My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

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My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Thu Mar 02, 2017 1:39 pm

I see people having difficulties with keeping their bug alive, or having it die on them, but mine never seem to come alive in the first place!
I’m about to give up with my second attempt.

On my first attempt I used non-organic ginger. The first day I peeled and grated two tablespoonfuls of it and put them inside a glass jar together with two level tablespoonfuls of raw cane sugar and bottled drinking water (pH 6.9, TDS 23.80 mg/l), then sealed the jar with a cotton napkin and a rubber band.
I kept it in the living room, where the temperature is around 20±3°C all day long.
The following two days I kept feeding it with the same amount of ginger, sugar and water, but then I realised that the jar was filling to quickly, so I only fed it one tablespoon of each after that.
So every day for 8 days at around the same time I would open the jar, feed it, stir and reseal it without seeing any sign of activity or change in smell: it always smelled like fresh ginger.
At that point the jar was full and since it looked like a failure I didn’t really want to transfer it to a bigger jar and keep feeding it.
But I was curious whether something would happen if I just left it alone like that. The predictable thing happened: after 10 more days or so it started to become moldy, so I threw it away.

For my second attempt I managed to find some organic ginger. This time I decided not to peel it, and I only rinsed it for a few seconds in the sink then dried it up with a paper towel.
The other ingredients were the the same, and the same was my method, except this time I started the culture with two tablespoons and went down to one from the second day.
Now 10 days have passed, my little jar is full to the brim and again there has never been any sign of activity.

So I’m now pretty much convinced that I must be doing something very wrong.
I’d say the first suspect could be the sugar. Maybe raw cane sugar just isn’t its thing. So I think I’ll try some refined beet sugar next (pity if that’s the case, I love raw cane sugar and I use it for almost everything).
The second suspect is the water. Or rather, the way to add it to the culture. While all recipe variants seem to agree on the amount of ginger and sugar, some say to add an equal amount of water every day, and others say to first fill the jar with some water (e.g. two cups) first and then add only ginger and sugar the subsequent days.
Or maybe what is wrong is the amount of the other ingredients? Does a “loose” tablespoonful of grated ginger per level one of sugar sound right?
The third suspect could be… the cotton napkin I’m using to seal the jar? Maybe a paper napkin would be better?
Or maybe I’m just that unlucky and the ginger god hates me.
dan
 
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby Tibor on Fri Mar 03, 2017 2:01 am

The mistake you are making is adding more water every day. Start with a cup of water,2 tsp grated unpeeled washed ginger and 2 tsp of your sugar and stir a few times each day. Every day add 2 tsp of each and cover with your cloth. Your cloth should be a loose weave so that you get good circulation. Stirring will help activate the bug. After a few days it should start being bubbly and active. This always worked for me.
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby Christopher Weeks on Fri Mar 03, 2017 8:19 am

I do what Tibor does. It usually, but not always works for me. I second his note about the cloth. I use an open cheese-cloth, two layers. The point there is to keep out insects, but not microorganisms.
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Wed Mar 15, 2017 2:23 pm

Thanks for your replies.
Today I started a new bug following your suggestions. For now I'll try using the same raw cane sugar and see how it goes. If it still doesn't work I'll try changing that too.
dan
 
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:23 am

Brief update on the morning of the third day: as I went to check it I noticed a thin layer of foam going at a very slow bubble. It went away as I stirred it, but since it never happened before I'm starting to raise my hopes.
dan
 
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby Christopher Weeks on Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:00 am

As I recall, mine typically take 5-7 days to get a good foam going and are usually dead by 10 or 12 if I haven't used them. (No idea why I can't keep them alive like a sourdough culture.)
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:37 pm

Yes, today I decided to bottle it in fear it would die on me.
I didn't really notice any change in the bug in the last two days: it never really "foamed"; instead all the ginger tended to float at the top and acquired a very "spongy" appearance, there were little bubbles slowly moving upwards, and the whole thing would fizz when moved or lightly stirred. A through stirring, as I was doing three times a day, seemed to "deactivate" it for a few hours, until the two "phases" separated again.
I hope I didn't jump the gun deciding to go through with it. I guess I'll know in a few days.
dan
 
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby khoomeizhi on Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:51 pm

what you describe sounds like it's working.

did you cut down the amount of sugar (tablespoons to teaspoons) as was suggested to get there? if you were to do tablespoons as you originally describe (and without adding water), you'd pretty quickly get to a point where the amount of sugar in solution would osmotically kill the bugs you're trying to promote.
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:22 pm

Well, that's a bit reassuring.
And yes, I did: started with a cup of water and then kept feeding it with two teaspoons of ginger and sugar.
dan
 
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Re: My ginger bug doesn’t want to come alive

Postby dan on Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:20 pm

Alas, I'm looking at another failure here. More than a week has passed and the stuff is completely flat and there has never been any sign of bubbling.

In the meanwhile I had the foresight of starting another bug, five days ago, this time using refined white sugar and feeding it once every two days. This one looks active too, I'd say it's more foamy whereas the old one was more bubbly. It also has a somehow stronger smell. I'm considering trying it tomorrow.
dan
 
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