For people who like a variety of fermented foods yet are without extra time, start a batch of rejuvelac.
It’s especially a good fit for people who are averse to the sourness of yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables. Instead rejuvelac has a pleasant tartness with a hint of lemon taste.
Rejuvelac translates to sprouted grain water, though it is much more than water as we think of water. Instead this “water” has added value thanks to the two-step process, involving sprouting and fermentation.
Applying either one of these food processing methods yields healthier foods. When sprouting and fermentation double up, in the case of rejuvelac, the result is an outstanding superfood drink, rich in enzymes, good bacteria, minerals, and vitamins. You will know your rejuvelac is ready and safe to drink if it has a pleasant lemony tartness, is cloudy, has bubbles streaming to the surface.
However, doubling up on the methods, doesn’t require double the work. Rejevelac is easy and quick, and it can be made anywhere with minimal equipment.
Health benefits of rejuvelac
The starting ingredients, whole grains and water, carry good nutrients and non-nutritive compounds. But simply sprouting any unpasteurized whole grain for two days, adding water, then allowing it to sit for 24- to 48-hours adds digestive, nutritional, and microbial benefits.
Enzymes are at the core of rejuvelac’s digestive benefits. Sprouting activates dormant enzymes within seeds (grains), while fermentation multiplies lactic acid bacteria that contain enzymes. These enzymes break complex nutrients into easy-to-digest forms.
Digestive enzymes produced in the body serve this function too; however, internal levels decrease as we age. Eating foods or beverages with enzymes helps to spare our internal enzyme supply. This is important for people with low levels of digestive enzymes or those wanting to prevent low levels.
Bacterial enzymes and enzymes in the sprouts also degrade phytic acid. This liberates minerals, making them available for absorption.
Sprouting naturally increases vitamin levels multiple fold. Common vitamins in sprouts are B vitamins and vitamins C and E. Explaining how this happens is still a mystery for some vitamins. But for vitamin C, the increase is linked to activation of an enzyme that converts several compounds into vitamin C during germination (1).
After sprouts grow tails and water is added for fermentation, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins from the sprouts migrate to the water.
Since rejuvelac is fermented, it naturally has good microbes. The primary microbes present in this drink are lactic acid bacteria, the same order as that found in fermented vegetables. More than 60% of the microbes come from two genera, Weisella and Pediococcus, the latter having potential probiotic strains (2).
The exact strains in rejuvelac are unknown; therefore, we can’t say that rejuvelac is a source of probiotics.
Nevertheless, rejuvelac contains beneficial microbes in probiotic-like quantities, which support a healthy gut. Probiotic labelling in Canada requires at least 109 CFU/g (3); fresh rejuvelac contains 108-109 CFU/mL (2).
Lactic acid bacteria and enzymes make rejuvelac a worthwhile drink to consume regularly be it before meals to help with digestion or throughout the day for a good dose of microbes.
Rejuvelac versus other fermented drinks
Kombucha, ginger beer, and water kefir are staples for fermentation foodies. Over the hot summer months, these refreshing, carbonated drinks are perfect to share with friends. They make a good substitute for pop and juice.
But these fermented drinks aren’t for everyone.
The wild yeast in these drinks flare yeast conditions such as thrush, fungus, Candida albicans, and vaginal yeast infections. Even some inflammation from autoimmune conditions is from yeast imbalances.
Although the type of yeast from homemade fermented drinks is not harmful, eliminating yeast conditions requires eliminating sources of yeast, including kombucha, ginger beer, and water kefir.
Sugar levels in these fermented drinks is not high since most of the sugar is used by microbes in fermentation. Still, residual sugars or sugar from added juice may be enough to flare a yeast condition, depending on the person.
Alternatively, fermented vegetable brines, beet kvass, or rejuvelac do not have significant amounts of yeast nor sugar. They offer the right type of good microbes, which are essential when trying to restore microbial balance in yeast and autoimmune conditions.
