Homemade Soda Pop: Lacto-Fermented Lemonade

Homemade Soda Pop: Lacto-Fermented Lemonade

How to make lacto-fermented pop at home

I don’t know what it is about spring, but it seems that I am consistently bitten by the culture bugs at this time of year. I like to romanticize that this yearly awakening means I’m in tune with Mother Nature and her quest to bring life into the world… but really I’m just thinking ahead to long, warm days sitting in the sun and sipping something bubbly. It started with making yogurt, moved on to cultivating water kefir (when I get more grains someday, that will be another post), and graduated to nurturing a ginger bug (which I used to make a killer ginger beer that had a mighty kick to it). I’ve also made fizzy drinks using plain old bread yeast before, but I haven’t yet tried lacto-fermenting a beverage using whey.

I am speaking a foreign tongue to some of you, I realize. It was all a bunch of weird words to me when I first got into culturing, too, but my interest in creating a good bowl of yogurt led to a lot of research which led to a lot of discoveries of the things you can easily get your hands on to start brewing in your kitchen. And there really are a whole lot of strange and wonderful things out there that people have been using for years. Kefir grains, kombucha scobys, ginger bugs, and brewing yeast are some that you have to look a little bit to dig up, but using whey to ferment a drink is as easy as buying a tub of yogurt from the grocery store.

Make your own lacto-fermented popYou know how sometimes you open a container of yogurt and there seems to be water sitting on top? That’s whey. You can stir it back into the yogurt or you can pour it off and save it. Whatever you do, DON’T throw it out (like I used to) — it’s a superfood! Have a look at what Livestrong says about the health benefits of whey, if you need extra convincing. To collect it for this recipe, you will take a strainer or colander of some kind, sit it over a bowl and line it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and pour in about a cup of yogurt. Let this whole business sit in the fridge for about a day and you will have made yogurt cheese and some whey. Save the whey for this recipe and mix the yogurt cheese with fruit, put it on waffles or bagels, or (my favorite) mix it with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a splash of vanilla and use it to ice pumpkin muffins or carrot cake.

So what is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation (the short form of lactic acid fermentation) is the process by which Lactobacillus bacteria — the kind you find in yogurt but also on a lot of plant life and inside of our very own bodies — is fed some sugar, deprived of oxygen and kept warm, then given a bit of time to produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide and ethanol. Totally simple formula.

No, really, it is! The science can be a little intimidating at first but as long as your dishes are quite clean and your culture is kept at a nice warm temperature, it’s a piece of cake. Lovely, bacteria-laden cake.

Lacto-fermentation is not just about making drinks, of course. It has been used for a long, long time as a method of food preservation and those of you who love a good kimchi or sauerkraut will already be familiar with the tang of lactic acid. The lactic acid is what allows fermentation to be a successful means of preservation as it acts like a sort of security guard, killing off any pathogenic microorganisms that could try to invade your product. This little feature is also what makes lacto-fermentation fun to play with as you’re pretty safe, even if you’re a newbie. The general consensus is that if your final product smells putrid, don’t consume it. But I’m pretty sure common sense is common enough to prevent such a thing anyway.

Why bother making your own pop?

When I first got onto my kick of trying to make everything I could possibly come up with directions or a recipe for, I had people say to me, “You know, you can just go to the store and buy a bottle of pop [bar of soap/loaf of bread/etc.]! Hahaha!”

I already knew that.

There are a ton of reasons for making your own pop, the smallest reason being that it’s fun (though I may have a different idea of “fun” than a lot of people do, I guess). Making it is definitely cheaper than buying it, and really, you shouldn’t buy pop anyway. It’s terrible for you. But the homemade stuff really isn’t that bad for you since you get to control the level of sugar (and most of it is consumed by the yeast or lactobacillus anyway), and lactic acid has the added bonus of helping you with your digestion, just like it does when you eat yogurt. If they made a tv commercial for this kind of pop, they would have those belly dancing squares in front of people’s bodies while they drank it, just like that popular yogurt’s ad… but that commercial is really annoying, so hopefully they wouldn’t. Either way, you catch my drift.

There are so many different recipes out there for homemade pop, and if you look around hard enough for the ingredients, you can make just about any flavour you like. This particular recipe is kind of like a fizzy lemonade with a bit of a creamy feel to it. It’s only slightly effervescent, so it doesn’t burn your nose like some store-bought pop will. I love it and so does my two year old. My husband is always my toughest critic in my homemade adventures, and he deemed it “alright”, but he still drinks Coke on a semi-regular basis, so I will take that as a pretty good assessment coming from him.

