Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Make a Ginger Bug Natural Soda Starter

A ginger bug, which is a natural carbonated soda starter, helps to give lacto-fermented foods an inoculation of the right type of microorganisms to get a proper fermentation going. I started using one when I began making lacto-fermented sodas a year ago, but have also found it handy for making honey wine, beet kvass, and anything else that needs a bit of "culture".

ginger bug lacto-fermented soda starter

It's simple to make, and requires only two ingredients: Fresh, organic fresh ginger with the peel intact, and sugar (see note below). To begin, mince or grate about an inch of ginger and add it to a tablespoon of sugar in a quart jar. Stir together with 2 cups of dechlorinated water (read here about how to dechlorinate your own water). Chlorine can inhibit the kind of growth we're aiming for, and it's easy to remove if you plan ahead.

A note on sugar: The natural fermentation that occurs in the formation of the ginger bug will be more successful if it's fed the trace minerals, particularly iron, that naturally occur in unprocessed sugars like sucanat and rapidura. There are lots of variations on these "evaporated cane juice" type sweeteners. If you are using plain white sugar, you should add a dollop of blackstrap molasses once in a while to beef up the nutrients in order to help the ginger bug grow.

Cover your jar with a cloth and rubber band, so it can breathe but stays free of dust and fruit flies. Give the starter a stir twice a day, and once a day add a teaspoon each of sugar and minced or grated ginger. In a couple days it will start bubbling when you stir it, but it's really ready when you can hear it bubbling before you stir it. It takes about 3 days to mature, or longer in a cold room.

I use about a cup of starter liquid for each gallon-size batch of soda I make, or 1/4 cup of starter per quart for smaller batches. Just pour your ginger bug through a strainer into a measuring cup and it's ready to use. Heat will destroy the enzymes, so make sure whatever you're adding it to has cooled to just warm.

Lacto-fermented honey wine, kombucha, and rootbeer
From Left: Honey Wine, Kombucha, and Rootbeer. The wine & rootbeer were both started using a ginger bug.
Replace the water in your starter jar, add some more sugar and ginger, and the ginger bug will be ready to use again in a day or two. If you don't need it that soon, just cap it tightly and stick it in the fridge. Remove it from the fridge and revive it with some more sugar & ginger a couple days before you need it again. It will keep indefinitely if fed and stored properly. When mine eventually got about 1/3 full of minced ginger I found I didn't need to add fresh ginger as often. As long as it's bubbly you know it's active. It should smell gingery; if it ever develops a foul smell, compost it and try again.

Now that you have a lovely, bubbling ginger bug going, Try out my recipe for delicious natural ginger ale. The ginger bug can be used for many other natural fermentation projects, so don't limit yourself to ginger ale. But it's a great place to start!

My friend tried making this from frozen ginger and got no action, so the natural enzymes present in fresh ginger might be deactivated by freezing. Also, I've read that the required enzymes are concentrated in the skin, so I would avoid using peeled ginger, and always buy organic if you can find it.

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June 10, 2012 at 5:42 AM

FYI, We buy our organic ginger in bulk and freeze it to have it on hand. I have been making Gingerbeer (soda) for three years with my defrosted ginger. (Using the same culturing method you share above.) I am not sure why your friend had trouble, but I don't think that was the reason, because we have never had a problem using our ginger from the freezer. Just thought you might like to know that, because it is very handy to always have the ginger on hand. :-)
www.homeshalom.blogspot.com

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June 10, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Oh, that is great to know! I'm glad it still works from frozen ginger, I know that's a lot more convenient for most people. I use fresh ginger in our smoothies every day, so it works for me to just store it in the fridge since we go through it relatively quickly. Who knows why my friend's starter failed; she leads a hectic life, so it may have been neglected, or it may have been the fact that it wasn't organic. Thanks for the info!

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June 10, 2012 at 7:06 AM

I think my first suspicion would go toward the fact that is not organic. Especially if the most effective enzymes might be found in the skin...but it is just a hunch. I am bias that way too. :-) Yes, we use ginger regularly...which is why we buy it by it in 5-10#...that's a lot of ginger...it's pretty light. :-) You have a great little blog here! I will book mark it. I am always looking for good inspiration in raw, cultured, herbal ideas to add to our lives! Thanks for sharing.

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June 10, 2012 at 3:05 PM

I can't wait to try fermenting juice - I don't drink pop and you know, sometimes it would be great to have a little fizz that isn't wine ;o) Oh, and I have a tablecloth the same material as your center jar!

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June 18, 2012 at 5:03 AM

Can't wait to try this. We make water kefir and ginger ale, but they would be so much better with a little fizz!

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June 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM

Well guys, I've tried making the ginger bug twice. The first time it bubbled a little on the second day. The second time, it bubbled a little the first evening, late. I fed it each day per the instructions with ginger and sugar, but still can't keep it active. Can't figure out what I could be doing wrong. Does it need to sit in a warm room, cold room? Totally covered with a towel to keep it dark. I've been using a folded paper towel over the top.

I'd love to hear suggestions: lgriffinwriter@bellsouth.net

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July 1, 2012 at 7:27 AM

Interesting... and how discouraging! Well, you can see how I cover mine in the photo- it's just a small linen cloth over the opening of the jar. Cotton would be fine too, and I imagine a paper towel is perfect. It just needs to breathe, while keeping fruit flies & dust out. I do store mine out of direct light. I don't know how light sensitive it is, but I wouldn't put it on a sunny windowsil.
Have you stirred yours twice a day? It only needs new sugar & ginger once a day, but it does need to be stirred more often. I keep mine just on the counter at room temp in my kitchen. If you live in a hot climate, it could be going through the sugar a lot faster; if that's the case you could feed it sugar twice a day. If the room's too cold it will be slower, but our kitchen is very cool most of the year and three days works here. Also, are you using organic ginger, with the peel ON? I think both of these details are important, since the peel contains an enzyme that assists fermentation, and any chemicals in conventional ginger could inhibit fermentation.
Kudos to you for giving it another shot! Remember that once you get it going strong, you never have to make it again. It should last in your fridge (with a real lid on it) indefinitely, with occasional feeding, and water replacement, as it gets used.

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July 4, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Do you have any ideas about using honey as opposed to cane sugar? My four year old can't process cane or beet sugar so honey and maple syrup are our options.

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July 5, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Well, honey can inhibit fermentation, because of its natural antibacterial properties. It still might work though. It would just take a few days to try making this starter with honey and see... What about coconut sugar? I've never used it, but it seems to be a good substitute in other things.

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July 6, 2012 at 8:15 PM

Thanks for linking this up at the Carnival of Home Preserving!

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July 9, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Thank you for your reply. My fingers are crossed that this last batch is the magic one. The Ginger Bug is bubbling nicely. I hear bubbles before I stir, but the ginger, or at least parts of it, still float on the surface and aren't sinking like in the pic above. I did end of covering my jar with a towel this time instead of just a paper towel over the top. I live in the south, so it's warm here. My kitchen stays around 75 degrees. Will be sure to let you guys know how it goes. lol. I checked the barcode on my ginger, and think it's conventionally grown and from China. There are four digits in the barcode, starting with a four. Will try to find organic the next time I try it. Love your blog and all the recipes, btw. :)

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July 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM

I have jsut made my first bug! I was a little worried as my ginger floated and it didn't seem very fizzy. I decided to try it in some grocery store orange juice with a bit of dechlorinated water anyway. It's warm here right now, within 1 day the orange was super fizzy. I love it and love not having to remember to keep the whey from the yoghurt to ferment my sodas. going to try ginger ale next :-) Awesome for lovely husband who is type 1 diabetic. using a hydrometer I can let him know just how low sugar each batch is.

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July 17, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Oh that's perfect, I'm so glad it works for orange juice! I haven't tried it yet, but I definitely want to. What a great way to reduce the sugar for your husband!

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July 22, 2012 at 9:17 AM

So I'm on day 3 & no real bubbles yet. I'm wondering if I need to add more water? I followed the directions & even de-chlorinated my water just in case but so far not so good. Any ideas? We ferment water kefir, booch, & veggies regularly. All have respective covers (some air tight some not) would that create problems?

