How to Make a Ginger Bug

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How to Make a Ginger Bug for Natural Soda
Wellness Mama » Blog » Recipes » Drink Recipes » How to Make a Ginger Bug

If you aren’t familiar with naturally fermented beverages, you might be asking what the heck a ginger bug is and why you should make one…

A ginger bug is a culture of beneficial bacteria made from fresh ginger root and sugar. It is similar to a sourdough starter for bread or a kombucha SCOBY. The ginger imparts its flavor and as it naturally ferments, creates a mixture of beneficial bacteria.

Though not overly tasty by itself, the ginger bug is the base for many homemade sodas and tonics. We use it to make root beer, ginger ale, fruit “sodas”, and more.

The recipe we use is an adaption of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions (p. 591) and is the culture we use for all homemade sodas. There is also an easier way to make soda that doesn’t require a ginger bug if you prefer to skip this step, but to make an authentic soda, the bug is needed.

Ginger Bug Recipe

Once this ginger bug is made, it can be kept alive and used continuously to make healthy soda at any time.

How to Make a Ginger Bug for Natural Soda

Ginger Bug Recipe

How to create a ginger bug to use as the beneficial culture to make healthy fermented homemade sodas like old fashioned ginger ale or root beer.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Fermentation Time 5 days
Total Time 5 days 5 minutes
Author Katie Wells



  • 1-2 fresh organic ginger roots
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 cups filtered water


  • Cut a piece of ginger root about 1.5 inches long and grate to make 2-3 Tablespoons of grated ginger. You can also finely chop instead of grating. There is some debate about if it is better to peel the root or not. My general rule is that non-organic ginger gets peeled and organic just gets rinsed before grating.
  • Place the ginger in a quart size mason jar and add an equal amount of white sugar (2-3 Tablespoons). Nourishing Traditions insists that white sugar is needed to create the bug and I’ve had the best success with this, but a local friend claims that unrefined sugar or sugar with 1 tsp of molasses added works better. Try what you have and adapt as needed.
  • Add 2 cups of filtered water to the mason jar. Make sure that the water has been filtered so that it does not contain chlorine which can affect the culturing process.
  • Stir with a non-metal spoon and lightly cover. I cover with a coffee filter and rubber band.
  • Each day for the next five days, stir the mixture at least once and add 1 Tablespoon of grated ginger root and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Depending on temperature, it may take up to eight days of adding sugar and ginger to create the desired culture.
  • You can tell if the culture is active if there are bubbles forming around the top of the mixture, it “fizzes” when stirred, and it takes on a sweet and mildly yeasty smell. It will also become somewhat cloudy and opaque. If mold appears on the top, scrape it off if it can be removed. It this happens more than once, you will need to start again. If the mixture hasn’t taken on these characteristics by the 7-8th day, you need to discard it and start again.
  • Keep the culture away from other cultures like sauerkraut and kombucha or it can cross-culture.
  • Once the ginger bug has cultured, it can be used to create fermented sodas and drinks at the ratio of ¼ cup ginger bug starter per quart of sweetened herbal mixtures for ginger ale or root beer or diluted fruit juice for fruit flavored sodas.


To keep the bug alive and continue growing it, you will need to feed it regularly. Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger and 1 teaspoon sugar per day if kept at room temperature. You can also “rest” it in the fridge and feed it 1 Tablespoon each of ginger and sugar once a week. To reactivate it, remove and let it reach room temperature and begin feeding it again.

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Do you have a pet ginger “bug” sitting on your counter? Will you make one?

A ginger bug is a culture of beneficial bacteria made from ginger root and is the starter culture for many homemade fermented sodas and drinks.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


431 responses to “How to Make a Ginger Bug”

  1. Diane Avatar

    5 stars
    I’m excited to try this! I have questions about temperature. I live in India, we do not have central heat or a/c. It’s chilly in winter and HOT HOT HOT in summer in my kitchen. How will this affect creating and keeping a bug?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      If it is too hot, the fermentation may happen too fast and can spoil. At really cold temperatures, it may take a much longer time or not ferment at all.

  2. Jessica Avatar

    Hi! I was making my ginger big, but wasn’t getting fizz or bubbles. All the Ginger sank to the bottom, but it smelled yeasty and sweet. I stopped feeding it on the 8th day, and it’s been about 4 days since. I noticed there are bubbles at the too, and it slightly fizzes. I had to remove some mold too. Does this mean it’s still alive, or should I throw it out?

