Ginger Bugs

A Tale of Two Ginger Bugs

One question I’ve seen asked often is whether one can successfully make ginger bugs from store-bought ground ginger.

First, a quick recap about ginger bugs, what they are, and how they’re used. Like sourdough starter, a ginger bug is a wild starter cultured from the natural microflora that occurs on the skin of ginger. Traditionally, grated or finely chopped ginger is mixed with an equal amount of sugar (a tablespoon each will do) and a few cups of water, then stirred vigorously twice daily. Feed it the same proportions of ginger and sugar every day, keep stirring, and in a week or so you’ve got a bubbly liquid starter that can be used to make traditional sodas at home.

But not everybody has quick access to a grocery store with knobs of ginger lying around, so what using ground ginger from the spice aisle?

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I started two ginger bugs today, one from freshly grated ginger and one from a container of ground ginger from the store. I’ll be maintaining and updating their progress here as they develop. For starters, as you might expect, the ground ginger version was visually cloudier, although very much in line with the color of the mature bugs I’ve cultured in the past from fresh ginger root.

Day 1:

Ginger Bugs

Day 2:

No change. Added additional grated and ground ginger, respectively, as well as sugar and a thorough aeration. The fresh ginger jar smells much more strongly, with that hot ginger bite behind it. The ground ginger jar, on the other hand, is much more sedate smelling. No signs of activity in either jar yet.

Day 3:

Much to my surprise, when I opened the jars today, there were some bubbles visible in the ground ginger bug, but not the fresh ginger bug. I fed and stirred both as usual, and now, later in the day, there’s a foam starting to build up on the fresh ginger bug. At this rate, both should be ready use in making sodas in the next few days.

Day 5:

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I think we can call this phase done. We’re coming up on the weekend, and I’ll make up a batch of syrup, divide it in two, and see how they do as starters for lacto-fermented sodas. Check out all the action here.

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Stacie is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She’s been fermenting for most of a decade, and is an enthusiastic maker of beer, wine, kraut, tempeh, and natto, as well as an avid keeper of bees. And dogs and cats.