Kombucha – Refreshing And Healing Through Fermentation

Kombucha is currently on everyone’s lips – in the truest sense of the word. More and more people are discovering how positive the sweet and sour fermented drink is for their health. But not every kombucha is healthy per se. We explain what you should pay attention to.

Kombucha – the probiotic soft drink

Kombucha (pronounced kom-buh-cha) is a fermented drink made from tea. Probiotic bacteria and yeasts are used, which form the so-called kombucha fungus. The kombucha fungus gives kombucha its positive properties: it ensures that the tea becomes a probiotic drink.

The Effects of Kombucha

Kombucha is very popular around the world. Not only because of its refreshingly sweet and sour taste but also because it is said to be very healthy. So Kombucha is supposed to:

  • regulate digestion and help with gastrointestinal complaints
  • strengthen the immune system and thus prevent diseases
  • detoxify the body
  • Provide energy and help with concentration
  • anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects

Not all effects of kombucha have been scientifically proven. Instead, some of them have been handed down or emerged from reports of experience. There are many theories as to where Kombucha originally came from and who invented it. It is reasonably certain that it comes from the Far East and is at least a thousand years old.

The ingredients of kombucha

In addition to the fermentation time, the ingredients are decisive for whether the kombucha tastes sweet or sour. Kombucha contains:

  • Lots of water: preferably filtered and without additives, because chlorine and minerals inhibit the growth of the kombucha fungus.
  • Tea: Black, green or white tea
  • Sugar: Mostly light cane sugar, but alternatives are also possible
    Kombucha Mushroom: Consists of yeast and bacteria
  • Starter liquid: The kombucha fungus needs a small amount of ready-made unpasteurized kombucha, as this provides it with an ideal environment in which to survive.

Additional ingredients as needed to vary the taste

The sugar serves as food for the kombucha fungus. Only a small proportion of the added sugar is contained in the finished drink. In addition, small amounts of alcohol are produced during fermentation and Kombucha contains caffeine due to tea. But there are a few simple tricks you can use to reduce sugar, caffeine, and alcohol (more on that later).

Kombucha is made by fermentation

To make kombucha, the ingredients are fermented. Fermentation is a preservation method that brings out very special flavors. Microorganisms are responsible for this. In the case of kombucha, it is bacteria and yeast that grow into the kombucha fungus – also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts).

The yeasts feed on the sugar used in Kombucha production. They make carbonic acid and alcohol out of it. The bacteria, in turn, form various acids from the alcohol and the ingredients in the tea, e.g. B. acetic acid and lactic acid – hence the sour taste. The acid ensures that no germs settle.

When buying, rely on “living” kombucha

If you want to buy kombucha, there is one important point to consider: the kombucha must be unpasteurized in order to benefit from its positive health effects.

During industrial production, kombucha is pasteurized (heated) so that it has a longer shelf life. The living microorganisms die off and the kombucha has hardly any health benefits. It then comes closer to a carbonated soft drink.

There are now some manufacturers in German-speaking countries who produce their kombucha in a traditional way. Thanks to the fermentation, kombucha has a long shelf life, so it doesn’t need to be pasteurized at all.

You can order unpasteurized kombucha from Fairmont, Kombuchery, Kombuco FIZZ, etc., for example. Even in larger supermarkets (especially in cities) and health food stores, unpasteurized kombucha is no longer that rare.

The nutritional values ​​and vitamins of Kombucha

For the nutritional values ​​and vitamins of kombucha, we have compared the information from various manufacturers. Calories range from 16 to 55 kcal per 100 ml.

The nutritional values ​​of kombucha

Below you will find the nutritional values ​​of Kombucha per 100 ml:

  • Fat: < 0.5 g
    of which saturated fatty acids < 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.6 – 11.8 g
    of which sugar: 3.6 – 11.8 g
  • Protein: < 0.5 g

The vitamins of kombucha

Since kombucha differs greatly in traditional production depending on the ingredients used, the preparation, and the fermentation time, it is hardly possible to give exact information about the vitamins it contains.

