We started to wonder what makes fermented products different...
If you've checked out some of our recent posts, you'll know that yeast and bacteria play a much larger role than expected in some of the delicious foods and beverages we love. We started to wonder what makes fermented products different, and decided to dig into the dirt on some of our favorite beverages. If you haven't seen our post on wine, you should check it out -- it might make you very happy ;)
This week, we decided to take a look at something a little further off the beaten path: kombucha. Here's what we learned:
Kombucha is a type of fermented drink made with a SCOBY, or a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, which floats on top of a sweetened tea mixture like a rubbery raft. Right off the bat, you know something is different from most drinks in the supermarket. Yeast fermentation is something we're all a little familiar with, if we're eating bread or drinking beer. The bacteria add to the process a fermentation process of their own, which creates flavors like those found in foods like pickles and sauerkraut. These bacteria work side-by-side with the yeast, sharing their microscopic meal and creating kombucha for us to drink.
While the yeast and bacteria are breaking down the sugars in the tea, they're also exposed to the air outside the brew pot. More familiar fermenting processes, like wine and beer making, require an anaerobic environment -- encouraging the yeast to transform the sugar into alcohol and CO2. In the oxygenated environment 'buch is brewed in, on the other hand, instead of making alcohol the yeast produce acids and make the flavor compounds in the drink markedly different. The yeast will still produce a small amount of alcohol, but not enough to make much of a difference. (Please don't try to get drunk on it -- it probably won't end well.)
While most of the bacteria and yeast stay in the SCOBY raft at the top of the brewed 'buch, kombucha still retains some probiotic properties. Many people tout the tangy drink as an excellent way to maintain diversity in the gut microbiome. So drink up!!
Whether you're looking for something scrumptious to drink or interested in embarking on your own homebrew adventures, always remember to respect the little microorganisms that help you along. Beer or 'buch, raise a glass to the little guys doing a big job.