How to Make Homemade Soda With Your Kids
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Add 2 tablespoons (5 imperial teaspoons) of sugar and two cups (about 1 liter) of room-temperature water.
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.
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.
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.
Depending on how warm your home is, it could take 3-7 days for the ginger bug to be ready to create soda.
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.
Scoop out the watermelon, sorting out the seeds. Place it in the blender with the sugar to turn 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.
Now, mix in the ginger bug.
Use a strainer when you add the ginger bug, so you don’t get any bits of ginger in your soda. Stir.
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!
Every few hours, take a look at your soda and listen for a hissing sound. Watch for bubbling too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The watermelon soda is just for starters. Other delicious combinations are ginger-mint, ginger ale, blueberry and mango. Or make lemon soda.
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!
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 Charlotte Edwards »