Are Ginger Bugs Alcoholic?

Ginger Bug Alcoholic
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    One of the most common questions I get about Ginger Bugs is "Are Ginger Bugs and their sodas alcoholic?" It's a great question and I'm going to use this post to dive into all of the details about Ginger Bugs, fermentation, the soda making process, and where alcohol comes into play.

    Let's get started!

    • Fermentation & Alcohol

      First things first, let's talk about the fermentation process.

      Fermentation is the process of bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms consuming sugars and/or starches and converting those substances into carbon dioxide and alcohol. 

      All fermentation produces some quantity of alcohol. 

      If you consume any fermented drink or product, you will be consuming alcohol.

      The real question becomes, how much alcohol? 

      By legal definition, for a consumable product to be considered alcoholic, it must contain more than .5% alcohol by volume. 

      So, how can some fermented products contain a lot of alcohol while others contain significantly less than than the legal definition? 

      To learn that, we have to dive into the process of making different fermented drinks such as beer, wine, soda, kombucha, and others.

    • How Much Alcohol is in a Ginger Bug Soda?

      I mentioned that all fermented products will contain some amount of alcohol.

      But, what determines how much alcohol is in a fermented product? Why do some fermented products (like wine and beer) contain more alcohol than others (like Ginger Bug sodas and kombucha)? 

      It all comes down to the amount of sugar and the length of the fermentation process.

      During the fermentation process, yeast and bacteria will consume sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The more sugars they consume, the more alcohol and carbon dioxide is produced. 

      Additionally, it takes time for these microorganisms to convert the sugar in the mixture into alcohol. The more time that a product is allowed to ferment the sugars in the product, the more alcohol will be produced. 

      Kombucha, for example, is allowed to ferment for just 7-10 days. This isn't enough time for the SCOBY to consume enough sugar to make kombucha a legally alcoholic beverage.

      Wine is allowed to ferment for 14-21 days on average and uses a stronger yeast called saccharomyces cerevisiae capable of consuming sugars much quicker than natural cultures like ginger bugs and SCOBYs.

      Ginger Bugs make sodas via wild lacto-fermented start. These sodas are allowed to ferment for less than 48 hours and much of the sugar remains in the final product when fermentation is complete (this is why Ginger Bug sodas taste sweeter than kombucha). As a result, Ginger Bug sodas contain significantly less alcohol than kombucha, wine, beer, and other fermented drinks. 

      However, if you allow these products to ferment longer and give the bacteria time to consume all of the sugars in the brew, then it is possible for these drinks to become alcoholic by legal definition. 

    • Are Ginger Bug Starter Cultures Alcoholic?

      A Ginger Bug is a concentrated wild starter culture created by combining sugar, water, and ginger. A healthy Ginger Bug culture will produce a very small amount of alcohol. 

      One very interesting thing about natural fermentation is that the bacteria and yeasts will also consume some of the ethanol (alcohol) produced by the fermentation process and convert that into acetic acid. This is why a concentrated culture like a Ginger Bug or SCOBY itself doesn't contain a lot of alcohol.



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