Saturday, August 11, 2012

Barley Water; My Version

I've been reading up on the health benefits of barley water which are many and I will list some of those at end of blog.  In Europe it is very common and comes with lots of different fruity and spicy flavors and even as a soda.  My interest was further piqued by D&C section 89 (Word of Wisdom section)  verse 17 ...."barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.".  Which started me thinking about mild drinks.   I've always understood that phrase to mean slightly fermented drinks and knowing that some fermented drinks like the kombucha I  make and my raw milk kefir are super foods for me,  I wondered if a mild barley drink  slightly fermented would also be good.  Thus began my experimenting.

  I looked at all the recipes for barley water online  and there's not much to it, just boil some barley, strain it out and throw out the barley or eat it, cool down the water, sweeten it or flavor it and drink.   I noticed that the recipes called for pearled barley which is the most common in stores which is barley without hulls.  I wanted to experiment with hulled barley and the only place I could find that was the bulk section of my local health food store.  I figured that with the hulls still on, there might be more minerals and the barley might sprout.   Sprouting barley was the first stage of beer making in the Old World, and the  water barley sprouted in was known as 'worts' in the beer making industry.  The beer makers would drink this 'worts' when they felt themselves coming down sick with something and take it home to their families to ward off illness.  Apparently it worked well enough that it was a common practice among beer makers as a remedy to stay well.
What I wanted to do was create a 'worts' water first by allowing the grain to sprout in water ( but not cook this water), then boil the sprouted barley in new water  to get the copper and other minerals out of it that are so beneficial and finally combine the two waters for my drink.

My recipe:
1 ounce (2 TBS) hulled barley  (not pearled, but with hulls)
1 quart chlorine-free water
Combine, cover with paper or cloth and let sit room temp for 3-4 days.   Watch for bubbles the 2nd or 3rd day....this is good it means that it is sprouting and coming alive.
After 3 even 4 days, strain off the water and reserve it with a lid in the fridge.
Add the sprouted barley to a pot and add another quart of water and bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook for 40 -45 minutes.   Allow to cool down and strain out the barley.  Eat it or throw it out.
The boiled water should be a pretty pink color, for all the copper that has been drawn out of the barley.  While water is still warm you can sweeten it with some honey,  like 1/4 or 1/3 cup.   When cooled, add to the reserved barley water in a 1/2 gallon container if you have one.  The taste with or without the honey is very mild and pleasant.  It satisfies thirst on hot days.   My husband enjoys this and so do I.

Health benefits for  Barley Water
1.  Highly beneficial bulk or insoluble fiber so great for intestines and food support for friendly bacteria.
2.  Barley is high in niacin, selenium, calcium and magnesium, phosphorus, copper (great for arthritis sufferers), zinc, all the B vitamins and potassium.
3  Barley and barley water is used to treat bowel problems, lower cholesterol, kidney stones,  asthma and lung disorders and arthritis.  

Note;   I have tried eating the sprouted barley and it still doesn't agree with my system.  It makes me gas up. Barley is an AVOID for me on the blood type food lists, and I thought it would change when sprouted, because some other AVOIDs do change, but this one still gives me trouble so I don't eat it.  My neighbors chickens like it.

Note 2: A reader asked me to clarify the difference between water that soaks a grain so it sprouts and fermentation.  After giving that some thought and research here's what I found;  there is a difference; fermentation is where you introduce a bacteria or fungus culture to a food and it consumes the sugars in the food and produces bio-enzymes and some alcohol.  Sometimes the bacteria or fungus is all ready on the food mostly lactobacillus, ( such as grapes, plums and cabbage) and when the juices are released, the bacteria go to work and fermentation is the result.  I did not introduce a bacteria or fungus to the barley water soak so technically I cannot call that first soak a "fermentation"  unless, the lactobacillus was on the barley with it's hulls.  But it doesn't taste fermented even after 4 day soak.  The benefit is that the sprouting process releases some bio-nutrition into the water during the process but I don't think fermentation is taking place I could be wrong...perhaps with a longer soak beyond 4 days fermentation could start, but I haven't let it go that long.   Perhaps another experiment.  


  1. When soaking your grains, including barley for the mild drink, do you add an acidic medium to break down the phytic acid? I've read a lot of places about research that indicates the acid is needed. Rami N. points out that many grains (like oats) need a kind of phylate (?) present for the phytic acid to be even broken down, recommending freshly ground whole wheat flour (with bran seperated) be added to the oats. Have you heard about this? Nevertheless, it seems that an acid (apple cider vinegar or lemon/lime juice) is needed in this process yet you don't mention it. Is this the case?

  2. Most of the people are does't know the benefits of Barley Water. In Olden days most of the people live long because of drinking barley water. nice information Thanks

  3. I recently read about barley water in a book called 'Asian Health Secrets' by Letha Hadaday? & she recommended soaking the barley overnight to make a pro-biotic drink...which implies that the naturally occurring bacteria activate pretty looking for more info though

  4. Hi Joanne, thank you for posting this detailed instructions. Do you wash the barley first? I soaked my barley (hulled and organic) unwashed for 48 hours, the liquid is cloudy and there are tiny bubbles rising. It did not have the pleasant, sweet taste of barley water that I usually get by soaking only over night. There was a slight sulfur taste? I am wondering if it means that it was spoiled? Has this ever happen to yours? Thank you!

    1. Its always a great idea to wash nuts and seeds three or four times as you get rid of dust and other particles from storage. i wash mine about four times...gently massaging each time..n then soak it.

  5. I soaked my barley for 12 hours, cover on..but the weekend came up and I forgot about it. 3 days later (5 days total) I opened the cover and was hit with yeasty bubbles. I'm ashamed to say I immediately panicked, rinsed the barley out vigorously until all the yeasty smell was gone. Then I ho to thinking and researched...and here I am. I WAS fermenting, all by its happy self. I cook barley up and add veggies, feta and make a kind of Greek salad.
    Now thanks to reading this I'm on a mission to make both the salad & barley water. :)