Basics: Fermenting and Cooking Grains

Fermenting grains using Stephan Guyenet’s Simple Fermentation Method .  A link to Stephan’s blog Whole Health Source can be found under the Helpful Links section down to the right.

The goal is to remove as much of the phytic acid from the grain as possible before putting it in our bodies. I have been using this method for awhile with rice and recently learned from Wardeh at, that it works for all grains.  And you can use the same soak water for all of them!   A big time-saver in my kitchen!

This method is best used on non-glutinous grains as they don’t have enough phytase enzyme to neutralize the phytic acid on their own.  Glutinous grains (like wheat, spelt, and rye) are most often used for breads and soured or sprouted then ground into flour.

Basically it goes like this:

1. Add desired amount of grain to large soaking vessel (I use Mason jars for small amounts and glass bowls for large amounts).

2. Add desired amount of water (refer to chart below).

3. Let sit covered at room temperature for 24 hours.

4. Pour off soak water into measuring cup.  Make a note of amount.  Reserve 1 pint of this liquid.  Label “Grain Soak Water” and store in refrigerator. *

5. Add the same amount of fresh water (that you just poured off into measuring cup) into cooking vessel, along with the fermented grains.

*Grain Soak Water should always be saved and added to the next batch of fermenting grains in the amount of 10% of total soaking water.  The more you use your grain soak water, the more effective it will be (because the amount of phytase increases incrementally, allowing you to process out more and more phytic acid).

Why all the extra fuss when you could just put some rice in a pot and cook it up?  All traditional cultures prepared their grains by soaking, fermenting/souring or sprouting.  This process makes them more digestible and increases their mineral content.  It has not been until recent history and industrialized food, that people began skipping this critical step in preparation.  Could this be contributing the numerous mineral deficiencies and chronic diseases we are seeing today?  I think so.

“Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.

Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.

Most of these antinutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.”

Sally Fallon, “Be Kind to Your Grains…And Your Grains Will Be Kind to You” 

Information from “Enchanted Broccoli Forest” by Mollie Katzen, adapted for SOAKED or FERMENTED GRAINS

Please use your judgment on the cooking times.  I have adapted them to fit for soaked and fermented grains.  Cooking times are variable and depend on the temp you are cooking at, as well as how long the grains have been soaked/fermented.

Brown Rice (long grain) 2 cups 15 to 25 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Brown Rice (short grain) 2 cups 15 to 25 minutes 3 3/4 cups
Brown Basmati Rice 2 cups 20 to 25 minutes 4 cups
Brown Jasmine Rice 2 cups 20 to 25 minutes 4 cups
Black Japonica Rice 2 cups 20 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Wehani Rice 2 cups 20 minutes 3 cups
Wild Rice 2 1/2 cups 40 minutes 4 cups
Manitok Wild Rice 2 1/2 cups 25 to 30 minutes 4 cups
Amaranth 1 1/2 cups 12-15 minutes 2 cups
Barley, Hulled 3 cups 45-55 minutes 4 cups
Barley, Pearl 2 cups 45 minutes 4 cups
Buckwheat/Kasha 1 1/2 cups 5-10 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Bulgur (soak, don’t cook) 1 1/2 cups 15 to 20 minutes 3 cups
Cracked Wheat 2 1/2 cups 3 to 5 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Cornmeal (Polenta) 2 1/2 cups 5 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Couscous 1 1/4 cups 5 minutes 2 3/4 cups
Kamut 2 1/2 cups 50 minutes 2 1/2 cups
Millet 2 cups 12-15 minutes 3 1/2 cups
Oat Groats 2 1/2 cups 15 to 20 minutes 2 1/2 cups
Quinoa (rinse first) 2 cups 12 to 15 minutes 4 cups
Rye Berries 2 1/2 cups 35-40 minutes 2 1/2 cups
Spelt 1 1/2 cups 25 to 30 minutes 2 cups
Teff 3 cups 7-10 minutes 3 cups
Triticale 2 1/2 cups 45 minutes 3 cups
Wheat Berries, Hard (Red) 2 cups 1 hour 3 cups
Wheat Berries, Soft (White) 2 cups 45 minutes 3 1/2 cups


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    • familynaturally

      Hi Grace,
      Yes, I use the same water for all grains. This actually makes for a more dramatic reduction in anti-nutrients. However, it is not used for legumes. Thanks for helping me clarify.

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