Fermented Drinks (What They Are, Why They’re Good and How to Make Them)

Fermented Drinks (What They Are, Why They’re Good and How to Make Them)

Nourished Kitchen – Celebrating Fermented Foods, Bone Broth, Sourdough and Raw Milk

Fermented drinks like beet kvass, kombucha, water kefir and REAL ginger ale are not just fun to drink, they’re also loaded with probiotics that keep your gut healthy and your immune system working right. Here’s the skinny on what they are, why they’re so good for you and how to make them. Plus there’s LOADS of easy recipes, too.

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What are fermented drinks?

Fermented drinks are typically made from fruit juices, herbal infusions, soaked grains, green and black tea that have been allowed to culture or ferment for a period of time. As a result, these drinks are generally a good source of probiotics, beneficial bacteria and yeasts.

They include beer and wine, as well as probiotic beverages like kombucha, milk kefir, water kefir, tepache, beet kvass and whey sodas.

Do they contain alcohol?

While some fermented drinks, like wine and beer, are brewed specifically for their alcohol content, many others are brewed for their probiotics.

Accordingly, lightly fermented drinks, like jun tea and water kefir, contain only negligible amounts of alcohol. Most fermented drinks contain less than 1% alcohol by volume, and typically closer to .5%. In other words, that’s about the same amount that you’ll find in orange juice.

Are they good for you?

Lightly fermented drinks are an excellent source of beneficial bacteria and yeast that help to support digestive system health. Moreover, each different drink will offer slightly different benefits. And that’s because their benefits depend upon the bacteria and yeast used to culture them. Accordingly, the more diverse the bacteria in the starter culture, the more microbiologically rich the drink will be, and the greater benefit you’re likely to obtain from drinking it.

Researchers and nutritionists consider fermented drinks to be functional foods (1). That is, they’re foods that convey more benefits than providing nutrition alone.

That’s primarily because they contain beneficial bacteria. Further, many of them contain fruits, vegetables, herbs and teas which are also high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. In combination, those probiotics and micronutrients, can offer some serious nutrition.

Fermented foods and beverages generally help to support the digestive system (2). They may also support liver health (3), and even oral health (4, 5). Further, the probiotics found in fermented foods also play a substantial role in the proper function of the immune system – both in combatting illness and in mitigating autoimmune disease (6).

In conclusion, it’s easy to understand why fermented drinks have a substantial role to play in a whole-foods diet. Fortunately, they’re really easy to make at home.

Starter Cultures and SCOBYs

If you’re just getting started with fermentation, there’s a few things you should know. Primarily, most fermented drinks rely on a starter or a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), while others use wild fermentation.

These starters inoculate your sweetened herbal infusion, fruit juice or other substrates with specific bacteria and yeasts that help them to culture safely and effectively.

Fermented Drinks that Use a SCOBY or Starter:

  • Jun Tea and Kombucha use SCOBYs that are sometimes called a mothers or mushrooms. You can order one online here.
  • Water Kefir uses a SCOBY that are called water kefir grains or tibicos, and you can order them online here.
  • Fermented Sodas like root beer often need a starter to kickstart the fermentation process, and ginger bug is a perfect choice.

A List of Our Favorite Fermented Drinks

Kombucha and Jun Tea

Kombucha and Jun Tea are fermented drinks that you make by culturing tea with a sweetener and a SCOBY. Kombucha uses black tea and sugar, while Jun uses green tea and honey.

The result is a slightly acidic, often fizzy drink that’s rich in B vitamins and beneficial acids.

Jun Tea Recipe

Jun tea, like kombucha, is an effervescent probiotic drink. Jun is mild and delicate with a pleasantly tart flavor and a mild sweetness. It’s lovely served over ice, or with crushed berries stirred in. To brew future batches of Jun tea, reserve 1/2 cup of the finished tea from your first batch and reserve the mother to start future batches of the tea.

