Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How To Make Your Own Lacto-fermented Soda

This is how I store the fermenting a warm place with a towel for extra warmth
Bottled soda, fermenting soda and ginger bug
You can see my temperature strip and airlock in place
Ginger "Bug" Notice it is cloudy and bubbles on top. This bug is 6 days old

Lacto-fermention is a type of fermentation that has been around as long as people have been preserving food. Food can be fermented by molds, yeast, bacteria alone or in combination with each other. Keifer and kombucha are examples of fermention by mixtures of bacteria and yeast. Lacto-fermented soda however is primarily a bacterial fermentation driven by a genus of bacteria called lactobacillus. I have not been able to find any studies about the variance of lactobacillus strains found in lacto-fermented foods, but some strains that seems to be predominant is lactobacillus plantarum, casei, acidophilus and paracasei. In our germ phobic social environment we live in, I have been delighted to enter into this world of home chemistry and rich cultural history associated with fermentation. If you go to you can find many studies that show the link between longevity and fermented foods. Two wonderful resources for fermentation is:
Nourishing Traditions
Wild Fermentation

Nourishing Traditions is one of the most important nutrition books and movements of this past decade. If you do not own this book, you might want to. The philosophy of Nourishing Traditions is based on Weston A. Price, a dentist who touted the wonderful effects of nutrient dense foods and the importance of the right kind of fats in our diets. The Weston A. Price organization has lists of local chapters on their website. My local chapter of Weston A. Price offers classes locally, which was my first introduction to the world of lacto-fermentation.

The bottom line is the more beneficial bacteria you have in your gut, the healthier you will be. Fortunately, doctors are finally catching on to this well known nutritional fact. 15 years ago, my dear friend's uncle was a GI doctor. When she mentioned probiotics to him, he laughed. I would guess he does not laugh about the importance of beneficial bacteria these days. Better late than never, huh? I am looking forward to the next big development doctors will realize affects peoples health.

Lactobacillus strains have been linked with improving the immune system, lowering the amount of candida yeast in the intestines and improving the absorption of nutrients. Foods can be lacto-fermented by using a whey starter from yogurt or from a  ginger root starter. Both of these starters contain lactobacillus bacteria. Root vegetables, especially ginger root, contain naturally high amounts of lactobacillus, so are a good option for creating a culture instead of whey. I like to use ginger root starter because it does not require a culture that I need to search out and buy. Fermenting vegetables like sauerkraut is made by pounding vegetables and adding salt to inhibit pathogenic bacteria from growing until enough lactic acid is produced that then kill harmful bacteria. Adding whey directly to fermented vegetables eliminates the need for salt however. Lactobacillus from whey or ginger root, feed on sugars present in the food and produce lactic acid that produces a rather acidic environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria. Lactic acid is so powerful against harmful bacteria found in foods, that a mixture of citric acid and lactic acid has been used to treat raw surface meat to prevent contamination from e coli 0157 and salmonella in meat packaging plants. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process, and works in the absence of air. Lactic acid effectively eliminates putrefactive anaerobes and butyric-acid-producing bacteria. Food becomes safer to eat after proper lacto-fermentation! And although it may sound complicated, all you need to get started making this soda is cane sugar, ginger root and a jar with a lid. Ok, enough science..lets get started.

To make Ginger Bug you will need:
1 large piece of organic ginger root
Bag of organic sugar (anything except white commercial sugar or honey)
A quart sized Mason Jar with a lid

Fill mason jar with filtered water. Chlorine from tap water can inhibit lactobacillus growth.
Add to the Mason jar EACH DAY:
1 Tablespoon roughly chopped ginger root
2 Teaspoons organic sugar

Each day after the addition of ginger and sugar, stir well, put lid on and keep in a warm place.
In about 3 days, the bug will start getting slightly foamy and smell fresh, sweet and gingery. If it smells at all unlike what I described, throw it out and start over. My starter really gets going after 3 days. It is ready to use day 5-7. The warmer the place, the faster it happens. The top of your fridge is a warm place. I keep mine on my stove near where the pilot light is lit. 80-85 degrees is a good temperature zone.
After your bug is ready to use in 5-7 days, it will have bubbles on the top, the liquid will be cloudy and it will smell clean, fresh, slightly sweet and gingery. You can store any extra ginger bug in your fridge, feeding it every week or so to keep it going. The cold of the fridge will slow it down so you won't need to feed it everyday.
I love drinking ginger bug on its own..I pour a splash into sparkling mineral water. If M has a belly ache, I pour her a little glass. It is perfectly fine to add more water to keep the jar full if you have taken some bug out over the 7 day period.  I have kept mine going on the counter for a couple of weeks feeding it every day.

