Nattō (なっとう or 納豆?) is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto. Some eat it as a breakfast food. Nattō may be an acquired taste because of its powerful smell, strong flavor, and slimy texture. In Japan, nattō is most popular in the eastern regions, including Kantō, Tōhoku, and Hokkaido.
Before Making NATTO:
Be sure the entire processing area is cleaned for production. Make sure all utensils, pots, cheesecloth (FUKIN), etc. are as sterile as possible. (Boil utensils for 5 minutes prior to using.)
The packet of NATTO spores comes with a special small spoon; be sure to use the small spoon to measure the appropriate quantity for the recipe.
The fermentation process requires the NATTO be kept at approximately 100°F (37°C) degrees for 24 hours. Ovens with a low temperature setting can be used, an oven w/ light on only, or inoculate in large cube-shaped food dehydrators.
NATTO is quite odorous while fermenting, and you may want to isolate the fermenting NATTO during this time.
Ingredients and Supplies needed for Making NATTO:
2 pounds (900g) soybeans (about 4 cups)
10cc water, boiled for 5 to 10 minutes to sterilize
One spoonful (0.1 g.) NATTO-kin spores (use the special spoon that came with the packet)
Cheesecloth or butter muslin (FUKIN in Japanese)
Non-reactive pot (i.e., stainless steel, enameled, ceramics, etc.) or Pressure cooker
Large stainless steel, wood, or plastic spoon or spatula
3-4 oven-proof glass containers with lids
Instructions for Making NATTO:
– Wash the soybeans using running water to gets rid of tiny dirt or dead skins off the beans.
– Soak with clean water for 9 to 12 hours (longer soaking time recommended during colder months). Be sure to use approximately 3 parts water and 1 part soybeans to allow for expansion. You will end up with 8 to 12 cups of beans.
Drain the beans from the soaking water. Place beans in a large pot with mesh bowl and pour in water. Steam it for 3-4 hours. Or fill with water and boil 5-6 hours. The recommended way is to use a “Pressure cooker”, that can be cooked faster than in a normal pot. Please refer to the pressure cooker instruction manual for operation guidelines.
– Drain the cooked beans and place in a sterilized pot. Dissolve 1/5 special spoonful of NATTO spores (0.1g) into 10cc of sterilized water (or mix by package directions).
– Immediately pour the NATTO spore solution over the beans while the beans are still warm but not hot to the touch. Stir the beans and water mixture together carefully using a sterilized spoon/spatula.
– Place a thin layer of beans in each of the 3 to 4 containers. If at any point during the process some beans are spilled on the counter, etc., discard the spilled beans as they can contaminate the other beans if added back in to the batch.
Place the sterilized cheese cloth over the top of the containers and place the tight-fitting lid over the cheese cloth. Preheat the oven, dehydrator, or KOTATSU Japanese Warmer to 100°F (37°C). Place the covered containers in the oven, dehydrator, or warmer and allow the NATTO to ferment for 24 hours being sure to keep the temperature steady at 100°F (37°C). Check the temperature throughout the day/night.
At the conclusion of the fermentation period, let the NATTO cool for a couple of hours, then remove the lid and the cloth, replace the lid, and store the containers in the refrigerator at least overnight.
NATTO can also be aged in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Smaller portions of finished NATTO can be stored in the freezer and thawed for later use.
Need Natto spores fresh from Japan? We have them in our store with many other types of food culturing spores:
Looking for something different to drink this summer…try our some traditional fermented beverages…Enjoy!
Traditional Lactose-Fermented Beverages…
Bouza (Egypt): An opaque drink made of wheat, water, and sourdough yeast starter.. Gv-No-He-Nv (Cherokee, Native American): A thick, milky drink with the sweet flavors of corn accented by a mild sourness. T’ej (Ethiopian): A simple honey type wine/mead. Braga (Middle Europe): A fermented gruel or sour porridge. Chicha (South America): A clear, bubbly beverage made with corn. Balls of cooked corn mush are chewed and inoculated with saliva, then added to water and allowed to ferment. The taste is similar to kombucha. Kiesel (Russia and Poland): An important grain-based lacto-fermented drink. Kvass (Russia and Ukraine): A lacto-fermented drink usually made from stale rye bread. Another version is made with beets. Mead (Europe): Made from honey, water, and wild yeast. Some methods produced a lacto-fermented drink, very low in alcohol or bottled and aged for more alcohol content. Munkoyo (Africa): A low alcohol lacto-fermented brew made from millet or sorghum. Also called sorghum beer, consumed in large quantities by field workers and at celebrations. Given to babies to protect them against infection and diarrhea. The missionaries to Africa discouraged its use because it contains alcohol in very small amounts. Tesguino (Mexico): A low-alcohol beer made with sprouted corn. Chicha (Andean, Peru): Chewed corn beer having a light, delicious corn flavor. Pulque (Mexico): A lacto-fermented drink made from the juice of the agavé cactus. With time, it goes alcoholic. Palm Wine (Africa): The lacto-fermented sap of the palm tree, consumed in tropical areas of Africa and Asia. Rice Beers (Asia and India): These were traditionally very low in alcohol, and mostly lactose-fermented. In Japan, koji rice mold is used for making sake, amasaké, and simple grog’s.
