Kvass

Kvass - The Famous Fermented Drink From Russia

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 2, 2022 
Kvass is a traditional Russian refreshment made from fermented wheat and rye. And it is a brilliant way to reuse old bread.

Kvass, sometimes also spelled Kvas, is a Russian grain drink with a low level of alcohol. The traditional, fermented refreshment is produced from Russian wheat, rye bread, and beets. 

The tangy flavor of fermentation is created by soaking the ingredients in water and adding yeast, malt, and various fruits.

So basically, you can make fermented Kvass at home using leftover bread. -An ingredient available in most households and in many bars and restaurants, as well. 

This fact led to the trend amongst bartenders to create their very own Kvass. But that is not the only reason it came back to modern life: When Kombucha, fermented black tea, became more popular, people started looking for alternative probiotic beverages.

Kvass, a drink with a History

While kids in America used to line up in front of ice cream trucks on hot summer days, Russian kids got something else for refreshment - Kvass. 

At times when sodas were rare, Kvass was a real treat. The beer-like drink obtains a degree of acidity through fermentation which also kills bad bacteria. That made it even safer than drinking water.

Kvass truck
Kvass truck, Photo by S. Vecrumba, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But the origin is way older than the country of Russia itself. Over 1000 years ago, the recipe traveled from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Greece all the way to what is known today as Russia. That was long before Vodka or the Cyrillic alphabet got invented.

Back then, people already knew about the healing qualities of the beverage. The fact that it was safer than water made it an everyday drink for everyone, even kids

In the 1700s, it was the most popular beverage for people from all social classes. 

In the 1900s, the love for the fermented drink still was so great that it got the name communist Coca-Cola, linking Kvass to the most famous American refreshment.

Fermentation of Kvass

Due to being based on brown or black bread made of whey or rye, the appearance of the beverage leans towards a dark brown. 

The bread gets soaked in water, and after that, yeast, malt, and other ingredients are added, and the fermentation process begins. 

The mixture is fermenting for a few days. During this timespan, the process produces a low level of alcohol and a distinctive sour taste, natural carbonation, and living bacteria.

Kvass Jug

The natural bubbles and probiotic enzymes in the drink make it a healthy alternative to commercial sodas. The alcohol content is usually around 1%. In Russia, this is considered non-alcoholic.

It is possible to add other components during the fermentation process to improve the taste of Kvass. Famous ingredients are different kinds of berries, especially strawberries, and various herbs like mint.

Different types of Kvass

As previously mentioned, the list of ingredients can vary. But besides creating slight differences in flavor by adding fruits or other secondary ingredients, it is also possible to change the base ingredient. The two most important versions are bread-based and Beet Kvass.

Bread Kvass

As stated before, traditionally, bread is the main ingredient. And all different types of bread can be used to make Kvass. 

But there is one essential rule to follow: it should not contain added preservatives as this could affect the fermentation process.

Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass

As you may expect, the main ingredient here is beetroot. The difference between Beet Kvass and the regular version is very distinct. 

Just by looking at the two types of Kvass, they come across as two completely different things. But the bright and bold red color is not the only difference. The Beet version also is a much healthier option.

Health benefits

The main health benefits of Kvass are its probiotic properties. Probiotics help to keep our digestive system strong. More precisely, probiotics help us with proper digestion, nutrient uptake, and eliminating toxins in our bodies. 

Depending on the type and strain of probiotics, they have different effects on our well-being. Generally, the health benefits of regular Kvass are similar to those of Kombucha.

Additional Benefits of Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass has an immense array of extra benefits in addition to its probiotic capabilities. 

Beetroot has lately become known for its health benefits and is regarded as a so-called superfood. But even before it got scientifically proven, people praised beetroot for its positive effects on the body.

Beet Kvass is one of the best sources of antioxidants, protecting our cells from damage and healing them. It is further known to be one of the best liver detoxifiers and can prevent liver diseases. 

That makes it also an excellent tool for detoxing or curing a nasty hangover.

Our blood also benefits from Beet Kvass. The betaines in beetroot help our body to build red blood cells. That increases the capacity of our blood to transport oxygen and hence improves all bodily functions.

Kvass vs. Kombucha

Kombucha and Kvass are both lactic acid-based fermentations. While the probiotic benefits of Kvass and Kombucha are pretty similar, the two beverages still are very different. 

Kombucha

For instance, while Kvass can have various base ingredients, Kombucha offers only one option - sweetened black tea.

Also, when creating Kombucha, you need a specific starter culture called ‘SCOBY’. Scoby stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts. That consists of a mixture and balance of strains, very specific for creating Kombucha.

Plus, the fermentation duration is quite different. While Kvass needs between 2 - 7 days, Kombucha usually takes between 5 - 30 days of fermenting at room temperature.

How to make Kvass at home

It is easy to make your Kvass at home. Here is a step-by-step recipe to create your own bread Kvass.

Kvass and bread

Bread Kvass

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Russian
Keyword: Bread, Healthy
Servings: 20
Calories: 34kcal
Cost: $3 - $4

Ingredients

  • 2.5 Gallons Water
  • 9 Slices Classic black, dark, or rye bread
  • 1 Handful Raisins
  • 4 cups Sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp Active dry yeast

Instructions

  • Fill a large (or better extra-large) pot with the water and bring to a boil. If you do not own one that is large enough, split it up into two.
  • Toast each slice of bread two times. Make it really dark, as this will affect the color of the final product. And darker Kvass looks more appealing 😉
  • Once the water boils, remove the pot from your stove and add the raisins together with the toasted bread.
  • Cover it with a lid and let it rest for at least 8 hours.
  • Remove the toasted bread.
  • Mix sugar and yeast, add them to the pot and stir the whole mix.
  • Cover it up again for another 6-8 hours. Stir the mix every once in a while.
  • Strain the mixture into bottles with the help of a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Close the bottle caps loosely and refrigerate overnight.
  • You can seal the bottles tightly the morning after.

Nutrition

Serving: 250ml | Calories: 34kcal | Carbohydrates: 5.8g | Protein: 2.9g | Fat: 0.6g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 157mg | Sugar: 2.1g | Calcium: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How long to ferment

Homemade Kvass is all about balancing flavor and fizz. You want to let it ferment long enough to get that sourness and carbonation without letting it get overly sour. Traditionally, the carbonation is quite low. But because we get more and more used to strongly carbonated beverages, the traditional version would not taste right.

As a rule of thumb, the fermentation process should be between 2 and 7 days. After the first 48 hours, you can taste it and check the carbonation. It should already be a bit sour with a hint of sweetness. The longer you ferment the Kvass, the more tangy its flavor will be. So constantly check the taste to avoid an overly sour result. Once it tastes right, filter it through a fine-mesh strainer and bottle your Kvass.

Adding additional fizz

If you want to add more fizz and bubbles, there are some ways to achieve this. Once you bottled your Kvass, add half a teaspoon of additional sweetener like honey together with a pinch of yeast and mix it properly.
That helps build up some extra carbonation quickly and transforms your traditional Kvass into a more modern version - bubbling like a soda from the supermarket.
Before storing the mixture in the fridge, allow it to work for 12-18 at room temperature.

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