Making your own ginger bug is easy, and it can be used for making homemade probiotic sodas and a sweet, mildly acidic, homemade ginger vinegar from scratch.
Over the years I have fermented all sorts of things, from making my own yogurt and kefir, to making sourdough, sauerkraut, and kimchi. At any given moment in time, you are likely to find my kitchen inhabited by several unusual looking substances in large mason jars covered with cloth. Right now you would find kombucha, soy sauce & miso (hopefully coming soon to the blog), kimchi, and ginger vinegar happily fermenting in various parts of my house.
Ginger vinegar was one of those things that I made by accident, much like kombucha vinegar and water kefir vinegar. When you forget about things and ferment them for too long, you tend to end up with vinegar. Sometimes the result isn't very pleasant, but other times you end up with something wonderful, like this ginger vinegar made with a ginger bug.
What is a ginger bug?
If you aren't familiar with the term, a ginger bug probably sounds like some horrific creepy crawly thing that one would never want to deal with, but instead it is a ferment that you make yourself, much like a sourdough starter, but with water, ginger, and sugar.
Ginger bugs are usually made as a way to carbonate homemade sodas.
While I'm not much of a soda drinker myself, I do love the challenge of making something fun, new, and probiotic. So, several years ago I had my first try at making a ginger bug and ginger bug soda. It was also the first time I accidentally made ginger vinegar, or ginger bug vinegar.
Over the years I have made several attempts at making ginger ginger ale or ginger beer with the ginger bug. While the results were OK, I've found that I prefer kombucha flavored with ginger on the second ferment, so I don't make them very often. In the end, I actually prefer making ginger vinegar with it, which I happen to love and I especially think it's amazing when used in my sweet chicken adobo recipe. In any case, I'll explain the process so that you can try to make your own carbonated beverages before making vinegar, and if I come up with some amazingly tasty recipe for a homemade soda, I'll share that with you too someday.
How to make a ginger bug.
To make a ginger bug, all you need is a glass jar, filtered water, some sugar, and some fresh ginger. Begin on the first day by adding two cups of filtered water to the jar, along with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of grated or finely chopped ginger. I have always used white sugar for both kombucha and ginger bug making, but some say it can be done with other types of sugar and sweeteners. Without having tried them out myself, I'm not really sure, but most people tend to agree that white sugar works best for these things. Most of the sugar will get consumed by the fermentation process anyway, so try not to worry about it too much. As for the ginger, you can choose to peel it or not. I usually peel mine because I can't find an organic ginger around here, but I'm not very careful about peeling it, and purposely leave little bits and pieces of peel that can help introduce local yeasts and bacteria into the ferment.
Once you have put everything into the jar, mix it all up and cover it with a cloth or paper towel and a rubber band. We want air to be able to pass through, but not bugs and dust.
That's all you need to do on the first day. Now set it aside undisturbed for 24 hours.
The next day, add in another tablespoon of sugar and another tablespoon of grated ginger. Once again cover it and leave it for another day.
Keep repeating the process for the next several days. Depending upon the temperature, you should end up with a happily fermenting ginger bug in around 4-8 days.
You can tell that your ginger bug is ready when you start to see bubbles forming. You'll also see a white precipitate starting to form and fall to the bottom.
How to make a ginger bug soda.
At this point, you can choose what you want to do with it. If you want to ferment a homemade soda, you'll just need to decide what sort of soda you want to make, and then make a sugar syrup of sorts with other flavorings added in. Most people either make a mix of sweetened ginger tea with lemon juice to make a ginger beer or ginger ale of sorts, but others choose to make a mix of fruit, like a berry puree, and sugar. When cooled to room temperature, you add your syrup, filtered water, and a bit of healthy ginger bug to airtight bottles, and let the ginger bug do a second fermentation in the sealed bottles to consume the sugar and develop gas.
Be careful with the bottles and regularly check on them. Quite a bit of gas can develop throughout the process, and it can be enough to explode your glass bottles if you leave them unattended for long enough! (I haven't personally had that happen, though. Knock on wood!)
When you are happy with the amount of carbonation, you can move the soda to the fridge to slow the fermentation process, and your soda is ready to drink.
Looking for a natural soda recipe?
This Pineapple Ginger soda from NourishingTime.com looks pretty tasty to me! 🙂
Going back to the ginger bug and ginger vinegar, though…
If you want to keep making sodas with it, you can either continue to add in ginger, sugar, and a bit of water every once in a while to keep your ginger bug active, or you can rest your ginger bug in the fridge, only needing to add in more sugar and ginger every week or so. If you let it rest in the fridge, you'll need to take it out and wake it up again by feeding it at room temperature for a couple of days before making soda with it.
On the other hand, if you don't choose to do either of those things, eventually all of the sugar in your sugar bug will be consumed, and it will become very acidic. I purposely add in some water, sugar, and ginger to my active ginger bug so that I'll end up making a bigger batch of vinegar, and then cover it and leave it alone for several weeks.
A white film will form over the top of your liquid, which is basically like a forming kombucha SCOBY, but in this case it is the vinegar “mother.”
After several weeks, you can taste the vinegar for acidity.
At first it will be both sweet and acidic. At this point I love drizzling it on spiralized cucumbers for a refreshing cucumber noodle salad!
If you leave it for longer, though, you'll end up with a more acidic vinegar. In any case this vinegar, even months later, tends to be on the sweeter and less acidic side, much like a mild rice vinegar.
You can choose to stop the process at any time by filtering out the solids, and bottling up the vinegar and leaving it in the fridge. On the other hand, you can choose to do a sort of continuous brew of vinegar by removing small amounts and adding in more water, sugar, and ginger to keep the process going.
I love the taste of this vinegar because it is light and refreshing and has a hint of the flavor of ginger, of course!
How to Make Ginger Vinegar from a Homemade Ginger Bug
- ginger root
- filtered water
Add 2 cups filtered water to a jar with a Tbsp. of sugar and a Tbsp. of grated or finely minced ginger.
Mix everything together and cover the jar with a cloth to keep bugs and dust out. Leave alone for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, add in another Tbsp. of sugar and another Tbsp. of ginger. (You can also add in a little water whenever you see the mixture too overrun with ginger bits.) Once again, mix everything together and cover with a cloth. Leave it undisturbed for another 24 hours.
Repeat step 3 each day until you get an active ginger bug. You can tell that your ginger bug is active and ready when you start to see bubbles forming at the top and a white precipitate falling to the bottom. (Normally around 4-8 days)
Once your ginger bug is ready, you can try to make sodas with it by mixing it with sugar syrup mixtures and filtered water, and doing a second ferment in airtight bottles to build up carbonation.
On the other hand, you can now abandon your ginger bug for several weeks to make a ginger vinegar. After several weeks of fermentation, you will notice that it will become more and more acidic and less sweet. It should also begin to form a vinegar mother on top which looks like an opaque white kombucha SCOBY.
You can filter your vinegar at any time and keep it in the fridge or make a continuous brew of sorts by occasionally taking some vinegar out and adding in more filtered water, ginger, and sugar.
Enjoy on salads or in recipes like my sweet chicken adobo.
This post is also available in Español.