Today we’ll talk about kvass, a traditional beverage from Russia, drunk for good health and to give energy. All classes of people enjoyed this beverage from the czars as well as by peasant folk. Traditional, kvass is sold on the street by vendors with a large tank full of fresh kvass.
In wealthy households, various kinds of kvass contained rye bread and/or currants, raspberries, lemons, apples, pears, cherries, bilberries and loganberries. The possibilities and combinations of breads and fruits are endless!
So What Makes It Kvass?
Kvass starts from stale sourdough rye bread so it was natural for bakeries to make it from the bread that they do not sell.
Bread that has gone past its shelf life is cut into 1-inch cubes, spread on trays and dried out in the bread ovens, set to low temperature. Then the pieces are added to a 200-liter tank filled with good quality water. This brews for 12 hours at room temperature. Yeast and a small amount of sugar is then added and the kvass is left another 12 hours at room temperature.
The kvass is then bottled. Three or four raisins are added to the bottles, which are then capped tightly. The kvass will be ready in about three weeks—foamy and refreshing. However, the shelf life from that point is only about one week (or three weeks refrigerated), after which the kvass turns alcoholic. The short shelf life has left this beverage pretty much untouched and unadulterated by commercial food/beverage companies.
Another type of kvass is made from beets. Not as epicurean as medicinal, although beet kvass is often added to borscht, which is a great cold RAW soup. Traditional Ukrainian homes have it at the ready for a pleasing, sour flavor added to soups and vinaigrette.”
Folk medicine values beets and beet kvass for their liver cleansing properties and beet kvass is widely used in cancer therapy in Europe. Anecdotal reports indicate that beet kvass is an excellent therapy for chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies and digestive problems.
Making Kvass at Home…
Kvass made at home requires careful attention to detail, especially to temperatures. To avoid failures and frustration, purchase a thermometer that will measure liquids between 50-175 degrees F. You will also need to find a warm place that stays about 76-78 degrees in your kitchen or in a closet. We use a preheated room for brewing ferments such as these.
Be sure to use bread that is made only with rye flour, and that contains no food additives or preservatives. Kvass made from bread that contains oats or other grains is not used as it turns the fermenting liquid bitter.
Do not worry about using white sugar, as most it will brake down and turn into beneficial acids.
The kvass should be stored in bottles with screw on tops or tops with wire fasteners. This recipe makes about 5 quarts.
– 1 pound rye bread, cut into 1/4-inch slices
– 1 1/2 cups sugar, in all
– 1 package dry active yeast or a fresh sourdough starter if you
– 1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
– Filtered water
– About 1 dozen raisins
Spread the bread on cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes at 250 degrees F. When cool, chop into 1/4-inch pieces in a food processor.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and then cool to 175 degrees. Add the bread, stir well, cover with a lid and leave in a warm place (76-78 degrees) for 1 hour. Strain and reserve both the bread and the liquid.
Bring another 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil, cool down to 175 degrees and add the reserved bread. Cover with a lid and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Strain and discard the bread. Combine both batches of liquid.
Next is to make simple syrup: Place 1/4 cup sugar and 1-tablespoon water in a small cast-iron skillet. Stir continuously over heat until the mixture turns golden brown, but do not caramelize. Remove from heat and gradually blend in 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. Then stir this mixture into the entire batch of liquid.
In a small saucepan, place 1 cup water and the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming once or twice. Stir this syrup solution into the reserved liquid and allow the mixture to come to room temperature (about 75 degrees).
