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Change Alcohol Content

By: Brew Your Bucha Posted: October 23, 2018 in KombuchaHealthWellness, Kombucha Alcohol

Most people know that kombucha contains a trace amount of alcohol.  If this is news to you, check out our blog post earlier this year regarding kombucha alcohol content.  It is such a small amount of alcohol that we usually pass it off as insignificant.  However, for people with alcohol sensitivities, pregnancies, or personal preferences, they would rather reduce this content as much as possible.  So this begs the question, can you reduce alcohol content? and if so, how do you go about doing it?
D’un autre côté, si vous pouvez réduire la quantité d’alcool dans le kombucha, vous pouvez certainement l’augmenter également. Si cela suscite votre intérêt et que vous souhaitez expérimenter une race de kombucha plus boozier, nous avons également quelques méthodes en tête pour vous.
So let’s dive in to the world of kombucha alcohol manipulation and see if we can learn a trick or two to sway your brew.

THE FUNDAMENTALS

Before we get in to the details of manipulating the amount of kombucha alcohol, let’s first understand the fundamentals of why there is alcohol in kombucha it to begin with.  This insight will make some sense of why we recommend certain ways of brewing to achieve your desired result.
Comme le vin, la bière ou tout autre spiritueux dans le monde, le kombucha est fermenté. Il s’agit d’un processus naturel où les sucres sont convertis en alcool par l’ingrédient actif de la levure. Avec les boissons alcoolisées, ce processus est amplifié et conçu pour délivrer un ABV (Alcohol By Volume) de la quantité désirée. Cela représente environ 4% -6% pour la bière, 10% -14% pour le vin et 30% -60% pour les spiritueux.
Contrairement aux boissons alcoolisées, le kombucha a une limitation naturelle de l’alcool. Il s’agit de la bactérie du kombucha, qui agit en symbiose avec les levures. La bactérie Kombucha consomme l’alcool et est responsable de sa conversion en acides organiques qui sont bons pour l’intestin. Donc, avec chaque composant du SCOBY (Culture Symbiotique de Bactéries et de Levures) travaillant en conjonction les uns avec les autres, le résultat final est de faibles proportions d’alcool ou d’ABV. Dans une infusion normale, ce niveau se situe généralement entre 0.25% et 1.00% ABV.
Décomposer notre infusion de kombucha en termes simples: les levures se nourrissent du sucre et des nitrates du thé sucré, le convertissant en alcool et en dioxyde de carbone. Les bactéries qui travaillent avec les levures consomment à leur tour l’alcool, le convertissant en acides organiques. Le résultat final est le kombucha aigre, sucré et parfumé que nous savons aimer.

REDUCING KOMBUCHA ALCOHOL CONTENT

You can probably tell that the balance of yeast and bacteria play a big role in the amount of alcohol that remains in your final brew.  If there is a large imbalance of yeasts over bacteria then there wont be enough bacteria to consume the alcohol that is being produced.  You could say that the alcohol overwhelms the bacteria and it can not quite keep up.  Therefore, the key to alcohol reduction in kombucha is to discourage the yeasts from overpopulating and taking over.
Gardez à l’esprit que même si vous souhaitez réduire la levure pour limiter la teneur en alcool, vous devez toujours avoir de la levure dans votre bière. Étant donné que la bactérie a besoin d’alcool pour se nourrir, la privation de levure et d’alcool aura un effet négatif résultant en un kombucha improductif et largement inactif.

Limiting Yeast: Temperature

Yeast tends to thrive in warmer conditions and will grow much quicker in comparison to cooler temperatures.  We typically recommend brewing kombucha in around the 23 degree Celsius or 73 degrees Fahrenheit range.  If you brew at higher temperatures, one quick solution to reduce some alcohol content is to bring the brewing temperature down to the 20-23 degrees Celsius or  65-73 degrees Fahrenheit range.

Limiting Yeast: Starter Fluid

When you start your brew of kombucha and scoop out some of the finished kombucha from the last batch, be selective with the liquid you use going forward.  Your kombucha brew has yeast in a few different places: floating particles, stringy formations attached to the SCOBY, and collections at the bottom of the jar.  If you simply take the kombucha from whatever is left at the bottom you will be taking the highest concentration of yeast available.  This will continue to compile and magnify if you repeat this process each time, giving you thicker and highly concentrated yeast in your starter fluid.
Nous vous recommandons de prendre votre liquide de démarrage du haut de l’infusion qui contient généralement du kombucha sans levure plus clair. Évitez les morceaux et particules de levure filandreux en utilisant un filtre à mailles fines qui empêchera la levure de passer à la prochaine infusion.

