Fermented drinks are beverages that have been broken down chemically by bacteria and yeast. The fermentation process breaks down sugars and converts them to different gases and ethyl alcohol. Fermented drinks range from a tart taste to fizzy beverages, but when raw they all provide valuable probiotics that help improve gut health.
The appeal of fermented drinks ranges from taste, to medicinal purposes, to alcohol content, to loading our bodies with beneficial bacteria and yeasts that help to crowd out harmful organisms that can cause us digestive issues such as acid reflux, gas, etc.
Studies have shown that most cultures had one or more types of fermented drinks available, whether they made them from root vegetables, herbs, juices, grains, tea
How do you ferment drinks?
Fermenting drinks is generally super easy, but depends on the type of drink you want to make.
The general process for most fermented drinks is adding together a base liquid, a starter, and sugar source. Then you leave the mixture to ferment for several days or a few weeks.
The base liquid can be tea, fruit juice, coconut water, sugar water, vegetable juice, an herb/spice mix, etc. The sugar source is generally cane sugar or honey. Fermentation times can vary from around a day to weeks or even months, depending on the desired flavor and alcohol content.
Some fermented drinks are brined beverages, made from a mixture of cut up fruit, vegetables and a salt water brine. This is the case with fermented drinks such as beet kvass.
Fermented drinks for probiotic content are generally fermented for less time, and have very low alcohol content.
What are the benefits of fermented drinks?
The benefits of fermented drinks vary from drink to drink, but in general you can expect probiotic drinks to provide:
- more bio-available nutrients
- live enzymes to aid digestion
- probiotics to improve gut health
- help cutting sugar cravings
- help cutting soda addictions
- help fighting candida and other bacterial infections
- help with acid reflux
- help with stomach aches and nausea
- help reducing gassiness
- improved energy levels
- improved sleep
What are some examples of fermented drinks?
The most common fermented drinks are:
However, there are many, many more fermented drinks in existence.
Milk kefir, water kefir, coconut water kefir and similar fizzy probiotic drinks are becoming more and more common and now widely available at supermarkets.
Here are the different types of fermented beverages that you can make:
1. Beet Kvass
Beet kvass is a fermented beverage you can easily make using fresh beets and a salt water brine. You can make it plain or add additional herbs/spices/flavoring such as ginger, garlic, fenugreek, mint, orange peels, etc.
I have a guide handy that will show you how to make beet kvass.
2. Milk Kefir
Milk kefir is a fermented milk drink made with fresh milk and milk kefir grains. The milk kefir grains are a type of SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts) that you would put in a clean jar, cover with fresh milk, close jar, then allow to ferment for approximately 1 day.
Fermenting milk kefir is super easy! The milk kefir grains quickly crowd out bad bacteria in an anaerobic environment, and allow probiotics to thrive. Learn more about making milk kefir here.
Kombucha and Jun are both fermented tea drinks. It is cultured in an AEROBIC environment, allowing yeasts to thrive. This does result in a vinegar-ish taste that is unique to these fermented teas.
The basic process for making kombucha is boiling and steeping black tea, adding sugar, allowing to cool, pouring into a jar with a bit of starter tea from a previous batch of kombucha, and covering with a big SCOBY.
Jun is very similar. The basic process for making Jun is boiling and steeping green tea, allowing to cool, adding raw honey, pouring into a jar with a bit of starter tea from a previous batch of Jun, and covering with a big SCOBY.
Once the tea is fermented, it is common to mix with fruit juice and ferment for an additional time for flavor and fizz.
Purists will not mix the SCOBY or change teas, but I’ve found that you can use a kombucha SCOBY to make a green tea/honey fermented drink and vice versa. You can also use different teas with kombucha or jun, but flavored spice teas will generally make an “ugly” discolored SCOBY. I would recommend using SCOBYs that you would otherwise discard for experimentation. More and more SCOBYs grow and grow and grow!
4. Water Kefir
Water kefir, like milk kefir, utilizes a SCOBY known as “grains.” These are not true grains. The translucent color characteristic of water kefir grains makes it easy to tell them apart from milk kefir grains, which are white.
Instead of milk, water kefir grains are mixed with a sugar water solution and allowed to ferment for approximately 48 hours. One the sugar water solution is fermented (you’ll see bubbles, a lighter color, water kefir grains may float, and the solution doesn’t taste as sweet as it began), it is generally mixed with fruit juice or other flavorings like kombucha/Jun. The second fermentation time is generally 24 additional hours for fizz.
Click here to learn how to make water kefir! It’s super easy!
5. Coconut Water Kefir
Coconut water kefir can be made with fresh coconut water and water kefir grains. It is a powerful probiotic drink and one of my personal favorites. Here are instructions for making coconut water kefir.
6. Ginger Bug Sodas
Ginger bug sodas use a starter known as a ginger bug. A ginger bug starter is something you can make yourself using ginger, sugar, and water (see instructions here).
Ginger bug sodas are similar to water kefir sodas, but they are far more powerful and MUCH MORE FIZZY! They are the PERFECT drink for those who want to cut their soda cravings and have a healthier beverage to consume.
What is the BEST fermented drink?
If I could only have ONE fermented drink, hands down I would choose milk kefir! I notice such a huge difference when I have milk kefir regularly. It is powerful against candida, provides a boost of energy, provides valuable nutrients and fats that I need SO much, and can be used to help with so many ailments including topical uses.