Mix the yeast with the flour and combine with 1 cup of the liquid. Return this yeast mixture to the pot. Make an X of masking tape across the top of the pot. Cover the pot with two layers of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place (73-78 degrees) for 8-12 hours or overnight. Cool the kvass to about 50-54 degrees. Transfer to bottles, seal tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours. The kvass will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
In addition to its role as a refreshing drink, kvass is traditional added to a number of typical Russian cold soups containing vegetables, sour cream and fish.
Kvass update on recipe and results…#2
This was the first time making kvass, turned out pretty well.
The beet kvass is very fizzy, however, the traditional kvass has more depth of flavor!!!
Both have their own benefits, so try making both! This is a low cost way to include pro-biotics into your body.
Other Traditional Lactose-Fermented Beverages…
Bouza (Egypt): An opaque drink made of wheat, water, and sourdough yeast starter.. Gv-No-He-Nv (Cherokee, Native American): A thick, milky drink with the sweet flavors of corn accented by a mild sourness. T’ej (Ethiopian): A simple honey type wine/mead. Braga (Middle Europe): A fermented gruel or sour porridge. Chicha (South America): A clear, bubbly beverage made with corn. Balls of cooked corn mush are chewed and inoculated with saliva, then added to water and allowed to ferment. The taste is similar to kombucha. Kiesel (Russia and Poland): An important grain-based lacto-fermented drink. Kvass (Russia and Ukraine): A lacto-fermented drink usually made from stale rye bread. Another version is made with beets. Mead (Europe): Made from honey, water, and wild yeast. Some methods produced a lacto-fermented drink, very low in alcohol or bottled and aged for more alcohol content. Munkoyo (Africa): A low alcohol lacto-fermented brew made from millet or sorghum. Also called sorghum beer, consumed in large quantities by field workers and at celebrations. Given to babies to protect them against infection and diarrhea. The missionaries to Africa discouraged its use because it contains alcohol in very small amounts.
Tesguino (Mexico): A low-alcohol beer made with sprouted corn. Chicha (Andean, Peru): Chewed corn beer having a light, delicious corn flavor. Pulque (Mexico): A lacto-fermented drink made from the juice of the agavé cactus. With time, it goes alcoholic. Palm Wine (Africa): The lacto-fermented sap of the palm tree, consumed in tropical areas of Africa and Asia. Rice Beers (Asia and India): These were traditionally very low in alcohol, and mostly lactose-fermented. In Japan, koji rice mold is used for making sake, amasaké, and simple grog’s.
We hope you enjoy this Blog post on Kvass, a simple to make fermented beverage for health and well-being.
Come see our culture store for many new starter cultures and our main page for cultured foods recipes.
Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods.
Dozens for cultured food starters all freshly package…
Ran across this and thought I would share…
This recipe idea is great for areas with wild leeks and other wild crafted plants
What is Needed…
– Tub of unpasteurized Red miso or Mugi miso, organic or make your own, which can take 6 months to a year in most cases. Hint: You can do a mix a sweet miso & hearty miso, too! The amount of miso used will determine the amount of the other ingredients.
– Fresh Spring Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum, some know them as Ramps). The leeks can have a strong taste if harvested at the right time, so adjust accordingly. About a 1/8th of the volume of miso, you want the flavor, but, not to overpower the miso.
– Dandelion Greens. Young leaves are best as they are not as bitter as older leaf. Harvest before flowering. Same amount/ratio as the leeks. Some stores sell the greens, too
– Fresh or Dried Stinging Nettles (Uritica dioica). Here in Michigan you should be able to harvest at the same time as the leeks. I have a spot that has both growing together!
– Optional Sea Veggies. Like kombu or wakamé seaweed.
Since wild ingredients can very in taste and flavour during the season, I suggest mixing up a small tester batch and adjust ingredients as needed and to your liking.
Since the miso is already made, click here on how to make your own misos , we will start with the other ingredients.
Once you have collected or purchased all the items needed you ready to go!
– Start by cleaning the Leeks: Removing the leaves and roots, leaving the clean bulbs
– Dandelion greens: Remove the centre steam keeping the green part of the leaf,
– Nettle leaf: Cut off any steams. Hint: you can remove the ‘stinging’ aspect by blanching or steaming the leaf for a few seconds
– Soak the sea vegetables if dried.
Now cut all ingredients into small pieces and mix together.
Add greens and sea veggies to the miso paste.
Taste and adjust. Add salt if needed, however, the miso will have a lot of salt already.
