Tag Archives: water kefir grains

~ pH Readings for Kombucha & Fermented Food Cultures ~

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.

pH test strip,
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

dairy kefir grains
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
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

kombucha tea culture
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

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.

Happy Culturing!
Live, Grow, and Share Cultured Foods

The Difference in Water Kefir Strains…

By now many people have heard of, tried a bottled version, or even make beverages themselves from water kefir grains. The grains they are using are the traditional water grains, also known as Japanese Water Crystals, or California Honey Bees.

5 types water kefirIn our travels around the world from Japan to the islands of Hawaii, we have obtained several strains of natural organic water kefir grains. Each type has its own makeup: different from one another in their structure, opaqueness, and food source. Each one has a slightly different probiotic makeup due to the food source and the area that it came from. When choosing a strain for daily use, look for the one that best suits your ingredient resources! Also, look for water type kefirs are fresh, not dehydrated or dried, which keeps them healthier and viable. There are many sources for the traditional water kefir starter online, however, this is the only type carried. We have collected eight different unique water strains, offering five of these for others to try.

Water kefirs exist around the world, with no two cultures being exactly the same. We see this from growing the water type kefir strains in our lab and the creation of ‘grains’ inside the fruits tested and on Petri dish plates.

Scientific Stuff…
Typical water kefirs have a mix of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida(the good kind), Kloeckera and possibly other wild yeasts and bacteria. Lactobacillus brevis has been identified as the species responsible for the production of the polysaccharide (dextran) that forms the grains. Certainly opportunistic bacteria take advantage of this stable symbiotic relation that might be the reason for the many different names/distinctions in the scientific literature. Different ingredients or hygienic conditions might also change the fungal and bacteriological composition, leading to the different cultural/continent names. Wild yeast from that region will also enter into the ‘system’ and become part of the symbiotic makeup. A makeup, due to the close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species or strains.

People whom DO NOT wish to consume dairy products may find that water kefir provides them with fresh probiotics without the need for dairy or tea cultured products, such as kombucha or milk kefir grains. This is a true vegan product from start to finish. The final product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage, however, the shelf life is short. We recommend drinking it fresh daily vs. bottling. Notice each of the descriptions below to see which strain will suit your needs and dietary concerns.

water kefir grains   ~ Water Kefir Grains or Kefir dé Acqua ~ Organic Kefir Dé Acqua are similar in probiotic makeup to milk or dairy kefir, but are cultured in a water based mixture of cane sugar, whole organic figs or other dried fruit, and organic lemons.   There are many places online to find this type of water kefir starter.
Culturing time is 24 to 48 hours. Produces good amount of fizz. Flavor depends on the type of fruit used.


tibicos grains ~ Tibicos/Tibi – South American Water Kefir Type
~ One of our latest hand-sourced water kefirs brought back from South America. Most speculate this strain originated in Mexico where it thrived in the sugary water of the Ountia (prickly pear) cactus. It has been popular for many years in Mexico to use Tibi (water kefir) to make Tepache (pronounced tuh-PAH-chay) which is a pineapple-brown sugar-cinnamon beverage fermented by the grains. Tibicos is easy to make…just add Piloncillo raw sugar and non-chlorinated water to the kefir grains. Piloncillo sugar can be found in any Mexican food store. Tibicos has a rich molasses taste and the grains will be
brown in color over traditional water kefir grains.
Culturing time is 30 to 48 hours. Produces lower amount of fizz, unless fruit is added. Flavor depends on the type of fruit used and amount of Piloncillo sugar/molasses.

coconut water kefir~ Coconut Water Kefir – Kepe Niyog Juice ~ This strain of water kefir grains comes from the Philippines, called ‘kepe niyog juice’. We picked this strain up about 10 years ago and it is still fermenting strong as ever. Coconut water kefir is made from the raw coconut water (called ‘niyog tubig’) and meat of young fresh coconuts or you may use coconut milk cut with coconut juice or filtered water – Fresh coconut are sold in USA as ‘young Thai coconuts’ not the mature old coconuts with the brown hairy shells. Kefir type grains then ferment this juice for a refreshing coconut taste. This converts the sugars in the juice/meat into a hardy refreshing beverage full of pro-biotics. If more effervescence were desired, traditionally, a little date palm sugar would be added.
Culturing time is 20 to 40 hours. Produces lower amount of fizz, unless sugar is added. Flavor is of fermented coconut.

grape kefir grains ~ Kefir D’uva Crystals – Grape Kefir Grains ~ Grape kefir grains or Kefir D’uva crystals are similar to milk or a dairy kefir grain, however, this strain was received from Western Europe. It is grown and cultured only with organic grape juice or fresh grapes. The use of only grape juice or fresh crushed grapes has change the structure of the grains, making them different from the traditional water kefir grains. The taste is like a very light fermented wine and cultures very quickly. No sugar needed to culture this strain as the grape juice provides enough for the grape kefir grains.
Culturing time is 15 to 24 hours. Produces high amounts of fizz. Flavor is of slightly fermented red wine.

hawaian water kefir ~ Hawaiian Kefir Grains – Hua’Ai Wai ~ When in Hawaii during our resent 2013 travels, we met an old man making fermented Hua’Ai Wai (fruit water/juice). He made it fresh every night with raw fruit juices to sell in the morning and throughout the day. His most popular flavor was Wai hua ái liliko í-‘alani-kuawa, or passion-orange-guava flavor. The locals were buying him out everyday! Through his good nature, we obtained some of his water grains and brought them back to the mainland US. He stated that the grains were ‘magic’ and appeared in the fermented fruits that were left setting out for a week or more. He never got grains from an outside source. We have verified in our lab that new grains will grow inside whole unopened fruit if left sitting in kefir water No sugar ever used for this kefir water strain. Culturing time is shorter to allow beverage to still have sweetness. Use fresh organic fruits, canned fruit,
or bottled juices for making this great tasting beverage!
Culturing time is 22 to 30 hours. Produces high amounts of fizz. Flavor is of fruits or juices used with a slight hint of yeast.

Water kefirs exist around the world, with no two cultures being exactly the same. Working with culture starters, since 2000, we have seen a major increase of people wanting to know more about traditional cultured foods, fermentation, and making their own cultured cuisine! As we learn, grow, and share more cultured foods we belief that more culture strains and culturing traditions will come to light.

 

Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods… Happy Culturing! www.organic-cultures.com