] Fermented foods and drinks are so good for digestion. I love to make fermented juice. It’s similar to Kombuca but much easier to make. The “ginger bug” does all the work. Here is a link that I used to help me: […]

  72. Anthony Sipple says: Reply

    Hi! So I have a few kombucha scobies I’ve grown in a jar with a clean cloth covering it. But my problem is there are little white bugs crawling on the sides of the jar. Is there any way to save the scobies or do I have to start over?

    1. Hi Anthony,
      I’ve had that happen. They are fruit fly larvae 🙁 I have read that you can wash them off and brew again but because I teach classes and give so many SCOBYs away, I compost my SCOBYs. It’s a personal preference. Whatever you decide to do, you might want to start a SCOBY hotel once you have extra SCOBY babies. You put your spares in there as backup. If disaster strikes, you have a jarful of insurance policies.
      ~ Anne Marie

  73. Hi! I want to start making ginger beer and am starting my ginger bug soon but I would also like to make non-alcoholic bubbly teas for my kiddo. Is everything fermented this way alcoholic? He loves sparkling water and that’s his ‘pop’ when we have special drinks but I hate buying it.

  74. How do you store the ginger root you use for ginger bug? I’ve been keeping mine in the freezer, but I wonder if that messes with the microbes.

    1. Hi Nora, I keep it in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures won’t harm the microbes. Even the freezer is fine.
      ~ Anne Marie

  75. Thank you so much!

  76. Hi! I wonder if anyone has tried to make turmeric-bug! Having a small crop of homegrown roots, I feel like I am going to try it!

    1. Hi Georgia,
      I haven’t tried it but have read that it works very well. As with ginger, you’ll want to use organic turmeric.
      ~ Anne Marie

  77. Is it imperative to stir the bug every day after feeding??? Tk u

    1. Hi Teresa,
      You can just stir it once after you feed it. It will help dissolve the sugar and also help prevent mold from finding a home in there.
      ~ Anne Marie

  78. Hi! first of all thanks for this recipe! but why unpeeled ginger? Can I peel my ginger to start?

    1. Hi Subin,
      Sure, you can peel it. Unpeeled or peeled will work.
      ~ Anne Marie

  79. Can I take a break from my ginger bug? For example, you can store a sourdough starter in the fridge and reduce to weekly feedings or freeze the starter. Is there an equivalent way to reduce or take a longer break from the ginger bug?

    1. Absolutely! I normally keep mine in the refrigerator and take it out about once a week or so to feed it. If I don’t plan to make anything, I return it to the refrigerator after a couple of hours. I’ve also frozen my ginger but and the little bits of ginger I remove. I’ve made drinks just with those.
      ~ Anne Marie

  80. Claudett de Bruin says: Reply

    Hi, can you bake bread with a very active ginger bug?

    1. Hi Claudett,
      I would love to experiment with that. You could probably make a good sourdough starter with ginger bug and use that to bake bread. You’d just mix flour into the ginger bug (equal parts by weight) and then feed it fresh flour and water every day once it’s established (which wouldn’t take long). If you don’t know what I mean, here is a post on sourdough starter: I might make a starter today that way and see what happens.
      ~ Anne Marie

  81. Will taking a shot of ginger bug every day be good for you or of no use? Not interested in making Soda etc

  82. Miranda Jewett says: Reply

    Two questions, I have an amber mason jar i want to start it in, does it need to be clear or can I use that? And would you use a pickle pipe on top for fermenting or would that let too much out? Thank you!

    1. Hi Miranda,
      An amber jar is fine. For the ginger bug, you can add a pickle pipe if you like. It’s fine for carbon dioxide to escape. I sometimes brew a new bug with just a cloth attached securely to the jar. When you bottle the drink, you’d want a tight seal though.

  83. After seeing your reel on Instagram for hibiscus soda, I made my way over here and knew that if it was this easy and science-y, I HAD to try it! By day three my bug was sizzling and gurgling when I stirred it – I was elated! I held off and waited the full five days, though, and am in the process of steeping my hibiscus tea right now. I already have a batch of lemonade bottled and waiting, too!

    I had tons of questions, but after going through your various soda recipes, comments, and replies, they were all answered. I cannot wait to try the finished drinks, thank you for sharing your recipes with us!

    1. Hello! Thank you for heading over here from Instagram 🙂 I’m glad your ginger bug is bubbling away. Mine often calms down—I get lots of questions about this—so don’t worry if yours shows less activity. If you burp the bottles and nothing happens, let them sit for a few days before burping again OR add more ginger bug to them. (But don’t try both of those remedies at the same time because your drinks may carbonate too much and cause exploding bottles!) I don’t know if those tricks help but I hear questions about bug activity and carbonation more than anything. Enjoy your drinks!

  84. Yup! I added more ginger bug to bottles that were not carbonating and that did the trick. But after a day, and burping like crazy that day, I put them in the frig. I thought all was safe, but I learned to keep burping even after putting them in the frig, because a week later, I had one explode in the frig! What a mess!

    1. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that!

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