The miso blend will ferment the other items and flavour will improve over time. Suggest allowing the miso mix to set in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months, if you can wait that long.
~ Fermented Garlic Scapes ~
Here is another quick recipe for use of all the garlic scapes, if you grow garlic you will know what I mean!
Use fermented garlic scapes in any recipe to add a delicious mild garlic flavour! Fermented garlic scapes enhance your recipes without overpowering other more delicate flavours.
What is Needed…
– Fresh organic garlic scapes, cleaned and diced into small pieces or use a food processor. Do not overwork and turn scapes into a paste. Leave it a bit chunky.
– Organic sunflower oil, cold pressed. 1 to 2 tbsp per 8oz of diced scapes.
– Lactic starter or use wild yeast fermentation
– Salt to taste
Mix the diced garlic scapes with the oil and salt.
Add the lactic starter (This can come from other ferments liquids, like kraut or just use wild yeast fermentation.)
– Once fermentation is to your liking, about 5 to 10 days or more. If you like the taste, finish with 1 to 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar or to taste.
Once the fermentation process is finished, pack into jars and store in the refrigerator. Hint: Smaller jars will keep the FGS fresher.
Use as a spread or garnish for your favorite snacks, with fresh bread, or even on pizza.
~ Pickled Wild Leek Relish ~
One of my favorite ways to use and preserve leeks for use all season long! The relish condiment works as a topping, great with fresh bread, or added during plating a dish.
Quick and easy, and so good!
What is Needed…
As the leeks are very strong in taste and flavor, you will use more white onions vs. leeks. If you were to use only wild leeks, it will be much too strong. I found this out on the first try with only leeks and vinegar…to much! – White onions, organic, peeled and diced into very small pieces or use a food processor (do not overwork)
– Smaller amount of fresh leek bulbs, wild crafted, depending on flavour.
– A red bell pepper, organic
– White vinegar or rice wine vinegar, organic
– Salt to taste
– Peel and dice white onions into very small pieces.
– Clean and peel wild leeks. Remove tops and roots, leaving nice
clean white bulbs
– Depending on the size; use about a ¼ of the red bell pepper,
The bell pepper is more to give a bit of colour over flavor.
– Mix the three together in a ratio of 80% white onion, 15% wild
leeks, & 4% bell pepper.
Taste the mixture and adjust the amount of leeks to onions until you have a flavor you like. Add salt and vinegar (About 1% of mixture) to taste. As with any pickled foods, the product should have a vinegar bite, but not to much to over power the other flavors. The acid content should read at pH 4.5 or a little lower. The correct range test strip can be purchased here. Allow to set at room temperature for a few days, taste again and adjust ingredients to your liking.
Once complete pack into jars, cap, and place in refrigerator.
Enjoy! and Happy Fermenting… Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods
Now that you have made a fresh batch or purchased your koji rice, the next step is what to do with it. Many people use koji-kin to make saké, amasaké, or miso. However, what other ways are there to turn koji rice into something extraordinary? Here are a few recipes to get you started…
Basic Amazaké Ferment
Used in Japan as a sweetener, beverage, or a simple alcoholic drink. Amazake is one of the best known cultured and fermented items from Japan. There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. By a popular recipe, kōji is added to cooled whole grain rice causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simpler unrefined sugars. As the mixture incubates, sweetness develops naturally.
By another popular recipe, sake kasu is simply mixed with water, but usually sugar is added. In this recipe, amazake becomes low-alcohol beverage if given time.
Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, added in salad dressing or smoothies. The traditional drink (prepared by combining amazake and water, heated to a simmer, and often topped with a pinch of finely grated ginger) was popular with street vendors, and it is still served at inns, tea houses, and at festivals. Many Shinto shrines in Japan provide or sell it during the New Year!
What is needed…
3- cups cooked brown rice
1- cup light koji rice
Yield: 4 cups of fermented rice to use as a sweetener or 3 quarts Amazaké drink
Incubation Temperature: 120-140 F (50-60C)
Start by cooking the brown rice and allowing it to cool to at least 140 F (60C). Once cooled, stir in the koji rice and mix well. Place mixture into a glass or stainless steel container that will allow an inch of “headroom” to allow for expansion during the fermentation process. Cover container and incubate, stirring every couple of hours to prevent heat build up. The finished product can take as little as 6 hours with quality, fresh (not dried) koji-kin at optimum temperatures, after 6 hours start tasting the ferment to see if the cycle is complete.
