How To Brew Umqombothi

Umqombothi is a traditional South African beer that has been enjoyed for centuries. Made from a combination of maize, sorghum, and water, this homemade brew is not only delicious but also holds cultural significance. In this article, we will guide you through the process of brewing your own umqombothi, providing you with step-by-step instructions and helpful tips along the way.


Here are the ingredients you will need to brew umqombothi:

  • 2 cups of maize meal
  • 1 cup of sorghum meal
  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • A pinch of salt


Gather the following equipment before you begin the brewing process:

  • Large pot
  • Stirring spoon
  • Strainer or cheesecloth
  • Glass bottles or jars
  • Airtight lids
  • Clean cloth or towel
  • Rubber bands


Step 1: Prepare the Mixture

In a large pot, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Gradually add the maize meal and sorghum meal, stirring continuously to prevent the formation of lumps. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, until it thickens into a porridge-like consistency. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

How To Brew Umqombothi

Step 2: Activate the Yeast

In a separate cup, dissolve the sugar and active dry yeast in 1 cup of lukewarm water. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 10 minutes until it becomes frothy and starts to bubble. This indicates that the yeast is activated and ready to be added to the beer mixture.

Step 3: Combine the Yeast and Mixture

Pour the activated yeast mixture into the cooled maize and sorghum mixture. Stir well to ensure the yeast is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Cover the pot with a clean cloth or towel, securing it with a rubber band, and allow it to ferment for about 6-8 hours or overnight. This fermentation process will produce the alcohol content in the beer.

Step 4: Strain and Bottle

After the fermentation period, strain the beer mixture using a strainer or cheesecloth to remove any solids. Collect the liquid in a clean container. Discard the solids or use them for other purposes, such as baking. Pour the strained liquid into clean glass bottles or jars, leaving some headspace at the top. Seal the containers tightly with airtight lids to prevent air from entering.

Step 5: Secondary Fermentation

Place the bottles or jars in a cool, dark place for an additional 24-48 hours to undergo secondary fermentation. During this stage, carbonation will develop, giving the beer a fizzy texture.

Step 6: Refrigerate and Enjoy

Once the secondary fermentation is complete, transfer the bottles or jars to the refrigerator and let them chill for a few hours. Umqombothi is best enjoyed cold, so make sure to refrigerate it before serving. Pour the beer into a glass, sit back, and savor the unique flavors of this traditional South African beverage.

Tips for Brewing Umqombothi

Follow these expert tips to ensure the success of your umqombothi brew:

  • For added flavor, you can experiment with incorporating various fruits or spices during the simmering stage, such as bananas or cinnamon.
  • Ensure your equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized to prevent unwanted bacteria from affecting the fermentation process.
  • During fermentation, keep the pot covered with a clean cloth or towel to protect the mixture from contamination.
  • Adjust the fermentation time according to your preference. Longer fermentation periods will result in a stronger brew.
  • When serving umqombothi, it is customary to pour it into a communal container, such as a traditional clay pot, and share it among friends and family.

In Conclusion

Brewing umqombothi allows you to immerse yourself in South African culture and experience the rich flavors of this traditional beverage. With basic ingredients and simple steps, you can create your very own batch of umqombothi to enjoy with loved ones. Cheers to the joys of brewing and sharing this iconic South African beer!