Nothing beats homemade fermented drinks. However, mixing your fruits and liquids to come up with your version of these tasty and healthy beverages can be intimidating especially for starters.
Good thing, fermented drinks are not as complicated as they sound. And you can start easy with a recipe that calls for simple ingredients and procedures. For example, water kefir is a good liquid ferment you can start with. The procedure calls for water and sugar mixed with water kefir grains for the first stage. Then, after several days, the grains will be removed and the liquid can be flavored according to your taste.
Quick to follow, right? And since fermented drinks are gaining more popularity nowadays, we thought to share a step-by-step guide on how to ferment drinks. Instead of scouring the internet for instructions, recipes, and whatnot, we have compiled everything you need to know to get started on fermented drinks.
What Are Fermented Drinks?
Fermented drinks are made from fruit juices, herbs, soaked grains, and teas that have undergone the process of culturing or fermentation for a certain period.
Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of substances such as bacteria, microorganisms, yeasts, among others. This process is the reason behind the complex infusion of flavors that we come to love in our spirits. We know these beverages like beer and wine. It also includes those with probiotic content such as kombucha, milk kefir, water kefir, tepache, beet kvass, and whey sodas.
Moreover, these drinks are divided into two categories: those that require a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) and wild ferments (no presence of SCOBY).
How To Ferment Drinks
Making fermented drinks does not need you to have a background in chemistry. The procedure is easy to follow and will only take a few minutes to complete. However, since these beverages can only acquire their unique taste after a couple of days, it’s the agony of waiting that we have to endure. But good things come to those who wait right?
What You’ll Need
SCOBY Fermented Drinks
Here are the most well-known fermented drinks that incorporate bacteria and yeast:
Milk kefir is a fermented milk drink that resembles yogurt and buttermilk. This beverage gives that tangy yet milky taste in every sip. If you are fond of yogurt, then you may also like this one as an alternative.
- Combine the milk and kefir grains in a jar. Make sure to use a glass jar since the prolonged exposure of kefir grains and metal can alter the flavor of the grains. Mix the ingredients properly.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth, paper towel, or napkin. Do not seal the jar with a screw as the pressure can build up and may the jar to explode.
- Let the jar stay at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. When the milk has thickened already, it means that the drink is good to go.
- Strain out the kefir grains and use them to ferment a new set of milk.
Water kefir, also known as tibicos, is a traditional fermented drink. This simple drink is only made with water and a symbiotic culture of bacteria. This is consumed as an alternative to milk products or tea-based fermented drinks.
Fill out half of the jar with water. You can use tap, mineralized, or well water.
- Add in ¼ cup organic cane sugar to the water. Mix properly until all the grains are dissolved.
- Add ¼ cup water kefir grains to the water and sugar mixture.
- For additional zesty flavor, you can add a slice of lemon and prune.
- Cover the jar with a cheesecloth and let it rest for 2-3 days.
Jun tea is a naturally fermented drink made with green tea and honey. Just like kombucha and other drinks with SCOBY, jun tea can be fermented twice to make it bubbly. Although compared with kombucha, this beverage has a sweeter and smoother taste.
- Boil a good amount of water you desire.
- Add in your green tea leaves. Make sure to stir properly and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
- Drain the leaves and transfer the liquid to a jar.
- Add a few spoonful of honey for sweetness.
- Make sure the water and tea mixture is at room temperature before adding your SCOBY.
- Cover the jar with a cheesecloth and let it sit for 5-10 days.
Wild Fermented Drinks
Here are the most well-known fermented drinks that do not incorporate SCOBY:
If you are in for a sweet, salty, and sour tasting drink, then you may like beet kvass. This bright colored fermented beverage follows the same process of preserving sauerkraut, dill pickles, and kimchi.
- Cut the beets into medium-sized pieces. Avoid cutting them too small since they might get mushy inside the jar. When this happens, the fermentation will happen quickly and you will not get that vibrant taste.
- Place the beets inside the jar and fill it with water. Leave at least an inch of space between the mouth of the jar and the water level.
- Cover with cheesecloth and let it rest for several days until you reach your desired taste.
A ginger bug is a mixture of ginger, sugar, and water which is allowed to rest for several days until it is properly fermented. This slurry is usually used to ferment root beer, probiotic lemonade, among others.
- Grate or finely chop the ginger root.
- Place it inside the jar and add sugar according to your preferred sweetness.
- Add water to the jar and mix properly.
- Cover with cheesecloth and let it rest for several days until the desired taste is acquired.
Do Ferment Drinks Contain Alcohol?
One of the classifications of fermented drinks is their alcohol content. The amount of alcohol found in these beverages depends on the food source. Certain drinks such as wine and beer are made specifically to contain alcohol. Whereas, wild sodas and kvass are formulated for their probiotic content.
According to a 2019 study, fermented drinks with alcohol are categorized based on the following:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Low-alcoholic fermented beverages (LAFBs), and
- Non-alcoholic fermented beverages (NAFBs).
Alcoholic beverages are those that have 0.55%-76% alcohol. These drinks are byproducts of fermentation from grapes, grains, barley, rice, and sugarcane, among others. LAFBs only have an alcohol volume ratio of 1.2% or less. Meanwhile, NAFBs are those with 0.5% or less alcohol content.
Are Fermented Drinks Good For You?
Several health benefits are associated with fermented drinks that have minimal alcohol content. The conversion of sugars and starches during the fermentation process enhances the “good” bacteria aka probiotics in our body. Aside from this, the beverages are also loaded with antioxidants and vitamins from various fruits and herbs. Here are the key health benefits of fermented drinks.
Aids In Digestive System
The friendly bacteria in our gut are essential for faster metabolism and absorption of nutrients. Probiotics are also known to address digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and bloating.
Fermented drinks and foods are natural carriers of vitamin C, zinc, and iron which are all key components in maintaining a healthy immune system. It has also been found out that consuming fermented products can boost your body and prevent it from infections such as colds and cough.
Enhances Mood and Behavior
The gut and brains are connected through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The former is lined with neurons that can affect our behavior and feelings. An example of this is serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the intestines. Research suggests that when the gut is happy, the mood will also change accordingly.
Did you enjoy those quick tutorials on how to ferment drinks? We hope that this article made your experience easier, especially if you are just starting out mixing your own fermented drinks. If you'd like to share some tips or recipes for homemade fermented drinks, leave them in the comments section. We would love to hear your thoughts!