If you don’t have a lot of time, space, money, or fermentation equipment, rejuvelac is the best choice to start with.
Is rejuvelac gluten free?
The original rejuvelac created by Ann Wigmore was made with wheat berries, which contain gluten. It’s unknown if gluten passes from sprouted grains into the soak water during the fermentation stage.
People with celiac disease should not test it out, because even traces of gluten can trigger an autoimmune response.
Without a clear answer, the only way to ensure rejuvelac is gluten-free is to make it with gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, teff, buckwheat or millet. The important part is to ensure that the gluten-free grain you purchase can sprout. (Note: The gelatinous quality of buckwheat makes for a thicker drink, which I found unappetizing).
Ideally, purchasing grains from a sprouting company such as Mumm’s Seeds will ensure good germination.
However, many organic grains from the grocery store will also sprout, provided the grain kernel remains intact. If it is chipped, toasted, old, or pasteurized, it won’t sprout. Without the capacity to sprout, rejuvelac won’t work.
My suggestion is to sprout grains that you’ve purchased. If it doesn’t sprout, try a different brand, preferably organic, from the grocery store. If that doesn’t work, consider ordering from a sprouting seed company to ensure successful results.
How to make rejuvelac
Follow the easy steps below with any whole grain that sprouts. The photos below show rejuvelac made with red hard wheat berries. After trying a variety of whole grains, I like the taste of wheat berry rejuvelac the best. Photos from left to right, top to bottom:
- Choose organic, intact whole grains.
- Add 1 cup of grains to a clean and sterilized 1-quart wide-mouth jar. Double the recipe by using 2 cups of grains in a 2-quart jar.
- Scrub the seeds with water by squeezing them through your hands.
- Cover the jar with either a sprouting lid or cheesecloth and a rubber band – whatever is easiest and available (you just need to start).
- Soak seeds in filtered water (berries in jar on the right have expanded after soaking for 12 hours).
- Drain the soak water; rinse, then place at a 45-degree angle into a bowl, lid facing down. Sprout for 48 hours, or until tails form; rinse every 8-12 hours with tap water. Return jar to inverted position between rinses.
- After the final rinse, cover the sprouted berries in the 1-quart jar with 3 cups of water; leave for 24-48 hours.
- Test the sprout water to verify it has a pH ≤ 4.6. Carbon dioxide bubbles should surface with agitation of the jar, and the water should be cloudy.
- When ready, pour off the liquid into a glass container, reserving the berries. Leave at least 1 tablespoon of rejuvelac in the jar as a starter culture for the next batch.
- Bottle or store in a clean glass jar; refrigerate leftovers. Cover sprouted berries with 3 cups of fresh filtered water for a second batch. Do the same for a 3rd, and possibly 4th batch. Compost sprouted berries after this.
Possible side effects
For people who are new to having raw fermented foods, you may experience gas or bloating at first. This is normal as your gut adjusts to live microbes, although it shouldn’t last indefinitely.
Beyond the adjustment period, rejuvelac and other fermented foods should actually reduce gas, bloating, and other digestive issues.
If your batch of rejuvelac has a pungent, foul smell (your nose will guide you), don’t drink it. Dump it out and start again. Most people describe the taste of rejuvelac as pleasant and refreshing, neither strong or sour, so avoid anything other than this.
Stick to the sprouting instructions and temperature guideline (in the recipe below), and don’t ferment too long.
Food safety risks
Both steps in making rejuvelac present potential risks, but there are controls to keep growth of bad bacteria in check.
The dark, moist, and warm conditions for growing sprouts provide the ideal conditions for growth of bacterial pathogens like Salmonella or E.coli. Numerous foodborne outbreaks have been linked to sprouts (4).
Nevertheless, following the tips below will reduce your risk.
using certified organic seeds for sprouting can reduce a lot of risks. Most companies probe every batch of seeds to test for pathogens before selling to the public. Seeds for planting may be open to rodents, insects, and birds, which may contaminate the seeds.
