If you’ve ever heard about or made tepache, you probably know it is a traditional lightly fermented pineapple drink. It has a popular association with Mexico, but I’ve met Colombians and Brazilians who tell me they drink the same thing, or something similar.
It’s a refreshing drink with a surprising tang. Tepache doesn’t normally have young coconut water in it, but that’s often the way I make it now. It has all the hydrating benefits of coconut water plus the probiotic benefits of tepache. After a hard workout, this is the hydration drink you’ve been dreaming of!
This recipe gives you the option to keep it simple; you can skip the coconut water if you prefer (just use more sugar water instead). You can use coconut water from the baby coconuts you see in farmers markets and produce-heavy grocery stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts, or you can just buy a liter bottle at the grocery store. Popular brands are: One, Naked, Zero, VitaCoco and Ziko, or there’s often a high quality store brand (e.g. Simple Truth by Kroger). I normally opt for one with no sugar added if it’s from a bottle.
You will need: a large pitcher or jar (at least 1/2 gallon recommended) or a full gallon container (a fermenting device or lid with an airlock works, but cheesecloth fastened with a lid rim or rubber-band may be a better option); knife to cut the pineapple; wooden spoon; optional: another pitcher or bottles to pour the tepache into after it has been strained.
This recipe and the quantities is for a gallon jar / fermentation vessel. For a smaller container such as a 1/2 gallon pitcher, cut the quantities in half and use the water of only 1-2 coconuts.
- Skins of one pineapple, thick cut (keep inner meat intact but you can eat the remaining pineapple as usual; you can also add the core to the tepache). (Note: if you can find an organic pineapple, it tends to create a much more active, bubbly ferment, as there will be more and healthier wild yeasts and bacteria on the skins. In this case, you might opt to use more of the fruit (which is sweeter) and less peel; a half a peel will provide sufficient yeasts and the peels can even be used for another batch in most cases.)
- 3 baby coconuts, juiced (makes about 4 cups), or buy a liter bottle of coconut water at the store and use all of it
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup sugar or one 8-oz. piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2-3 cloves finely ground
- 4 allspice berries finely ground
- Other spices or flavors as desired. You can get creative… a cup of berry juice instead of a cup of water? A few fingers of ginger sliced? Jalapeno slices?
- Hand wash all the pineapple skins with cool water and then cut the skins off (you can eat the inner pineapple; optionally put a few cubes of it in the tepache; put the core in the tepache)
- Remove the water from the young coconuts and set aside (or just use a liter bottle of coconut water; flavored version is fine too)
- Mix the water with the sugar until fully dissolved
- In the pitcher/container add the skins, coconut water, cinnamon stick, and any other flavorings. Give a couple good stirs with your spoon.
- A cheese cloth used as a covering (with rubber band or metal lid to fasten it) is a great option. Alternately, you could cover with plastic wrap and poke several holes in it. (This ferment needs some air exposure in the first 24-48 hours.)
- Over 2-3 days, you should see increasing carbonation and cloudiness. The top will also become foamy or bubbly.
- At the end of day 2, 3, or 4, remove all the skins and any other solids. (The longer you wait, the more fermentation occurs. It will be less sweet, with a reduction in sugar levels, and more sour tasting. It will also contain more probiotic bacteria if that is your goal.) Remove any foam at the top that you can. You can drink it straight away over ice. To bottle or drink later see below.
- If fermenting longer than two days: You may wish to replace the cheesecloth or plastic wrap with an airlock/fermenting lid if you want to ferment beyond two days, in order to avoid potential spoilage from air exposure or other issues.
Notes & Ideas
Low-activity ferments: Tepache is a drink from semi- and subtropical regions. You will know the fermentation is active by increasing bubbles and foam. If fermentation seems slow going, especially in winter months, you should move it to a warmer location or even consider setting the pitcher on a heating pad, low setting, for an hour or so to see if you can get it kickstarted.
Baby coconuts: If you buy the whole baby coconuts, you can cut the the top and poke a hole in the membrane, or if you prefer just get a liter container at the grocery store (this will provide the four cups the recipe calls for). These are usually in the Drink or Natural Food aisles. I usually opt for one with no added sugar. Some brands are: Zero, Naked, One, Vita, or often there is a store brand. You could even try a flavored version.)
If you don’t love the taste of this tepache, you may wish to try it without the coconut water, or try adding the coconut water (or other juices) after fermentation, resulting in a sweeter end product (i.e. “backsweetening”).
Submerging the solids: You will notice pineapple skins rising to the surface of the water. This shouldn’t be a problem but, in line with best fermentation practices, I prefer to keep everything submerged. You can do this by adding ziploc bags filled with a little water to the top of the vessel, shown here.
If bottling/waiting to drink later: Replace cheesecloth or airlock with a closed lid on your fermentation jar (or use plastic wrap without holes for a pitcher). If bottling, you can also add up to 2 TBS honey or other sugars at this time to increase carbonation. Once capped, set bottles out at room temperature for 24-48 hours before placing in refrigerator (the longer the wait, typically the more carbonated). Allow to rest in refrigerator for another 24 hours.
If you’re familiar with homebrewing, you can “rack” the tepache, siphoning to a new vessel or bottles and keeping the sediment behind. If adding honey, priming sugar, or other method of increasing carbonation, add it to this secondary vessel.
Pineapple wine & vinegar: If you let the ferment carry on (with a cheesecloth covering), you will eventually have a wild tepache wine, but wild yeasts are unpredictable and can produce unwanted flavors. Wild pineapple wines have something of a reputation for being generally unpleasant. Also, the flavor of pineapple peels works in tepache but isn’t suggested for a fruit wine. On the other hand, this wild tepache wine can be converted to a pretty tasty vinegar. To make tepache vinegar, ferment three cups of reserved tepache in a quart jar. Use a cheesecloth covering held on tightly with a band, not an airlock. Add a couple TBS of apple cider vinegar with the mother (organic Bragg’s ACV is found in just about every major grocery store). Place in a dark, room temperature environment for at least 40 days. At that time, you can sample the vinegar to see if it needs more time. I have made flavorful tepache vinegar aged around 50 days with this method and could have gone longer.