(Visit Mannanova Solutions during KombuchaKon at Booth #300)
We speak with kombucha brewers every day, and at every step of their journey. From homebrewers encouraged by friends and families to start selling their kombucha, all the way to large commercial brewers.
A lot of the homebrewers wonder: “what are some steps I can implement *now* to run a more professional operation”?
Here are three tips for homebrewers looking to simplify their production process, and stabilize their product.
1. SCOBY Comes in Two Phases
In the homebrewing world, we’ve put such an emphasis on the mother that when we scale up to commercial production, we kinda feel bad telling people to “throw momma in the trash”…
The truth of the matter is that the SCOBY is also present in the liquid phase (ie “starter”) as in the solid phase. KBI recently updated their Code of Practice to reflect this terminology. The bacteria and yeast in your starter will coalesce and form a pellicule. The more SCOBY that is produced, the more sour your kombucha will get: they go hand in hand. We like to always throw a few pieces into a brew for old time’s sake, as it helps the fermentation, but it’s fine if you don’t have any.
We suggest people brew a new starter with 10-20% of pre-existing starter (pH 2.8 – 3.2), but without feeling like they have to drag all of their SCOBY from batch to batch. A healthy brew will create a new SCOBY, which is good visual feedback regarding the state of your fermentation.
We compost our SCOBY; others use it to make gummies, dog food, or even “paper”! It’s cellulose: as insoluble fiber it can’t be digested by the human body, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious (think of bubble gum; or wet newspaper, a delicacy in our region*!).
If you prefer the continuous brew method, we suggest doing 3 brews, then chucking most of your solid SCOBY and doing a deep clean of the fermenter before brewing again.
2. Force-Carbonate for Increased Stability and Lower Alcohol
Cornelius keg (left) with CO2 bottle and attached regulator
The beauty of homebrewed kombucha is the black-box fun about it: throw everything together, let it ferment, flavour, bottle, let it carbonate at room temperature and voilà, kombucha! This is great fun at home, and makes for delicious, always-different, slightly boozy kombucha. You’re also crossing your fingers at every step and hoping things go well.
Obviously, crossing your fingers when producing hundreds of liters is not a reasonable strategy, and product stability (and alcohol!) is probably the chief concern of budding brewers.
One way to “lock in” your kombucha is to force-carbonate it: by using a CO2 canister to add bubbles, you’re not giving it the chance to bottle ferment at room temperature over a few days. Bottle fermentation, when everything goes right (🤞), makes for great bubbles, a complex taste… and a good dose of alcohol. When everything goes wrong, it can lead to off-flavours, over-carbonation or even a completely flat kombucha. By force-carbonating, you can ensure consistency across hundreds or thousands of bottles. Your customer can pop that cap knowing they’ll get a delicious, bubbly, low-alcohol kombucha that tastes like you intended.
3. Leave Your Kombucha out on the Counter to Test Shelf-life
As a rule of thumb, kombucha ferments 30x faster at room temperature vs inside a fridge – that’s why it must be refrigerated; to slow down the organisms that drive the fermentation. That means that one day outside is similar to one month in the fridge. You can use this rule to build a time-machine and visit your kombucha in the future, in order to see how it’ll evolve over many months in a fridge (for example, to set a “Best by” date). Here’s how:
- Take 6-12 soda bottles (Perrier, Coke, etc.) and fill them with a bit of kombucha (say, 200 ml). We recommend plastic bottles to be able to squeeze them to feel the gas build up.
- Label them 1, 2, 3, etc. and leave them at room temperature in your lab or on your counter.
- After one day, open bottle 1. Pour in a glass and measure pH and Brix. Log the values, as well as things like carbonation level, colour, smell, etc. Taste it. This is your kombucha after one month in the fridge.
- Open one bottle per day to understand how your product is evolving, and at which point it no longer reaches your standards (it becomes overcarbonated, it tastes off, etc.). That’s your best-by date! So if bottle 8 is opened on Day 8 and is the first one out of spec, you’d set a best-before date at 7 months.
Note: obviously, this “time machine” works better when the brew is homogenous and if you’ve previously force-carbonated (so that it’s “good” at Day 0).
Mannanova helps small, medium and large kombucha producers launch and scale their production.
We do this thanks to in-person workshops, the online Kombucha Masterclass and consulting mandates.
We also produce Manna-K, a kombucha base that stabilizes fermentation in order to minimize alcohol and exploding bottles. It’s ideal for ensuring a consistent product, scaling your production and simplifying your life! Some applications of Manna-K are considered “from concentrate” according to the Kombucha Code of Practice and have their own labeling requirements depending on how it is used. Ask your representative for more details.
