June 13, 2015 lyukum



The kitchen in my parents’ apartment was tiny. Every square inch was accounted for. Yet, every summer, a 3-quart glass jar (знаменитая советская банка, известная в народе как “балон”) would occupy a dedicated space on a countertop. It was used to make our never ending supply of kvass. My Dad was in charge. Thirsty? Just open a fridge, and there is a bottle of cold, refreshing, sweet and sour, lightly sparkling, natural, healthy kvass! Nothing could ever replace this summer drink for me when I moved to the U.S.

Bottled kvass sold in Russian specialty food stores was always a disappointment — too sweet and unnatural. I am not even talking about the taste preferences or flavor differences. Kvass can be lighter or darker, sweeter or more sour, crisper or maltier, fruitier, with more body or drier, flavored or plain, and so on. Nevertheless, to really enjoy it, kvass has to be alive. Just like another, better-known in the U.S. fermented drink — Kombucha.

The process looked so easy and effortless when my Dad made it… I tried to make my own. And failed. Learning about kvass, actually, made me learn more about beer. I decided to follow a traditional kvass recipe and make it from scratch. Austin Homebrew Supply was the store where I found everything I needed, including special yeast and bacteria cultures. After making a few batches, I’ve meet with Jester King people and let them taste my dark and light versions in hope to wake their interest in kvass production. Oh well. They switched to sour beer instead :).

The recipe below is very simple compared to the whole-nine-yards traditional recipe. Made from scratch, rye bread kvass has more complexity. Since it’s not available, a home-made kvass is the second best to satisfy my cravings.

Please read Recipe Notes below the recipe before you start making your kvass. Making kvass involves working with live cultures. Please make sure your food safety education is up to date.

Print Recipe
Prep Time 25minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
Passive Time 4days
Servings quart
Print Recipe
Prep Time 25minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
Passive Time 4days
Servings quart
  1. The first step is to make a rye bread extract. Preheat oven 325F, convection. Slice the bread 1/4" thick and toast it on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, or until dry and caramelized. It will be extremely fragrant when ready. If you let it cool to room temperature, more water will evaporate, and the flavor will concentrate even more.
  2. Prepare a nonreactive (glass or stainless steel) container(s). It can be one 2-quart jar OR two 1-quart jars. Boil 2 quarts of water. Place toasted bread slices into clean jar(s) and fill them with boiling water almost to the top. Keep at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Strain the liquid. Discard the bread when the liquid stops dripping. You'll have about 1 quart of extremely fragrant rye bread extract.
  3. The second step is to ferment the extract. The best starter is a small amount of sourdough with developed yeast and lactobacillus bacteria to ferment kvass properly. Add a piece of dough to the bread extract. In about half an hour, it will dissolve in the liquid and can be stirred.
  4. Now, we have to add sugar to feed fermenting agents. During this step you can manipulate the flavor and color of your future kvass. Depending on what kind of sugar you choose — honey, agave syrup, white or brown/cane or palm or maple sugars, molasses, etc. — the taste of your kvass will be slightly different. You can also add liquid malt extracts for dark and rich kvass.

    Add sugar and stir well.
  5. Keep at room temperature (72-74F) for about 3 days. At lower temperatures, fermentation process takes longer.

    Your kvass is ready to bottle when its taste is pleasantly sweet and sour, with an appetizing aroma.
  6. Prepare two pint-sized clean screw-cap or flip-top bottles and funnel.

    When bottling kvass, make sure the sediment on the bottom of the jar where kvass was fermenting is not disturbed. To carbonate kvass during the next step, conditioning, feed it with some sugar right before bottling. Add 1tsp of your favorite sugar or 2-3 small raisins per 1/2 quart of kvass. Do not stir. Seal the bottles.
  7. Condition bottled kvass at 40-50F temperature for at least 3 days or up to 7 days (wine refrigerator is the best).
  8. After conditioning, store bottles refrigerated. Keeping them upright helps to clarify kvass.
Recipe Notes

Experimenting with Kvass in Texas

The quality of the bread is highly important. It gives the base flavor to the kvass. 100% rye bread baked by WholeFoods bakery is the only purchased in store bread I could find matching my personal kvass-making criteria. It's a relatively small loaf of moist and heavy rye bread, no wheat flour or any other ingredients added, $2.99.

For this batch of kvass, I used my ciabatta dough. Do not use yeast only — you'll get a beverage with much higher level of alcohol and unpleasant aroma (been there done that!). If you bake your own bread, start making your kvass when you have 1-to-3 days old dough in your refrigerator. If you don't, buy a portion of sourdough starter in your favorite bakery.