Any suggestions would be appreciated

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July 22, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Does if fizz even a little when you stir it? Perhaps it's just being slow...
I don't know what you mean about the covers: Is your starter covered with a tight lid? The ginger bug needs a breathable cover, like a cloth, just to keep out flies & dust.
Are you feeding it fresh minced organic ginger, with the peel on, and fresh sugar (not honey!) daily? Are you stirring twice a day?
Make sure there is no soap (or bleach!) residue inside the jar you're trying to grow in. I imagine you're already doing that since you're an experienced fermenter.
I would imagine, in the hot weather of summer, it would grow quite easily if you are following these instructions.
It's discouraging when things don't work out as planned, but maybe if you give it another try it will work. Fermentation can be fickle, but I promise once you get an established starter, it will basically take care of itself, if you feed it once in a while and store it in the fridge when not in use. It's worth another try because it's so useful! Good luck.

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August 1, 2012 at 3:37 PM

I didn't see your response until today, thank you.

It took about 6+ days to start really bubbling.

About the covers; I was just saying everything I ferment has some type of cover. Like the ginger bug the kombucha has piece of cloth over it so it can breath, I was just wondering if that could cause an issue.

Thanks again!

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Anonymous
August 8, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Does it matter if you bottle the strained ginger bug, rather than use the bug to inoculate a batch of ginger ale? The first couple of bottles I made this way tasted good, but then the bug started to smell bad so I tossed it into the compost. I confess that I forgot to dechlorinate the water at first, but that shouldn't have mattered after a couple days. The ginger was not organic.

Also, I just realized that this recipe may cause... BOTULISM! As far as I know, the only ways to prevent C. botulinum from growing are: extreme heat, high acidity, high concentration of salt or sugar, very low levels of moisture, exposure to oxygen, or storage below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If I was to try this recipe again, I would at least add plenty of lemon juice to raise the acidity, and also start with a high sugar concentration.

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Anonymous
August 11, 2012 at 4:50 AM

How did you make the rootbeer...I did get some sassafras powder from Mountain Rose and also got some roots from the woods...can I use the powder if I put it in a cloth pouch...or should I use the root?

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Anonymous
August 11, 2012 at 7:14 AM

What kind of cane sugar do you use? I would imagine that something with molasses like panela would make a more vigorous "bug" by adding trace minerals.

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August 11, 2012 at 8:58 PM

I've made a few varieties of rootbeer, but have come up with my own experimental recipes each time. They always turn out good, but I've never gotten that perfect "rootbeer" flavor- possibly because I've never used sassafras! I do use sarsaparilla, along with ginger & a little licorice. If you use the sassafras powder, it probably just doesn't need to boil as long as the other ingredients, and the cloth pouch sounds like it would be perfect. But I think either form would work. I'll make another batch of rootbeer and see if I can't perfect that recipe, then I'll post it here. Please let me know how yours turns out if you give it a shot.

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August 11, 2012 at 8:59 PM

This soda does have sugar, and the starter makes it acidic. I don't think there's anything else that you would need to do to prevent botulism. It certainly wouldn't hurt to add lemon juice, but I don't think it's anything to worry about. I think if you just bottled straight ginger bug it would be too strong to drink? But I have never tried it...

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Anonymous
August 14, 2012 at 5:01 AM

I started the Ginger Bug last Friday and it is now Tuesday and no fizz or fermentation yet...I did shake it every day and put 1 tsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of ginger....I want to put it in my sassafras tea. I also bought some HOMEBREW ROOT BEER concentrated Soda Pop Base...Contains......Natural and imitation flavors, caramel color, gum acacia, water, citric and ascorbic acid, natural quillaia extract. Preserved with sorbic & sodium benzoate....

Any comments on these ingredients?

Thanks for all the information.. Rita

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rita gareau
August 14, 2012 at 5:39 AM

Hi again....if my ginger bug doesn't ferment, I use Kombucha or water Kefir, as a starter...or yeast ?...I have all those liguids available...I would love to have rootbeer ready for my company by Sunday???????

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August 14, 2012 at 7:47 AM

While I do make kombucha, I've never tried to make kombucha soda. I'm not sure how it would be different from regular kombucha, except that you can change the flavor. If you do have a kombucha scoby, it seems like you should go ahead and try it; make a sweet ginger tea, cool it, and add a kombucha starter. It won't have the full week to ferment that I normally give kombucha, but in the heat of summer it probably doesn't need all that much time. Then, bottle it for at least 12 hours (again, in the summer heat, I'm finding my soda doesn't need 24 hours to carbonate). Refrigerate to chill and you're ready to go. Hopefully you have enough time before your guests come! The other option is that you could try using the ginger bug even though it doesn't seem bubbly. That's iffy, though. It might just not do anything... but if you taste your soda every time you stir it, you will know if it's working or going bad. Good luck to you!

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August 14, 2012 at 7:50 AM

I use Sucanat, and you're right, it does have a dark color and very strong molasses flavor. I never thought those minerals would be essential to the bug, but maybe it needs it. I assumed all the bug needed to grow was pure sugar, but I am having a few readers who are replying that they are getting no action when making their ginger bug. If it's the sugar that is an easy fix! Thanks for the question & info!

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August 14, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Hi Rita. I would worry that the preservatives might stop natural fermentation, but it might be worth trying for an experiment. It sounds like it's a product that's made for brewing, so I guess it probably would work! I'm sure it will taste great.
I had another reader ask what kind of sugar I used for the bug, since it might need trace minerals to grow well. I do use sucanat, a dark, naturally molasses-rich sweetener. If you are using white sugar, there is a chance that a more natural sweetener like sucanat, rapadura, or other evaporated cane juice-type sweeteners might work better. Or, just add a drop of molasses to your ginger bug to feed it those minerals. Good luck!

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rita g
August 14, 2012 at 1:27 PM

Thanks for all your help...I just decided to use ale yeast....and now fermenting my sassafras tea. I am making a gallon, so put in 1 3/4 c of sugar and a little vanilla....and will add a little root beer extract if it is not enough tasting. I will let you know how it taste. But I will add a little molasses to my ginger bug and will probably make ginger ale.

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August 14, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Best of luck. It's always exciting, and I hope it turns out great. Thanks for the update!

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rita
August 15, 2012 at 5:00 AM

Hi There, my ginger bug finally fermented...I did put a little bit of molasses last night...and voila, still waiting for my rootbeer to fizz....it should take 48 hours??????

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August 22, 2012 at 9:55 AM

I have used coconut sugar. It tastes a lot like turbinado sugar.

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August 27, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Hello! I was curious about the type of sugar. I only have refined, honey, and some hickory and poplar syrup. Would any of those work? Can't wait to try this! My water is becoming dechlorinated as we speak!

http://munchtalk.blogspot.com/

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August 27, 2012 at 12:30 PM

I have never tried poplar or hickory syrup! I would certainly think it would be fine to use either. It seems like people have had iffy results from using white sugar, which doesn't have any nutrients, and honey is naturally antibacterial, so it's not the best for this purpose either. It seems like either of your syrups would be the best choice.

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August 30, 2012 at 6:33 AM

Thank you for sharing this great recipe at Fit and Fabulous Fridays!! Love it!

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August 30, 2012 at 7:40 AM

I'm excited to try it. Just dechlorinated our *extremely* chlorinated water and popped the hickory syrup in with ginger! :)

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August 30, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Do you make the hickory syrup? I want to try it!

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August 31, 2012 at 7:33 AM

I don't unfortunately, but I do reviews and I received some from Hickoryworks. I'll put this recipe up on my blog with a link back to you saying I got the recipe and adapted it from you, if it works. Is that ok? The syrup is delicious!!

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August 31, 2012 at 7:39 AM

My mistake! I'm actually using poplar syrup. They sent me both. :) But its the second day and I can already hear it fizz when I stir!

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August 31, 2012 at 7:51 AM

That's fine, thanks! And, I'm glad it working with the syrup!

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August 31, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Glad to know others are not having fizz by day 3. I'm using rapadura and I cover with a double layer of coffee filter and a rubber band. It's cloudy and smells nice, but no bubbles. I'll keep trying. My house is about the 75-80 degree range most of the time. Patience, I guess. :)

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September 11, 2012 at 8:00 AM

What a cool recipe! Thanks for sharing with us on Allergy-Free Wednesdays!

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September 16, 2012 at 7:52 PM

I took some of this to a food swap. It was a big hit and I gave everyone the links to your blog so they can have fun fermenting just like I have. My type 1 diabetic husband thanks you for these low sugar ( by the time they are fermented) sweetener - free sodas :-).

