Friday, February 27, 2015

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Ginger Soda, Revisited

I've been making my own homemade lacto-fermented soda for about 3 years now and made a post about my original method sometime during the first several months (see here: Lacto-Fermented Soda). I believe have perfected it since then and feel the need to revisit this topic to share my observations and alterations.
(6-30-15 For a video, please see this link: Ginger Soda)

You see, it started to not taste so good and I became less and less interested in making it. I gave it up for a few months but then decided that maybe I just needed a fresh starter. I made a new starter and that helped, however after several months it began having the same issues of not tasting quite right. It was then that I decided to change my method. In my previous method I would simply save back a cup or two from the last batch of soda to use as a starter for the next batch of soda. At the same time I had been maintaining a sourdough starter for quite a while - I would keep the same starter but feed it when it needed fed and that kept it fresh and good. I decided to do the same thing with the ginger soda - instead of saving back a cup or so from the last batch I just began maintaining a starter. This has proven to work so much better ... however I do make a fresh sourdough starter every year in the spring and I might do that with the ginger soda too. We'll see.

So, here's the way I do it now.

* Organic ingredients are always preferable but not absolutely necessary.

For the starter/bug
Fill a quart mason jar about 2/3 full. Add to it 1T FRESH grated ginger and 1T sugar. Mix well to incorporate the ingredients and air into the water. Cover with a coffee filter or cloth secured with a rubber band. This allows wild yeasts and bacteria into the jar but keeps the bugs out. If your house is cold try to set the jar in the warmest place.
Each day thereafter, around the same time each day, you will add 1T of FRESH grated ginger and 1T sugar. Mix well to incorporate the ingredients and air. Stir again approximately 12 hours later. (so you will be stirring it every 12 hours)
I like to taste my starter each time after adding the ginger and sugar. It should be pleasantly sweet and somewhat gingery. If  it tastes too much like ginger (which makes me think of alcohol) it needs more sugar. Add what you think is needed ... a teaspoon? A few teaspoons? Another tablespoon? You might also need to skip adding the ginger (or only add a small bit) for one day but add the sugar. You'll learn what's right.
After about 3-7 days your starter should be ready - a warmer temperature in the home makes the starter go faster, a colder one makes it slower. You will see bubbles on top and when you stir it you will hear it fizzing like soda. If it only fizzes a little bit you might want to leave it another day or two.
Now you have what is called a 'bug'. You are ready to proceed to the next step.

For the soda base/wort - This is for one gallon of soda.
1/3c packed grated fresh ginger
1 1/2c sugar
Approximately 1 gallon of distilled or filtered water
1/3c FRESH squeezed lemon juice
1c strained soda starter/bug (SAVE THE REST OF THE STARTER! see below)

Pay attention now! This is important. You do NOT want to heat your starter! You will KILL it!

Fill a pot with a half gallon of water and the 1/3c packed grated fresh ginger. Bring to a boil, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the 1 1/2c sugar and allow to sit until it's at ROOM TEMPERATURE. You may cool it down quicker by putting it in a sink of cold water ... just be sure to not get the water into the pot.
Once the syrup is at ROOM TEMPERATURE add the 1/3c fresh squeezed lemon juice and the 1c soda starter/bug. Mix well.
Pour all into a glass gallon jug and add water to the shoulder. Taste it. It should be slightly sweet and gingery. Top with a coffee filter or cloth secured with a rubber band.
Leave on your counter. Stir every 12 hours and taste each time. You are looking for obvious bubbles and fizz. Also, it should be mildly sweet. If the sweetness goes away but you still do not see bubbles or fizz, add a little more sugar until it's mildly sweet again (I've never had to do this but I'm putting this in here just in case it happens to you).
This step usually only takes 1 to 2 days (24-48 hours or anywhere in between). If it's colder in your home it might take longer than 2 days. If for some reason you reach 3 full days and still do not see bubbles or fizz, you may try replacing some of the liquid with more starter (a half cup to a cup), adding more sugar if needed, and seeing what happens after another day or so. Again, this has never happened to me but it's possible.
Once you have fizz and bubbles you are ready to move on to the next step. Eventually you will learn how you like it to taste at this point too. I leave mine sit a little longer even after the fizz and bubbles start showing up.