- Used certified organic seeds, not just regular planting seeds. The storage and manure use is quite different (read more on safety from Mumm’s Seed company).
- Sterilize any sprouting equipment in hot water before each new batch.
- Wash your hands before handling any of the sprouts or equipment.
- Sprout grains in acidified water (pH ≤ 4.2). Add 1 teaspoon of citric acid powder per 1 quart of soak and rinse water.
- Avoid grains with chips. This is where bacteria tend to collect.
Fermentation can go south in a hurry if left too long or left at too cool or too hot of temperatures.
The most important factor for fermentation safety in rejuvelac is dropping the pH. At less than 4.6, Botulism spores can’t grow; less than 4.2, no foodborne illness can grow.
Test your pH with food-grade pH strips or a pH meter. My rejuvelac batches have always showed a pH around 4.5 with one reaching 4.0 on the 3rd batch.
If no bubbles form after 2 days at room temperature, the grains did not have adequate microbes for fermentation. Discard and try again.
Rejuvelac shelf life
If your rejuvelac is has a pH≤ 4.2, you do not need to refrigerate it. But, if is around 4.3-4.6, then you should refrigerate it for a maximum of 3 days. After all, it makes for a cool, refreshing drink.
I’ve experimented storing it in a regular mason jar vs. a swing top bottle. I found that rejuvelac stored in a swing top bottle was less flat than that store in a mason jar.
Rejuvelac is by no means carbonated like kombucha. However, excluding oxygen by storing it in a swing top bottle, does improve its sensory appeal.
How to use rejuvelac
The best way to benefit from these natural enzymes is to drink a minimum of a ¼ cup 15 minutes before meals as you would gut shots. Adding it to smoothies or cooled soup would also kick start pre-digestion. Rejuvelac is a common starter for nut cheese (e.g. cashew cheese) and raw crackers.
Not everyone can tolerate fermented drinks like kombucha that have everyone else raving about. Ya, they taste great, but they can flare yeast conditions and even some autoimmune issues.
Instead, there are drinks like rejuvelac which don’t have yeast and sugar yet supply beneficial bacteria. Rejuvelac provides a pleasant therapeutic alternative for people needing to restore microbial balance without a lot of effort or coin.
- 1 quart wide-mouth jar
- Sprouting lid or cheesecloth and rubber band
- 1 cup organic raw wheat berries unpasteurized
- 3 cups filtered water
- Wash sprouting jar and sprouting lid with soap and water, then sterilize with hot boiling water. Let cool on the counter for a minute or two.
- Add seeds to jar; screw on sprouting lid. Wash seeds by filling jar with cool water (tap water is fine). Swirl and shake jar to remove any residue. Allow dead seeds to float to the top, then skim off and discard. Drain water.
- Refill with filtered, room-temperature water and leave soak for 12 hours or overnight.
- Pour off the soak water; rinse with tap water, swirl for 30 seconds, then drain again and shake to remove excess water.
- Invert the sprouting jar at a 45-degree angle in a bowl to continue draining. Ensure the jar is away from direct sunlight. Sprout for 48 hours, rinsing every 8-12 hours with tap water. Always return the jar to it's inverted position between rinses.
- When the seeds are well sprouted with a tail, cover with filtered water. Leave on the counter to ferment for 24 hours, longer in cooler temperatures.
- Once the liquid is acidic (pH ≤ 4.6), bubbles surface with agitation of the jar, and the water is cloudy, pour off the liquid into a glass container, reserving the berries. Leave at least 1 tablespoon of water in the jar as starter culture for the next batch. Do not rinse berries between batches.
- Drink fresh or transfer to a swing top bottle or glass jar; refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Make a second batch with the same wheat berries: Pour another 3 cups of filtered water into the jar. Allow water to ferment for another 24 hours before pouring off.
- Repeat a third time for a total of three batches with the original sprouted wheat berries. Compost berries after this.