Experiments in Cultured Sodas


If there is one thing the various healthy living camps can agree on, it’s that high-fructose corn syrup laden sodas are bad for you. It’s not just the high-fructose corn syrup, though. Even “naturally” sweetened sodas are incredibly high in sugar and therefore more of a celebratory drink than an every day beverage.

What many people don’t realize is that sodas have health-minded roots. Many of the tonics that modern day sodas are based on were rich in herbs, barks, roots, and even cultures. These would have most likely contained a sweetener of some sort, but more for the fuel of fermentation than a sickly sweet aftertaste.

Anyway, there are many ways to achieve that fizzy, fruity, slightly sweet, wonderfully delicious tonic of yesteryear. Some don’t even require a mother culture that needs tending, which is what I’ve been dabbling in lately.


Kombucha and Water Kefir

These are the obvious places to start and for good reason. They produce consistently delicious probiotic beverages, fizzy or not, that you can continue to make for years. Kombucha is more widely known, but Julie, Bonni, and I have all sung the praises of the lesser known water kefir. It cultures up much quicker than kombucha and has a less acidic flavor that is more akin to a very lightly sweetened soda.

Grain-Based Kvass

This bread-based kvass is a simple way to utilize sourdough bread as the base for your fermentation. Adding fruits, honey, or other flavorings makes it more akin to a soda while still maintaining its yeasted bread undertone.

Culture Starter-Based Sodas

More recently, I have been dabbling in making fermented sodas that utilize milk kefir whey. You can also use a sourdough starter as your culture as per this recipe. What I like about this is the versatility it lends. Even if I don’t have kombucha or water kefir going at the moment, we can still have some bubbly fermented sodas. I use a basic formula that follows these ratios:

  • 1/4 cup whey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice
  • enough water to make one quart

This very basic ratio is tweaked, changed, and added to in order to create all sorts of flavor combinations. Use what you have on hand or find something exotic and interesting to create that old favorite soda you used to drink. Just cap tightly and watch closely for signs of carbonation.

Have you experimented with cultured sodas?


Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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  1. says

    Yum! I love cultured sodas.
    i’ve experimented with water kefir grains.
    i’ve made ginger soda, and used raw cane sugar or maple syrup.

    I once tried using honey water, but it grew moldy and I had to throw it out : (

    I love knowing that drinking these sodas are good for my gut.
    have you ever tried a honey soda?

  2. Carol Eidahl says

    I am interested in making water kefir. As I am Celiac, I need to know if the kefir starter is gluten free. Also, it is important that the product not be exposed to cross contamination with gluten products. Are you knowledgable on this issue?
    Thank you, Carol

  3. says

    I’ve made ginger beer before (it starts with a sugar syrup though, so not an everyday drink). I don’t have any whey on hand, but I think I could just add a tiny bit of yeast to the juice/sugar/water combo.

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