Homemade Soda

I’ve never been a soda fan – too bubbly and sickly sweet for me – so it’s been with vindication that I’ve learned as an adult how evil it is for your body.  Of course my kids idolize it now that it’s been demonized so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make healthy soda.

I ran across this article while googling for I can’t remember what and was intrigued.

A few weeks back I made the ginger bug as my culture by placing a cup of filtered water in a mason jar, then adding a teaspoon of diced ginger root and teaspoon of organic sugar to it.  I placed a paper towel over the jar and used a rubber band to keep it on so it could breathe.  I did that every day for about a week.

By the end of the week the “ginger bug” was bubbly and smelled just like strong ginger ale.  It tasted like strong ginger ale too – not sweet at all. 

I made a batch of simple syrup and when that was cool I added the ginger bug and 2 cubes of frozen lemon juice.  I put the lid on the jar and let that sit on the kitchen counter for about 4 days.  I tasted it one night and gave a little woot.  It was lightly bubbly, not too sweet, delicious.  My kids love it!  My husband even thought it was tasty! 

For me the best part is that it’s something healthy, and I don’t just mean that it’s not as bad as store bought soda is because it’s organic sugar and has no additives.  It really IS healthy.  The active yeast I harnessed has eaten a large amount of the sugar and left us with some wonderful probiotics in it’s place.

You’ve probably read a lot about synthetic probiotics and how good those are for your immune system and gut flora.  Those are nothing compared to the probiotics in kefir, kombucha, homemade yogurt and this soda.  If you really want to improve your digestion, make it easier for your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals that you are consuming, stave off those creepy flu bugs or give your body a better chance to do it’s job and protect your from rising rates of autoimmune diseases then eat real probiotics. 

Homemade soda is a great place to start!

Here is how to make your own soda:

Note – You will need a glass jar that holds a gallon or two of liquid, depending on how much soda you plan to make.

Make your culture or “bug” in a pint mason canning jar.

  • Place one and a half cups of filtered water in the jar. Chlorinated water may kill your happy organisms which would mean no bug or bubbles.
  • Add one tablespoon of diced fresh ginger root and 2 teaspoons of white sugar
  • Cover the jar with a paper towel and use a rubber band or the canning ring to keep that on so you don’t get fruit flies
  • Leave it on the kitchen counter away from other fermentation or culturing projects
  • Every day add 2 teaspoons of diced fresh ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar, swirling the jar to aerate it.
  • You can aerate the jar more frequently during the day to keep it oxidized and make it work faster.
  • If your bug gets moldy or starts to smell funky discard it and start again.
  • Depending on room temperature and other factors your bug may be ready in 3-4 days, or may take as long as a week. You will know it’s ready because it will be very bubbly like soda.

    Add Flavoring.

  • Steep your flavoring in half of your filtered water (i.e. to make one gallon total of soda you will have 1/2 gallon of flavoring water, the other half will come from your simple syrup.)
  • To make ginger ale gently boil one sliced thumb’s length of ginger root per gallon of water for 20 minutes.
  • To make lemon, lime or orange soda boil citrus peel for 20 minutes.
  • To make sarsparilla or root beer let about 2 Tablespoons of dried sarsparilla root and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of dried wintergreen leaves steep overnight in your water. You can find both at Bob’s Homebrew in Ravenna/U District in Seattle.  You can also easily grow edible wintergreen in the Pacific NW.  I found my plants at Raintree Nursery.

    Make Simple Syrup.

  • Warm the rest of your filtered water and dissolve 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon of finished soda you plan to make. I made one gallon of soda total so I made 1/2 gallon of simple syrup, using 1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane juice.

