How to Make a Ginger Bug

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How to Make a Ginger Bug for Natural Soda
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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. Ine Avatar

    Hi, I’ve been using this recipe for years! Thank you so much! And I have so many people liking the gingerale.
    I am using my ginger bugs for 6 months now.
    Do you know, do you have a suggestion, on when it’s time to make a new ginger bug???
    My bug is still working perfectly, but I’m just wondering when one should replace it by a new one?

    thank you so much, Ine

  2. rebecca ball Avatar
    rebecca ball

    5 stars
    I was wondering if you have ever made a cream ginger soda? It does not seem to want to fizz up like the plain ginger soda. We tried vanilla paste, and then vanilla powder. The best was made with the vanilla pods but it still was not that fizzy and they are expensive. Thank you for any insight.

  3. Paula Willis Avatar
    Paula Willis

    I fed my ginger bug for 5 days…and then forgot about it. It’s been sitting there on the counter for a good week, maybe even two. Toss, good to use, or feed again and then use? I just stored and smelled it. Smells fine. I licked the spoon and I didn’t die. This is my first time trying it and really fermenting anything so I have NO idea what I’m doing. ?

  4. Angie Avatar

    I feel like I have killed 2 ginger bugs and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. They become bubbly quickly, in just a couple of days. But all of the instructions I’ve read say to feed it for at least 4 days, so I continue to feed. Generally by about day 4, I have lots of white yeast at the bottom of my jar, but my bubbles have ceased to bubble! My house is 77-79 degrees although we do turn off the AC sometimes for a few hours during the day and it may go up to 82 degrees. What am I doing wrong?! Should I use it as soon as I see bubbles and then put it in the refrigerator to rest? Can I revive it since it still has yeast visible in the bottom?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I would use it when it is most bubbly after a couple of days. It’s likely that the warmer temperature in your home sped up the process.

      1. Angie Avatar

        Thanks Katie, I also did some additional reading and watching youtube videos. I read that this “quieting” of the bug is typical for “newbies”. But I also realized that (I think) I was not stirring aggressively enough. I scooped out some of the ginger, added new, along with some additional sugar, and it started bubbling. I’ve got 2 batches of ginger beer fermenting on the counter now (one from a basic recipe and another from a spicier recipe)! But I did want to ask, I’ve seen some recipes that tell you to ferment twice to make ginger beer. Any idea why or how this benefits the brew?

      2. Michael Stewart Avatar
        Michael Stewart

        if you want to get chlorine out of water the best way is to boil it. Chlorine tends to disappear when you boil water. I do not use filtered water because it is more expensive. I usually would simply boil water or distill it. sometime i would use rain water. I also do this when i make soap

  5. Eliza Avatar

    Hi! Thank you for this recipe. I have a question which goes something like this: Can I precut or grate the ginger and keep it in the fridge to be ready for feedings? To use it, just take out the amount needed for feeding maybe even let it come to room temperature before feeding. What do you think?

  6. Sharon Avatar

    After using the ginger bug in a recipe and in order to keep the ginger bug going how much water needs to be added back?

  7. Kristen Avatar

    After a while I imagine there will be a ton of ginger in the jar — do you strain any out as you replace it with new ginger?

  8. Joyce E Wall Avatar
    Joyce E Wall

    As with making gingerale, can I not use rapadura sugar for the ginger bug?

    1. MaryAnne Avatar

      I use only dried unprocessed cane juice (is that the same as rapadura?) and LOVE the results! I make ginger beer and we love the taste.

  9. Abby Hardin Avatar
    Abby Hardin

    I know that you add back as much water as you take out, but what I’m unsure about is, when you add fresh water do you need to go back to a Tbsp of ginger or sugar or stay with the tsp?

  10. Julie Avatar

    How much water do you add to keep up your finger bug after using it? I made the ginger ale, so how much liquid would I add? Do I just replace what I took out?

  11. Eva Weinmann Avatar
    Eva Weinmann

    5 stars
    Its my 1st time making soda, but Im having great success with Ginger ale so far using your recipe! Can I add water to my bug to keep it going? If so, how long could one keep a bug going? Thanks so much, really love your recipes!

  12. Ana Toro Avatar
    Ana Toro

    I cannot use sugar in my diet, I use stevia. If I were to make ginger ale, how much of the sugar for fermenting is actually used in the ginger ale preperation? Thank you!

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      The sugar is necessary and how much is fermented out depends on the temperature, length of ferment and several other factors. If you strictly avoid sugar even in tiny amounts, I’d skip this and try a natural ginger sparkling water or sugar free option like Zevia.

      1. Craig Gore Avatar
        Craig Gore

        4 stars
        I’m diabetic and I too don’t tolerate sugar well. Why must it be sugar? I’ve been using a stevia extract for most of my uses. Is sugar supposed to be an alcohol substitute or create an alcohol type of reaction? There aren’t enough ginger sparkling water out there that doesn’t have added unwanted ingredients or needing body parts to purchase the outrageous prices of these alternatives!