Limiting Yeast: Sugars

Since yeast needs sugars to convert it to alcohol, playing around with the amount of sugar you use can give you a lower alcohol content.  This is particularly true in the second fermentation.  In removing the SCOBY and bottling the kombucha, there is still a large amount of yeast still active in the brew.  When you add fruits or sugars to the second ferment, you are giving the yeast more opportunity to feed and create alcohol.  However without the SCOBY the bacteria has a weaker presence and is unable to keep up with the alcohol production.  Avoid adding too much sugar in the second fermentation and this will reduce the alcohol content.

Limiting Yeast: Clean Your SCOBY

When you have completed a kombucha brew you probably don’t think much about the way your SCOBY looks.  Look closely, your SCOBY has likely changed in a few ways.  In addition to growing layers on the top which we call a baby SCOBY, there is likely a collection of brown stringy bits on it.  This is a common occurrence where yeast has developed and even attached itself to the SCOBY.  In transferring the SCOBY to the next batch, using sterile hands, wipe off and rinse these yeast bits off your SCOBY.

Increasing Bacteria: Use a Larger SCOBY

The tips above are used to limit the amount of yeast available in your kombucha.  However, the other option is to increase the bacteria in your brew to keep up with the alcohol production and thereby reducing it.  Bacteria is contained withing the SCOBY’s fleshy structure while yeast is usually free floating and growing.  One tip to increase bacteria is to use a larger SCOBY.  This can be done by focusing on the growth of your SCOBY by either making it thicker or wider.  To make a thick SCOBY you will want to leave your brew fermenting for longer than you usually would with the primary goal of letting a large baby SCOBY develop.  To make a wider SCOBY you can consider changing your brewing vessel to one that has a wider opening.

INCREASING KOMBUCHA ALCOHOL CONTENT

If you prefer to increase the amount of alcohol in kombucha to experiment with a boozier breed of kombucha brewing then know that this is possible as well.  Similar to reducing alcohol in kombucha we need to play around with the levels of yeast to ensure that the alcohol is not consumed in abundance by bacteria.  In reducing alcohol content we are trying to limit yeast, but in increasing alcohol we are encouraging it to flourish and be undisturbed by bacteria.

Increasing Yeast: Collection

If you are an experienced brewer and have a SCOBY hotel at your disposal, then you have a good tool to bump up your yeast levels.  At the bottom of your SCOBY hotel jar is likely a brown goopy collection of yeast strands, sediment and bits.  When starting your kombucha brew, instead of taking the fleshy SCOBY itself, use a cup of the thickest most concentrated liquid of yeast at the bottom of your hotel.  This is the best way to increase your yeast level without having the bacteria to limit alcohol production.

Increasing Yeast: More Sugar

Since you will have a high concentration of yeast you can now increase the amount of sugar you use in your first fermentation.  Try increasing the sugar used by about 50%.  This will give your yeast more to feed on and increase the fermentation time of your brew.  When bottling, you can also add more sugar than you regularly would in the second fermentation as well.  To increase your chances for alcohol production, use a simple syrup recipe instead of a fruit juice so that the yeasts do not need to break down the fruit components as well.

How Much Alcohol Will I Get?

Using the method above will certainly increase your alcohol content above what a regular brew would.  However, the nature of the yeast and bacteria in kombucha will limit you to the equivalent of a light beer (say 1-3%).  To get your kombucha to an intoxicating level like kombucha beer, wine, mead or cider you will need to get some more equipment.  At this level you will require brewing equipment similar to the items needed for brewing wine or beer: A large carboy, airlock and more alcohol specific yeasts.  We will not go in to full detail about how this process is done but are happy to answer questions if you contact us directly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

We hope that you learned a thing or two about increasing or decreasing the amount of alcohol in your kombucha.  As always, your health comes first and if you are hoping to reduce alcohol levels for a medical condition, please consult with a licensed physician or specialist to determine if kombucha is suitable for you to begin with.  If you are increasing alcohol content in kombucha, do enjoy it with responsibility and never consume too much when driving.  It’s always better to play it safe!
Si vous expérimentez avec vos méthodes de brassage et que vous avez déjà un bon processus en place, nous vous recommandons d’acheter du matériel supplémentaire et de lancer l’expérience en parallèle, afin de ne pas affecter la bonne infusion que vous avez préparée!

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