When finished the ferment should thicken like porridge with a mild sweet taste. The sweetness will increase up to a point after which it will change and start to become sour. Once the taste is to your liking, place into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 min., stirring frequently. Boiling will stop the fermentation process keeping the amazaké sweet. For a smother amazaké consistency purée the mixture in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate any ferment not used right away. If not, the amazaké will become very sour.
Amazaké Sweetener: Use ¼-cup ferment for each tbsp of sweetener called for in your favorite recipes and reducing the cooking liquid by 3 Tbsp. Baked goods will be rich and moist with a more subtle sweetness.
Amazaké Drink: For HOT amazaké, heat one part ferment and two parts very hot water. Add a dash of shoyu and a grating of fresh ginger root. Serve blended mix in heated mugs. For a cold drink, blend 1 part amazaké ferment and 2 part fruit, fruit juices, soymilk water and/or flavoring of your choice.
Doburoku: For simple “grog”, leave the amazaké ferment in the incubator for several days, stirring and tasting occasionally, until it develops a heady, alcoholic aroma. Blend as above, traditionally served in Japan as a thick and creamy drink or dilute to taste.
Mellow Pickled Cabbage
In Japan, pickled vegetables come with many meals, as a condiment or side dish. In Japan it is called ‘Kyabetsu no asazuke’. Unlike normal pickles this recipe is a fermented pickled delight. Like German style sauerkraut, pickled veggies are uncomplicated to make into a fermented snack or condiment!
What is needed…
1 – pound organic cabbage of your choice or a mix of green and reds. Use American style or Napa/Chinese styles
2 – Tbsp non-iodized salt (Kosher or sea salt)
¼-cup koji rice
¼-cup warm water
½ tsp honey or other sweetener
A Japanese tsukemono pickle press
Start by removing the center core and shred the cabbage coarsely. Mix well with the salt and pack into a glass bowl. Put a small enough plate to fit inside the bowl and weight it down with water filled glass jar or non-metal container.
Refrigerate for 3 days.
After 3 days, draw off the liquid from the cabbage but do not rinse.
TIP: Save the liquid brine for other uses. Dissolve the honey/sweetener in the warm water and add the koji rice. Set aside until the koji has dissolved the liquid and softened.
Next, mix the soaked koji and cabbage, mixing well. Pack contents into a straight-sided container, Add a plate and weight to keep everything under the liquid. Submerging the cabbage keeps the mixture from contamination with unwanted bacteria. Allow 4 to 5 days for the flavor to develop then refrigerate. Use within a week or two.
For those who do not wish to mess with jar and weights, a Japanese pickle fermenter is a great investment. Visit our shop to purchase the Japanese tsukemono pickle press. See photos for recommended styles.
Koji Rice Pickled Sea & Root Vegetable Condiment
Here is another great recipe for using your fresh made koji-kin rice. It is a mix of seaweed and root vegetables
with a lot of umami flavor and health.
What is needed…
– ¼ cup of fresh light koji-kin rice
– ½ oz dry kombu, wakamé, or sea palm. Should yield about ½ cup after soaking
– 1 to 1 ½ cups daikon, baby burdock root, or carrot. We enjoy a combination of all three. Try using any type of herbal roots, too.
– ¼ cup naturally fermented soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
– ¼ cup mild vinegar, plain or flavored
– ¼ cup mirin or saké. Mirin imparts a sweet component to the mix and saké a dry alternative, extremely recommended!
Start by soaking the Kombu and/or other sea vegetable for 10 to 20 min. in just enough water to cover, soak until softened. Reserve ¼ cup of the soaking water and cut the sea vegetables into slivers or short ribbons. Next, scrub the root vegetables to remove any soil and cut them into thin slivers. Place the root vegetables, sea vegetables, and reserved soaking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add soy sauce and vinegar and return to a low boil. Cover and remove from heat. This step kills of any unwanted bacteria or wild yeast.
When the mixture has cooled to 110F (45C) (warm, but not too hot to touch) transfer to a glass bowl and stir in the koji-kin, mirin, and saké. Let the mixture mature for 4 hours at a cool to moderate room temperature, covered, stirring occasionally from time to time.
The pickled vegetables are ready to consume now or pack into quart mason jars and refrigerate the unused portion, which will continue to mellow and enhance the flavors even more over time. But first enjoy a bowl with your favorite grains!
This is close to a traditional Kimchi…there are many types of kimchi, but when people in Korea say kimchi, they mean this style.
