I've made a new ginger bug from some pretty old ginger.

The ginger has been sitting on my counter long enough for some of it to actually sprout new shoots, but it smells fine and doesn't show any signs of having gone bad.

I got great fermenation, plenty of bubbles, etc. However, I'm told that a ginger bug should smell like "fresh ginger" which this one decidedly doesn't.

It smells slightly medicinal and very alcoholic. Not sure if it is actually alcoholic, as I haven't tasted it.

The ginger smell in it is pretty strong, but doesn't smell like "fresh" ginger - more like ginger tea. The ginger and sugar used were both organic.

Is this how it's supposed to smell?

  • Can I ask what a Ginger Bug is?
    – paj
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 15:37
  • 1
    @paj google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ginger+bug
    – Eli
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 0:23
  • cool, never heard of it before <- British
    – paj
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 7:38
  • dump the home grown "ginger bug" and go buy the real thing. Ginger beer SCOBY (aka the real ginger beer plant) is formed of white jelly like granules that are composed of a particular yeast and lactobacillius. It is a stable thing and not at all like a mixture of wild yeast and bacteria that most "ginger bugs" are actually composed of. Real ginger bug forms the granules whereas other combinations of yeast and bacteria do not. Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 10:29

5 Answers 5


When the bug is ready to use, it should NOT smell like fresh ginger.

The ginger bug should smell like ginger at first, and then as the days go by and you add more ginger and sugar it starts to develop a yeasty/alcoholic smell. The bug is made to get the yeast culture going, so it makes sense that it smells like that.

I can still smell the ginger in mine, but the alcoholic smell is much more pervasive. I just finished making some ginger beer with my bug and it turned out pretty good.


Mine always smells fresh, tho I start a new one every week or two, Ive noticed that letting it go to long can somtimes cause a "sulfury" smell in the final beverage.

Ps. A ginger beer "scoby" is made of Wild ginger... its not bakers yeast or kombucha (Which I'm pretty sure is made from the wild yeast on tea leaves), make your own culture, its a lot more impressive and satisfying.

  • A ginger bug is not a SCOBY. The SCOBY used in ginger beer is called a Ginger Beer Plant.
    – LudvigH
    Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 7:56

I have been feeding my ginger bug for a few years now, had to start over a few times.

Your ginger bug will initially just smell like the ginger you've used, however fresh it may be.

As you continue to feed it there will be a higher concentration of yeast, and especially dead/dormant yeast. This you can see as a layer at the bottom of your ginger bug container. There is nothing harmful or bad about it, but it will slowly change the taste and smell of your ginger bug, which will in turn also have a noticeable effect on the flavour of whatever you use it in.

You can keep it smelling relatively fresh by simply pouring off the ginger bug into another container before each feeding to clean out the yeast at the bottom.

No matter if you do this or not, you just need to be aware that the smell/taste of your ginger bug does have an effect on your final product. Personally I do want my ginger bug to smell a little sour and alcoholic, it imparts the best flavour into my Ginger Ale.


I have not made a Ginger Bug myself but given this is a natural fermentation of bacteria and airborne yeasts I would expect it to smell nothing like fresh ginger and very much alcoholic. The medicinal thing I would be slightly dubious about though.

I am pretty certain it should not smell like fresh ginger, as there is fermentation processes occurring.


I'm only on my first bug, but the cycle of mine has been: fresh and gingery > ginger and citrusy (there's no citrus in it) > still smelling fresh, but no longer any citrus, with lots of bubbles, and a slight yeasty smell.

The recipe I used was: 2 cups filtered water; 2 tbsp chopped ginger; 2 tbs refined sugar. I wasn't sure if the ginger I was using was organic, even though it was from a mostly organic store. So, I scrubbed it really well, and removed almost all of the skin (98+%). This method takes a little more time, before the bug gets going, but I like that I didn't have to research all of the different yeast suggestions, and second-guess that choice and variable.

On the organic sugar... I've seen in several posts and videos, that to get things started, that the yeast responds best to plain, refined sugar. There were several reasons given for this. The most consistent was the size and availability of the sugar crystal, and that it was the most basic sucrose, but others suggested that with many other raw and organic sugars, that residual molasses may interfere. It seems like it would supply additional food to the bug, but no one gave any sourced, or definite information. Personally, I started with refined, store-brand sugar, and alternated every other day with Zulka pure cane sugar. It's listed as, "an all natural, unrefined and non-GMO pure cane sugar". My result has been fresh, bubbly goodness.

Good luck!

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