    Finishing Steps

  • Let your simple syrup cool to body temperature
  • Pour the simple syrup in your gallon jar and then add at least one cup of your bug and your flavored water.
  • If you like you can add additional flavoring like blackberry syrup or citrus juice.
  • Cover your jar tightly and let it ferment. According to the article I linked above, you let it ferment from 4 – 10 days depending on how sweet you like your soda. The shorter fermentation times will yield a sweeter soda. This is all dependent on room temperature and bug strength so taste it every day.
  • When your soda is ready you can divide it into smaller bottles and let it sit at room temperature for another 2-5 days to build up some fizz inside each bottle.
  • Once it is fizzy enough for you, put the bottles in the refrigerator to stop the fizzing process.
  • I don’t like very fizzy soda so I omitted this step and just put it into smaller mason jars in the fridge. The bigger the jar and the more frequently you open it, the less fizzy your soda will be.

    I’d love to hear how yours turned out, or flavorings that you used. The sarsparilla is my favorite!  Here is my flavoring water that I’ve let steep with sarsparilla root and wintergreen overnight, before adding the bug and simple syrup.


    44 responses to “Homemade Soda

    1. So interesting! I want to make homemade soda! Sounds yum….

    2. This sounds fantastic! Another experiment to add to my list. Thanks for the inspiration. I will get some organic ginger tomorrow and give this a go. My family will be happy. Every once in a while we get Reed’s Ginger soda.

      Love, Wardeh

    3. Pingback: Kitchen Notes ~ April 20, 2009: GNOWFGLINS™

    4. sustainableeats

      Hi all! Let me know how yours comes out. I just found dried sarsparilla and wintergreen (for root beer) at Bob’s Homebrew on 55th and we’ll be starting that this week…

    5. I love ginger – I too am going to do this. I wonder what probiotic strains might be present? I like all the ingredients being organic – something good and beneficial should come from that.

    6. OK I have got to try this too! Every day to the mason jar you add more ginger and sugar or water also? and by the way, that article is Great! Thanks!

    7. sustainableeats

      Bob: I have not a clue but I know they are alive, it bubbles like a lava lamp!

      Sara: No extra water unless you want to drink the bug straight w/o making soda. I prefer it since it’s not sweet at all but has that dry taste like tonic water does. Once you get it bubbly you don’t need to feed it every day but I would feed it every other day just to be safe. You don’t want to lose it. I feel like I’m feeding the fish when I feed that and the sugar kefir grains.

    8. Would it be possible for you post step-by-step directions for the ginger soda? As in day 1, day 2, etc? I would love to try this!

    9. sustainableeats

      Kate: Absolutely! I’ll hopefully get to it tonight. I started a batch of rootbeer using sarsparilla root and dried wintergreen leaves and it tastes just like sarsparilla I had at Old Tombstone in AZ when I was a kid in the early ’70s. I’m obsessed with it right now! I keep tasting it every 30 minutes to see if it’s changed yet LOL. I’ll post those instructions and some photos as well.

    10. Hiya! Well, I’m home from the store with my ginger root. Reading those directions in the link you shared… I chose a quart jar to make the culture, though the article didn’t specify what size. Is that okay? It also didn’t specify how to store the jar while the culture is developing, but I see you’re using a towel and rubber band – thanks! I don’t want to mess this up. We are SO excited about it!

      Love, Wardeh

    11. sustainableeats

      Hi Wardeh! I have mine in a pint jar on the counter but I’m going to switch to a bigger jar so I can make more of it at a time since the bug itself is so yummy. I have a paper towel over that and you can either use the canning jar ring or a rubber band to secure it. I just have it on the counter with my other projects. One note of caution – keep any fermenting things at least a few feet apart (like yogurt, etc) or the cultures will cross over to each other. I had that happen to my buttermilk when I was making vinegar a few months ago so I can vouch that they readily travel. I’ve moved my desem bread starter downstairs since I don’t want to take any chances with that one and the vinegar is now finishing in the garage!

    12. Thank you! That’s great to know not to mix cultures. I’ll keep the ginger bug well away from the Kombucha. Funny how you have moved things to every corner of your house! Love, Wardeh

    13. OK I’ve got my jars now I just need my ginger and I was wondering if I could use raw sugar instead of white sugar. I’ve never done anything like this, so I am completely clueless on my own!