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September 16, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Thank you! I'm so glad the sodas are working for your diabetic husband!

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September 18, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Do you know if I can substitute agave nectar for sugar?

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September 25, 2012 at 7:10 PM

How did you make the rootbeer? I saw it was one of the jars but am not seeing a recipe on your blog. This is a great article. I have been making Kombucha for a year but haven't ever tried anything else. After I go to the store and get ginger I will be giving this a try. Have you ever made appleacto? I tried it once and really like it, but haven't found any recipes online.

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September 25, 2012 at 8:43 PM

I've never heard of appleacto! Where did you hear about it, or have you had it before?
I've made rootbeer a few times from scratch. It always turns out great, but doesn't have that classic rootbeer flavor. I was waiting to write about it until I have a more traditional rootbeer-tasting recipe. I basically just make a sweet tea out of different spices like ginger, sarsaparilla, fennel, and a few others that I can't remember offhand. I've never used sassafras in my rootbeer, or wintergreen, and I've heard they're both "essential". I'll get some sometime and we'll see if that makes it perfect! You can also get rootbeer extract, and then ferment that somehow, but I've never done it that way.

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September 27, 2012 at 8:48 AM

I've never heard of doing this. Sounds yummy. I like ginger in an Asian soup we make.

http://theapels.blogspot.com/2012/09/old-micker-donald-had-farm.html

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Anonymous
October 3, 2012 at 7:56 AM

Very very interesting soda recipes. However, you mentioned that these can end up with some alcohol. I need to completely go off alcohol am looking for recipes for some non-alcoholic recipes. I was wondering what causes alcohol generation during lacto-fermentation and if it is possible to avoid that? I have been lacto-fermenting veggies - is there a chance that they will also have some alcohol as by product?

Thanks a lot.

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October 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

The only veggies that could form alcohol when fermented would be the ones that have a high sugar content, like beets. Alcohol is a byproduct of sugar fermenting, so if your fermented veggies are more cabbage and turnips than beets, they should be fine. Don't worry, a small amount of beets won't turn the whole thing alcoholic.
I definitely wouldn't consider these sodas alcoholic. We freely give them to our children. It's just that sometimes, some alcohol does form. The wine I make takes 3 weeks to ferment, while these sodas ferment for only 3 days; I think that's just not enough time for the alcohol to form.
If you want, you can use a device called a hydrometer to measure any alcohol that might get produced. They aren't expensive. I haven't found that I need one just to make wine & soda, but if knowing the alcohol content is important, they could be useful. Good luck!

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October 8, 2012 at 5:39 PM

I can't wait until we can try this. I will have to buy some bulk ginger.

Thanks for linking to Healthy 2day Wednesday. Hope to see you back this week!

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Anonymous
October 9, 2012 at 3:41 PM

can I cap this a refrigerate for future use, or should I keep out on the counter after the first week? Thanks

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October 9, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Definitely cap & refrigerate between uses. I store mine in the fridge all the time, and just take it out the day before I plan to use it for a new batch of soda. After using it, I just replace the water, add more sugar and sometimes more ginger, and pop it back in the fridge for next time.

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October 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Thanks again for the instructions! I have a question: I started my ginger bug a few days ago, and it started fizzing vigorously the second day. The weather had been fairly warm.
Day 3: Weather turned cool. in my rush out the door, I fed it only sugar and skipped the minced ginger. Tiny amount of fizz. That evening, I forgot to stir it.
Day 4: Weather still cool, raining. Stirred & fed it (double ginger to make up for day 3) in the early afternoon and stirred it again in the evening. Tiny amount of fizz.
Day 5 (today): Fed and stirred it in the morning, tiny amount of fizz.
I can hear it fizzing crisply if I shake it a bit, but it's just not very dramatic.
I am wondering whether the bug is less active in this weather- it is much cooler in the house than it was when the bug was fizzing more. Also, did my neglect slow its development? It is still smelling gingery with no "off" smells, so I assume it hasn't gone bad. Should I try to regulate the temperature, keeping it in a warmed place? Can I use it in juice now, or does the vigor of the fizzing correspond to the active-ness of the cultures? When you take yours out of the fridge a day before use, does it get really fizzy even in cool weather, or is it more subdued in the cold? Is it like bread dough, rising more slowly in the cold, but not actually losing culture?
If it's ready to go ahead and use, should I warm the juice (apple, the cloudy, pressed kind) before adding the ginger bug?
Thank you so much, again! I am really looking forward to trying this!

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October 22, 2012 at 2:52 PM

if I don't have the equipment or time to make ferment sodas, can I just add a few tbsp of ginger bug starter liquid to the juice/smooth I make? is it similar to adding probiotics?

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October 22, 2012 at 6:05 PM

As far as equipment for making soda, don't be discouraged! All you need to do is pour your juice in a jar, add some starter, and stir it twice a day for 3 days. If you don't have special bottles for the finished soda, don't worry, the jar will be fine!
Yes, I would think that just adding some starter to a smoothie would be beneficial, but I think the real benefit is letting it convert the sugars in our juices into a healthier form. We never drink juice unfermented juices anymore- not only do we enjoy the bubbly soda more, but fresh fruit juice on it's own is so high in natural sugars that I just don't want to drink it very often.

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October 22, 2012 at 6:12 PM

It's OK to add it to cold juice, or room temp, either way it will work. Yes, like bread yeasts, the activity is just slowed down, not killed, by cold temperatures. High temps, however, will kill it, so make sure it's not stored on a stove or something that might get very hot sometimes, and don't add it to hot liquids.
I would say, go ahead and try it in juice, as long as it's got some bubbles. The heat of summer certainly makes it more vigorous, but it sounds like yours is still active. You can always add slightly more to the juice (1 1/4 c per gallon instead of just 1 c, for example) if you're worried it's not vigorous enough.
My kitchen is certainly kept on the cool end. It heats up here and there when I'm cooking, but we keep the heat off all night. I make sodas year round, even with these cool nights in the kitchen, and they do fine.
Let me know how it goes!

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October 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Thank you! I really appreciate how quickly you reply to comments- it's wonderful to have help at the critical point in a project.
I started my batch yesterday morning. It now has little bubbles around the edge on the surface, and is smelling more acidic (and, obviously, a bit gingery). What is the significance of leaving it three days before capping? Is there another way to tell (tasting it, etc.) when it's fermented enough to be capped and carbonated? Since my ginger bug was behaving in a bit of an unorthodox manner, I'm thinking the fermentation times might vary a little as well. Are there pitfalls of letting it go too little or too much time before carbonating, or will the taste just be different?

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October 24, 2012 at 11:48 AM

I just use three days as a rule of thumb; definitely some batches need less time, and some need more. It's all about how bubbly you want it, and how sweet. The longer it goes, the less sweet it will be, and since I always taste my batches each time I stir them, I usually decide it's done when it tastes not-too-sweet, because I like my sodas more bubbly than sweet. If you think it's a good time to bottle, go ahead!
The amount of time you leave it capped at room temp will determine how much pressure is in there, and this is the part you want to be a bit careful of. Too long can get explosive. I think 24 hours is always safe.

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October 24, 2012 at 8:35 PM

Thank you! I capped it, because it was losing sweetness fast. My bread dough never takes the recommended amount of time, either..... who knows why?
Also, is there any way to tell when it's carbonated enough and should be refrigerated? I'm assuming opening it would take the pressure off too much... right? Can one tip it and look for bubbles, or is there any test or indicator?

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October 25, 2012 at 8:25 AM

One trick I've read about is to use one plastic soda bottle when you bottle your sodas, so you can test for pressure by squeezing the bottle. If it's firm, it's done. I've never done this though...
I have used mason jars, and when the metal tops pop up a little I knew they were done, though now I just go by my 24 hour rule and use spring loaded bottles.
One of the nice things about naturally carbonated sodas, is that the carbonation doesn't all just dissipate once it's opened. We use some larger bottles, and often just pour a glass or two, recap them and store the rest in the fridge for next time, when they are just as bubbly. So I would say you can definitely open the bottle to test for pressure, without ruining the soda in any way.
PS- I just checked out your website and it's lovely. It looks like you guys have a beautiful life!