The manufacturers therefore only point out which vitamins have been detected and could therefore occur, but not in what quantities. Mentioned are the B vitamins as well as vitamins C, D, E, and K ( 4 ). For example, two studies resulted in the following B vitamins per 100 ml. Fermentation time was 10 to 15 days (18) (19):

  • Vitamin B1: 74 mg (daily requirement: 1.1 mg)
  • Vitamin B2: 8 mg (daily requirement: 1.2 mg)
  • Vitamin B6: 52 mg (daily requirement: 1.4 mg)
  • Vitamin B12: 84 mg (daily requirement 0.004 mg)

If you look at these results, you might think that kombucha is a real vitamin bomb – at least in terms of the B vitamins. Unfortunately, the studies available on this subject do not reveal whether vitamin B12 is active B12 or just an inactive form (analogs) that cannot be utilized by humans.

The results of different studies can also vary greatly and are difficult to compare. For this reason, the above information should be treated with caution.

Industrially produced kombucha also contains hardly any vitamins, because a large part of the vitamins is lost during pasteurization.

Kombucha in the low-carb and low-fat diet

Anyone who only consumes small amounts of kombucha can incorporate the sparkling drink into both a low-fat and a low-carb diet – depending on how strictly you interpret the two forms of nutrition.

Kombucha contains hardly any fat: Less than 0.5 g per 100 ml. A glass holds about 200 ml. With a glass of Kombucha per day, you would therefore consume at most 1 g of fat.

With the low-carb diet, on the other hand, you have to take a closer look: Because the carbohydrate content depends heavily on the sugar content (between 3.6 and 11.8 g of carbohydrates and sugar per 100 ml). For comparison: fruit juices contain around 8 g of carbohydrates and more.

From a kombucha with a low carbohydrate content, a small glass of kombucha diluted with water can therefore be drunk from time to time, even with a low-carb diet. If you prepare kombucha yourself, there are also ways to reduce the sugar content (see paragraph “Reducing the sugar content of kombucha”).

Kombucha from a health perspective

Anyone who tries Kombucha will quickly realize that it has not just been drunk for centuries because it is so refreshing. The fermentation turns it into a tasty and beneficial medicinal product.

Kombucha for a balanced intestinal flora

Fermented foods like kombucha have a very positive effect on gut health. This is because they contain probiotic bacteria that are also found in the human intestine and can now have a positive effect on intestinal flora. A healthy gut, in turn, strengthens the immune system, most likely preventing allergies and autoimmune diseases, and protecting the body from harmful microorganisms.

While there are some studies for other fermented foods that confirm the positive effect on the gastrointestinal tract, studies of kombucha are rare. However, studies on cell cultures showed that kombucha can prevent the growth of potential pathogens such as Candida albicans, Haemophilus influenzae, Helicobacter pylori, Escherichia coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, and Campylobacter jejuni. Whether this is also the case in the human body has not yet been investigated.

How Much Kombucha Should You Drink?

With kombucha it is the same as with all other foods: you should not overdo it with consumption. Start with about 150 ml per day (a small glass) and see how you like the kombucha. After a few days, you can increase the amount.

There is no maximum amount that should be considered when consuming kombucha and that would lead to side effects if consumed regularly. Some manufacturers still give half a liter per day as a guideline. But there are also people who drink a liter or more per day without any problems.

The best time of day to drink Kombucha is also individual. Some people report getting the best effects by drinking it in the morning on an empty stomach or drinking multiple glasses throughout the day. It is best to try out which way of taking the drink is best for you.

It’s that easy to make Kombucha yourself

If you prepare Kombucha yourself, you can adjust the taste and sugar content according to your needs: whether sweet, sour, tart, or rather mild – strongly sparkling or with less carbonic acid. It is also fascinating to watch how Kombucha changes during fermentation.