    14. Hi Sara and welcome to the realm of mad kitchen scientist MWAH HA HA.

      You absolutely can use raw sugar but be sure to use filtered water if you live in a municipality that has highly chlorinated water because the chlorine would kill the good bugs along with the bad. Better to build up your collection of good gut bugs by eating and drinking fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, yogurt and this soda so they can knock out the bad ones rather than relying on your city to do it for you.

      I just read on Nourishing Gourmet’s blog this week that there is some evidence feeding fermented foods can cure birds with the avian flu which is promising for us when the next pandemic does hit. I was a not at all surprised to read about the swine flu this week. Go good bugs go!

    15. Hi. I am bummed. My ginger bug got moldy. I will have to start it over.

      How bubbly should it get? It had some bubbles, but now it has mold. 😦

      I’m not discouraged~will give it another go!

      Love, Wardeh

    16. sustainableeats

      Nuts! Mine is full of bubbles. Be sure to put a paper towel over it so it can get good air circulation. How warm is your kitchen? I have a few time forgotten to feed it more sugar & ginger which keeps it active but it’s always survived. I wonder if it helps that I have so much active stuff close by – kefir & buttermilk? But you have kombucha I think so that should serve the same function. I’m sorry!

    17. sustainableeats

      One other thing you could try if the bug just isn’t working out for you – make the soda but instead of adding the bug add some water kefir grains. I’m not sure if kombucha would work since I don’t have that. For some reason I want to say that kombucha needs green tea but I don’t know that for sure. I saved out some root beer and added water kefir grains, capped the lid tightly and left on the counter overnight and they made it more bubbly then the ginger bug did.

    18. I covered it with a cloth napkin, loosely. Perhaps it didn’t get enough circulation. I don’t have any paper towels, I wonder what I could substitute next time? My kitchen has been fluctuating in temp lately, according to the weather. The only active stuff I have nearby is Kombucha, nothing else. But it is across the kitchen and pretty well wrapped up in towels for warmth.

      Kombucha doesn’t need green tea — it can use any tea, black, green, or otherwise (though not all taste great, I’ve heard). I use green tea.

      I’ve never done any kefir. I have a friend who may have some grains to share, but first I’ll try making the ginger bug again.


    19. sustainableeats

      Cheesecloth would be perfect – kudos to you for not having paper towels! You could also cover it with a mesh metal strainer maybe? It’s really for dog hair and fruit fly reasons that I cover anything at all so you probably don’t even need to cover it.

    20. Now I’m on my third bug. 😦 The second one got all bubbly but very quickly, so I let it go longer and it spoiled.

      Today, my third bug is all bubbly and good, so I’ve made my syrup and flavoring and I’m waiting for them to cool.

      When making the flavoring, do you simmer a thumb’s length of ginger per 1 gallon of finished soda ~ or a thumb’s length per 1 gallon, regardless of finished amount? Since I’m making 1 gallon of soda, my flavoring amount is 1/2 gallon — so I used half the thumb’s amount. Hope I read it right!


    21. sustainableeats

      Hi Wardeh,

      It’s one thumb’s length per gallon of flavoring water, which is half your total liquid. But if you really love ginger you could use that amount to make 1/2 gallon of flavoring water. I could drink my bug straight up! And it’s full of ginger. Let me know how it comes out! We still have root beer left and then I want to make rhubarb soda but THEN I’m making some ginger ale. Unless something else comes in season LOL.

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    24. I got my ginger! Then spent 2 hours looking for this post! lol Talk about anticipation! We really can’t wait now! Thanks for all you do!

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    28. hi, thanks for the post (and all the interesting stuff on your blog). when you do the 1st ferment after adding the bug to the soda mix (before transferring to small bottles), do you have a huge amount of fizz? like do you need to open the jar in a bowl or in the sink? i don’t want to lose it all before i bottle it!! i’ve found similar instructions on other sites and no one mentions if there is a lot of carbonation build up in the first ferment.
      look forward to hearing your experience and thanks!

