How to Make Homemade Soda With Your Kids

Do you tell your kids “no” when they ask for conventional sodas?

Want a fun project that yields tasty results?

Make your own soda with your family. It’s the perfect project to cool off your kids.

Once you learn how, you’ll be able to make fresh, preservative-free, all-natural soda whenever you want.

In this article I’ll show you how to make and nurture your family’s very own ginger bug. This is the base from which you’ll create all of your homemade soft drinks.

Then I’ll share recipes for watermelon and lemon soda. Once you learn the basics, tap into your creative juices to make virtually any flavor you can imagine.

Want a cool drink with less sugar and no caffeine for your kids? Make your own soda. Ferment a ginger bug, add fruit juice and create delicious carbonated soda.

Why Make Your Own Soda?

First of all, homemade soda is healthier than the kind you buy in the store. It’s also a lot more fun to make your own soda and create your own custom flavors.

For added creativity, name your sodas, make labels and share with friends and neighbors. Why have a lemonade stand when you can create a soda stand?

Making soda takes time: three to eight days to create the ginger bug (don’t worry, it’s not a real bug—a ginger bug is a bit of ginger you ferment to create natural carbonation) and another 12-24 hours to ferment the soda and refrigerate it. But it’s worth the wait.

Work together with your kids to nourish the bug and create the soda. Then enjoy fizzy glasses of it, totally guilt-free and with little worry about the negative side effects of regular sodas.

Even though it’s much faster to run out to the grocery store and grab a case of soda, your homemade beverage won’t have your kids bouncing off the walls from a sugar high. There’ll be no adverse reactions to the unnatural ingredients that are found in conventional soft drinks. Plus, the fermentation process adds lots of body-friendly bacteria called probiotics, which are good for nutrient absorption and digestion.

tasting soda

Making soda is a family project from which everyone can enjoy the results. And it’s healthy too!

Most kids won’t care about the health benefits, but they’ll love participating in the process. This activity also opens up the doors to discuss a bit of chemistry as the soda ferments. Plus, you can talk about pressure as you slowly open up your cold soft drinks.

You Will Need

For the Ginger Bug:

  • Fresh ginger (about one pound/16 ounces to start)
  • White sugar (2 tablespoons/5 imperial teaspoons a day)
  • Room-temperature water

For Sodas:

  • 3 cups (about ¾ liter) fresh fruit juice
  • 1-4 tablespoons (2½ to 10 imperial teaspoons) white sugar
  • 1 cup (¼ liter) ginger bug, strained

Materials:

  • Peeler
  • Grater
  • Glass jars with lids (quart size/1 liter Mason jars work well)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber bands
  • Long non-metal spoon

Preparation Time

5 minutes

Activity Time

  • 5-10 minutes a day to feed the ginger bug
  • 20-30 minutes to make a batch of soda

Location

Your kitchen

Before you start, have a family meeting to explain the process. Let your kids know off the bat that this is a process that will take time, but yields amazing results.

Make the ginger bug, give it a few days to grow and then turn it into soda.

#1: Grate the Ginger

Assemble your materials before you get started. For the first part, you’ll need the ginger and sugar, as well as a peeler and grater, glass jar, non-metal spoon, cheesecloth and rubber band.

ingredients and materials

Assemble the ingredients and materials first.

First, break off a section of the ginger that’s about 2 inches (5 cm) long.

Peel off the skin and then grate it with a box grater. Older kids who know how to use a grater can do this step, but for optimal safety, consider letting the kids watch while you demonstrate how to use the grater safely.

Note: You can use a food processor, but since you’ll need so little each day this is simpler.

#2: Make the Ginger Bug

Measure out about 2 tablespoons (5 imperial teaspoons) of ginger and put it in the glass jar. It’s okay if you have a little more or less ginger; this is more art than science!

adding the ginger

Measure the ginger and put it into a glass jar.

