Thumb Your Nose at Big Soda: Naturally Carbonated Lemonade

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This past Monday, summer arrived here in Silicon Valley. I could hear kids splashing in the pool outside. The ice cream truck, which, oddly, plays “Little Brown Jug,” resumed trolling the neighborhood. And with school about to end, parents went into panic mode. But something else tipped me off that summer had begun: My bulk coconut oil completely melted. Time for lemonade.

I don’t know what to call this effervescent drink, other than delicious. It tastes lemony and spicy and refreshes on a hot day as it’s not too sweet. Lemginade? Gingemonade? Pleasemakemoreade? I’m sure it has a name…

fizzy lemonade
My coconut oil in the glass jar on the right doubles as a thermometer

Ginger bug

To make this fizzy lemonade, you first need to make ginger bug from organic ginger, sugar and water, and nurture it for about five days. Over time, I had accumulated a large bug so I strained it, composted half and started over. I refrigerated the liquid for two weeks so it had less vigor than freshly strained would. As insurance (and an experiment), I used double the usual amount for this batch (so 1/2 cup instead of the 1/4 cup you’ll find in the recipe below). It worked!

One of the many things I love about fermentation is this ability to improvise. Of course, that might drive some people crazy. Recently, I called my mom (an amazing baker) for her date squares recipe, a family favorite:

For the topping, use some flour, a couple of handfuls or so. Add enough oats. Then mix brown sugar and butter in and mush it all up with your fingers until it’s crumbly. For the filling, take a bunch of dates, say, about this much [we weren’t on Skype], and cook them with brown sugar and water until they look right…

I haven’t made them.

Naturally Carbonated Lemonade


  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar or to taste
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice with or without pulp
  • 1/4 cup strained liquid from a ginger bug


1. Make lemonade. Boil water in a kettle. When the water has boiled, combine 1 cup hot water with 1/2 cup sugar. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add remaining 3 cups cool water. You need your lemonade at room temperature. By making it this way—with 1 cup hot water plus 3 cups cool—you don’t have to wait long for the water to cool down. NEVER ADD YOUR BUG TO HOT WATER. You will kill the microbes and the fermentation will not work.

2. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the sugar-water. I like to harness the lactic acid bacteria present on the lemons, which will help ferment your drink (but mostly the ginger bug ferments it), so I add the lemon juice after the water has cooled to room temperature.

3. Add the ginger bug to the lemonade and stir.

4. Bottle your drink. Fill flip-top bottles and set them aside for two days, three if you have a cool kitchen. As the microbes eat the sugar, they release carbon dioxide, which carbonates your drink. BE CAREFUL! If you let the fermentation go too long, the bottles may explode. I have never had this happen but have read about it, so I often put my bottles in a cupboard to ferment. A cardboard box works too. The garage is ideal. After you have made a few fermented drinks like this or kombucha, you will get a feel for how long to let the secondary fermentation go.

5. Chill a few hours before serving.


You can also use your ginger bug to make naturally carbonated hibiscus soda. Get the recipe for that here.

13 Comment

  1. Give your mum a hug from me. She is 100% kinesthetic learner. She memorizes things by doing. I can understand her soooo well. BTW, nice lemonade recipe!

    1. I will have to watch my mum make them. She is an amazing baker. Glad you like the recipe 🙂

  2. […] thing we’re definitely doing is making this Naturally Carbonated Lemonade from the Zero Waste Chef. Refreshing and […]

  3. Yet another fun recipe to try! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for checking it out, Karen 🙂

  4. So after the secondary fermentation is over, can you store them in the fridge, or will they explode?

    1. Yes, move them to the fridge after they’ve fermented a couple of days at room temperature, otherwise they might explode. I have never had it happen but it does worry me…The fridge slows down fermentation. I just put some in the fridge this morning that looked super bubbly. You might find one day is long enough for the secondary fermentation. It depends on your kitchen environment.

  5. […] Bugs are also great ways to craft lightly effervescent, pro-biotic, natural “sodas” (“Thumb Your Nose at Big Soda,” as Zero-Waste Chef tells you) — but I like the purity and ease of “harvesting” […]

  6. I’ve started my ginger bug and am ready to make all the fizzy drinks! Just a question though: Is the lemonade alcoholic? Would it be safe to let my 3 year old drink it?

    1. If you let it ferment for only two or three days it shouldn’t be alcoholic. Technically, all fermented foods have some alcohol in them, even bread, but the level is very low. I am a lightweight and so am a excellent gauge for alcohol content (one glass of wine and I am practically under the table). I haven’t detected any alcohol in the lemonade. If I let my ginger beer ferment in the bottle for a couple of weeks (you need to burp the bottle every couple of days if you ferment it so long b/c CO2 builds up), it definitely has alcohol. I hope that helps and that you enjoy your fizzy drinks 🙂

  7. For the secondary fermentation, I’m guessing the caps are on while the microbes do their work? Or is the top left open?

    1. That’s right Brianna. Otherwise the CO2 will escape and you won’t get any fizz. If you let it ferment in the bottles for a while, burp them (i.e., open the lids) every couple of days (depending on how fizzy they get) to release built-up CO2 and prevent explosions. It’s a good idea to cover the bottle with a towel just in case they are super bubbly and spray your precious drink all over. ~ Anne Marie

  8. […] I’m currently fermenting Zero Waste Chef’s Naturally Carbonated Lemonade in my pantry right now–it’s so good! You start by making a ginger bug and then add a […]

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