The sediment on the bottom of the jar where kvass was fermenting can be used a kvass starter. It is not safe to use it for more than 2 to 3 batches. When using kvass starter, plan in advance. Have your next rye bread extract ready by the time your currently fermenting kvass is ready to be bottled.

A good seal is needed to withstand the pressure build up in the bottle that gives the beer it's carbonation. I use flip-top beer bottles. The rubber seal of flip-top bottles can't hold the pressure over long periods of time. They are good enough to condition kvass for a few days, easy to clean, and you will never loose the flip-top. The rubber seals can be replaced over time. These bottles are cheap and easy to find. For a couple of bottles, look for good deals online or in Home Goods/TJ Maxx/Marshals/Hobby Lobby, etc. Since kvass is conditioned for a relatively short time period, dark glass is not important.

My favorite sugar and flavoring ingredient is D-180 Candi Syrup. It can be found in many beer brewing supplies stores.

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Food fermentation: a safety and nutritional assessment
Fermented foods and food safety

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Comments (9)

  1. Ogi the Yogi

    Hey! I am in the process of experimenting with Kvas making. It is so random that you are in Austin, I am here too. I actually just picked up some Rye Malt Extract to make a recipe I found online with it, instead of the dry “fermented” red rye malt (солод) used in Russian recipes. I am gonna make my first batch with yeast and the second with sourdough starter that I build a couple of month ago.

    Have you experienced making Kvas without rye bread, but with rye malt (dry or extract)? I would love to pick you brain about your post, I have some dried 100% sourdough rye bread (I baked) slices that I can add not in the beginning but at the very end actually before you cover the bottle with tea towel/paper towel.

    You just mean fed starter in your recipe right?

    I am a huge fan of sour beer btw, hilarious that you mention JK!

    • lyukum

      Hey! Olga? Am I correct to assume you speak Russian? If yes, you might be interested to follow the links I listed below for you. 5 years ago I was actively experimenting with kvass with local ingredients and made some notes in Russian. If you don’t speak Russian, we can meet and I’ll share my knowledge with you verbally.

      In short, the difference between the whole-nine-yards kvass and the version with regular rye bread is that for the original recipe we need to make special “kvass bread” (квасные сухари). Either regular or kvass bread is necessary to build kvass flavor. Dry malt is used to make the _bread_. Using malt as a flavor agent is not enough.

      the steps are:
      1. Extract bread flavor with hot water. Kvass flavor profile is always based on the flavor of bread (unless it is fruit or vegetable kind of kvass). Thus special bread and its dehydration to concentrate the flavor. Strain.
      2. Fermentation with dough starter (could be wheat or rye). The starter should be a combination of yeast and lactobacillus to give the process the right direction. Using only yeast is not enough. It can be a fed starter or pre-ferment (biga, poolish, mature bread dough, which I use). Strain and bottle.
      3. Conditioning fermented kvass in bottles.

      О квасе (источники)
      Квас. Просто или сложно? (Проращивание ржи для солода) здесь опыт использования дрожжей вместо закваски!
      Квас. Просто или сложно? (Заварное тесто и квасные сухарики)
      Квас. Просто или сложно? (Экстракция и сбраживание)

      Квас из Rugbrod №1

      Квас из ржаного хлеба на хлебной закваске

      • Ogi the Yogi

        Спосибо! Yes I speak Russian, it is just so great to have found someone in Austin who knows so much about kvas! I have looked at a number of youtube videos that use красный солод, which you can make here in Austin by sprouting rye berries drying them and grinding them down to a powder.

        It would be interesting to know what you think of these types of recipes:

        Also, this is actual what I just made with this rye malt extract you can buy at the homebrewing supply on Metric: I used this simple very simple recipe http://bulkindom.kiev.ua/cms.php?id_cms=7

        I will try your recipe once I bake some better sourdough rye bread. Do you have your “kvas bread” recipe up on the website? I would love to use the right bread when making it with your recipe!

        On a bread note, I have used only one sourdough rye bread recipe so far which does not provide me with a consistent loaf, I was wondering if you could recommend a good recipe for a novice like me, I am also looking to make Бородинскмй хлеб, can you recommend a good place in town to buy baking supplies for flours (rye especially), grains, malts, etc. I kind of just go all over town for individual ingredients. Also any luck finding baker’s yeast in town?

        Last question, any place online or in town to buy kitchen/baking supplies sheet trays, bannetons, jars for flour storage etc.

        Очень приятно с вами по говорить!

