How To Make a Ginger Bug

by Meg Cotner on October 4, 2011

ginger bug

I’ve expanded my fermentation repertoire to ginger beer/ale. I love ginger and have enjoyed ginger ale in the past. I don’t care for most commercial ginger ale because it contains high fructose corn syrup. No doubt there are artisanal ginger ales, though, which probably contain sugar in place of HFCS, which would be better. But I really want to learn to make it and determine the sugar content myself.

I’m using the recipe in Wild Fermentation. The way to start the process of ginger ale is to create a ginger bug. This is pretty easy at first glance – grated ginger root and sugar (2 tsp each) are combined with water (1 cup), stir to dissolve the sugar, cover the jar with layers of cheesecloth (I did five layers), then let it sit for a day or so to ferment. Fermentation is evident by bubbles forming on the top layer of the ginger-sugar-water mix.

So far, I’ve seen lots of bubbles. I’ve been feeding it ginger and sugar every other day or so to keep the fermentation up. This week I’ll take the next step toward making ginger ale – more on that later.

This is actually my second ginger bug – two fruit flies found their way into the first one I made. I had few layers of cheesecloth on top of the jar, but I guess they wiggled their way in. Gross.

Bottom photo is the grated ginger root (I grated it with a microplane) and organic sugar. The top photo has the water added to that. I used just tap water (perhaps not the best choice, but it’s what I had). I’m excited to see if it all works out!

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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Liberty October 5, 2011 at 3:46 pm

OOHHH – inspiring!! need. to. try this out!Blessings

Meg October 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Thanks, Liberty!

Ann October 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Hi! I love this idea, and while I own Wild Fermentation, I had not seen this recipe.

We currently make kombucha and kefir, and my method for keeping out buggies is to use unbleached muslin instead of cheesecloth. The air still circulates freely, but the weave is too tight for fruit flies and gnats. I usually rubberband around the container after I drape the muslin over the top. It creates a nice, breathable seal!

Meg October 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Hi Ann – thank you so much for the suggestion of muslin over cheesecloth – this should really help with the fruit flies, my fermentation nemesis. I guess I could just pick up a remnant at any fabric store.

The ginger bug recipe is within the Ginger Beer recipe in Wild Fermentation. He starts everything off with a ginger bug. If this works out for me, I will be extremely happy! Wild Fermentation is full of all sorts of gems, and I expect to spend the cooler months playing around with them.

mitch February 6, 2012 at 6:18 pm

An old (washed and clean) cotton t-shirt and rubber-band works great for me. I’ve never messed around with cheesecloth. Wild Fermentation is a REALLY fun book to experiment around with! Best of luck!

Pataphysical February 18, 2012 at 10:16 am

Im curious if you’ve had any problems with the final product turning gelatinous, Im following the Wild Fermentation recipe and fed the bug for a week. When I brewed a batch the bug was thick like jelly and couldnt strain it easily and now the bottled product is the same way also. Ive been trying out flushing the bug similar to a bread starter to see if that works but if anyone else is had this problem how they corrected it

Meg February 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm

A gelatinous consistency was never present, and a little bit of ginger ale ended up sitting at the back of my fridge for several months and it stayed the consistency of water. I wonder what would have created the gelatinous texture? Perhaps it was something as simple as the vessel not being totally sterilized, or some odd yeast found its way into it. I’m fascinated by this. Did it smell off at all?

Sarah June 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I started my ginger bug 5 days ago and don’t have bubbles yet– does that mean it’s a dud, or should I be patient? Thanks!

lex skeggs July 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm

how to make ginger beer when you bottle of the bug

Jude Albright July 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

Hi, my Ginger big never got bubbles, but it did get mold spots. I used a jar that may not have been totally airtight, is that why?

Meg February 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

Thanks, mitch! For my water kefir, I’ve been using an old tea towel with a somewhat loose weave. I also picked up these kitchen towels at all places, CVS, and they have really worked well for straining stock – I think they would also do well for the ginger bug, or water kefir, or sourdough starter – things that need air flow.

Wild Fermentation is one of my favorite food books! So much to explore in there!

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