Recipe? I never really follow one. But here goes…
– 2 large heads of Nappa cabbage. Quarter and soak in a heavy salt brine for an hour or more to pull off some liquid, rinse salt, then chop to desired size
– daikon or normal radish julienned
– carrots julienned
– any sea vegetables or other veggies you like
– sesame seeds, black is nice for contrast
– Garlic, ginger, and scallions or green onion
– tbsp or more rice flour, depending on the batch size
– Sugar 1/8 c, or to your liking, optional
– Korean chili flakes (eBay or Amazon) to taste, also gives the nice red colour
– fish sauce to taste, recommend a good Thai FS (has salt, too, so adjust)
– dried anchovies or fermented shrimp paste as needed, not to many though
– soy sauce or salt to make the brine
The F.S. and anchovies brings the deep umami flavor!
Heat the flour with some water and make a thin paste. Cook until it thickens, but not burnt. Raw flour will give an off taste. This is used to thicken the liquid and make it stick to the cabbage.
In a large bowl, mix flour paste with the chili, F.S., anchovies, and soy sauce. Then add veggies and sesame seeds, mix.
Add the cabbage last, mix.
Keep mixture under the brine like you would kraut. If not enough liquid at first, no worries, it will form as the weights press down. Should only take an hour or so for this to happen. You can add some extra salt brine if needed, but make sure
to mix it all up again.
I use a 3L Japanese Pickle Press…for no fuss, no weights, no problems. We have them at our web store if needed.
After liquid covers, taste and add more salt and/or chili as needed.
Allow to ferment for 3 to 5 days, or more.
Then pack into jars and place in fridge.
Making cultured foods and beverages are not hard if one follows some basic rules, common sense, and of course safety factors. Our ancestors have been doing this all around the world for a 1000 years or more. Wild fermentation can produce some great ferments, however, the results can very from batch to batch depending on the types of wild yeast and bacteria
within the food stock.
Having a traditional starter culture ensures the same results each time. An example is making beer with wild yeast vs. using a brewers yeast. The outcome could be close in taste and flavor to each other or very different, with the wild yeast sometimes making the beer unpalatable. Having a tried and true recipe helps to make sure the results are the same every time, too. Checking acidic levels and having the correct microorganisms, like lactobacillales, ensure cultured food safety.
Especially in wild fermentation.
Now For the Errors…
Being busy here in the lab sometimes it is easy to forget a step in a recipe or process (Why to double check and taste things). A resent example that I have done was when making a batch of ginger beer/brew. I have made this recipe so many times I don’t even refer to it anymore. Well being in a rush one day had all the steps completed…water heated, sugar dissolved, lemon added for a small batch of brew. Waiting for temperature to decrease to room temperature and then on to bottling. Batch was then bottled
and set out for 3 days for the ginger culture to
produce a fizzy beverage.
After the waiting period is was time to try it out. A nice chilled ginger brew on a long hot day…yeah! The bottle is opened and to my surprise, no fizz. Then tasting it I knew what had went wrong…no ginger starter culture was added before bottling. No flavor and no fizz, just lemon sugar water. At that point nothing to do but uncap them all, dump it, and start over.
The lesson here is to taste and follow a recipe to get the results one wants. Don’t try to get to crazy with flavors and adding to many things at a time. A great example is people adding to much fruit or juice when bottling kombucha tea or water kefir and then wondering why the bottles explode all over. Another example is trying to make a crazy kimchi blend and it turning out ‘wrong’ or not having a good flavor. Hard to tell what went wrong with to many factors vs adding one or two things to the mix and waiting for the outcome. I hope this short post will help everyone to become a better fermenter and produce
great tasting fermented and cultured foods.
There are many tried and true recipes on our sister site here.
Below you will find studies on kombucha cultures of yeast and bacteria and how it produces antimicrobial compounds for
protection from foreign invaders. Besides acetic acid, which is produced during the fermentation process,
kombucha is thought to have other factors and compounds
that may aid in these protective factors.
Kombucha Fermentation and Its Antimicrobial Activity
Journal Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jun;48(6):2589-94
Sreeramulu G, Zhu Y, Knol W.
Department of Applied Microbiology and Gene Technology, TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands.
