Bread kvass (or kvas) is the EASIEST homemade alcoholic beverage. It doesn’t require any special ingredients or equipment to create a sweet, sparkling, and lightly alcoholic drink.
This recipe is courtesy of my husband. He brews several batches a year and loves to play with different flavors. So be sure to check out the section on flavor options. For anyone who is looking for a GF version, I developed a gluten-free kvass using puffed cereal.
What is bread kvass?
It has a long history of being brewed in Eastern Europe and is likely a precursor to malted-grain beer. Even my husband’s teetotaling Russian/Ukrainian/Georgian ancestors brewed this slightly alcoholic beverage.
Best of all, it is simple to make at home as it doesn’t require any special tools or ingredients. It is also low in alcohol, so perfect for anyone trying to reduce their beer intake.
How to make bread kvass
Bread kvass is really easy. There are just three basic steps.
- Toast bread to create malted sugars (similar to malting grain for beer). Soak the toast cubes in water to extract the sugars.
- Strain the liquid from the bread. This liquid is fermented with sugar, yeast, and additional flavors.
- After the primary fermentation, the kvass is bottled and left to ferment for another 2-3 days to carbonate.
Flavors and Variations
There are several different ways to change the flavor of kvass. So it’s perfect for flavor experimentation!
1. Type of Bread
Rye bread is traditional, however, any kind of bread will work. My husband likes the caramelly flavor that comes from a nice loaf of dark rye. (See the photo above).
A loaf of white bread will result in a lighter beverage that is refreshing on a hot day. (See the photo below).
Usually, Brad makes kvass out of a mix of different bread scraps. He keeps a ziptop bag in the freezer and collects all the crusts and stale bread. When he’s collected enough bread scraps, he brews a batch of kvass!
2. Types of Yeast
There are three different options for yeast. I’ve included instant bread yeast in the recipe because it’s easy and reliable. Here are more details about the other options:
- Bread yeast: The recipe is written for instant yeast but feel free to replace it with the same amount of fresh yeast. Bread yeast can ferment up to 8% ABV. However, I don’t recommend that as the flavor won’t be as good.
- Sourdough starter: To replace the yeast with sourdough starter, use 1 Tbsp of active starter. The resulting beverage will only be 0.5%-2% ABV. Because of the strains of bacteria in sourdough starter, the kvass will have a slightly unpleasant smell during the initial stages of fermentation. However, the smell and flavor will improve after bottling. Let it rest for one week in the fridge prior to drinking for the best flavor. The bacteria will give the kvass a unique taste, similar to sour beer.
- Brewers yeast: The yeast used to brew beer (not the dried supplement) can be used to make kvass. It is much more active, so only use 1/4 tsp.
Hops and other flavors
Bread kvass is much lighter and brighter than beer. It is perfect for fresh flavors. Here are a few options:
- Mint is traditional. Use a few sprigs of mint per batch.
- Add a handful of raisins, berries, or a few slices of apples for a fruity flavor.
- Lemon peel is refreshing.
- Hops will give it a beer-like flavor. It also acts as a preservative, improving longevity. Add 1 Tbsp of hops per batch.
Traditional Bread Kvass
Bread kvass is an Eastern European drink that has a long history of being brewed at home. It is a sweet, sparkling, and lightly alcoholic drink. See the section above for flavor suggestions.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 3 litres 1x
- Category: Beverage
- Method: Fermentation
- Cuisine: Eastern European
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 lb of bread (see section above)
- 3 liters of water (chlorine-free)
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp instant bread yeast (see section above alternatives)
- Flavors (optional, see section above)
- Cut the bread into crouton-sized cubes. Toast them in the oven at 350 F for 20 min. Toss halfway through to ensure even browning. The goal is to caramelize the sugars, so toast as long as necessary.
- Place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl. Bring the water to a boil, and pour it over the bread. Let the bread soak for at least 4 hours (up to 24 hours). You want to extract the malted sugars into the boiling water.
- Strain liquid into a fermentation container (see notes for options). I recommend doing this by pouring the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, then wringing the wet bread to get all the liquid out.
- Stir the sugar and yeast into the liquid. Add any additional flavors at this point.
- Leave the kvass to ferment in a warm location to ferment for around 1 week. It will start to foam and bubble significantly after 6-12 hours.
- After one week, strain the kvass into plastic pop bottles or swing-top beer bottles and store them in the fridge. The kvass will continue to ferment and will build up pressure, so use bottles that can handle the carbonation. Pop the lid every few days to test the carbonation.
- It will be ready to drink after 3 days in the fridge. However, it will continue to ferment for another 1-2 weeks until all the sugars have been consumed by the yeast. At that point, it will no longer be sweet and it will have reached its full alcohol content. I recommend drinking it within the first 3 to 7 days for the best flavor.
- If you plan on drinking your kvass within 2 weeks of making it, you probably don’t need to worry about sanitizing. However, if you are keeping it any longer than that, I recommend sanitizing everything to ensure the best flavor.
- The kvass will bubble as it ferments, so either use a jar with a loosely-tightened lid (so the gas can escape), a carboy with an airlock, or a fido jar for the initial ferment.