DIY Fermentation Weights – I’ve tried them all!

So you want to start fermenting but hate the idea of needing to buy more stuff?! Me too! I want you to know, you can make use of more unconventional options as DIY fermentation weights.

But first, why do you need a fermentation weight? You need fermentation weights in order to keep vegetables submerged under the brine during fermentation. This is necessary to inhibit mold and bacteria from growing, since the brine eliminates oxygen, thereby creating an anaerobic environment.

Properly submerging your veggies under brine is key to safe fermentation!

I’ve tried several different DIY fermentation weight options and here are two my favorites. My favorite store-bought weight is this glass weight (aka pickle pebbles) specifically designed for fermentation. My favorite on-hand weight is simply a plastic bag filled with brine, couldn’t be simpler.

Read on if you’re interested in learning about other random home items that totally (and surprisingly) work as fermentation weights!

Purpose-made fermentation weights

1. Glass weights: Purpose-made glass weights are designed specifically for fermentation. They are typically disc-shaped and fit inside wide-mouth fermentation jars to keep vegetables submerged. 

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, cover the surface area, no plastic
  • Cons: They may not fit in your jar mouth if it’s too narrow, it’s an additional tool to purchase

*This is my personal favorite and you can find them on many online retailers, or perhaps in speciality stores.

2. Ceramic weights: Similar to glass weights, ceramic weights are specifically designed for fermentation. They come in various shapes and sizes and work well for keeping vegetables submerged.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, cover the surface area, easier than glass weight to fit into smaller jars because they’re typically more than one piece, no plastic
  • Cons: It’s another tool to purchase

At home/on hand fermentation weight options

3. Plastic bags filled with brine or water: Simply fill a small plastic bag with additional brine and use it as a weight on top of the vegetables.

  • Pros: Readily available, easily conforms to (just about) any size jar, covers the surface area
  • Cons: Plastic contact with food is not ideal for prolonged periods of time, especially in an acidic environment. 

*If my glass weights are being occupied (or don’t fit into a narrow ball jar mouth) this is my runner up go-to!

4. Clean stones or river rocks: Use smooth, food-grade stones or rocks that have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Wrap them in plastic wrap or place them in a small plastic bag before adding them to your fermentation vessel. If unwrapped, you risk introducing unknown contaminants into your ferment due to a rocks porous texture.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, on hand, variety of sizes
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

5. Small glass jars/bottles or shot glasses: Clean and sanitize small glass jars (like a jelly jar) or bottles and fill them with water. Place them on top of the vegetables to act as weights.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, covers the surface area, no plastic, on hand/no new tools
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

6. Vegetable leaves: Use large, clean, and food-safe leaves (such as cabbage or grape leaves) to cover the surface of the vegetables and act as a natural weight.

  • Pros: No plastic, on hand, easy to make fit the opening
  • Cons: Ensuring you have a clean leaf so as not to promote the growth of molds

7. Glass marbles/beads or ceramic pie weights tied in cheesecloth or mesh veggie bag: Clean glass marbles can be used as weights to keep vegetables submerged. Make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before using them.

  • Pros: Readily available, easily conforms to (just about) any size jar, covers the surface area
  • Cons: Because this will require several pieces, time to ensure each one is clean

8. Large, stainless steel bolts or nuts (or smaller ones tied in cheesecloth): Stainless steel bolts or nuts can be sanitized and used as weights. Make sure they are food-grade and have been thoroughly cleaned before use.

  • Pros: Readily available, easily conforms to (just about) any size jar, covers the surface area
  • Cons: Because this will require several pieces, time to ensure each one is clean

9. Reusable ice cubes: Clean reusable ice cubes made of food-grade materials can be used as weights. They can be sanitized and easily placed on top of the vegetables.

  • Pros: Readily available, covers the surface area
  • Cons: Finding the right fit, or if smaller, ensuring each one is clean

10. Silicone cupcake liners: Silicone cupcake liners can be filled with brine and used as weights. They are flexible and can conform to the shape of the fermentation vessel.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, covers the surface area, no plastic, on hand/no new tools
  • Cons: finding the right fit, and ensuring the brine doesn’t spill and dilute your ferment

11. Reusable silicone food pouches: Clean and sanitized silicone food pouches can be filled with water, or brine, and used as weights. They are flexible and can conform to the shape of the fermentation vessel.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, covers the surface area, no BPA (but silicone isn’t well studied for potential toxicity) on hand/no new tools
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

12. Clean plastic Easter eggs: Fill clean plastic Easter eggs with water or sand and use them as weights. Make sure they are sealed tightly to prevent leakage.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, on hand/no new tools
  • Cons: plastic in contact with food,finding the right fit!

13. Glass votive candle holders: Clean glass votive candle holders. Make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before use.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, on hand/no new tools, no plastic
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

14. Marble coasters: Smooth marble coasters can be used as weights to keep vegetables submerged. Make sure they are food-safe and thoroughly cleaned before use.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, on hand/no new tools, no plastic
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

15. Tumbled sea glass: Clean tumbled sea glass pieces can serve as weights. They are smooth and can be easily sanitized before use.

  • Pros: Easily cleaned, on hand/no new tools, no plastic
  • Cons: finding the right fit!

When using any fermentation weight, but especially unconventional options, be sure they are food-safe, and sanitized to prevent contamination during fermentation. Additionally, ensure that whatever weight you choose completely submerges the vegetables beneath the brine to prevent mold growth as this is key to avoiding contamination. 

The ideal material for a fermentation weight is glass or ceramic. Plastic has the potential to degrade into small pieces and leach into foods, causing hormonal disruption. While metal, can cause rust, or off flavors of acidic foods. 

As you can see, much of finding DIY fermentation weights is trial and error. Each one of us has different needs, and pieces on hand. Find what works for you, and don’t let a lack of tools hold you back from enjoying the tasty, health benefits of fermenting!

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