Brewing your own Herbal Sodas


Keane_GingerInfusion2014by Colleen Keane
Brewing your own soda is simple. All it takes is good bacteria, a food source to make them happy, and delicious flavoring. With a few easy steps and time, you can enjoy a fizzy, effervescent beverage. Fermented sodas are basically herbal and fruit teas buzzing with a microbiome that will provide you with a refreshing drink and beneficial gut bacteria.

The first step is deciding which starter culture you will use for the fermentation. The most commonly used for sodas are Ginger bugs (recipe follows), whey (from dairy), and kefir (a community of bacteria, proteins, and polysaccharides or complex sugars). Each starter brings a unique flavor to the final product. I prefer to use the Ginger bug as I can make it in my kitchen and it is naturally dairy-free.

Next, choose your flavoring. The options are only limited by your imagination and creativity. Fruits, roots, berries, and herbs traditionally were used to brew fermented sodas. Start with the simple recipe below and then experiment and see what you can come up with!

Bacteria require a food source to multiply. Cane sugar – in its many forms – is what is most commonly used. Remember that while the sweetener provides some of the taste for the final beverage you drink, the majority is feeding the bacteria and most will be gone by the time you drink the beverage.

Finally, after a shortwait, you get to enjoy the pure decadence of a sparkling drink.

Ginger Bug

  • 2 inch piece of fresh, organic ginger
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups filtered water

Finely chop Ginger (skin and all) and put into a quart size mason jar. Add sugar and water. Tighten the lid and give it a good shake to dissolve the sugar. Unscrew lid and cover with loosely woven cloth. Place in a fairly warm spot in your house. Every day for the next 3-5 days, add another 1-2 inches of finely chopped Ginger, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 2 Tbsp filtered water and mix well. After 3-5 days it should be frothing and smelling like yeast. This means it is ready. If it is in a cold location, it can take longer. If there is no activity after a week, discard the mixture and start again.

Super Simple Ginger Ale

  • 2 inch piece of Ginger roughly chopped (more for spicier)
  • ½ gallon filtered, spring or reverse osmosis water; divided
  • 1 cup sugar (more for sweeter)
  • ¼ cup Ginger bug (with Ginger filtered out)

Bring ¼ gallon water to a boil. Reduce heat to barely a simmer and add Ginger. Simmer for 30 minutes then strain. Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Add remaining ¼ gallon water. Once it is cooled to blood temperature, add the Ginger bug and give the liquid a good stir. Cover with cloth and let sit out to ferment until bubbles are visible (normally 1-3 days). Bottle it in a flip-top bottle (these can normally withstand the pressure), close the lid, and let it ferment at room temperature for another day or so until carbonated. Finally, refrigerate to chill and slow the fermentation process. Enjoy!

Safety First!

When beverages ferment in closed containers, they build up carbonation and pressure inside the vessel. Sometimes, the pressure is so great that the bottles can explode, resulting in a sticky mess and potentially dangerous situation. Keep a close watch on your beverages while they are in closed containers, even “burping” them if you are concerned (simply open the container every once in a while).

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