What is Tepache?
Tepache, pronounced ”TEH-PAH-CHE” is a fermented beverage from Mexico.
This mix of pineapple, unrefined sugarcane, and spices has origins in pre-colombian Mexico.
A Brief History of Tepache:
The indigenous Nahua people were the first to make Tepache, making it a centuries old beverage.
The Mayans considered Tepache a sacred drink, adding different aromatics depending on it’s intended use.
The name Tepache comes from the Nahuatl “Tepiātl” which translates roughly to ”crushed corn drink”, pointing to the original recipe being made from maize.
This fermented corn beverage is still made in Mexico today under the name ”Tejuino”.
Modern day Tepache is wildly popular and still sold all over the streets of Mexico in “tepacherias”.
Thanks to the absence of colonial taxation and standardization, Tepache remains an incredibly diverse and regional drink with no real set-in-stone recipe.
Recipes can vary widely and include any number of combinations of different spices and fruits like mango, apple, aniseed, pepper, and more.
Fermentation & Tepache:
Tepache is incredibly easy to make and takes advantage of the natural yeast found in the skins of pineapples.
Adding these pineapple skins to a sugary liquid allows for a “wild” alcoholic fermentation to take place.
During fermentation, yeast will consume the available sugars, creating carbon dioxide and ethanol as a byproduct.
The longer the yeasts are allowed to feed, the lower the sugar levels become, and the higher the levels of alcohol and CO2.
This means a tepache that is fermented for a shorter amount of time, let’s say 2-3 days, will taste sweeter and have a relatively insignificant amount of alcohol, making it an excellent source of probiotics similar to kombucha.
Conversely, a tepache that is allowed to ferment for, let’s say 1-2 weeks, will have a significantly higher alcohol content proportional to the amount of sugar that was added.
This makes Tepache an incredibly versatile beverage that can range from sweet and fruity with no more alcohol than a typical kombucha, to dry and funky with an ABV equivalent to a cerveza.
Tepache can also vary in its ✨e f f e r v e s c e n c e ✨
Some prefer to enjoy their tepache ever so slightly bubbly and for this, a simple ”primary” fermentation is all that is needed.
If you’re like me, you like a super fizzy Tepache with a nice bite to it.
For this, your Tepache will need to undergo a ”secondary” fermentation where the Tepache is bottled while fermentation is still very active. This traps the CO2 being produced and forces it to dissolve into the liquid, creating that classic fizz you’d expect out of a nice beer or sparkling wine.
How to Make Tepache (step by step):
Step 1: Ingredients
Sugar, Water, Pineapple. That’s all you really need to make tepache. However the kind and quality will have an effect on the flavor of your final tepache.
Traditionally, tepache calls for unrefined sugars like pilloncillo or panela. However any fermentable sugar will result in a perfectly drinkable tepache. Try experimenting with different sugars like coconut sugar, palm sugar, or muscavado to create different flavors in your tepache.
*note that artificial sweetners such as erithritol are non-fermentable and will not be sufficient food for the yeast.*
Because Tepache takes advantage of the wild yeast present on the skins of pineapples, organically grown pineapples are going to be your best practice here as some other pineapples can be treated with pesticides that are not safe to drink and thusly unfit for tepache.
Any drinkable water will do just fine for Tepache so long as it’s clean and tastes good!
Step 2: The Vessel
1 gallon glass jars with an airlock are our preferred fermentation vessel as we find them easiest to clean and sanitize, however you may use PET/BPA-free plastic containers for a more affordable fermenter.
Remember, people have been making this for centuries in any and every kind of vessel they had available. Whether it’s a plastic bucket or a clay pot, anything goes really.
Step 3: The Assembly
First, brew about 1 cup of strong black tea (I prefer Earl Grey) and set it aside to cool.
Next, In order to make the sugars readily available to our yeast, I find it’s best to turn the sugar into syrup.
Take a small portion of your water and heat it with the sugar over medium heat in a saucepan until dissolved. Then add it back into the rest of the water in order to cool it quickly. (Pro tip, you can always make your syrups in the microwave!)
*note: yeast are happiest in temperatures similar to body heat, anything above 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the yeast will begin to die off. Cold water should also be avoided as it can “shock” the yeast and give your tepache an off flavor.*
With a sharp knife, remove the fronds and cut off the top and bottom of your pineapple.
*note: Save the leafy top of the pineapple and set the exposed side in water until it grows roots… boom! You’ve got a pineapple plant.
Go around the pineapple slicing off the skin until it’s all removed.
Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthwise, then remove the core of each piece and set aside.
Add the skins and core of the pineapple to your vessel along with your water/sugar mixture.
*Note: Include the sliced-up flesh of the pineapple for a punchier and fruitier tepache! Otherwise, eat it or use it for juice or cocktail syrup!
Add in any aromatics such as cinnamon or star anise, as well as the cooled black tea, and give everything a good stir!
That’s it! You’ve made tepache! Well, almost…
Step 4: Primary Fermentation
Time to wait. The mixture should begin showing signs of fermentation (bubbling) within 24 hours.
Depending on your tepache goals, allow primary fermentation to go on for 3-5 days.
After this initial fermentation, your tepache is perfectly fine to strain and drink. In fact, many people enjoy tepache this way.
However, if you want what I believe to be the superior, super refreshing, and fizzy tepache, continue on to step 5!
Step 5: Secondary Fermentation / Carbonation
Once primary fermentation is complete and your tepache is fermented to your preferred sweetness/alcohol level, it’s time to bottle for secondary fermentation and carbonation.
Be sure to use fermentation-grade bottles to avoid explosions! The build-up of CO2 inside these bottles is significant! Trust me! Haha
I recommend using high-pressure rated, glass, swing-top bottles. However, an old soda bottle will work just fine in a pinch!
Note* So long as the bottle was originally used for a carbonated beverage, it’s most likely not going to explode under high pressure.
If there is significant sweetness left in your tepache and fermentation is still vigorous, you should be able to bottle your tepache and achieve good levels of carbonation.
However, if you’ve opted for a drier and higher (ABV) tepache, you may need to “bottle condition” your tepache with additional fermentable sugar.
This is just a fancy way of saying you need to feed your yeast one last little meal of sugar to “wake them up” and get that last bit of CO2 production you need.
I’ve found that around 4.5 grams of sugar (about a sugar cube’s worth) per liter yields a pleasant level of carbonation. You can add more or less sugar to achieve varying levels of carbonation.
*Note: using flavored simple syrups in second fermentation is a fun way of jazzing up your tepache with different flavors.
This carbonation phase should take around 3-5 days more, depending on the ambient temperature.
Remember, yeasts prefer enviroments close to body temperature (about 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you live in a particularly cold climate, fermentation may be slowed significantly. Try wrapping your fermentation vessel in an old sweater to keep it warm and bubbling.
Step 6: Cold Crash and Enjoy!
Once your tepache is bottle conditioned, it’s time to refrigerate or “cold crash” the tepache to slow the fermentation to a halt. 24 hours in the fridge usually does the trick!
As an added bonus, the colder temperatures will allow more CO2 to dissolve into the liquid. The chilled tepache will also be less susceptible to gushing out of the bottle and painting a Jackson Pollock all over your kitchen ceiling. Science!
Note* you can store your unopened tepache in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
FINALLY, it’s time to pop that bottle, kick up your feet, and enjoy the legendary, fizzy, and delicious TEPACHE!
- 1 Organic Pineapple (Skins and all)
- 2 Cups of Sugar
- 4 Cups of Water
- 1 Cup Black Tea (Earl Grey)
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 Star Anise
Bonus Tepache Video from our YouTube Channel!