How to Properly Soak Grains

Oats soaking in warm water, infused with fresh water kefir.  Photo courtesy of Vera Almann.

If you plan to consume some grains in your diet, it is integral that you soak them first.  In another post, I’ve discussed why this is important.  Here, I’m going to share how.

Begin with fresh grains—not those from a bin, nor from a 25# bag that has been sitting in the pantry for a few years.  Purchase organic, and in small quantities, and then store any remaining raw grains in either the refrigerator or the freezer.

Take 1 cup of grains, and rinse well under filtered water.  Drain and place in a large, non-reactive bowl (ceramic and glass are good choices.)  Pour 3 cups of filtered, non-chlorinated water over the grains.  If you choose to Add about 2 tablespoons of fresh water kefir or even kombucha and mix in well.

Loosely cover the bowl with a paper towel secured with a rubber band.  Or, you can place the bowl, uncovered, inside a microwave or conventional oven, which will protect the mixture from dust and insects.  It’s best if the temperature is a little on the warm side, around 72 degrees Fahrenheit, for this soaking period—this will allow the activity of the enzymes to increase, as well as the healthy bacteria.  So, keeping on an incandescent light bulb nearby is helpful.

Soak grains for at least 12 hours, preferably 24.  You may notice a little bubbling at the end of soaking.  This is the process of lacto-fermentation, where the cultures are consuming the carbohydrate substrate of the grain, which in turn leads to fermentation.  You can let it go even longer, if you like—doing so will increase the tart, sourdough flavor profile of the grain you are soaking.  And, as with any fermentation, you’ll have a food that is lower in sugars and carbohydrates, enzyme rich (though this will be halted once the grains are cooked), probiotic rich (again, this will be destroyed through cooking), full of healthy B-vitamins and even further reduced load of anti-nutrients such as tannins, lectins and phytic acid.

You may choose to either discard or to use the soaking water—the verdict is out on which is the healthiest option.  In either case, dependent on your soaking time, you may not need to add additional water.  Whichever method you choose—to drain or not to drain—you’ll only need enough additional water to cover the grains by ¼-½ inch once they are in the cooking pot.  Add a healthy pinch of Celtic Sea Salt, bring ingredients to a gentle boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5-20 minutes, dependent on the “doneness” you are seeking from the grain.

 Some notes on grains:
  • For large grain berries, such as wheat, kamut, rye and spelt:  Coarsely grind these before soaking, which will allow more of the water and cultures to get to the “meat” of the berry.  (If you are planning on sprouting these types of grains after they are soaked, then do not grind them.)
  • Some grains, such as quinoa (actually a seed, but treated as a grain) and rolled oats, soften quickly with soaking.  Despite this, I’ll often soak them for at least 12 hours.  I find that doing so definitely enhances the lacto-fermentation of the grains.