Kombucha was prepared in a tea broth (0.5% w/v) supplemented with sucrose (10% w/v) by using a commercially
available starter culture. The pH decreased steadily from 5 to 2.5 during the fermentation while the weight of the “tea fungus” and the OD of the tea broth increased through 4 days of the fermentation and remained fairly constant thereafter. The counts of acetic acid-producing bacteria and yeasts in the broth increased up to 4 days of fermentation and decreased afterward. The antimicrobial activity of Kombucha was investigated against iaa number of pathogenic microorganisms. Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella sonnei, Escherichia coli, Aeromonas hydrophila, Yersinia enterolitica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter cloacae, Staphylococcus epidermis, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella typhimurium, Bacillus cereus, Helicobacterpylori, and Listeria monocytogenes were found to be sensitive to Kombucha. According to the literature on Kombucha, acetic acid is considered to be responsible for the inhibitory
effect toward a number of microbes tested,
and this is also valid in the present study.
However, in this study, Kombucha proved to exert antimicrobial activities against E. coli, Sh. sonnei, Sal. typhimurium, Sal. enteritidis, and Cm. jejuni, even at neutral pH and
after thermal denaturation.
This finding suggests the presence of antimicrobial compounds other than acetic acid and large proteins in Kombucha.
The Yeast Spectrum of the ‘Tea Fungus’
Mycoses. 1995 Jul-Aug;38(7-8):289-95
Kombucha’.Mayser P, Fromme S, Leitzmann C, Grunder K.
Department of Dermatology and Andrology, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany.
The tea fungus ‘Kombucha’ is a symbiosis of Acetobacter, including Acetobacter xylinum as a characteristic species, and various yeasts. A characteristic yeast
species or genus has not yet been identified. Kombucha is mainly cultivated in sugared black tea to produce a slightly acidulous effervescent beverage that is said to have several curative effects. In addition to sugar, the beverage contains small amounts of alcohol and various acids, including acetic acid, gluconic acid and lactic acid, as well as some antibiotic substances.
To characterize the yeast spectrum with special consideration given to facultatively pathogenic yeasts, two commercially available specimens of tea fungus and 32 from private households in Germany were analysed by micromorphological and biochemical methods. Yeasts of the genera Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces and Saccharomyces were identified in 56%, 29% and 26% respectively. The species Saccharomycodes ludwigii and Candida kefyr were only demonstrated in
isolated cases. Furthermore, the tests revealed pellicle-forming yeasts such as Candida krusei or Issatchenkia orientalis/ occidentalis as well as species of the apiculatus yeasts (Kloeckera, Hanseniaspora). Thus, the genus Brettanomyces may be a typical group of yeasts that are especially adapted to the environment of the tea fungus. However, to investigate further the beneficial effects of tea fungus, a spectrum of the other typical genera must be defined. Only three specimens showed definite contaminations. In one case, no yeasts could be isolated because of massive contamination with Penicillium spp. In the remaining two samples (from one household),
Candida albicans was demonstrated.
The low rate of contamination might be explained by protective mechanisms, such as formation of organic acids and antibiotic substances.
Thus, subjects with a healthy metabolism do not need to be advised against cultivating Kombucha.
However, those suffering from immuno-suppression should preferably consume controlled commercial
This is a great condiment that is used on the tantric burgers during summer solstice. Easy to make. Use it during any meal for a spicy, tangy fermented sauce to bring some heat to any dish…Enjoy!
What is Needed…
3 large onions, chopped and/or diced
¼ cup dried crushed red chilies
8 ounces tamarind concentrate
16 ounces hot water
1 ½ cups sesame oil
1 tablespoon turmeric
10 whole small dried red chilies
2 cups apple cider vinegar
Put the onions in a large bowl.
Sprinkle with the crushed chilies.
Melt tamarind concentrate in hot water.
Add sesame oil and diluted tamarind to onions.
Sprinkle with the turmeric.
Add the whole chilies and vinegar.
Stir and cover.
– Let sit overnight or several days for the fullest flavor and mild fermentation.
– After the sauce is to your liking, in taste and flavor, store in the refrigerator.
– The sauce will keep a long time and gets better with age.
Yields about 2 quarts.
Use on veggies burgers or as a fermented condiment!
Why Check pH Levels in the Kombucha Tea Beverage & Other Ferments?
Though pH readings is not always needed, adding pH checks to the culturing process helps to maintain proper viable and healthy culture strains/starter. Each type of starter culture will produce different amounts of acid as part of the fermentation process. Checking these levels, insure that your cultured foods and ferments are safe to consume. For the safety factor, all ferments should measure below 4.6 on the pH scale, as per FDA regulations. This insures that the cultured food is free of human pathogens, safe to consume, and that the desired bacteria/yeast cultures are viable and does not become overrun by foreign yeasts or bacteria.