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October 26, 2012 at 2:48 PM

thank you, will give it a try :)

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October 29, 2012 at 6:27 PM

I have been making ginger beer for many years now I use powdered ginger root that I purchase by the kilo for my ginger beer...mine always turns out fantastic but I gave the recipe to my friend and hers never turned out...not sure why ...she's like your friend her life is very hectic also, so she probably didn't follow the recipe properly or may have added hot water when making it up which killed the fermentation...My starter is a little different to yours. my recipe you start the plant that's what we call it, with water,ginger,sugar,lemon juice and a few sultanas,then when making it up I add a cup of fresh lemon juice with the water and plant...yum.

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October 29, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Wow, that sounds delicious! I'll have to do a lemony one soon.

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October 30, 2012 at 1:47 AM

Hi Mellow here is a link to my recipe so you can take a look
http://simpleliving-sherrie.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/time-to-make-ginger-beer-for-christmas.html

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October 30, 2012 at 8:06 AM

Got this tweeted and pinned! I am learning SO much from you!

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October 30, 2012 at 8:21 AM

That's sweet Cindy, thank you!

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October 30, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Help with my bug Please! I started it on Friday night. Had some action on day 2 and things were really going yesterday. I had planned on starting my grape soda yesterday but hubby forgot to bring it home. So I let it go another day, but I forgot to feed or stir it all day today until just now. Each day I tended to it, it had a nice gingery scent. Now I have a cold, so my smelling may be off, but today it smells pungent, almost rotten! I know it's impossible for you to tell me if my nose is off or not, but can you tell me is there a chance that I killed it? There is only a little bit of bubbling and the liquid has become almost opaque... Should I start over?

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October 30, 2012 at 5:47 PM

It doesn't seem like ignoring it for a day would cause a serious problem, but if it really smells bad, I would definitely start over. You could always give it another day, of proper feeding and stirring, to see if it revives. I don't think cloudiness is an issue, but a rotten smell wouldn't be good.

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Anonymous
November 18, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Hello. What is the longest you have left the ginger bug capped and refrigerated without feeding it. Could you go a month without feeding it and then revive it?

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November 19, 2012 at 7:45 AM

You could go a month, I think that would be fine. I'm not sure I've gone a month without using it, but certainly weeks.

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Anonymous
November 24, 2012 at 11:29 AM

I started my ginger bug 3 days ago. it is bubbling a little and smells great but seems to have turned into a jelly like substance. It this right ?

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November 24, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Ha, that is mysterious. I have no idea why it would gel. If it's bubbling, I would think it would still work. You could try a small batch of soda as an experiment, to make sure the starter is good before you do a full batch.

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December 13, 2012 at 2:52 PM

I had a similar experience, but not with the bug.. with the soda itself. AFter a day or two it turned into a goo (Yuck!) that just gets thicker and thicker as the days go on. It has bubbles but they do not make that trademark popping noise I'm used to. I've composted three batches now that have done this. :( The last two were in succession. I'm about to start my third batch in five days! Does anyone know why it would do this? My bug seems fine, it's just the soda. I've been searching online with no success. BTW, I love this blog! I've sent several of my FB friends your way for fermenting how to. Thanks! :)

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December 13, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Thanks Tiffani!
I'm so sorry that's happened 3 times! Does it still smell/taste good? I really have no idea what's going on with it, but here are my ideas:
Are you fermenting anything else that could be sort of contaminating the soda? Something like kefir, which does thicken as it ferments. I've heard that fermentations can cross-contaminate. I suppose it's not necessarilly a bad thing, but it sounds like the soda doesn't end up palatable.
I guess what I would try, to avoid wasting another whole batch, is experimenting with very small batches (no bigger than a quart) until you figure out what works. Maybe make a fresh batch of ginger bug too, in case it's got something to do with the starter.
What types of sodas have you been trying? And, have any of your sodas turned out well before this problem developed? Good luck!

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December 13, 2012 at 10:35 PM

You can also put a couple of raisins in the bottle you use for testing and when they float it is time to put in the fridge.

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December 14, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Oh cool! I'll have to try that next time.

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Anonymous
December 14, 2012 at 9:07 AM

My ginger bug also developed a jelly-like consistency. It kind of reminds me of what happens when you make kombucha. It doesn't smell bad or anything-- it still smells gingery and fresh. I just started a batch of soda with it, so we'll see how it turns out.

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Anonymous
December 14, 2012 at 9:15 AM

I suspect that my ginger bug may have developed a jelly-like consistency by being cross-contaminated by the kombucha I was making. I didn't think about that. I'll have to let them ferment in different rooms from now on.

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December 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Weird! I hope it still works out. Fermentation can be a mysterious process! If it smells good and tastes good, I have no doubt that it is still safe to drink. Hopefully it will still be enjoyable! Good luck.

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December 14, 2012 at 11:49 AM

That could be it. Is your bug growing a kombucha scoby on top, or is the whole thing thick and gel-like? Now I've really got to do some research on why this happens!

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January 4, 2013 at 7:04 AM

So the first time I tried this the 2nd day was my big cooking day at home & I killed my bug because I wasn't thinking and added some vinegar (oops). It was pretty tasty, though strong, so I strained & diluted it 1:1 with some water. It made a lovely little drink even w/out the full fermentation.

I started over a few days ago & my new bug is going strong. Figure I'll try a bit of soda making this weekend with some cranberry juice that's being neglected in my fridge.

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January 4, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Sounds interesting! Cranberry soda would be great- I'll have to give that a try too. I wonder if the unsweetened just-cranberry juice that we buy has enough sugar. It's so much less sweet than other juices that it might only need a day to ferment.

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rj
January 13, 2013 at 10:06 AM

The water in my starter got thick, almost like mucous. Should it have and if not what did I do wrong?

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rj
January 13, 2013 at 10:08 AM

I was making kefir at the same time and they were sitting side by side.

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January 13, 2013 at 10:13 AM

I do not know! I've heard back from a few people that this has happened to, and so far I can't find any explanation online. I've tried emailing Sandor Katz and couldn't get an answer from him either. I'm still trying to find a reason why this has happened.
I don't think there's anything unsafe about it, but a thicker soda is less appetizing, so it would be nice if we could figure it out and prevent it!
RJ, do you do any other fermentations, like kefir? My one theory about this is that the soda starter could be contaminated by kefir or other fermentations going on nearby, which thickens the starter up.

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January 13, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Oh, ah-ha! I responded before I got your next comment! I would say the soda has definitely been contaminated by kefir. If you can, try making a new ginger bug in a different room from the kefir.

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January 13, 2013 at 10:39 AM

This is very cool! It had never occurred to me that I could make my own bubbles ;-) I may have to give this a try! Homemade soda sound fun!

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January 13, 2013 at 10:55 AM

It really is fun- and healthy too!

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Anonymous
January 19, 2013 at 9:41 AM

I just started my first bug, it bubbled on the first day but now on the third day is not bubbling at all. I also noticed a slight whitish 'film' and the top before I stirred it this morning - is this normal? It still smells fine, but I'm wondering if I need to compost it and try again?

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January 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Are you using organic, raw ginger? This can really make a difference. Also, if you're just using white sugar, did you add a bit of molasses so that there would be necessary minerals in the starter? Did you stir twice a day and feed it once a day? I don't know if the whitish film is necessarily bad, and it can certainly take longer to get bubbly during colder weather. You could try giving it more time.

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Anonymous
January 19, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Thanks for responding! I love your blog, by the way, it's very inspiring and informative. I don't have organic ginger as I couldn't find it, I guess I will have to extend my search. I will definitely give it some more time and hope for the best, my kids and I are excited about brewing our own sodas :-)

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January 19, 2013 at 8:29 PM

Thank you! I know it can be hard to find fresh, organic ginger, but I do think it's essential to this recipe because conventional ginger has been irradiated and won't ferment properly. If you have any kind of health food store nearby, they will probably carry it, and if they don't they may be able to order it for you. We order ours from Azure Standard, a natural food distributor that delivers along the west coast. You might be able to find something like that in your area. Good luck!

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January 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM

I don't drink Soda so I will have to try this. I just started making Kombucha too. This sounds really good and simple.

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January 28, 2013 at 3:38 PM

My last batch got spoiled after I put it in the fridge and then took it out to use once and left it on the counter :( I am making another batch today :) I have a question though, every time I pour it out or add fresh ingredients in or shake/stir it some got stuck on the side of the bottle, is it necessary to keep everything in the water/brine?