Bottling your soda
This is the finishing stage that will really add carbonation to your soda and reduce the sweetness a little.
Strain off the ginger and discard or compost it. (I tried giving this to my chickens but they were not interested at all!).
You may add a little more sugar if you want it a little sweeter. Again, you will learn what you prefer. I never add more sugar but I do not like things so sweet.
Using a funnel, fill your bottles within 2" to the top (or if you are using plastic bottles you may fill a little fuller, but no more than 1" to the top). For the first few years I made this soda I was using plastic 'juicy juice-type' jugs. They are really air tight and work well enough, however I discovered a store in Rogers, AR, that had the fancy Grolsch-stole bottles (EZCap brand that are said to be the better ones) for a really good price so I went ahead and purchased a case of 16oz bottles (12 in a case). I did not regret this purchase at all and in fact just ordered the 32oz bottles for my beet kvass and for larger bottles of soda when we have company.
Anyway, fill your bottles and cap them with an AIR TIGHT LID.
Leave on your counter for a day or two or three to build up carbonation. The longer it sits out the less sweet it will be.
To check simply open the bottle and taste it, but be careful! It might spill out so open over the sink or outside. Each time you open a bottle to check it it will lose carbonation. To restore some of the lost carbonation simply put the lid back on and leave it out a little longer than the other ones.
When the soda is done, transfer it to the refrigerator. This will almost halt the fermentation process, however the organisms in the soda will continue to slowly eat the sugar ... the older it is the less sweet it will be, but it does keep indefinitely so do not be afraid to drink the old stuff!

Maintaining your starter
Now you still have this starter to think about; I will share what has worked very well for me.
Strain out the ginger bits and put the rest back into the quart mason jar. Add water until it's about 2/3-3/4 full. Add a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger and a tablespoon of sugar. This should sound familiar, right?! Just like before, you will add 1T of each grated ginger and sugar, mixing well twice a day, however this time you will only need to do it for about 2-3 days. Again, taste it to make sure it is mildly sweet and gingery. If it is too strong of ginger or alcohol, add more sugar and little to no ginger. If it is too sugary, leave off the extra sugar for a day or so.
Your starter should be bubbly and fizzy.
Now it is ready to be stored in the fridge until you need it next. I leave the cloth and rubber band on it and then I put a jar lid on top and put the ring on loosely. I do not keep it air tight.
A day before you are ready to make more soda take the starter out of the fridge, mix in 1T each ginger and sugar, stir again 12 hours later, and then 12 hours or so after that you are ready to make more soda. If it's really strong I leave off the ginger.
And the process repeats on and on.

You may wish to add a little concentrated fruit syrup before bottling it. This will give it different flavors but will also give the organisms more sugar to eat ... and might make the bottles super fizzy. If I make 2 gallons at a time I still have to use the plastic juice bottles for some of my soda because I do not have enough of the EZCap bottles. Occasionally I will add a handful of frozen strawberries, peaches or blueberries (or whatever) to the jug. This also makes it more fizzy. One time I opened a plastic bottle in front of company and I'm not joking at all, the soda shot clear to the ceiling and made quite the mess!! It was a good laugh.

Also, you do not HAVE to use ginger for the wort/syrup ... you may choose to use 6c of fruit like strawberries, grapes, blueberries or whatever. I have yet to find a fruit I like to use in place of the ginger; also, it just uses so much fruit that it seems a waste of fruit and money to me!!! I just stick with the ginger.

One final tip: When you make your first batch of soda I suggest you take notes so you'll have a better idea of what to do differently for the second batch.


  1. I also enjoy water kefir sodas. Try to get its many different probiotics into my diet as possible.

  2. Yes, we enjoy water kefir too ... though it's been a while since I've made it. We do kombucha, ginger soda and beet kvass ... mainly anyway!

    I have a ginger soda video in the works but am not connected to the internet right now :) Learning ways around that issue and am thankful for wifi at the library!

    Thanks for stopping by!


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