Add 2 tablespoons (5 imperial teaspoons) of sugar and two cups (about 1 liter) of room-temperature water.

adding the sugar

Add equal amounts of ginger and sugar to the jar.

Stir it well with a non-metal spoon. Then cover it with a light cloth so no debris falls into it. You do want air to get into the jar to aid the fermentation, so it’s best to use cheesecloth. Secure the cloth with a rubber band, if necessary.

covering jar with cloth

Keep the jar covered with a light cloth. If needed, secure it with a rubber band.

Store the ginger bug on the counter in an out-of-the-way place. It doesn’t need to be hidden away in a dark cupboard, but keep it away from direct sunlight.

#3: Feed the Ginger Bug

Now that you made your ginger bug, feed it daily to keep it alive. Try to feed it at the same time each day.

At each feeding, add another 2 tablespoons (5 imperial teaspoons) each of freshly grated ginger and white sugar.

feeding the ginger bug

Try to feed your ginger bug at the same time every day.

Taking care of a ginger bug is like having a “pet” to feed every day. This is an excellent task for kids. It teaches responsibility, while helping to improve their math and measuring skills.

After the feeding, give it a quick stir to incorporate the new ingredients. Then cover it up to rest until the next day.

ginger and sugar fermenting in jar

The ginger and sugar start to ferment and create bubbles by the third day.

Depending on how warm your home is, it could take 3-7 days for the ginger bug to be ready to create soda.

jar filling up

As your ginger bug grows, the jar fills up.

If the jar becomes too full, but is still not ready, remove some of the old ginger right before the next feeding.

You’ll know when the ginger bug’s ready, because it’ll bubble on its own. Keep an eye on it during the day; we like to check ours at mealtime.

#4: Make Soda

When the ginger bug’s bubbling without having been stirred, it’s time to create your soda.

You’ll need fresh fruit juice to make your favorite flavor of soda.

Here’s a recipe for watermelon soda to get you started.

Watermelon Soda

  • 3 cups (about ¾ liter) watermelon juice (4-5 pound watermelon, seeded and juiced)
  • 1 tablespoon (2½ imperial teaspoons) white sugar
  • 1 cup (¼ liter) ginger bug, strained

Place all ingredients in a glass jar, stir it well and cover with a cloth.

Scoop out the watermelon, sorting out the seeds. Place it in the blender with the sugar to turn it into juice.

adding watermelon to blender

Scoop out watermelon, place in a blender with a bit of sugar and blend it into juice.

After you blend it, strain the juice to remove the fibrous part of the watermelon, as well as any extra seeds that may have slipped through.

straining the juice

Straining the juice after you blend it.

Now, mix in the ginger bug.

watermelon soda fermenting

Add the ginger bug to the watermelon soda.

Use a strainer when you add the ginger bug, so you don’t get any bits of ginger in your soda. Stir.

stiring the ginger bug

Stir the ginger bug into the watermelon juice.

When you take out the ginger bug, replace it with an equivalent amount of water. Then continue feeding as usual.

#5: Ferment the Soda

Cover the soda with your cheesecloth and wait for it to ferment. In the heat of the summer, this can happen in as little as a few hours.

Note: If you leave the fruit juice and ginger bug out too long, it will create alcohol. The rule of thumb is: if it smells like alcohol, it is alcohol. Tuck it away and save it for date night!

covered soda while fermenting

Cover the soda while it ferments.

Every few hours, take a look at your soda and listen for a hissing sound. Watch for bubbling too.

bubbles in soda

Bubbles are created during the fermentation process.

The ginger bug mixed with the fruit juice will ferment.

This is how it works: Tiny microorganisms devour the sugar and create carbon dioxide. When the ginger bug is added to fruit juice, these organisms multiply and make a fizzy, effervescent concoction that’s also beneficial to your digestive and immune systems.

#6: Chill the Soda

When your soda is fermented, cover it with a tight-fitting lid and stick it in the refrigerator.

cover jar with lid

Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill it.