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Anonymous
January 28, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Funny you mention panela. Here in Mexico panela is a type of cheese.
I think the name panela sugar comes from Columbia where it is sold in a block form.
In Mexico, unrefined cane sugar is called piloncillo (little pylon) for is cone shape. Though it doesn't contain molasses, it is very much like brown sugar in aroma and taste.

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January 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM

If it's in the fridge, I wouldn't worry too much about keeping every speck immersed. I do try to keep the ginger under the liquid, since that preserves it better, but I've never worried about it.
How long did you leave it on the counter? I always feed mine some sugar when I have it out of the fridge, and it's never spoiled. Good luck next time!

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January 28, 2013 at 10:56 PM

thank you for getting back :) i used dehydrated ginger after i took the bug out of the fridge and didn't feed it everyday as i did before, that's probably why it went bad. does dried ginger work for this recipe?

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January 29, 2013 at 7:32 AM

It really has to be fresh, and from reading about other's experiences, it definitely seems like it has to be organic as well. The ginger is where the right microbes come from for fermentation. Dried ginger won't have it, and conventionally grown ginger has most likely been irradiated, killing all it's microbial life. Hopefully you can find a good source for fresh, organic ginger!

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January 31, 2013 at 8:49 AM

When bottling ginger beer in plastic soda bottles, how much head space should I leave?

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January 31, 2013 at 1:25 PM

I use glass, and leave only about an inch at the top. The less air in the bottle, the easier it is for the soda to build up pressure, which helps it to be bubbly. Since they only carbonate for about 24 hours, they aren't going to burst, like homemade beer might.

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Anonymous
February 7, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Hello! I just found your blog, and I have a couple questions about this ginger bug. 1) Can I perpetuate this liquid continuous brew style like how kombucha is done? 2) Can this liquid be consumed alone or mixed, or does it have to be left to ferment another sugary beverage? Thanks so much! I can't wait to try this!

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February 7, 2013 at 8:50 PM

I don't particularly like the taste of the ginger bug, myself. It's too strong. But, if you like it there is no reason you couldn't drink it! However, I think it's WAY better used for starting amazingly good homemade sodas!
The ginger bug really is a continuous brew, since every time you use any, you simply replace the water & sugar, and occasionally add fresh ginger. This keeps it ready and active for future fermentations.

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Anonymous
February 8, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Excellent! thank you so much! Can't wait to get started! :D

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February 21, 2013 at 1:34 PM

I've been fermenting sodas for several months now (thanks to you and your great site!) and just recently started making my own coconut milk and flour, which got me to wondering-- could I use my ginger bug to ferment some coconut milk? I keep thinking of blending some berries with coconut milk and then adding sugar and ginger bug like I do with all my water-based sodas. I can't find anything anywhere that talks about using a ginger bug with coconut milk-- maybe because you typically use kefir grains with coconut milk, so no one has needed/wanted to play around with the ginger bug method? Any thoughts on whether or not it would work?

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February 21, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Try it! It sounds great. I THINK it will work as long as it has a similar total level of sugar as the sodas. I want to do that! You can always make just a 1 quart batch for something experimental.

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February 24, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Great idea! I would love to have you share this on The Creative HomeAcre Hop today :)
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-creative-homeacre-hop-4.html

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March 1, 2013 at 1:22 AM

This is really interesting. I am going to make this.

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March 1, 2013 at 4:51 AM

Great post. Another idea to contemplate for warm summer days when in theory I have more time. Thanks for posting at Wildcrafting Wednesday.
Jennifer
The Entwife's Journal

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Anonymous
March 10, 2013 at 6:59 AM

Freezing the ginger may not be the problem. I think it is probably freezing the ginger bug after that is the issue because you have just killed the results of the process.

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Anonymous
March 17, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Help ....my ginger bug keeps dying.....

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March 17, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Sorry- I need more details than that! You can read other people's questions and see if any of that applies, or you can let me know what you've tried and what, more specifically, is happening. I'd love to help if I can!

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March 19, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Could the problem with not bubbling be the ginger is not organic?

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Anonymous
March 29, 2013 at 9:16 PM

Hi, does anyone have experience using honey or maple syrup instead of sugar?

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Anonymous
March 31, 2013 at 3:40 PM

I had a problem with my kefir doing weird stuff after I bottled it...turned out that it was something in my bottles. I got some PBW by 5star and cleaned them....and it started working well.

I love PBW!! It is great for any type stains...it is a green product and does a great job on clothes and other things too!!

I also had a weird thing happen...do you kombachu growing close by. My water kefir developed a mush and the kefir was great...but too weird!
Aliyanna

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April 8, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Is there any reason not to use raw apple cider vinegar in place of this? Does adding the 'mother' have a similar effect in jump-starting fermentation (in, say, honey wine)?

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April 10, 2013 at 1:25 PM

I keep having the same thing happen, I'm on my third try. Day two and I have tons of bubbles on my ginger bug. Day three, NONE and then it goes bad. I'm using organic ginger though admittedly plain sugar. It seems to work at first but then? Should I just try to use it on that second day when it's bubbly and active?

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Anonymous
April 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Hi, I am new to this ginger bug as a starter for sodas. I have followed intruction for the starter bug, it looks really good because I saw pieces of finely grated ginger floating up and down so that tells me that they are alive! I was so excited! So I used 1/4 cup of starter bug juice into 4 cups of organic white grape juice into german beer bottle with spring clip and let it sit in about 88 degree room, then the 2nd day I've experiment another soda using same starter bug juice into organic grape juice in it's own bottle and let it sit til this morning. the white grape has no film on top of it and it will be ready to be refridgerate tonite but the purple grape has white fuzzy or something floating on top of it! That one has not been fermented whole 24 hrs yet. Should I be concerned with those white thing floating on top of it? What should I do?

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April 12, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Hi, I started making ginger bug and it was successfully because I can see them moving up and down so I know it is working. I used 1/4 cup of starter bug liquid into spring cap bottle and filled with 4 cups of organic white grape. Today is my 3rd day so I will cap it tight and put it in fridge tonite. Last night I made another one which I used from the same starter bug liquid but this time I used organic purple grape juice in its own jar. This morning, there's white fuzzy floating on top of it. And now it has covered the top with kind of white fuzzy so I wonder if I should throw it away and start another one?

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April 22, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Hi, there could be a number of reasons for this; although I have not made a ginger bug I've experimented with beer and wine, and it is a yeast and bacteria (just lactobacillus) culture that you cultivate. Other organisms can sneak in or already be there enough to get in the way and this can stop the ones you want. Making the right food for them to grow from the skin of the organic ginger (pesticides can kill the cultures) and defeat their competition is the strategy, but knowing that allows you to help in a few more ways; by making sure competing organisms don't have a chance!

Cleaning - Make sure the jar and cloth used are incredibly clean, clean enough to put jam into (Some people boil jam jars [dangerous stuff to me!], others use the washing machine on high heat, others microwave them open with a tiny bit of water in them - research this and have a go!)

Chemicals - Make sure there is no washing up liquid or any cleaning chemical residue on the jar - You can never rinse too many times if using anything with a soapy residue.

Oxygen - Yeast survive with and without it, but they use it to reproduce, which is what we want. Good space above the water in the jar will help them get off to a good start, as will splashing the water when you add it in (If using bottled water you can open it, pour some off and close, then shake the bottle to dissolve lots of oxygen into the water before adding it). Once they have reproduced they no longer need it (and the mix is better off without it) so don't shake the jar later on, and if stirring use a super clean spoon and try not to introduce air into it when stirring, unless of course you are adding sugar and ginger to feed and grow the culture.

Temperature - 20C Room temperature should be fine for storage, but during the initial stages a warmer temperature of say 27C should be used to help both the yeast and the lacto grow. The yeast die above 40 though so be careful! You could sit the jar in a plate with warm water just to keep it warm. Temperature shock also damages yeast so it is better if the water you add is already at room temperature or a little warmer when added. Below 15C stops the yeast and lacto from reproducing properly but they will survive.

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April 24, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Oh wow! This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing your post with us! I hope you join us again today (yeah I know it's a day late... linky issues) at Eco-Kids Tuesday!!