Check out this recipe

Cranberry Lime Kombucha Slushie

Vibrantly tart with bright notes of berry and lime, this kombucha slushie proves that you don’t have to add a ton of sugar to make a special summer treat.

Check out this recipe

Continuous Brew Kombucha

Kombucha, a traditionally fermented sour tea, can be easily brewed using tea, sugar and a starter culture. This method for continuous brewing ensures a consistent supply of kombucha tea, and is easy to maintain. For this kombucha, you’ll need a kombucha starter culture which you can find online.

Check out this recipe

tea for continuous brew kombucha

Water Kefir

Water kefir is a traditional fermented drink with deep roots in pre-Columbian Mexico. And it’s easy to make with sugar, water and lemons or limes. Plus you can flavor it with fruit and herbs, too.

Water Kefir (Tibicos)

Reminiscent of lemonade, water kefir or tibicos is a slightly fizzy naturally fermented drink that you can make at home. 

Check out this recipe

Cherry Water Kefir

Mildly sweet, slightly tart and wonderfully bubbly, this homemade soda gets its probiotic fizz from water kefir and its vivid red color from sweet cherries. It's like a homemade cherry soda, but without all the sugar or food dyes.

Check out this recipe

Raspberry Water Kefir

Raspberries and pineapple give this homemade soda a distinct brightness, and it’s marvelously easy to make.

Check out this recipe

Beet Kvass

Lightly fermented, beet kvass is rich in beneficial bacteria and has a slightly sour and earthy flavor. It’s used as a liver tonic and for digestive support.

Beet Kvass Recipe

Beet kvass is deeply earthy, richly pigmented and an excellent tonic to promote good digestion and overall wellness.

Check out this recipe


Tepche de Piña is a fermented drink made from pineapple peels, and it has a slightly spicy, sweet and boozy quality. And it makes an excellent summertime soda.

Tepache de Piña Recipe

Robust with the vibrant sweet-tart flavor of fresh pineapple and gently perfumed with cinnamon and star anise, tepache is a flavor-forward, gently effervescent drink. A short fermentation of only a few days gives this thirst-quenching drink a light effervescence and striking, dynamic flavor. Since tepache takes a few days to ferment, plan ahead.

Check out this recipe

Ginger Bug and Whey Sodas

Ginger bug and whey act as starters, much like SCOBYs do. They give fruit juices and sweetened herbal teas the boost of beneficial bacteria and yeasts they need to make a traditionally fermented brew.

Ginger Bug Recipe

Ginger bug, a slurry of fermented ginger and sugar, forms the basis for homemade, traditionally fermented sodas including root beer, ginger beer, herbal tonics and fruit sodas. These soft drinks and light beers are naturally bubbly and effervescent and very rich in probiotics.

Check out this recipe

Root Beer

Seasoned with sassafras, winter green, sarsaparilla and eight other herbs and spices, amassing the ingredients for this classic homemade root beer recipe can prove challenging.

Check out this recipe

Raspberry Ginger Soda

Naturally effervescent and vibrant with the flavor of fresh raspberries and ginger, this homemade soft drink is full of probiotics, too.

Check out this recipe

Fermented, Probiotic Honey Lemonade Soda

This naturally fermented lemonade soda is loaded with probiotics that give it its characteristic fizz and foam. A dryer soda, the lemonade is only slightly sweet and notes of honey play well with lemon. Serve it over ice, garnished with fresh lemon slices.

Check out this recipe

Blackberry Soda

With it’s vibrant purple color and rich blackberry flavor, this homemade blackberry soda is a favorite with kids. Plus it’s easy to make with a ginger bug.

Check out this recipe

Mango Soda

Imagine a big, luscious, juicy mango but as a light and refreshing carbonated drink. Add a squeeze of lime and some mint and you’ve got yourself one seriously awesome summer beverage.

Check out this recipe

The post Fermented Drinks (What They Are, Why They’re Good and How to Make Them) appeared first on Nourished Kitchen.

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