Anyway, I will now stop talking and give you the recipe for…

Lacto-Fermented Fizzy Lemonade

Homemade lacto-fermented pop

Begin by making the Base Soda (Essentially this will be your “starter” to make the pop fizzy):

  • 1/2 cup fruit juice (I used peach mango flavoured Five Alive, but go ahead and use whatever citrus based juice you want here)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used regular white sugar, but you could probably use something like Agave Nectar, Coconut Sugar, or organic/raw sugar. I’d stay away from brown sugar or molasses because of the strong flavors and don’t use honey as the antibacterial properties will throw the cultures off balance.)
  • 2 cups filtered, chlorine-free water (To make sure there is no chlorine which is important if you use city water, either let your water sit overnight on the counter in an open container or boil and cool it– the chlorine will evaporate in both cases. You can always use bottled water if you want, but I don’t usually see the point in paying for a bottle of water when it comes out of your tap already.)
  • 1/4 cup whey (previously gathered)

Heat the juice and sugar to a simmer and remove from heat. Add the filtered water and mix. When the temperature has reached about 100° (you’ll be able to stick your clean finger in and hold it there comfortably for a count of ten), stir in the whey. Pour this into a preferably sterilized quart mason jar and seal the lid. Put the jar in a warm spot and leave for 3 – 5 days, depending on the temperature (the warmer it is, the less time you’ll have to sit on it). Check the jar every day by loosening the lid and resealing; when the fermentation starts to work, you will hear a little ffsstjust like when you open a pop bottle. Give it another couple of days after this appearance of gas being released to let it work up well. (DO check the jar every day and release the carbon dioxide {in the brewing world, this is called burping but… ew} as there is a potential danger of the jar exploding. The chances of this are pretty small if your temperature isn’t crazy warm and since there is a lot of headspace in the mason jar at this point and, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, they say.)

Once the base soda is ready, you will move on to phase II. For this phase, you will need:

  • Your jar of base soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups filtered water

In a bowl or large measuring cup capable of holding at least 4 cups, mix the soda base, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Take two or three clean 1 L bottles with good, tight screw tops (old pop bottles are good for this and the glass grolsch style bottles are my favorite – I hoard them compulsively) and using a funnel, pour the mixture in evenly among them. Pour the 2 cups of water into the same bowl to save any dregs remaining and divide this water equally among the bottles. Seal them up and put them in a warm place for another 2 days or so, then chill it and drink it!

I know this seems like a lot of work for a litre and a half of pop. But there really is something kind of magical in the alchemy of it all that you might find as intriguing as I did, a little bit of kitchen witchery that might spark your interest in all things fermented or cultured. It would also be a great experiment to share with your kids — I know I would’ve loved this when I was one! I urge you to go forth and multiply… your cultures.

And enjoy! As usual, we would love to hear your success stories. What flavors did you try? 

– Joc


Cultures for Health – What is Lacto-fermentation?
Recovering Vegetarian – Lacto-fermented Soda (No Kefir Grains)







0 thoughts on “Homemade Soda Pop: Lacto-Fermented Lemonade

  1. Now I have heard it all…(or have I?) What will you come up with next?! 🙂 Very good read; very informative. How neat is that? I wish we lived closer so I could see this in ‘action’, I feel like too much of a kitchen ammature to attempt such things! Slowly…small baby steps 😛

    Keep on pumping these blogs out – I love them.


    1. I didn’t realize you were an alternative medicine guy! You’ll have to keep an eye on my posts and make sure I’m on the mark with these types of things. Thanks for coming over to check out our blog!


  2. I’ve been making lots of kombucha and have started looking at herbal sodas. But most of the recipes call for 1-2 cups of sugar per gallon!!! Yipe! That’s 20g – 40g per 12 oz serving. Hire’s and Coke have 30g – 35g, respectively. Can I use Stevia for sweetener and then a little sugar for bottling with the yeast? I remember a brewer friend that used to put a teaspoon of white sugar in every bottle before he capped them. Would that work for a lacto-fermented soda?


    1. Hi John,
      I have not used stevia myself so I’m afraid I couldn’t answer your question with 100% certainty. However, after some of the poking around I’ve just done to see if anyone else in Internetland has tried lacto-fermentation without using sugar, it would appear that the sugar is necessary for the carbonation and lightness of the finished product. This makes sense as the carbonation is a by-product of the lactobacillus consuming sugar and I don’t really know how caloric stevia is in comparison to sugar.
      You could, I would guess, follow the recipe in this post and use actual sugar in the “Soda Base” part of the recipe but then use stevia when it comes to flavoring the soda in Phase II. The 1/4 cup of sugar in the Soda Base will largely be consumed by the lactobacillus and so you won’t have something as sugar-heavy as a store bought product, in any case!
      I hope you find this helpful, and good luck! I’d love to hear how your soda turns out.
      Thanks for reading!


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