This accessible home-brew guide for alcoholic and non-alcoholic fermented drinks, from Apartment Therapy: The Kitchn’s Emma Christensen, offers a wide range of simple yet enticing recipes for Root Beer, Honey Green Tea Kombucha, Pear Cider, Gluten-Free Sorghum Ale, Blueberry-Lavender Mead, Gin Sake, Plum Wine, and more.
You can make naturally fermented sodas, tend batches of kombucha, and brew your own beer in the smallest apartment kitchen with little more equipment than a soup pot, a plastic bucket, and a long-handled spoon. All you need is the know-how.
That’s where Emma Christensen comes in, distilling a wide variety of projects—from mead to kefir to sake—to their simplest forms, making the process fun and accessible for homebrewers. All fifty-plus recipes in True Brews stem from the same basic techniques and core equipment, so it’s easy for you to experiment with your favorite flavors and add-ins once you grasp the fundamentals.
Covering a tantalizing range of recipes, including Coconut Water Kefir, Root Beer, Honey–Green Tea Kombucha, Pear Cider, Gluten-Free Pale Ale, Chai-Spiced Mead, Cloudy Cherry Sake, and Plum Wine, these fresh beverages make impressive homemade offerings for hostess gifts, happy hours, and thirsty friends alike.
Featured Recipe from True Brews Ginger Ale
Makes about 8 cups
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger root
- 1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottles
- 9 tablespoons / 4 ounces white granulated sugar, plus more if needed
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons), plus more if needed
- 1⁄8 teaspoon dry champagne yeast
- Peel and finely grate the ginger (I use a Microplane). You should have about 2 tablespoons of grated ginger root.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stove top or in the microwave. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Add the ginger and let stand until cool. Stir in the lemon juice.
Pour the ginger water into a clean 2-liter bottle using a funnel. Do not strain out the ginger. Top off the bottle with water, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.
Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight until carbonated, typically 12 to 48 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock solid with very little give, it’s ready.
Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups. Pour the soda through a small fine-mesh strainer to catch the ginger as you pour.
Featured Recipe from True Brews Cloudy Cherry Sake
Makes 1 gallon
- 1 1⁄2 pounds fresh or frozen sweet cherries
- 1 gallon dechlorinated water (see page 14)
- 1 Campden tablet
- 10 cups / 5 pounds short-grain rice
- 2 1⁄2 cups / 11⁄4 pounds koji rice (page 146, or see Resources, page 176)
- 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
- 1⁄2 teaspoon acid blend
- 1⁄2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons (1/2 tube) liquid sake or lager yeast, or 2 teaspoons (1 packet) white wine yeast
Starting 24 hours before you plan to brew, sanitize a 2-gallon bucket, its lid, the air lock, and a spoon for stirring.
Pit and coarsely chop the cherries. Combine the cherries with the water in the bucket. Crush the Campden tablet and stir it in. Snap on the lid and attach the air lock. Wait 24 hours for the Campden to sterilize the cherries.
The next day, soak, steam, and cool rice as described on page 140. Add the steamed rice, koji rice, yeast nutrient, acid blend, pectic enzyme, and yeast to the bucket with the cherries. (If you are steaming your rice in batches, combine everything with the first batch and add the remaining rice to the fermenter as it is cooled and ready.) Stir vigorously to distribute the yeast and aerate the rice mash.
Snap on the lid and attach the air lock. Store the sake somewhere cool and dark, ideally around 55°F. You should see active fermentation as evidenced by bubbles in the air lock within 48 hours. Ferment the sake for 2 weeks, stirring daily with a sanitized spoon.
To finish the sake, sanitize a strainer, flour sack towel, stockpot, funnel, a 1-gallon jug, and its stopper.
First, pour the sake through the strainer into the stockpot. Discard all the rice and cherry solids. Set the funnel in the 1-gallon jug and line it with the flour sack towel. Strain the sake again, this time into the jug. Because of all the rice sediment, this can take a while. Stir the liquid in the funnel frequently to prevent the sediment from compacting and slowing down the straining. If the flour sack towel becomes clogged, rinse it out, sanitize it, and replace.
Clean the stockpot. Set the jug of sake, uncovered, inside the pot and fill the pot with water until the water is level with the surface of the sake. Set the pot over medium heat. Warm the sake to 140°F to pasteurize the sake and stop the koji and yeast activity (this does not affect the alcohol content). Allow the sake to cool.
To bottle the sake, sanitize ten 12-ounce bottles or six 22-ounce bottles (or five 750-milliliter wine bottles), their caps (or corks), the siphon hose, the racking cane, its tip, and the bottle filler. Shake the jug of sake to make sure the sediment is fully suspended in the sake during bottling. Siphon the sake into the bottles, shaking the jug again if the sediment begins to settle. Cap (or cork) the bottles and label.
Sake can be drunk immediately or aged for up to 1 year. Shake the bottles before serving and serve chilled.