How to Make Soda:

1 gallon purified water
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
6 cups fruit
1/4 cup grated ginger (optional)
zest of lemon
juice of lemon
pinch salt
1 cup of ginger bug
1 rubber cork
1 airlock
1 thermometer
ph strips
5 grolsch type bottles

About your soda equipment. I have a local home brew store that I bought my bottles and supplies. I bought a gallon of apple juice at the health food store, then poured it out when I got home and used the jar with the airlock and rubber cork I bought. Cultures For Health sells a jar ready to go that I really like. Midwest Supplies also has airlocks and rubber corks that are inexpensive. For my thermometer, I bought one that sticks on the outside of my jar, the kind used for reptile aquariums. You should be able to get it at any pet store. It is not absolutely necessary, but I like to know that my brew is in the target temperature range. I bought pH strips at my local health food store to make sure my brew is acidic enough since I am letting others drink my soda. You don't have to do this either. I like my brew pH 4.5 and under. Then I really know lactic acid is being produced!

A word of note: each soda batch I a have made has fermented at different rates. I think it is dependent on the kind of fruit you use, the ambient temperature in your house and mother nature. Don't stress about the variations. It will work out. If at anytime you brew smells weird, throw it out. If it does not smell weird and you see bubbles come up through the airlock, everything is fine. As far as flavors, I have made these soda flavors so far:
olallieberry ginger
blackberry ginger
ginger ale
raspberry rose (I added 2 tbls. of rose water after the fruit was cooked and it was cooling)

In a sauce pan, add 2 quarts filtered water, sugar, salt, lemon zest, juice and fruit.
I vary on fruit. I am making raspberry rose right now, but before that it was blackberry ginger. Whatever makes you happy! Add grated ginger if you want ginger ale type soda.
Bring to boil and then simmer for an hour. This lets the sugar and flavors release into the water.
After it is done cooking and you like how it tastes, strain the mixture into a bowl and let it sit until you can pour it into your gallon glass jar without it cracking from being too hot. I wait until it is around 100 degrees. I use a funnel to do this.
Add the rest of your water to fill up the gallon. Let the brew cool down to body temperature, or between 85-90 degrees, and then your last step is adding a cup of your ginger bug to the gallon jug. If you add the bug before it is cool enough, it will kill the bacteria.
Stir the bug in the gallon jug, and put the airlock and rubber cork on. Wrap with a towel and keep in warm place for 3-4 days.
In 12-24 hours rapid fermentation may take place. This does not always happen for me. It seems to work out fine if it doesn't. Rapid fermentation is when you see a bubble come through the airlock about every 5 seconds. My brew usually starts bubbling in 48 hours. This is when you want to taste it. The longer the brew sits and ferments, the less sweet it will become. Generally I see a bubble come through the airlock about every 20-30 seconds when it is fermenting. When you taste your brew and it is not too sweet, it is time to bottle. This happens anywhere between 3-4 days for me usually.
Use a funnel and pour soda into grolsch type jars. You can buy grolsch beer and use them after they have been emptied and clean. It is important to use sturdy jars because carbonation can cause your jars to explode. The flip top bottles prevent this from happening and you can use them over again many times.
Keep bottles on counter for a couple of days to build up carbonation. Test one to see how it is going after a day. When you have achieved carbonation you are happy with, put the jars in the fridge to slow down the carbonation process. They will keep in the fridge for quite a long time, just like beer! And if you make some soda..tell me how it went for you!


Becky said...

Looks so great! I may be giving this a try sometime soon... it beats giving the kids root beer!

Anonymous said...

