Ginger Bug Soda Starter Recipe
Making your own naturally carbonated sodas is easy when you use this wild yeast soda starter, also known as a ginger bug. Similar to a sourdough starter, a slurry of ginger, sugar, and water helps capture wild yeast, and provides an environment for lactic acid bacteria (the good guys!) to flourish. Sugar is necessary, because it feeds the bacteria and yeast (some people use honey, but that can take several weeks longer). I typically use a raw or unrefined sugar, but plain white sugar can work, too. Once the starter culture is ready, it can be added to tea or juice to make a soda. You can also replenish the starter to keep it alive and continue to make new batches of soda. Use organically grown ginger: nonorganic ginger may have undergone irradiation, which can destroy the good yeast and bacteria.
- Unpeeled, organically grown ginger
- Combine 2 tablespoons (12 g) finely chopped or grated ginger, 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) water in a pint (470 ml) jar. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or a piece of cloth secured with a rubber band. Let the jar stand at warm room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
- The next day, stir in 2 tablespoons each ginger (12 g), sugar (25 g), and water (30 ml). Repeat this process daily for up to a week. The starter is ready when it is foamy or bubbly around the top and smells mildly yeasty. Depending on the temperature of your environment, it may take from 2 to 7 days. (If nothing has happened in 7 days, discard it and start over again.)
- To use the starter: Strain off 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) liquid and combine with 2 quarts (2 L) juice or tea . Replenish the starter, if desired.
- To replenish the starter: Remove half of the sediment from the jar. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, 2 tablespoons (12 g) ginger, and 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar to the jar and gently stir. Continue to feed it daily as described above until it is bubbly again.
- To store the starter: Refrigerate the starter in a closed jar and feed it 2 tablespoons each ginger (12 g), sugar (25 g), and water (30 ml) once a week. To reactivate it, let it reach room temperature and continue to feed it daily until it is bubbly again.
Ginger Bug Soda Recipe
Sodas made with a ginger bug have a slight, though not overwhelming, gingery taste, so use a juice or tea that complements ginger. The flavor can also vary depending on the wild yeasts in your environment, making each batch of soda totally unique.
- 1 ⁄ 2 gallon (2 L) fruit juice or strong tea
- About 1 ⁄2 cup (100 g) sugar (or another caloric sweetener, such as honey or agave nectar)
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) strained liquid from Ginger Bug Soda Starter
- Sweeten the juice with the sugar. It should be quite sweet, because the yeast will need to consume the sugar to create carbonation. If the juice or tea has been heated, cool it to room temperature.
- Combine the sweetened juice and starter liquid in a jar and stir to blend. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or a piece of cloth and secure it with a rubber band.
- Bubbles should form on the top within 1 to 3 days. Once it is bubbly, transfer the soda to a bottle. Store the bottle at room temperature for 1 to 5 days until the soda is sufficiently carbonated. Transfer the bottle to the refrigerator and drink within 2 weeks.
YIELD: About 1/2 gallon (2 L)
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Reprinted with permission from Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han and published by Quarto Publishing Group USA, 2015