    I was going to throw it out, but kept forgetting, and then noticed it has bubbles, so wanted to ask first…

  3. Tamara Avatar

    When you say “keep away from other cultures”, how far away? Not next to each other in the counter but in the same kitchen? A separate room? Will a sourdough starter bother it? Kefir starter? Thanks! Can’t wait to try this

  4. Doyle Avatar

    how soon can you start to make ginger ale from the bug? as soon as it bubbles/fizzes ?

  5. Trudi Avatar

    I made the ginger bug and it fermented well but when I tried to make the soda it did not get fizzy . I followed the recipe and 5 days later it is still flat.

  6. Martin Avatar

    I have done as instructed on creating my ginger bug. The problem is that it is Fizzy after 3 days but if I continue to feed and stir it it seems to go flat. Will you please tell me how to keep my ginger bug for a longer period of time?

  7. Linda Avatar

    Is there a keto version of the ginger bug and ginger ale? Can we substitute stevia or other sweetener?

    1. Kandy Avatar

      5 stars
      The vast majority, of not all, of the sugar will be eaten during the fermentation process that develops the bubbles. No sugar = no fermentation. You would just have moldy ginger and stevia. When you use it to make your beverages, you may add stevia after.

  8. Turq Avatar

    5 stars
    This is so good! I realize that all that soda I crave–my body is really asking for this!

  9. Jameela Avatar

    Hi! Just made my first batch of ginger ale and was wondering if I could add additional water to the ginger bug or is it better to use up the existing culture up and start a fresh batch?


  10. Wanda Avatar

    Don’t you need to add more water to keep the amount of ginger bug up? I’ve made mine and am ready to try making ginger ale but it seems to me that taking out 1/4 cup at a time would deplete the bug unless additional water is added. Thank you for responding to this question.

  11. Susan Avatar

    My “bug” is 8 days old and looks perfect. I am going to use 1/4 cup to make ginger ale. Can I add water to the original bug to make more?

  12. Jamie h Avatar

    I follow a Keto lifestyle and am wondering if you have to use sugar in this or if it would work to use monk fruit or Stevia instead?

  13. Jackie Avatar

    Hi , I’m wondering when/how you add water to the starter? The recipe just says to add sugar and ginger not water, but each time you use the starter to make soda you take 1/4cup of the mix?
    Thanks, Jackie

  14. Michael Zimmerman Avatar
    Michael Zimmerman

    5 stars
    I’ve been a fan of your recipe for a few years now. I think I originally ran into it in 2013 or 14. Maybe you copied it from somewhere else if you haven’t been around that long.

    Anyhow, I remember (and look for) this recipe based on “There is some debate about if it is better to peel the root or not. My general rule is that non-organic ginger gets peeled and organic just gets rinsed before grating.”

    That one gets me every time! To be clear, I love the recipe, and don’t mean to insult you. I do find your logic way off here though.

    So, chemical fertilizers like Ammonium Nitrate (being a root) is so bad you have to peel it, yet organic cow pooh / rotten food compost is okay to just rinse off? Bacteria verses chemicals: I chose chemicals just get a good rinse and scrubbing.

    Again, great recipe, and just gives me a chuckle in the same way normal people tolerate all the global warming (oops, Climate Change….LOL) propaganda. 🙂

  15. Karen Avatar

    How do I keep the volume fairly constant as I use it? Should I be adding water everyday when I add the ginger and sugar?

  16. Angie Barber Avatar
    Angie Barber

    I have started a ginger bug, it’s 9 days old but it hasn’t started bubbling. Can I use it for something else? Ginger candy maybe? I hate to waste all this ginger…

  17. Suzanne Avatar

    I cannot have white sugar, as I follow a protocol for autoimmune diseases. However, I can use honey, molasses, coconut sugar, or maple syrup. Should I give this a try with one of those?

  18. Tiffany Avatar

    Thank you for this post!
    We can’t stir the bug with a metal spoon, but is it ok to use a metal teaspoon to measure the ‘feed’ of ginger and sugar that we add everyday? Is it ok to grate or cut the ginger with a metal?

  19. linda Avatar

    hi there, thanks for this – it opens a new world to me 🙂

    i have been feeding the bug, so the mixture is sizzling etc.
    what do i do from here, do i drain the mixture and use the liquid in other drinks?
    also, you write that if you want keep the bug alive you have to keep feeding it ginger and sugar. in my brain it will end up with a jar full of ginger?

    as said a newbee, please let me know steps.


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