RECIPE: Ginger Bug Starter

Ginger bug is the basis of my favourite probiotic soda pop. Unlike kombucha, jun, and water kefir, it doesn’t require much maintenance and feeding. A well-established starter will last for a month in the fridge without feeding. Mostly, I love ginger bug because I can catch it and keep it alive for the summer months. I let it go for the winter months when I’d rather drink tea.

Ginger bug can also be used to culture other fermented foods in addition to being good for brewing ginger beer and berry soda. Once you have your starter going, try making gingered apple sauce, rhubarb preserves, or bread and butter ginger bug pickles. All of which can be found in Fermenting Made Simple.

Catching the Ginger Bug

Makes: 1 Quart (1L) Starter

3½ cups (875 mL) chlorine-free water
5 Tbsp (75 mL) raw sugar or panela, divided
5 Tbsp grated ginger (from a piece of unpeeled organic ginger), divided

  1. Mix all the water and 3 Tbsp of the sugar in a 1-quart (1 L) glass jar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add 3 Tbsp of the grated ginger to the glass jar. Stir to fully mix.
  2. Place a piece of fabric or coffee filter over the opening of the jar and secure it in place with a metal jar ring or a rubber band. Leave to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, giving it a good stir each day. After 3–7 days, bubbles will have started forming at the top of the jar. If you aren’t certain whether it has started bubbling, lick the spoon after stirring. It should feel slightly sparkling.
  3. Once the ginger bug starter has started bubbling, feed it 1 Tbsp of sugar and 1 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger every 24 hours for two days. After two days of feeding it will be ready for brewing ginger beer or soda. Cap with a lid and store in the fridge until you’re ready to brew.

Feeding a Ginger Bug Starter

A ginger bug starter will last for a month in the fridge without feeding. And it’s enough to brew at least six batches of ginger beer or soda.

To replenish the starter, add ¼ cup (60 mL) of water with 1 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger and 1 Tbsp of sugar whenever you brew. Leave it out on the counter, covered with a cloth or coffee filter for 24 hours, before capping and returning to the fridge.

If you start to build up spent ginger at the bottom of your ginger bug jar, just remove some and use it for ginger beer cookies or teff gingerbread cake. 

Excerpted from Fermenting Made Simple by Emillie Parrish. Copyright © 2022 by Emillie Parrish.