How Does Fermentation/Culturing Work?
Fermented foods, which are foods produced or preserved by the action of microorganisms, are great for health and well-being of the body systems (especially the intestinal/gut system). In this context, fermentation typically refers to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol using yeast, but other fermentation processes involve the use of bacteria such as lactobacillus, including the making of foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut.
The art and knowledge of fermentation had been around for 1000’s of years and the scientific community calls it zymology. We call it wild fermentation or raw cultured foods.
It all starts by choosing the culture starter medium, such as kombucha tea culture or kefir grains, then ‘feeding’ the culture with the correct food source. After the recommended fermentation time the cultured food is ready to consume or used for making other cultured food products. An example would be making milk kefir and then using the ready cultured milk to make RAW living cheeses. Testing the pH before and after the process insures that the finished product is safe for consumption.
Many pickled or soured foods ferment, thus dropping the pH levels, as part of the pickling or souring process, like Japanese pickles. However, many preserved/fermented food stores go through a process of brining, vinegar induction, or the addition of other acidic foods sources such as lemon juice.
How to Test pH Correctly
Correct procedures when checking the pH levels allows for the most accurate readings. A short-range strip (o-6 pH) works the best over a broad range strip (0-14 pH). Human or saliva testing strips will not work due to the range of the product, from 5 – 8 pH. If you have purchased testing strips from us then the process is very easy. Simply open the roll of kombucha ‘test strip papers’ (0-6 pH range) and remove about an inch long piece of testing paper. Make sure the hands are clean and dry.
Check the pH reading by pulling a small sample of the ferment vs. placing the test paper in the ferment. Use a straw, spoon, or ‘wine thief’ to pull a sample to test. Dip the kombucha/culture test strip into the liquid to check. Then with a flick of the wrist, remove any excess liquid and immediately check the pH against the color-coded chart. The check should be within the desired range for the ferment tested, see below.
pH and Dairy Cultures
With dairy type cultures, such as milk kefir or yogurt starters, the pH is high to start with a drop in pH as the milk is cultured. There is not a starting point to check pH with dairy cultures. At the end of the process, the pH should read 4.5 or lower on a
color-coded pH chart.
pH and Water Kefir Strains
Water kefir grains act somewhat like the dairy kefir in that the initial pH test will be on the alkaline side of the scale. Depending on the strength of the old starter liquid, the test may fall within the correct range. Why we recommend use a slice of lemon to lower the pH and keep it below 4.5 pH.
pH and Kombucha Tea Cultures
For kombucha tea beverage, you should take two pH readings. One check is done when adding the starter tea to the new batch of tea/sugar solution and the second at the end of the brewing cycle.
This first pH test reading should be 4.5 pH or below, if it is too high then keep adding starter tea from your old batch
until the desired pH is reached.
Many kombucha recipes found online have a certain generic amount of starter tea added to a new batch. However, depending on the acidic strength of the old starter tea the amount added will vary from batch to batch. One may find that only a small amount is needed from a strong sour batch and much more required from a sweet batch of tea.
Adding the correct amount of starter, by reading pH, insures that the fresh tea solution is acidic enough to combat any human pathogens, foreign molds, or yeast.
Measure the second pH test at the finish of the brewing/culturing process. After your tea has brewed for the required amount for time, 7 to 14 days in most cases, then it is recommended to test the pH until it is at, or close, to 3 pH. The desired range of the complete kombucha tea is between 3.2 and 2.8 pH.
This reading tells you that the brewing cycle is complete and the tea is at the correct pH point to drink. Of course, this can very a bit to suit your needs and taste. If this final pH is too far on the alkaline side of the pH scale, then the tea will need a few more days to complete the brewing cycle.
pH and JUN Honey Culture
Many people now have access to the JUN honey culture. JUN is much like kombucha culture, yet a different strain and results. The ingredients in JUN are different from kombucha tea culture. Kombucha is made with black tea and cane sugar, whereas, JUN is created using honey and a lighter tea, such as white or green tea.
For checking pH levels, the steps and range is the same as kombucha tea.
We hope this post on checking kombucha pH levels in kombucha and other ferment will help in producing healthy and safe fermented beverages. See all our products at our culture store.
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