    29. Question or 2…
      You said to use at least e cup sugar bug – does that include the ginger?
      Do we just continue to ise the ginger that is fermeted to start a second batch like kefir grains?
      Will the sugar bug keep in fridge to be reactivated when we are ready to start feeding again or do we start all over again?

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    31. It’s rather irresponsible to not address either hygiene or storage vessels.

      How did you sterilize your storage vessels? Heat? Bleach? Dish soap?

      Glass bottles should not be used due to the danger of possible explosions. Plastic is much more difficult to sterilize & keep air-tight than glass.

      If you tasted your fermenting ginger beer daily in the big container (before bottling), how did you get it bubbly and keep it from turning alcoholic?

    32. June Melanson

      I wasn’t able to open the link to the article you posted. It kept coming up as an error. Do you have the website and I can copy and paste into my address bar and try to open it that way. I love this post.

    33. Just a word of warning… I made “ginger beer” according to Nourishing Traditions (which is very similar) and two bottles ended up exploding on me. If I had been home, I would have been in the direct line of fire! If possible, let your soda ferment in an out-of-the-way area, just in case 😉

    34. Pingback: My bug named Ginger | Frugalonomy

    35. I tried making the ginger bug. I thought it looked good and made my syrup, added more water, ect. 5 days later there is no fizz! It tastes fermented, but not bubbles. I’m concerned something is wrong. I keep adding sugar thinking it needs more “food”. I used boiled filtered water after cooling it. Any suggestions?

    36. Pingback: Homemade Soda (Yumm!) and Blog Talk Radio? | Teri Gelseth

    37. Pingback: Homemade Soda (Yumm!) and Blog Talk Radio? | Teri Gelseth

    38. Rachel McFarland

      I know it’s been a while since this post, bht I’m hopeful you’ll respond. What do you do with your left over ginger bug? Can you keep it going? Can you put it on hold? Cand you add more water and keep feeding it? I need detailed instructions please. I started my first ginger bug today! So excited!

    39. you can halve the bug, top up with water and feed as per normal, will be ready in a week to go again. Give the discarded half to the neighbour or the compost. I’m trying to make one now without ginger, usisng organic limes.

    40. Wow I had no idea these comments were here since I have since moved to a self hosted version called http://www.sustainableeats.com. Thank you, Andrew, for answering. Let me know how your lime version came out! Adrianne how did yours come out eventually? It could be there was some bleach contamination or chemical residue on the ginger that killed off the good bacteria.

      Melissa yes – check ferments often and burp them! Thanks for sharing that scary story.

      Kerrie I don’t use bleach because any remaining residue will also destroy the good bacteria that you need. I simply wash well in soap and hot water. I am trying to develop good bacteria in my family so that we can fight off bad bacteria. I do not subscribe to a life of super sterility and believe it is part of why everyone is so sick these days. I do believe that glass or ceramic are the only safe vessels to use as plastics leach dangerous chemicals. You just need to check your ferments and occasionally burp them, especially if you are trying to get something bubbly.

      Faithful when making the soda I don’t use the ginger, just the liquid part. I continue feeding the bug as Andrew suggested but it won’t last long in the fridge, even with constant feeding. I make this maybe once or twice a year now and don’t keep it going perpetually because I got tired of buying sugar all the time, although someone on my other blog commented that it works fine with honey. I have not tried that yet since we have not collected from the hives this year.

      kgg I have not had a lot of carbonation but I am making this for kids so I don’t let it go so long. I don’t want it to turn alcoholic!

    41. Pingback: Hjemmelavet sodavand med super smag – og som er sund! | Henriks Blog

    42. LOVE this!! I am now on my 6th round of ginger bug and loving it! I was wondering…has anyone used ginger bug in their kombucha fermentation?

    43. Yep! Works better than expected. Here’s another take on the same process.


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