What Is Kombucha?
Before diving into how kombucha is made, you should first know what kombucha is. kombucha is a fermented tea packed with probiotics and other health-promoting nutrients that have been around for centuries. It is thought to have originated in China or Japan, though its exact origins are unknown.
Traditionally, the drink is famous for its speculated health benefits, as it is rich in antioxidants and probiotics. kombucha is enjoyed worldwide, and its popularity only continues to grow. It is poised to become one of the most popular beverages of the 21st century.
What Is a SCOBY and What Does It Have to Do With Kombucha?
SCOBY – which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” – is the colony of bacteria and yeast added to sweetened black or green tea to make kombucha. It is commonly referred to as “mother” or “tea fungus.” The SCOBY feeds on the sugar in the tea. During fermentation, it produces beneficial acids and enzymes that give kombucha its health-promoting properties.
The SCOBY also forms a protective barrier on the surface of the kombucha in the form of a rubbery ‘disk,’ which helps aid fermentation and prevents harmful bacteria from contaminating the drink. Over time, the SCOBY will continue to grow and can be used to make multiple batches of kombucha.
How Is Kombucha Made?
Kombucha can be produced both commercially and at home. Though kombucha is often called “tea vinegar” or “kombucha vinegar,” it is quite different from authentic vinegar. The brewing process begins with sweetened tea, either black or green, then combined with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY acts as a starter culture, providing the kombucha with a distinctive tart taste.
The brewing process can also begin with steeping tea leaves in freshly heated water, then adding sugar. After allowing the leaves to steep for about 10 minutes, the leaves are removed. Once the tea is to room temperature, it is sweetened with 10% fresh fresh-fermented kombucha, including the microbial mat from a previous batch.
The kombucha is then covered with a clean porous cloth and left to ferment for one or two weeks at ambient temperature (60–70°F). During this time, the SCOBY continues to convert the sugars in the tea into acids and alcohols. This fermentation process creates beneficial compounds such as lactic acid and acetic acid, which give kombucha its sour taste. If the fermentation process lasts more than 10 days, the acidity level may rise to dangerous levels for consumers.
Kombucha can be enjoyed fresh. It is also best stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Once the fermentation is complete, the kombucha is ready to be enjoyed!
How to Properly Store Kombucha
Kombucha is best stored in a cool, dark place. The ideal storage conditions for kombucha are away from direct sunlight and at a temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If stored incorrectly, such as in a place that is too warm, the fermentation process will speed up, and the kombucha will become over-carbonated.
Suppose a person is storing kombucha in a place that is too cold. In that case, the fermentation process will slow down, and the kombucha will become under-carbonated. kombucha brewers should cover their products to keep out dust and other contaminants. The best way to store kombucha is in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Is Kombucha Considered Alcoholic?
Often referred to as a “health-tonic,” many people wonder about kombucha’s alcohol content.
The answer is yes and no. The fermentation process does produce a small amount of alcohol. Still, the final product typically contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. Though, the alcohol content can vary depending on the length of fermentation. This is far less than most beer and wine, which contain between 4-7% and 10-14% alcohol by volume, respectively.
The acetic acid content of kombucha can rise to 3% during a long ferment. This is a unique process where double fermentation occurs; thus, more preventive process controls must be established to ensure food safety of the finished product.
Because most kombucha generally contains less than 0.5% alcohol, it is considered a non-alcoholic beverage. Therefore, kombucha is safe to consume for most people.
People who are sensitive to caffeine should consume kombucha in moderation.
Potential Health Benefits
Some research suggests that kombucha may help improve gut health, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and aid digestion. kombucha is rich in probiotics, which can help improve gut health and boost the immune system. kombucha is also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. This drink is also a source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, B, and iron.
However, kombucha can also contain harmful bacteria if not made or stored correctly. As such, it is crucial to take care when consuming the drink. Those with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, and young children should avoid kombucha entirely. For others, it is generally safe to consume in moderation. kombucha can also cause digestive upset in some people, so it is important to start with small amounts and increase gradually.
The drink’s other benefits include improved digestion, more energy, reduced joint pain, and detoxification. While there is some scientific evidence to support these claims, more research is needed to confirm the health benefits of kombucha. Nevertheless, kombucha is a delicious and healthy choice for those looking for an alternative to sugary drinks.
You can find kombucha in most health food stores.
Ways to Consume Kombucha
- As is
- Adding fruit
- Combining it with spices and herbs
- Secondary fermentation to create highly carbonated beverages
- Using it as an element in cocktails or mocktails
- Frozen popsicles
- Salad dressings
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