Love ginger bug!!! If you don't have access to all the gadgetry, a ballon pulled over the top of the jar replaces the airlock and cork perfectly. The balloon will swell as carbon dioxide is produced, eventually flying off when the brew is ready. Very festive!

Jessica said...

Red that is a great method! What flavors do you make?

Elaine said...

Can't wait to try this!

FYI, there's a typo in this sentence: "Lacto-fermentation is an aerobic process, and works in the absence of air."

Lacto-fermentation is an "anaerobic" process.

Jessica said...

Elaine thank you for pointing out that typo..I have lots of them :)

Nancy said...

Love this post! I am inspired to get a ginger bug going in my kitchen, and eventually work my way up to the lactofermented sodas :)

Violet Folklore said...

I will seriously pay you for some, any time.

(P.S. I pinned this! Folks need to know!)

Anonymous said...

That was the best soda I have ever had!

Becky said...

Aaaak! I never thought to pin your stuff... doing it right now!

**slaps self on forehead**

Jessica said...

Is it only a matter of time until I join Pinterest? I have noticed this post pinned quite a bit. Yay for soda! Would love to know how all your soda come out!

Hodgepodge Harlequin said...

Your original post is what started my journey into Lacto Fermented sodas...I haven't quite gotten it down just yet, but am so glad you posted all these pics! it helps to see that maybe I wasn't doing as bad as i thought!

Hodgepodge Harlequin said...

Your original post is what started my journey into Lacto Fermented sodas...I haven't quite gotten it down just yet, but am so glad you posted all these pics! it helps to see that maybe I wasn't doing as bad as i thought!

Jessica said...

Hodgepodge..feel free to email me with any questions. I can give a bit of extra guidance if your needing some, or answer any questions that may have come up not answered in this post. My first go at soda was a bit rocky!!

Hodgepodge Harlequin said...

Thank you Jessica! My strawberry soda turned out amazing! I am working on rhubarb soda now. I also have been trying out water-kefir based sodas...if you would like to try it, I have plenty of extra water-kefir grains I could send to you.

Jessica said...

Hodgepodge, so happy your soda making is coming along! Rhubarb sounds especially exciting! I do have kefir here, but that was especially kind of you to offer to send me some. Thank you so much for telling me about your progress. Would love photos! xo jess

Unknown said...

I did something similar and got a slightly alcoholic ginger beer. Does that mean that my drink is not really lacto-fermented?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Hi Paul..I think you mean your ginger soda came out slightly alcoholic? Mine did too when I first started on this adventure. I waited less time to bottle the brew to cut down on the alcohol. I usually bottle it 2 or 3 days after I have added the ginger bug to the big jar of syrup/juice. Then I leave it bottled on the counter for 1-2 days to build carbonation. If it is very carbonated I put it right in the fridge though. Each batch has its own personality! It tends to be a bit on the sweeter side but less alcohol. What were the times you let things ferment?

Bryan said...

this is awesome, thank you!

my first batch of Brooks cherry-vanilla is almost ready to be bottled.
i just sampled some. it's tasty--generally "fruity" and gingery-- but seems a little weak.
i'm curious to taste it after a few more days in individual bottles. maybe the flavor deepens.

i find i have a lot of sediment from the fruit (i guess?) in this batch.
is that normal?
maybe i just have to try not to decant the last murky ⅛th of the jug.
any suggestions?

Jessica said...

Yes, the flavor weakens I have noticed. Before I do my first initial bottle (right out of the cooking pot) I make sure the flavors are pronounced, almost too sweet. But when you bottle, the carbonation will take over a bit and meet the slightly weakened flavor. All it will do is give more sugar for the fermentation. The carbonation will help. The sediment varies batch to batch, but I notice is from the fruit. Yes, try not to decant that. Each time I make soda it changes. Some more carbonation, some less, some less time in rapid fermentation, etc etc. So excited you are making soda! Tell me how it turns out after bottling! :)

Jessica said...

sorry a sentence got cut out..if you add more syrup to intensify the flavor, it will add to the fermentation. This can be grated ginger mixed with a bit of water, or more syrup that you made in the initial stage. Some people I know use the sediment for another batch of soda. If you got healthy vigorous fermentation in the rapid stage, try to use the sediment for your next batch or half bug and half sediment. You would need to keep feeding it though or use is soon if you were choosing that option.

