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Fermented Drinks

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The word ‘ferment’ has its origins in Latin, from the word ‘fevere’, meaning ‘to boil’, referring to the bubbling action created when fermentation is in full swing. Fermentation involves the process of releasing energy from carbohydrates, creating alcohol and/or acid, which preserve the food or beverage as well as adding flavour and acidity.

Kombucha, Kvass and Kefir are all examples of very low to non alcoholic fermented drinks. They are flavourful, contain probiotics and make nutrients more bio-available. Fermented food and drinks can be made using wild or spontaneous fermentation or by adding yeast or cultures to be more selective about which micro organisms are used and creating a more specific flavour.

Wild fermentation utilises the bacteria and yeast that is naturally in the air or on the food that is being fermented. Before the chemistry of fermentation was known, beer was made by women who used a special wooden paddle to stir their brew. If the brew was not stirred with the special paddle it did not work, as the paddle had the yeasts growing within the wood, which would be imparted into the brew, effectively inoculating it as it was being stirred (witches and their cauldrons).

Kvass is a wild fermented drink, most commonly made by fermenting rye bread, beetroot or sweet potato and letting it ferment. The fermentation converts the sugars in the bread or vegetables to acid by a process known as Lacto-fermentation. Beetroot kvass is especially known for its use as a liver tonic and blood cleansing properties.

Kombucha uses a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) to create the fermentation and Kefir use ‘grains’, which are essentially a different form or combination of bacteria and yeast to ferment the liquid involved. Different strains of yeast and bacteria are present for each type of ferment, and they have different attributes. There are cultures that produce and are more tolerant to alcohol than others. Kombucha and kefir generally have a very low alcohol content of less than 0.5%, however they can be manipulated by fermenting a second time with more sugar to create a higher alcohol beverage.

To make Kombucha, a strong, sweet tea is fermented with an added SCOBY and some kombucha tea from a previous batch and left at room temperature until desired taste is achieved, the liquid is strained off and drunk or fermented a second time with flavourings such as fruit and capped tightly to create a carbonated drink.

Water Kefir ferments sugar water with the grains, with some lemon, molasses or egg shell added to boost nutrient value. Milk kefir ferments milk or cream. After removing the grains, fruit, honey or other flavourings can be added.