The ingredients for preparing kombucha

For 1.5 liters of kombucha you need:

  • 1.5 liters of filtered water
  • 5 tea bags or 10 g loose tea in a tea strainer, e.g. B. black, green, or white tea
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 100 ml starter liquid (finished unpasteurized kombucha)
  • 1 kombucha mushroom

Second fermentation of kombucha (optional)

After the first preparation, you can flavor and carbonate your freshly brewed kombucha with juice, herbs, or fruit if there is not enough in it. This turns it into a sparkling soft drink. Carbonic acid is already created during the first fermentation – depending on how long you let your kombucha ferment, but maybe not enough to make the drink tingle and fizz.

Different flavors of kombucha

If you have followed our guide above, you have now completed Step 5 and you have your bottled kombucha in front of you. For the second fermentation, he needs room temperature (20 to 25 degrees). Now you can add other ingredients of your choice for flavoring. For example:

  • Freshly squeezed fruit juice
  • Cinnamon
  • mint
  • Ginger
  • turmeric
  • Berry
  • fruit

These ingredients are only added during the second fermentation because the foreign bacteria contained in these ingredients damage the kombucha fungus during the first fermentation.

This is how the kombucha mushroom is formed

Strictly speaking, the kombucha fungus is not a fungus but arises from a symbiosis of bacteria and yeasts. So there is no fungus called kombucha – it is a community of microorganisms. The yeasts produce alcohol, which the bacteria, together with oxygen, convert into acids.

In the starter liquid, the yeasts and bacteria have an ideal environment in which they feel comfortable and multiply. Held together by cellulose, they spread out on the surface of the liquid: and the kombucha fungus is formed. First of all, he wants as much oxygen as possible. When it is fully grown, it sinks to the bottom, and a new kombucha fungus forms on the surface. You can also use this for the next Kombucha preparation.

You can also continue to use the old Kombucha mushroom. You can recognize older mushrooms by their darker color. This is caused by the ingredients in the tea that the SCOBY has absorbed over time. If you take care of kombucha mushrooms properly, you should supposedly be able to use them for decades.

This is how the kombucha mushroom is preserved

It is best to put your kombucha mushrooms in a sealable jar so that they are completely covered by the starter liquid. Then put the glass in the fridge. The longer you keep the SCOBYS without using them, the longer it will take to ferment again afterward. The kombucha mushrooms do best when they are used again and again for the preparation because then they always get new food.

How long does kombucha keep?

You can store the finished Kombucha drink in the refrigerator for several months. At cool temperatures, the fermentation is almost stopped. However, it may still ferment a little further and the taste will become more acidic. It doesn’t really go bad, at most it’s inedible because it tastes too much like vinegar. Even then, you can still use it for salad dressings.

You can use these types of sugar for kombucha

The sugar in kombucha serves as an ideal food source for microorganisms. The longer the fermentation time, the less residual sugar the drink contains. Whole cane sugar and raw cane sugar, for example, are well suited. But you can also try coconut blossom sugar, rice syrup, sugar beet syrup, maple syrup, or honey.

Xylitol, erythritol, and stevia are not suitable for kombucha

However, you should not use sweeteners such as stevia or sugar substitutes such as xylitol or erythritol, as the Kombucha fungus cannot metabolize them.

Reduce the sugar content of kombucha

If you want to reduce the sugar content of kombucha, then you can swap out the sugar for one of the sugar alternatives above. However, the kombucha fungus would like to slowly get used to other sweeteners.

Therefore, simply add a tablespoon of the new sweetener to the usual sugar. Each time you prepare kombucha, use a little less sugar and a little more of your sugar alternative. In this way, the kombucha fungus “learns” to feed on another sweetener. After all, he grew up with sugar and doesn’t (yet) know anything else.

By the way, kombucha made from honey and green tea is called Jun tea. It tastes wonderfully light and less acidic than kombucha with sugar. Other sugar alternatives also influence the taste – as well as the fermentation process. It’s best to experiment a little on what your kombucha mushroom likes and doesn’t like.

Even if you use conventional sugar, you can gradually reduce the amount of sugar a little (e.g. by 10 percent). Because you should not give your kombucha mushroom too little sugar either, otherwise it could starve.

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Written by Jessica Vargas

I am a professional food stylist and recipe creator. Although I am a Computer Scientist by education, I decided to follow my passion for food and photography.

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