This might possibly be the most difficult step: wait several hours for your fresh bottle of soda to become ice-cold in the fridge. To speed things up, put it in the coldest part. Keep the kids occupied, so they’re not opening the fridge every 20 minutes to “see if it’s cold yet.”

#7: Open the Jar

Once the bottle is ice cold, open it. It’s important to open the bottle slowly, as pressure builds up. You may be able to hear it fizzing before even you open it. It may take up to two minutes to open the bottle due to the carbonation that occurs during fermentation.

carefully opening jar

Slowly and carefully open the bottle of soda, so it doesn’t fizz everywhere.

There’s usually a thin film on the top, the remnants of the ginger bug and the fruit juice. Just skim it off (though its fine to drink or eat) before serving. It’s not as bubbly as soda from the store, but homemade soda has a nice fizz to it.

finished watermelon soda

Enjoy a nice, cold glass of watermelon soda.

Pour everyone a glass and enjoy some cold, guilt-free refreshment without worrying about the kids being wound up from all the caffeine and sugar.

Caring for Your Ginger Bug

Once the kids take a sip of the results, they’ll try to keep their new pet alive, so they can have parent-approved soda at any time.

  • If you get any funky stuff growing on the ginger bug, err on the side of caution. Dump it and start again.
  • If you want to stop feeding the ginger bug, cover it with a lid (not just the cloth), and refrigerate it. Feed it every seven days. When you want to resume feeding it regularly, put it out on the counter for 24 hours and resume feeding it as usual.

The watermelon soda is just for starters. Other delicious combinations are ginger-mint, ginger ale, blueberry and mango. Or make lemon soda.

Lemon Soda

  • 2 lemons, juiced (seeds and pulp removed)
  • 4 tablespoons (10 imperial teaspoons) white sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup (¼ liter) ginger bug, strained

Place all ingredients in a glass jar, stir it well and cover with a cloth. Follow the remaining steps as for watermelon soda above.

Experiment with different flavors until everyone has a favorite.

Some Final Thoughts

Although the instructions may seem long and the process takes several days, once you successfully make a batch of soda, you’ll be hooked. By that time your kids will be caring for the beloved ginger bug as if it were a real family pet!

Even better is that you can say “yes” to your kids when they ask for some soda.

What do you think? Have you ever considered making your own soda? Which flavor of soda will you try first? Share your experiences—and favorite flavor combos—in the comments below. Feel free to share a photo too!

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About the Author, Charlotte Edwards

Between being a wife, mom, teacher and writer, Charlotte attempts to learn Chinese, cook traditional Chinese cuisine and blog about expat life in small-town China at Chinese Potpourri. Other posts by »


  • Scott

    Some of the pictures are not that appetizing (I’m sure those are bubbles, not worms), but it still looks like a fun thing to try … especially with kids. Thanks Charlotte.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks Charlotte! My boys are excited to give this a try and are already planning flavor combinations they want to make. We made homemade root beer once, but it was from a kit, so we didn’t make a ginger bug or learn the fermentation process.

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Wow – how interesting this process is! Can’t wait to try it someday!

  • Charlotte

    Since we started making this from directions only, I didn’t think much of the bubbles or that the pictures make it look unappetizing. But, yes, you’re right, those are bubbles! We’ve made three ginger bugs now and none of them turned into anything scary or worth tossing. Give it a try, it’s a lot of fun and the soda is tasty!

  • Charlotte

    Yes, it’s different than your average homemade beverage. It takes about a week, so be sure to start the ginger bug well before you want to drink the soda.

  • Charlotte

    I think they’ll have fun with this. I suggest freshly juiced fruit juice, rather than packaged. Our peach soda made with packaged 100% peach juice was awful; I took one sip and tossed it. We’ve not had any problems with fresh watermelon, lemon/lime or orange juice. I’m looking forward to pineapple when they’re in season next year.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks for the tip

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