        • lyukum

          The pleasure is mine 🙂
          I can’t say anything about the recipes with dry malt, because I haven’t tried them yet. I think I’ll try them out of curiosity, but I doubt dry malt can give the same complexity for flavor profile as good kvass bread.

          I don’t have kvass bread recipe on this web site, but here it is in Russian in Sergey’s blog: http://registrr.livejournal.com/11859.html

          If you have Facebook account, you might be interested in joining a home bread makers group (Russian speaking). These people are real bread maniacs and they share their experience/recipes/tips and tricks all the time. They have huge online library, etc. That’s the answer to your Borodinski recipe question. If you don’t have FB, I’ll get the recipe for you. Let me know.

          My number one source for baking-bread everything is http://www.kingarthurflour.com/
          There are two stores for pro supplies in Austin: Make It Sweet (9070 Research Blvd #203, Austin, TX 78757) and Ace Mart Restaurant Supply (two locations: 2415 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 and 9411 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753) They are open to public.

          I prefer Saf instant yeast for many reasons. I think it’s the best for home baking. What kind of baker’s yeast do you have in mind? If by baker’s yeast you mean compressed fresh yeast, I saw it once in Central Market. They get a very limited amount once a week, I believe, and it goes fast. I think if you call the store, they’ll give you more info. Based on my experience, they can even order it for you or save the amount you need for you until you are ready to pick it up. They are amazing!

  2. Donald

    Dear Lyukum,

    You have made quite a number of kvass projects! Good stuff!

    Do you have a recipe for “double fermentation” kvass or have you at least heard of it? My understanding is the kvass tea is first exposed to a kefir type bacteria (Bifidobacterium/Lactobacillus bifidus?) for a period of time and then the yeast is introduced. The two fermentations are supposedly made in series and not simultaneously although not sure what the advantage of that is other than maybe better control and consistency. I first saw the “double fermentation” term on a bottle of Russian Ochakovsky Kvass.

    Great site!


    • lyukum

      Hi Donald,
      Here is an article in Russian that qoutes Sergey Rumyantsev, VP of Production and Quality “Ochakovo”: «Квас — уникальный продукт, изготавливаемый только по технологии двойного брожения. Одинарное брожение даёт плоский невыраженный вкус с недостаточной кислотностью. Квасы, произведённые по упрощённой технологии без молочнокислого брожения, требуют внесения химических кислот извне. На наш взгляд, такие напитки не следует называть традиционными и национальными. И квасом они не являются» // “Kvas is a unique product made only with double fermentation. Single fermentation makes its flavor flat, undeveloped, and lacking acidity. Kvas produced using a simplified method without lactobacillus fermentation requires adding acidifying agents. We believe, those drinks can’t be positioned as traditional and cannot be called ‘kvas.'”

      All naturally brewed kvases use double fermentation. “Ochakovo” emphasized they use true traditional methods of making kvas. See their catalog in English with short descriptions: http://ochakovo.ru/files/Ochakovo_catalog_eng_light.pdf They use “pure cultures of yeast and bacteria in the form of mixed barm.” Double fermentation simply means both types of cultures are used. The true sourdough starter has them both active and working and introduced to a kvas tea at the same time. It is the best starter for making kvass at home, and it is equal to the “mixed barm” mentioned above. Thus, all my recipes use double fermentation.

      (Double fermentation is sometimes confused with “second(ary) fermentation” in a bottle that is also known as “conditioning”.)

      I hope I answered your questions 🙂 If my explanation was not clear, don’t hesitate to ask more questions.

  3. Donald

    Dear Lyukum,

    Thank you for providing an excellent explanation.

    I was confused double fermentation meant something like secondary fermentation which I have encountered in beer production in bottle conditioning as you noted or in Belgium Brewing where a young fermented beer/wort is mixed into a mature fermented beer/wort.

    All kvass made with a sour dough starter is “double fermented”. Hahaha.

    Thanks and have a great day!

  4. Valeriya


    I’m having trouble with my kvass and I can’t find much information about it. I made kvass for about three weeks with great results and then…. it’s started turning viscous, slimy. I changed sugars, breads, sterilized the bottle.. it keeps happening batch after batch for maybe 6-7 batches already. Not sure what to do. Have you had/heard of that problem??


    • lyukum

      Hi Valeriya,
      What recipe do you use for making kvass?
      Possibly, your starter is infected with some wild yeast. Do you use 1) a fresh sourdough starter for every new batch of kvass (recommended) or 2) a sediment from the previous kvass batch (recommended for 1-2 uses only)? I use option 1 and have never had a problem with wild yeast overpowering my starter.

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