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April 25, 2013 at 5:51 AM

Great to find your site (I googled Ginger Bug). I can't wait to poke around and read your recipes. The reason I'm here, though... I think my ginger bug died and went moldy. It doesn't smell horrible, but the ginger bits that are floating on the top appear to have white mold on them (I think that's what it is), and it's not real bubbly (been going for about a week, or so). I did forget to feed it for 48 hours. Did that kill it (I've fed it since then)? It's in a half-gallon glass jar, covered with a towel and banded. My house is still chilly (Vermont), so I put it in a window for warmth, but wrapped it well to keep it dark. Should I just start over? Should I have done something differently?
Thanks!

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Anonymous
April 29, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Love the idea of using OJ instead of sugar. How much OJ did you use? In the end, it was just OJ, ginger and water?

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April 29, 2013 at 11:57 AM

How long will the ginger bug last in its jar before using it? I made way too much. :D

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May 6, 2013 at 5:25 PM

I am learning so much from all of these posts! :-) Thanks so much for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday!" I hope you will be able to join us again this week. :-)

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May 9, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Help!! I am having some trouble with this. I have twice had alot of bubbling on the 2nd & 3rd day and then the bubbling stops. After the 1st time, I threw it out & started over again. I've changed the location to a warmer room, cut down the amount of sugar, molasses & ginger & also (with the 1st batch) increased the amounts. I don't seem to be able to hit the sweet spot. The ginger mixture smelled a tad funky on the 3rd day, I mean barely discernible, mostly it smelled of ginger. The taste is wonderful - subtle sweetness & crisp ginger. I have since started a sauerkraut ferment & am having (so far) no trouble with that after 4 days. I'm using a quart sized Mason jar for the ginger & I'm wondering if that's too small?

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May 11, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Thank you so much for sharing this awesome recipe with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you have a very special Mothers Day Weekend and come back soon!
Miz Helen

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Kay
May 11, 2013 at 7:29 PM

Thanks for sharing your ginger bug directions!

My bug did take 8-9 days to bubble much (I never did hear it fizz, but my hearing isn't what it once was). However, when I stirred 1/4 cup into a quart of tart cherry juice in an 8-cup measuring cup, it had a 3" head of foam on it by morning! I bottled it right then in 2 1-liter swing-top bottles. After about 5 hours I tried to 'burp' one of the bottles, but when I got the latch past the halfway point the pressure blew the top right off. Needless to say, I refrigerated it immediately. Fortunately tart cherry juice is, well, tart so it wasn't too sweet to drink. I'm finding that each time I refresh my ginger but it gets stronger and more active. It amazes and delights me that I can take a little ginger, a little raw sugar, and a little water, wait a few days, and voila! Magic in a jar!

Pro-tip: if you mix 1/2 glass of tart cherry soda with 1/2 glass of kefir and a drop or 2 of vanilla extract, you have cherry pie in a glass.

I do have one problem with this soda: the bottles keep turning up empty! :-)

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May 15, 2013 at 10:56 PM

That doesn't sound like the same process I use to make my sodas. Before bottling, I ferment the juice with the starter in a jar where they can still breathe and be stirred twice a day: http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-turn-any-juice-into-lacto.html
I think you might have skipped that step.

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May 15, 2013 at 10:58 PM

That doesn't sound like the same process I use to make my sodas. Before bottling, I ferment the juice with the starter in a jar where they can still breathe and be stirred twice a day: http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-turn-any-juice-into-lacto.html
I think you might have skipped that step.
Sorry it took a month to reply! Hopefully you figured out a way to make it work.

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May 15, 2013 at 10:59 PM

I don't know if you can revive a dead ginger bug, or if it's better to just start a new one. You could try doing both, just to see which works best!

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May 15, 2013 at 11:01 PM

I keep it in the fridge indefinitely! I don't think there is such a thing as too much ginger bug ;)

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May 15, 2013 at 11:03 PM

I use a quart jar as well- I think your starter might be fine. Have you tried using it to make soda? Maybe do a smaller batch, so you don't waste a lot of juice if it doesn't work out.

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May 15, 2013 at 11:04 PM

Awesome- that recipe sounds delicious! Although, I hope the explosion wasn't too much of a mess! It is a pretty amazing process, isn't it?

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May 20, 2013 at 6:15 PM

I did, but, it really didn't go anywhere except to get a thick white film on top. However, I have started a second batch, but kept the 1st one going. I have added a little coconut sugar to each batch daily (as well as ginger & cane sugar) for about 4 days & now the 1st batch is going crazy! I'm very excited & am going to try making ginger ale with it tonight. I was really starting to wonder if I was ever going to get this ginger bug working.

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May 21, 2013 at 7:35 AM

Wow, that's great! Coconut sugar saves the day?

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Anonymous
May 23, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Awesome post. I too have been trying to get this going. Question: The grated ginger tends to clump up at the top once bubbles start forming a little. If I mix it up it'll go back to normal, but after a few hours it'll clump up together again. Is this normal?

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May 26, 2013 at 11:05 AM

It sounds totally fine to me. Maybe give it an additional stir every day, just to make sure that floating ginger gets incorporated.

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June 2, 2013 at 1:59 AM

HI, i tried making the ginger bug but around day 4 it started got a white fuzzy mold on top. I dont know what i did wrong. Maybe the jar lid was closed? I did not see any bubbles or foam etc. I would love to start again, I used raw cane sugar, filtered water and fresh ginger. Please advise

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June 2, 2013 at 1:47 PM

The jar should not have a lid- I use just a cloth over the top with a rubber band to keep it secure. You want it to breathe without allowing things like fruit flies & dust to get in. Was you ginger organic? Irradiated ginger doesn't have the required living enzymes. Also, did you stir twice a day and feed it fresh sugar and ginger daily? There are so many variables, but if you cover all of them it should work! Good luck!

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June 3, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Hi there, I've been using my ginger bug for a few weeks, have made 2 batches of soda already, one which turned out great and one which over carbonated and nearly took my head off. I forgot to feed my bug this past few days, possibly even as long as a week and when I pulled it out tonight there was a thick, opaque, gelatinous substance that has formed on the top, almost like a mama Kombucha! What should I do with it? Can I just peel it off and continue to feed it or should I compost and start again? And what is this fascinating thing that has grown in my bug?!

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June 5, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Well, I've never had that happen... do you also grow kombucha? I wonder if there was cross-contamination- Kombucha makes good soda too! If it still smells good I would try to keep it going, but it's easy enough to start a new one if you're worried about it.

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June 17, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Hi there! I gave another shot at the starter. I am at day 5 now, i do see some bubbles at the top and hear a fizzy sound when I stir. Is it quite ready? I does smell a bit pungent, but otherwise slightly sweet gingery goodness. I'm not sure if i have done it right or shall i start again. Since our weather is way too hot here it easily passes the 72F mark and i was hoping it might ferment faster, im eager to have soda :) Would love to hear from you.

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EMC
June 19, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Anybody ever try this? I'd be fascinated to know if it worked...

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EMC
June 19, 2013 at 6:17 PM

I'm curious about using my ginger bug to make bread... I've read about mixing equal parts milk kefir with flour, letting it ferment overnight, and then adding a few more ingredients (more flour, etc.) to make a bread dough, let rise and bake... No additional yeast, etc. Do you think this would work with the ginger bug? Anybody tried it?

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June 19, 2013 at 8:18 PM

I can't say for sure but it sounds good. You can always try it on a small (quart size) batch of soda at first, so you don't waste much if it doesn't work out.

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June 19, 2013 at 8:20 PM

Totally! I soak grains in a combination of ginger bug, or kombucha, + water overnight for all kinds of baking. Pancakes, waffles, cakes, and cornbreads. I soak all the flour this way, and add everything else (but less liquid than the recipe calls for, since it's already soaked) in the morning.

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Ryan A.
June 20, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Greetings from Southeast Asia!

I have read a number of times about fermented drinks and am beginning to think that a fermented ginger ale might be an easy way to start. Despite the "ease" of this process, I had a few questions. Hopefully, they weren't already covered in all of the comments above! Anyway, here we go:

1. I understand the reasoning behind using more natural sugars but am not sure how to source those outside of the Western nations. We *do* have palm sugar here, which should have a few more nutrients than standard white sugar. At least, I would imagine so. Do you think palm sugar could work for producing the ginger bug?

2. Do you have any ideas about reducing the time for the fermentation in a tropical climate? Using the Western Fahrenheit system, I would guess that it is easily 90-100+ most days in my home. Unless I want to leave the air condition on for 7 days at a go (whenever I make this), I don't have a lot of options for keeping things cooler. Any ideas or suggestions in this regard?

