Naturally Fermented Ginger Ale

by Meg Cotner on October 10, 2011

Last week, I wrote about the ginger bug I created – this is the starter for naturally fermented ginger ale. It’s made from ginger, sugar, and water, it ferments rather quickly – really, in a matter of days. I let mine ferment for about five days (I fed it twice during that time). The next thing to do was to make the ginger ale itself!

It’s a pretty simple process. I chose to make a half batch, since it’s essentially a test batch; I’ll often make smaller batches of something I make for the first time. I started by combining 3/4 cup organic sugar and a 1 inch knob of ginger root (grated) with four cups of water. I also set aside the juice of one lemon.

sugar lemon ginger for naturally fermented ginger ale

I put the water in a pot, grated the ginger into it (I prefer to use a microplane for this task), and added the sugar. I brought that to a boil and let it cook for 15 minutes, uncovered. Then I let it cool to room temperature.

boiling the ginger, sugar, and water

After everything cooled to room temperature, I strained the liquid out of this sweet ginger mixture. I did that by setting a wide mouth funnel over a half gallon mason jar. I lined the funnel with two layers of cheesecloth – enough to cover the inside of the funnel and fall over the sides – and poured in the liquid; at first I tried three layers but that proved to be too much of a barrier to let everything through, so I went with two.

Then, I strained the ginger bug itself through the cheesecloth. In the end, I ended up grasping the edges of the cheescloth, then squeezing any remaining liquid through the ginger pulp.

I added the lemon juice, then added enough water to fill the mixture to the top, enough to make a half gallon.¬†After I added the water, I screwed on the lid – the same one I referenced in my summer preservation review post. The original recipe (from Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation) specifies the following vessels as appropriate for this fermentation: “Recycle plastic soda bottles with screw tops; rubber gasket ‘bail-top’ bottles that Grolsch and some other premium beers use; sealable juice jugs; or capped beer bottles.”

ginger ale ready to ferment

Here’s hoping this fermentation lid works. I’ll know in a couple of weeks. The ferment is sitting on my countertop in a warm corner of the kitchen.

storing the ginger ale

There’s a little bit of sediment in the bottom and floating on the top of the unfermented ginger ale. I doubt it will be a problem, but we’ll see.

And I’ll see if I have ginger ale in a week and a half!

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Naomi June 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Ooh I’m so excited to follow these steps to carbonate my old Jamaican ginger beer recipe. Lots of great recipes on your site.

Cody July 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

You aren’t going to get a very carbonated beverage. Are you trying to make this alcoholic? That device you have on top of the mason jar is designed to allow the CO2 to escape, which you ordinarily don’t want to do when making a soda. This is pretty friggin amazing, though.

Meg July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

You are correct, Cody. It did let the CO2 escape, but no O2 got in, which was a help. I ended up filtering it and then transferring it to a swing top bottle, and it fizzed up. When I do water kefir, I also let it ferment with just a cloth over the , then put it in a swing top for the second fermentation.

These comments have been great, everyone. I think I’ll do a little follow up post on this ginger ale business. Especially now that I know more about the process!

Karen July 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I made the recipe for the ginger ale and when I went to add the ginger bug I couldn’t find a specific amount in your recipe. Am I overlooking it? Thanks for the help!


Meg July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi Karen – the ginger bug is about a cup of liquid (see prior comment). I’ll adjust the post to make it clearer. Thanks!

Michelle July 25, 2012 at 1:36 am

I am also looking for a specific amount of gingerbug to add. I have gotten all the way to letting my ginger syrup cool and realized I have no idea how much ginger bug to add. Hoping to hear something soon.

Meg July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi Michelle – sorry it was a bit confusing and I can see how that is. The ginger bug ends up being about a cup of liquid, since I started out with a cup of water. I hope that helps. I’ll also made an edit to the appropriate post to make it clearer. Thanks for your feedback and question!

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