        1. Katie Wells Avatar

          The sugar feeds the ferment so it is needed for this. If you’re trying to avoid sugar completely, I’d recommend just adding some fresh ginger to sparkling water and adding a few drops of stevia for a similar taste no-ferment alternative (that’s also much easier!)

  13. Stacey Avatar

    Can you add extra water to the ginger bug over time when it becomes more ginger than liquid?

    1. Quinn Avatar

      Hi, I would like to know, what do you mean cross-culture? Mean this ginger ale cannot be mix with sauerkraut?

      2) For sugar, can I use only molasses sugar instead of white sugar?

      3) To stop feeding keep in the fridge, but we still need to add fresh mince ginger & sugar each week??

      1. Duane Crother Avatar
        Duane Crother

        1)Fermenting foods that are in breathable containers create a “cloud” in their vicinity. If another fermenting food is nearby the bacteria or yeast will get mixed up and odd things will result. The basic rule is 4-5ft. apart. 2)White sugar often works best in fermentation. None of it remains after it is eaten by the yeast. You can try molasses sugar as an experiment. 3)Refrigeration will halt or slow down any culture, but it still needs to be fed, just at a slower rate.

  14. Ricardo Avatar

    5 stars
    So, first of all, thank you for this recipe. It’s really good!
    But I had a situation.
    After about 7 days it started sparkling, and I kept feeding every day, but about one week later it started tasting a bit sour.
    At first I thought it got contaminated by some bacteria. But then I noticed this white sediment at the bottom and, as a person who makes home made cider, I imagine that was also dead yeast (this sediment on brewing is also sour).
    So I removed the contents to another jar and sure enough after a few days it got back to almost as good as it was on its golden days.
    The stuff I left behind I kept it, as an experiment. And now Im fairly convinced that is becoming alcoholic. Which kind of make sense, as natural yeast eating sugar will inevitably result in alcohol.
    My question is: how do I prevent this sour/alcoholic stage? As much I enjoy making booze at home, the sparkling, non alcoholic, ginger beer was really good and refreshing, and the end result I was aiming for.
    Should I just siphon it every week to get that sediment behind? Or maybe constantly also add water to dilute the concentration (it’s so strong on the ginger spiceness that my mouth gets a bit sore for like 10min after I drink it hahaha I love that!)?
    Anyway…sorry for the long message. Any tips would be appreciated!

    1. MaryAnne Avatar

      Hi Ricardo,
      I’m waiting to hear the same thing – is it ok to strain off the liquid and compost the built-up solids so there’s a better ratio of liquid to ginger. I don’t see an answer.. will continue to watch out for a response!
      I will compost the solids, so if my hens start staggering around I’ll know it had alcolol in it lol : )

  15. Yuyin Wang Avatar
    Yuyin Wang

    After you take 1/4 cup of starter to make soda, how much water do you put to keep it going and for use for next time? And how many days of rest do you need before you make another batch of soda?

  16. Susan Lowry Avatar
    Susan Lowry

    5 stars
    I’ve had a ginger bug going for a while now, but due to the corona virus, fresh ginger isn’t available anymore (not sure if it’s because of imports being suspended or what). Is there any way I can keep it alive without fresh ginger? Also can you use other juices to make “soda” rather than fresh ginger/sugar? I love this bug and want to keep it alive. Thanks!

      1. Norma Avatar

        I would try candied ginger it should work in that it contains just sugar and water.

      2. Karen Avatar

        4 stars
        Due to Covid 19 , we have to soak all fruit and vegetables in anti bacteria wash, but since that would kill the necessary bacteria on the ginger, is it impossible to make a ginger big right now? Or can we just wash our hands well after grating the ginger and will the potential corona virus die in the fermentation process?

    1. Rowan Avatar

      I’ve had a ginger bug for a while now and have been using dried ginger, I’ve found it works just as well and have had successful ginger ale using this bug. Hope this helps.

      1. Garrett Deming Avatar
        Garrett Deming

        Do you add water to it ever? Seems like it would eventually run out of liquid

  17. Leanne Avatar

    Can you freeze the bug if you want to give it a break and restart it when you need?

  18. Aaron Avatar

    Mine is on day 7 and it’s bubbly as it should be but when I checked it this morning it has a couple tiny spots of blue mold. Can I skim off the mold and continue to use it?

  19. Dan Avatar

    Little confused about the recipe. The ingredient list states a 1/2 c white sugar. (which is what I added), Then the second sentenance states (2-3 tablespoons of white sugar). Which is it? Do I need to start all over?

  20. shawn Avatar

    **** WELLNESS MAMMA ****
    Firstly – Thanks for this recipe it is obviously something that many have needed and wanted. BUT could you please update your post as there are so so many comments here and 1/3 of them are the regarding the same things! It took me over an hour to read all the posts and I had to copy and paste the answers in another document. Please I don’t mean any disrespect but you would really be assisting your community by updating this recipe and addressing the common questions people have asked. Either way thanks!

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Thanks for your suggestion. It might take a while to do that with over 1500 hundred articles and thousands of comments, but I’ll see what we can do 🙂

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