Thanks for your help!

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June 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Hey there! I made a ginger starter following your instructions, and it has worked out great! I have a question though. I used some of the starter to brew ginger beer. My ginger beer has been brewing for a week and yesterday I noticed a tiny bit of mold. I removed the mold but haven't thrown the batch out yet because it smells and tastes fine. Should I scrap the whole thing and start over?

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June 24, 2013 at 6:44 AM

I live in a much cooler climate, so answering your questions is going to be a bit of guesswork on my part- but fermentation is something that is done in all parts of the globe, so I know you can do it! It will be different than it is here, definitely faster! With things like carbonation, you just have to pay attention to what it's actually doing, rather than to the amount of time it's "supposed" to take. Over-carbonating can be messy, even dangerous if the glass explodes, so keep that in mind and err on the side of caution. I would definitely not bother to make your house cooler just for fermenting. Take advantage of the heat, and the reduced time it will take! Just be aware it will go faster.
With the sugar, go ahead and try palm sugar, especially if it's got a bit of color to it, that's probably perfect. If it's a totally white sugar, you may want to track down some molasses or equivalent, just to add back those minerals that they take from the sugar.
You may also look into what kinds of things people are fermenting locally, if you're interested. I know the author of the books I've read on fermentation, Sandor Katz, travels the globe learning about traditional fermentation methods. Every culture has them!
Happy Fermenting!

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June 24, 2013 at 6:47 AM

I'm guessing there was a particle of ginger, or something, floating on top, and that is what molded. I've had that happen with sauerkrauts, floating bits of cabbage will mold, and you just scoop them out and continue with the process. A bit of mold is not dangerous, and the rest will be mold free if you remove the solid chunk it's growing on.
I have not had soda mold, ever- I think stirring twice a day really prevents mold from sticking around. I would say your soda is still safe, but next time maybe stir more often? It may need 3 times a day in the hotter weather, when things grow faster!

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June 25, 2013 at 12:49 AM

HI there, okay so I have put my bug to sleep in the fridge. I tried to ferment something, but it didn't work. Maybe there wasn't much sugar in the mix? or maybe I was supposed to leave the bottle cover tightly closed. I'm totally new at this, so [please bear with me. Making lacto-fermented yoghurt at home, is easy for me. This is a totally new ball game i intend to master. What to i need to do to wake up the bug? And can I use homemade 'whey' to help speed up the fermentation in the bug? or a new batch of ginger bug? Thanks in advance.

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June 25, 2013 at 6:46 AM

All you need to do to wake the bug up is bring it back to room temp and feed it some sugar, plus more ginger every day it's out of the fridge.
I've never used whey in combination with a ginger starter- if you have one, you shouldn't really need the other. I don't like the flavor of whey so I don't have much experience with it. People do make sodas with just whey as a starter, so I'm sure it would work, but it would taste different.
You may find more answers in the above responses to previous reader questions. I don't really have enough information about your fermentation to know what went wrong.

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Penny
July 6, 2013 at 6:23 PM

I just cracked open my first juice fermented with ginger bug starter and I'm wondering if it turned out. It tastes pretty vinegary, but only bubbles when shaken. How do I tell for sure? I want to make sure that it is safe to give to my 3 year old.

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July 7, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Well, if it did somehow go to vinegar, it would still be safe for your toddler, and very healthy- but they probably wouldn't like it! If it smells good, and you like it, it will be safe. What kind of juice did you use? Some, I have found, turn out pretty differently than others. Not all as light and bubble as I would like! But, nothing dangerous will grow if you've used an active starter- botulism can't survive in acidic conditions.

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Anonymous
September 13, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Hi. Thanks for your blog, it's great! I'm going to give this a go next week, can I use mineral water instead of dechlorinated?

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September 14, 2013 at 6:18 AM

I would think so. Mineral water shouldn't have any chlorine either, I believe...

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Anonymous
October 3, 2013 at 5:16 AM

Hello!
Great site! i really appreciate you sharing all the information! i am wondering if you are washing the ginger beforehand? Thanks a bunch!

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October 5, 2013 at 7:22 AM

I don't wash the ginger unless it seems to need it. If it's visibly dirty, or if part of it was moldy, then I will wash it (and cut off the mold).

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December 4, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Okay, so I have a happy little ginger bug fizzing away. It provides me with lots of bubbly beverages and I'm pretty pleased with everything. Thanks for that.

I have one question, though: My jar is REALLY full of ginger. Can I strain off some ginger and use it in something else? Do I need to give it an extra feed after doing so?

I know I could just put it in a bigger jar, but really, there's a LOT of ginger. :)

Thanks in advance,

~Angela

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December 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Yes! You can toss some of the old ginger, for sure. With a quart jar, I'd let it get about half full and the scoop out the older stuff from time to time. You need room for the liquid! Glad it's working so well for you!

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December 4, 2013 at 11:44 AM

Follow up questions! :)

Is there an optimal time to strain? Before you feed? After? Half way through the day?
Is there an optimal AMOUNT of ginger to take out. 1/3? 1/2? Can I take out too much?
Do I have to feed it immediately after? If so, how much?

Thanks again!

~Angela

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December 5, 2013 at 12:34 PM

Your bug will be fine no matter how you do it! I would personally scoop out some of the old stuff before feeding with new sugar and ginger, because then you wouldn't waste any of the fresh stuff. Take out as much as you want! And just feed it the normal amount that you've been giving it.

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Anonymous
December 7, 2013 at 3:07 PM

I created the bug 7 days ago at first it has little bubbles so tried to keep it longer but this saturday the bubbles was gone. I don't know where I had gone wrong maybe I put too much sugar. I need help. I followed al of your instructions maybe I put too much ginger but does that affect it??

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December 7, 2013 at 3:45 PM

It's too hard to troubleshoot without knowing exactly what you did, what you used, etc. Cold weather can affect all fermentations, and it's been really cold here! Feed it more sugar, stir it twice a day. If it stopped bubbling, that sounds like it ran out of sugar. Does it still look and smell good? Nothing growing on it?

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Anonymous
December 7, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Most of what I have read states that rapidura/sucanant is best... if other sugars is used to make sure to add molasses for the trace minerals...
I have also heard in many places to make sure that if you are fermenting different things to make sure they have at least 10 feet inbetween them to keep from cross contaminating

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December 12, 2013 at 9:04 AM

Me again! :) Is there such thing as a 'too powerful' ginger bug? I ask, because I'm noticing that the fizziness is taking WAY LESS TIME to happen. I actually just had a bottle explode after only about 8 hours. I keep my home around 21*C, so it's not super-warm.... Should I water the ginger bug down? Use less per bottle (I'm using 1/8 cup/500mL)? The speed is great in a way...not much waiting...but I can't really commit to burping the bottles every 4 hours. :) Thanks again.

~Angela

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December 14, 2013 at 6:02 PM

Yes! I'm so sorry that happened. I would definitely think it's ok to use less ginger bug if it's getting crazy bubbly, but what I do when mine are too bubbly is just ferment them for less time, before getting them into the fridge. Instead of burping after 4 hours in the bottle, maybe just refrigerate it at that point? Either less ginger bug, or less time, should help. I've never had a glass bottle explode, but I have had a bottle of soda fountain all over the place when I opened it, from over-fermenting. I suspect when bottles explode it's partly due to a defect in the glass. Good luck figuring it out!

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Colleen
December 15, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Hi! This worked for me using organic ginger with peel and sucanat. It was actually fizzing before stirring by the next day! Thanks for helping me get started. I have a question. In the first paragraph, it suggests that ginger bug can be used to ferment anything. I am just starting to get into fermenting and successfully did a batch of veggies using a salt brine, but they were still a tad too salty for my tastes even after two weeks of 'brewing'. Dairy free so never have whey to use, and I can't find a culture starter where I live. How could ginger bug be used to ferment veggies? I would love to experiment but need a starting point. Cheers!

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December 20, 2013 at 10:59 AM

I think in any recipe that calls for whey, the ginger bug can be used instead. I've never fermented veggies in salt brine (besides sauerkrauts, which is really just veggies in their own liquid, plus salt) but there are recipes for that kind of thing that are salt free and use whey, so I would just try one of those recipes, replacing the whey with ginger bug. Good luck!

