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Natural Ferments: Living Drinks

Fermented drinks are inexpensive, homemade and healthy! Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Homemade fermented drinks are a delicious and popular alternative to alcoholic beverages. And in this highly sanitised world we’ve found ourselves in, they’ve probably never been more important.

Low-alcohol alternatives are popping up all over the beverage market these days as people take a growing interest in healthier living. According to data from consumer analytics firm IRI, there’s been a 33 percent increase in the sales of low- and non-alcoholic beverages in Australia in the last 12 months, as people look at ways to reduce their alcohol intake.

Health Benefits

Fermented drinks offer a wealth of health benefits far greater than just those associated with reducing alcohol consumption. The health advantages of fermentation comes from the bacteria produced in the process, so in a time when so many of us are reaching for anti-bacterial products, it’s imperative we’re introducing plenty of good bacteria to keep our gut health and microbiome healthy and in balance.

Tailor The Taste

While many commercially available alcohol alternatives go to great lengths to look, smell and taste like the real thing, which adds to the cost of production, brewing homemade fermented drinks opens a world of inexpensive beverage options. And they’re an excellent way to ensure any surplus produce in the garden doesn’t go to waste.

Here are a range of naturally fermented drinks you can bring to any party that are not only low or non-alcoholic, they’re very good for you and really easy to make yourself.

Beetroot Kvass

Recipe by Brydie Piaf

Your nose, eyes and taste buds are the key to great results when fermenting. Smell, see and taste the changes that are taking place and let these guide you.

The length of time required for any ferment is going to depend on the starter, the season, the sugars in the produce and how warm it is. But understanding the smells, sights and tastes of a great ferment, means you’ll get really great results each time.


3 medium beetroot, diced
1.5 L boiled water, cooled
2 pinches salt


Peel the skin off your beetroot and dice them into small pieces, approximately one centimetre cubes. Place into a large clean glass jar – you’ll need the natural yeasts in the air to kick off the fermentation process, so something with a wide opening is great to use. Add the water and salt, swish the liquid around to make sure the salt has dissolved and cover with a tea towel, muslin cloth or paper towel, keeping it in place using a rubber band.

Left for a few days, the natural yeasts will do their job, but you can opt to add a quarter of a cup of starter liquid (kefir, sauerkraut liquid, whey, etc.) to kickstart the process earlier.

If you use a starter, you should begin to see bubbles within 24 hours, however let it continue to ferment for a further few days.


Clockwise from top A homemade kvass is a great way to use up your late-season glut of beetroot; Bull’s blood beets make a beautiful deep-red kvass; Even without a starter, you should see bubbles after a few days; The flavours of fermented sodas can vary depending on what you’ve got in your garden. Photos by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Fruit & flower sodas

Naturally fermented sodas are sweet, bubbly and also good for you. They are very easy to make using whatever produce you have and make a unique and refreshing effervescent drink.

It is good to use homegrown or foraged fruits that contain natural yeasts and sugars because commercially available fruits that have been sprayed may not work. If you do purchase your produce to make naturally fermented sodas, make sure it is organic.

The starter you use in this recipe can vary, you might use water kefir, whey, apple-scrap vinegar – basically any liquid from a fermented product will do the trick.


2 L of water
  cup honey or sugar   cup starter
1 cup fruit, leaves or flowers (see variations below)


2 apples
2 limes
bunch of mint

1 cup of mixed berries currants, raspberries and blackberries

5 large elderflower heads
3 limes


Combine water, sugar, starter and produce in a large clean vessel, cover with a tea towel or piece of muslin cloth, and stir three times a day. By placing it in a prominent position on your bench, you’ll be less likely to forget to stir it. Bubbles should start appearing after a day or two and your soda should be ready within three to four days.

When fizzy, strain any solids off by pouring liquid through a sieve or muslin cloth and decant into swingtop bottles. Store in the fridge to slow the fermentation process, this will hinder the build-up of gas and therefore lessen the likelihood of explosions.

Rhubarb champagne

Recipe by Annie Werner of Autumn Farm While French champagne is in short supply, put your excess rhubarb to good use in a batch of pink fizzy rhubarb champagne. This recipe is a fun and creative way of using up that surplus rhubarb.

Delectable, sweet, refreshing and ever-so slightly alcoholic, this fizzy beverage is super easy to make at home. The darker your rhubarb, the more vibrant colour your brew will be at the other end. But it’s not just the colour of your rhubarb that’ll determine the colour of the finished product, the type of sugar you use will, too. By using a red rhubarb and a light-coloured sugar, you’ll make a beautiful pink fizz, perfect for when you want something to celebrate with.

Once you get rhubarb growing, it is often available all year round depending on your climate so you can make this delectable drink any time of the year.


3   cups rhubarb
3   cups sugar
2 lemons, juiced
  cup apple-cider vinegar
4 L water


Chop up your homegrown rhubarb into little pieces until you’ve got three and a half cups. Put this, along with the sugar into a large vessel which has been well cleaned and rinsed with boiling water. I used a big glass jar, but you could also use a very clean plastic bucket or a fermenting crock.

Add the lemon juice, apple-cider vinegar, four litres of water and leave to ferment for around three days. Strain the liquid into glass bottles – I used some swingtop bottles I picked up at a garage sale – and leave for around three weeks.

Then pop it like a champagne bottle! It’ll fizz, just like the real deal. But it’s more satisfying and delicious. We’re currently enjoying ours cut half-and-half with mineral water, in account of the syrupy sweetness of the champagne. You could also add some chopped strawberries for even extra sweetness as well as a decorative element.


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