What Does Fermentation Do in Kombucha?
Kombucha has gone from a little known beverage to a very popular one in just a few short years. Even if you haven’t tried it yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it at the grocery store, at farmer’s markets or even on the menu at some restaurants. You’ve probably even heard a friend or family member talking about kombucha, and how much they enjoy it.
You might have asked a few questions and discovered that kombucha is a fermented tea beverage. However, even if you have, you might still be wondering exactly what kombucha is, how it’s made and whether it’s really as good for you as people say. After all, there’s a lot of hype about a lot of things out there these days, and it’s not all completely accurate!
Let’s take a closer look at the fermentation process, how it transforms tea into something new, tasty and different, and why you might want to try it.
What Is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a preservation process that people have been using since ancient times. In fact, we know that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were using fermentation to produce wine and other fermented foods and products thousands of years ago.
The process of fermentation relies on microorganisms like good bacteria and yeast to turn sugar and carbohydrates in food and beverages into acids or alcohol.
Since both acids and alcohol are natural preservatives, this extends the lifespan of the food or beverage dramatically, and it also changes the way the fresh product tastes.
Most fermented food and beverages have a distinctive tang – which you can taste in fermented products like kimchi, yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. The fermentation process also produces beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which are known to help support our gut flora.
So, in a nutshell, the fermentation process is a method of preservation that changes the composition and taste of fresh foods. It’s all natural, and we’ve been doing it for a very long time, in many different cultures around the world.
How Does Fermentation Produce Kombucha?
Fermentation has come a long way since we first started creating fermented products thousands of years ago. Originally, it was probably accidental. Someone left a food or beverage a little too long, allowing bacteria and yeasts to transform it. They must have tasted it to see if it was still good, and discovered that while it was different, it was still usable, and it had become a tart, tasty version of itself.
Early fermentation was hit and miss though. Because our ancestors were relying on the natural growth of yeast and bacteria, some of their batches of wine and other fermented products were good, while some would have been unusable. Fortunately, we’ve learned a lot about fermentation since then!
Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is made from tea.
A fermentation starter known as a “SCOBY,” or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast is added to tea and sugar. The sugar helps to feed the growth of the SCOBY, and as the bacteria grows, it consumes the sugar and carbohydrates in the tea, converting it into acid and alcohol.
The process of brewing kombucha can take anywhere from a week to a month, and during that time the kombucha should be monitored to make sure everything is going according to plan. During the process, the yeast and bacteria also produce carbon dioxide, which is why kombucha is fizzy.
As kombucha ferments, the flavor of the tea will change, and so will the color and aroma of the tea.
Home brewers of kombucha sometimes still find that if they leave their kombucha too long or not long enough, it’s not ideal for drinking. Fortunately, when kombucha is brewed commercially, there are experts on hand to monitor every stage of fermentation, and ensure that the finished product tastes great, doesn’t have too much alcohol in it, and is shelf stable.
What Is Raw Kombucha?
During the fermentation process to make kombucha, some brewers might use heat to pasteurize their product. However, the process of pasteurization was created to kill bacteria in milk and other food products. It uses high heat to kill bacteria and sterilize food and beverage products.
Since kombucha is made by bacteria, and since it’s the remaining probiotic bacteria that make it a good addition to your diet, this process would negate a lot of the reason to drink kombucha. It’ll still taste like kombucha, but all the good bacteria will be gone.
Raw kombucha is kombucha that has not been exposed to heat during the fermentation process. This means that the beneficial probiotics that are produced during fermentation are still alive, and ready to join the colony of bacteria that live in your gut microbiome and support their important work.
So, if you are going to drink kombucha, you should always look for products that are confirmed to be raw. It’s also worth noting that so called “hard kombucha,” which goes through an extra long fermentation process to become “hard” kombucha, does not have many beneficial bacteria. It still tastes great, but since alcohol sterilizes things and kills bacteria, there won’t be any probiotics left.
What Happens After Fermentation?
Technically, when kombucha has completed the fermentation process, it’s ready to drink. However, commercial kombucha brewers don’t stop there. There are several more steps involved in creating kombucha before it lands on the shelves at a store near you!
- Careful quality control – the brewing team will test the kombucha to make sure it’s good quality and safe to consume
- Removing the alcohol in the kombucha using a process known as non-heat distillation – there is still a tiny amount of alcohol left after this process, but certainly not enough to make you drunk!
- Blending the kombucha with various flavorings depending on the brew, like herbs, spices and fruit
- Some kombucha products have marijuana added, and this is also done after fermentation is complete
- Bottling or canning the kombucha, which keeps it fresh and ready to drink when you want it
At the end of the process, you have kombucha drinks that have a consistent taste and are safe and healthy to enjoy. Thanks to the commercial grade packaging, professionally brewed kombucha also has a very long shelf life, so you can keep it in your fridge or pantry for use when you feel like a little natural pick me up.
Related: How Long Does Kombucha Last?
Why Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet?
If you’re still wondering if you should try kombucha and other fermented foods, you might be wondering exactly what benefits we’re talking about.
The magic of fermented foods is in the probiotics that are created by the fermentation process. According to recent science, these have several health benefits, including:
- Helping your body to digest food and extract important nutrients
- Breaking down and process chemicals and medications
- Keeping bad bacteria in check
- Supporting your gut lining and help to ensure you have enough good bacteria
- Helping to keep fungus – like the fungus that causes candida or thrush – in check
- Supporting heart health
- Improving immune function
Modern medicine has recently discovered just how important gut health is to overall health. It has even been linked to mental health and brain function!
Unfortunately, because we usually eat so much processed, refined food, we don’t get the same beneficial bacteria from our diet as we used to. Of course, we also don’t get as much dangerous bacteria with our food, so it’s a modern-day tradeoff!
However, adding natural, food based probiotics to our diet has been shown to help keep everything in balance, and good balance usually means better health. It’s also a lot tastier than taking a probiotic supplement!
The Brew Dr. Mission
At Brew Dr., We’ve been a little obsessed with kombucha for a while. Ever since we learned about this beverage, how it’s made and how the process creates probiotics, we’ve been fascinated. Over the years, that fascination turned into experimentation, and then experimentation turned into production.
Our goal is to produce a range of natural, raw kombucha products that tastes great, is safe to drink, and still has all the natural probiotics generated by the fermentation process. We’ve done that by building a top of the line facility, where our fermentation managers can monitor every batch at every stage of the process.
By doing this, we can ensure that every batch is delicious, and that we offer our customers a consistently excellent product. At Brew Dr., we’re always working on tasty new flavors that combine our kombucha with various natural ingredients too for healthy, delicious new tastes. Find a location near you and start enjoying your favorite flavors today.So if you want to know more about how kombucha is made, how you can use it and where you can find our Brew Dr. beverages, feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to talk kombucha with our existing customers and anyone who wants to know more.