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January 8, 2014 at 2:43 PM

i can personally say i used NON organic and peeled im currently on day two and it is definitely active

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January 23, 2014 at 8:37 PM

I am having this same trouble. It has been four days, and very very few bubbles and just after I stir. It still smells good so I think I am going to keep it going and see what happens. I am using organic ginger, peel on, and organic sucanat. Ugh! I sure hope it works!

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February 16, 2014 at 12:10 AM

I'm confused as to why folks often think that honey will inhibit their fermentations. Honey & water is what ferments to make Mead. I use honey to ferment, often. It should work fine, here.

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April 17, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Just started a batch with coconut palm sugar,organic ginger w/skin on and spring water. Will keep u posted on results,

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May 11, 2014 at 2:23 PM

HOW MUCH OJ AND WHAT KIND. .

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Anonymous
June 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Hi! Thanks a lot for your ginger bug recipe, I have started mine straight away. Just wandering though: once you have succesfully made the ginger bug, how do you keep it in your fridge, just the way it is in the jar, or can you scrap the solid parts and keep only the liquid? I have a very small fridge and this second solution would greatly help!
Thanks a lot for any suggestions you might have!

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June 22, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Interesting question. I suppose you could just keep the liquid. Might be good to leave some of the ginger solids with it, just for good measure ;) We have a small fridge too so I know the dilemma!

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July 4, 2014 at 8:34 PM

I think she meant she added the ginger bug to the OJ to make soda....

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Anonymous
August 13, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Thank you for your recipe. I am making your ginger bug for the first time. When we add ginger to the mix each day, how much ginger do we add?

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August 17, 2014 at 10:14 AM

A teaspoon of fresh minced ginger each day should be perfect :)

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August 20, 2014 at 12:38 AM

Today is my third day since starting the ginger bug. I have followed your recipe to a T and get fizzy bubbles when I stir but don't have any when it just sits. The temp in my house is about 77 degrees. Shall I give it a few more days or do you think I can try it? Great posts, I am so pleased to have found your blog! Thank you

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August 20, 2014 at 2:51 PM

It sounds like it might be fine now, but perhaps a bit better in a day or two. Keep feeding and stirring it regularly. You have a nice warm house, so it shouldn't take too long :)

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Anonymous
September 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Or it could have been how the ginger was frozen (if it is blanched first, all bets are off) or how it was stored, and for how long (freezer burn basically means other bacteria cultures have taken over, so it has to be well-preserved and away from air in order to keep any existing cultures intact.)

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Anonymous
December 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM

I think the pH of this would not be in the range to grow botulism. That comes from low pH things such as meat and most veggies. I think that ginger is a higher pH, especially when fed the sugar and combined with so much water.
~~Tracey R. in Oregon

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Anonymous
December 28, 2014 at 5:08 PM

This may sound stupid.....but is ginger the same as ginger root??

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January 2, 2015 at 2:07 PM

Yes! Most people are familiar with the dried powder form of ginger root, but you want to use fresh ginger root for this recipe.

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February 17, 2015 at 1:48 AM

Hello. Looking for some advice. I've been working with my ginger bug for over a week. It was going strong and bubbly but then all of the sudden went quiet. It is now cloudy and smells like vinegar. I know this is the next step in the fermentation process so I'm wondering where I went wrong. How did I get it to vinegar? Can I get it back? Should I add more sugar? Or more ginger? Water? Thanks!

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March 16, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Hello,

I am writing here in case there is a found solution to this problem, of the whole soda becoming gelled. I can't find an answer online!

I have made ginger beer with a bug starter 5 times, and the first two were fine, turned out great, and were a tease, because now, the last three batches have done this gel thing! It is so frustrating.

I live in CA in the central valley, it's been spring weather but not too hot or cold (so don't think it was temp), at the moment I have NO other fermentation projects/cultures going on in the kitchen (so not culture crossing that way), I use filtered water and organic ginger. For the last three times, I made it with three different starters in clean jars--so it's not like one bad ginger bug.

What is this from? this ginger bug was fine until I put it in the sweet tea, and now it's a gallon of goop. Not yummy.

Please let me know if anyone finds an explanation for this, and better yet, a solution/prevention for it.

happy brewing,
Irene

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April 15, 2015 at 1:16 PM

I've tried making a ginger bug twice now with strange results. Did everything according to instructions: fresh organic minced ginger, raw cane sugar and distilled water. Stirred it 2 or 3 times a day and its in a mason jar with cotton cloth and rubber band on top. Added sugar and ginger daily and left it on the dining nook in the shade. Both times it became a gelatinous liquid in three days. Had the consistency of runny jelly or jello. Smells great with no vinegary or off-colored smells but since it apparently isn't how it's been described I've thrown both batches out. Any ideas on what I'm doing wrong?

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April 26, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Sadly, this started happening to me as well, after years of successfully making sodas using a ginger bug. I suspect it's some kind of contaminant getting into it from other fermentations in the home, but I have no idea what the solution is! I've done research to find an answer, including asking Sandor Katz, but have found nothing helpful. I'm open to suggestions!!

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Anonymous
April 26, 2015 at 5:16 PM

Hey I also had the same thing happen to mine... well first off I started out as usual, feeding and stirring it daily, and then I made a sweet gingery water, I think too sweet, and I added my fermented ginger to that and then it went like mad, fermenting and bubbling and then it all turned into a jelly like substance, it was so strange, it was jelly from top to bottom, I got like 4 Ltrs of this stuff... I was a lil concerned, and looked it up, I read that you can purchase a ginger mother from Jamaica, and it's a jelly symbiotic relationship between yeast and bacteria, quite fascinating. So after reading that I felt confident that we could actually eat/drink our jelly, we did and we are shocked by the results, major health turn around in both my husband and myself. My husband's digestive tract has been terrible, it got so bad that he was throwing up anything that he ate and had constant diarrhea, after 2 days of eating/drinking our Ginger jelly, his system is almost completely back to NORMAL!!! And I had lower tract problems and that's almost all cleared up too, wow amazing stuff! Here is a link to a site I found that explains it better than I can. Blessings :)
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/jun/29/how-make-real-ginger-beer

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Anonymous
May 11, 2015 at 1:48 PM

Hi, I'm a giro from norway who just tried making a ginger bug. But it turned into gel for me as well... What have happened?

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Anonymous
June 10, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Have you heard of the ginger beer plant? It's apparently the legit way of making ginger beer, and it looks kind of like water kefir grains.

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September 8, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Every time I use my ginger bug my product turns into wine very quickly. I'm trying to stay sober so accidentally getting drunk might sound thrilling but it's a big problem for me. Any tips? What's a good bug smell like and how can we stop the fermentation of the end product while keeping bubbles intact?

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September 13, 2015 at 8:51 AM

I've never accidentally made wine! So I'm not sure what's happening. A very slight amount of alcohol is natural and I think unavoidable, but if it is strong I think you are fermenting it too long. When I make wine it takes weeks, bubbly soda takes just days. Hope this helps!

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Anonymous
September 19, 2015 at 4:49 AM

I forgot about my ginger bug on the counter....it has a thick layer on top like a scoby....is is not good anymore.....I did have success with it the first couple of times. I added it to my kombucha, so tasty.

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Anonymous
October 21, 2015 at 11:56 PM

It wasn't the freezing. More than likely the ginger had been irradiated. Using organic only will ensure getting the proper yeast spores. Radiation kills these and mold spores so produce has a longer shelf life.

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February 4, 2016 at 12:36 AM

My Ginger Bug started out great - bubbled up after 1 or 2 days - and then I haven't seen any bubbles really at all since day 4, and it's now Day 11. I missed one day of feeding it, but that was around day 8 - is it possible that it's dead? It still has that nice, mildly yeasty smell that definitely smells like something is or has happened. Do I have to throw the whole thing out and start over? Thanks for any thoughts!

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February 9, 2016 at 6:17 PM

I don't think the scoby is bad for you- you could try it and see if it works for a soda starter. Or, just scrap it and make a fresh batch, since this one got forgotten about for a bit :)

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Anonymous
February 13, 2016 at 7:40 PM

I found out the gelatinous ginger bug takes on its consistency from DEXTRANS. It is in the lactobacillus family. Not exactly harmful, but they do use the his strand for certain blood disorders, so I probably wouldn't ingest a crazy amount. It's just in the air.

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