Bryan said...

wow, i can't believe i just made soda!
i need to work on my syphoning skills though.

if the test papers are working and i'm reading the results correctly, the soda clocks in around 5.5, but i just noticed that's as low as the paper detects so i'd def like to try another kind of strip.
(and to compare, my tap water looks like 6.2).
i'm working to improve my bug, anyway.
and i'd love to try a batch with halfsies bug/fruit dregs from this batch.
i can only think it would enrich the flavor.
strawberry and last-of-season-rhubarb is next...

i don't know about you, but i've turned into a huge diy person in the kitchen lately.
this little bit of lab work here is really fun (safety and sanitation come first, but it's still fun).
thanks again for the inspiration and all the suggestions in your posts!
i really need to read Wild Fermentation now.

Bryan said...

ha, also,
do you ever check the sugar content with a hydrometer? is that correct?

next batch i should measure, i'm curious to know how much sugars are left in the final product to attempt to calculate per-serving.

Jessica said...

Congrats on your soda! Yay!! I did buy pH strips at my local brew store and it has a lower pH to test.
Three soda cheers for DIY! Thanks for giving the update. I was hoping to hear :)

joelelliott said...

That is such a good idea. You are a genius.

Raya said...

Is there a way to figure out a rough calorie or a sugar count on these? Thanks for the info, if anyone knows!

Jessica said...

I have thought about this many times. You could calculate it at the beginning. But, fermentation by its nature changes sugar into lactic acid. This means it is a constant changing medium. I think it would be hard. Maybe easier if you strictly regulate your process, but so many environmental factors come into play that it may be difficult. If you find any more about this, will you share? thanks!! jessica

Steph said...

@Paul: "I did something similar and got a slightly alcoholic ginger beer. Does that mean that my drink is not really lacto-fermented?"

After a fashion, sorta. Ginger bug isn't pure lacto-fermentation. Its a SCOBY, which means that there are both bacteria and yeast cultures fermenting the sugar. The bacteria are producing lactic acid, while the yeast are producing alcohol.

The bacteria and yeast have slightly different temperature preferences, so you may be able to encourage the bacteria to be more dominate by adjusting brew temperature. I have no experience with this myself, but have read about it in relation to sourdough bread.

Because both the bacteria and the yeast are consuming sugar, its difficult to determine exactly how alcoholic the soda may become over time. Progressive hydrometer readings will allow you to track how much sugar is being consumed, but not whether it is being converted into lactic acid or into alcohol :-/

John said...

I've been making lots of kombucha and have started looking at herbal sodas. Your recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of sugar per gallon!!! Yipe! That's 30g per 12 oz serving. Hire's and Coke have 30g - 35g, respectively.

Was this supposed to be a healthy alternative?

Can I use Stevia for sweetener and then a little sugar for bottling with the yeast? I remember a brewer friend that used to put a teaspoon of white sugar in every bottle before he capped them after primary ferment had ceased. Would that work for a lacto-fermented soda?

Jessica said...

John, remember that fermentation is driven by sugars. So the bacterial feed on the sugars to multiply which reduces the overall sugar over time. With lactofermentation if you taste the soda after a few days it is dramatically less sweet. Stevia would not work because there is no sugar for the fermentation bacteria to feed on. And the longer you let the fermentation go on, the more carbonation you get with less residual sugars. So the coke argument while it sounds plausible is actually not.

John said...

Makes sense. My wife threw a lot of stones at my recipes and said there was too much sugar in them. I can check the Specific Gravity of the initial mix and fermented product for final sugar content. The yeast:bacteria ratio will decide my final alcohol:lactic acid ratio. But at least she'll let me drink it.

Jessica said...

There will be a certain amount of yeast due to air exposure from various sources. I use pH strips to test acid content and when it is in the area I like, I taste one bottle for sweetness and then put it in the fridge. I have had soda that actually is not sweet enough after fermentation. Good luck!


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