You can reach us at email@example.com
By: Emily Kozlowski
Brand Marketer, BrewLogix
(Visit BrewLogix during KombuchaKon at Booth #311/410)
Kombucha brewers are very familiar with the data points inside their breweries that keep batches consistent and help sales grow. However, in the 24/7 world of brewing, you may not be aware of the many data points outside the brewery that could provide a boost to your spirit when the HVAC fails and the bottlers call in sick. For those moments, check out these encouraging trends, lifestyles, and consumer preferences that will inspire you to power through!
Healthy living and mindful drinking are common resolutions in the new year. From Dry January to clean diets and fitness memberships, people want to start the year how they want to live: healthy. What if these habits are more than just a new year resolution? Evidence shows for the Gen Z and Millennial generations, this increasing effort toward healthy living adds momentum to the upward trajectory for kombucha.
“Consumers want to be really focused on what they’re putting in their bodies,” shares Nielson Senior Vice President Kim Cox in an interview with Insider. “In general, there’s been such a huge trend over the last several years towards lower sugar, lower carb, lower calorie in the beverages space.”
Mirroring the mindful drinking trends found in Nielson survey data, the latest Annual Consumer Survey from the Brewers Association reveals motivating facts for kombucha brewers and distributors. According to figure 1, interest in low-calorie, organic drinks with health-centric and local ingredients are of top interest amongst 21-34 year-olds. Although this data is based on beer drinking patterns, it’s very relevant to kombucha. Whether you’re enjoying non-alcoholic or hard kombucha, these interests reveal the perfect pairing between kombucha and the newest members of the legal drinking age market segment.
Not only are consumers seeking healthier beverage options – data tells us they’re also on the hunt for diverse flavors. Many kombucha brands fuse raw kombucha with fruits, herbs, and spices to create bold and innovative experiences. Kombucha’s blossoming flavor profiles are a perfect match to this year’s 2022 emerging flavor trends.
“Fruit, botanical, and fresh flavors will drive new product innovation in 2022 as consumers continue to seek out immune-boosting food and beverages,” predicts Beck Flavors. These emerging flavors have a healthy connotation and align with the growth of consumer preference toward functional beverages with positive health benefits.
Beck Flavors is not the only one to predict these rising flavor trends. In their 2021 Mid-Year Craft Survey, the Brewers Association identified crisp, juicy/hazy, and fruity as the top interest flavor categories. Consumers of all ages are seeking new flavor experiences. Gen Z and Millennials are more interested in fruity and juicy/hazy flavors, while consumers ages 21-65+ are especially interested in crisp flavors.
Consumers are craving drinks with tastes that are typically found in kombucha: fresh, fruity, and crisp (clean, light, and refreshing). Many flavor-forward kombucha brands are innovating unique flavor fusions to constantly provide new experiences to their customers.
In the on-premise environment where BrewLogix® examines the performance data of products on draft, one particular trend boosts the outlook for kombucha: the demand for local craft. In fact, today’s top-performing draft programs share a key leading indicator of success: the volume of locally or regionally crafted brews. The preference for local is popular enough among consumers, that even craft beer taprooms welcome “guest taps” of other local breweries (including kombucheries) to expand their local offerings. This is a significant opportunity for kombucha brewers to reach customers who may not otherwise have exposure to locally-crafted kombucha.
Digging deeper into over 1 billion ounces of draft data, BrewLogix® found that “variety” is a critical factor driving the appreciation for local craft. Today’s consumers want to experience their beverages as well as try new flavor profiles. Local craft kombucha on tap helps beverage managers achieve their goals while serving the demand for variety consumers crave.
According to Fortune Business Insights (Figure 2), “the global kombucha market size stood at USD 1.84 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 10.45 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 23.2% during the forecast period.”
Today, online behavioral data can also be a predictive indicator of growth. Google Trends data, for example, shows online searches for “kombucha” have been gradually increasing in popularity over the years. SEMRush, an online marketing insights tool, reports that global monthly search volume for “kombucha” is currently 11 times greater than global search volume for “immune boosters” and 1.5 times greater than “probiotics”. These search behaviors may indicate that a wider array of consumers are growing in their understanding of kombucha and its health-boosting properties. As Gen Z and Millennials fuel the movement for healthier, sober curious lifestyles, the market will only continue to rise.
You know the saying – “when one door closes, another opens.” Due to the pandemic, many businesses have had no choice but to close their doors. Fortunately for the kombucha industry, the pandemic has opened the minds of consumers to fermented foods and beverages that are both functional as well as delicious. This reaffirms optimistic projections for the growth of the industry. Between the pandemic and the wellness movement powered by the younger generations, the overall demand for healthy alternatives has contributed greatly to the growth of the kombucha market.
A Bright Future for Kombucha
Overall, these emerging trends, lifestyles, and consumer preferences should encourage those who brew, distribute, or serve kombucha. As you sip on your next glass of kombucha, take a moment to appreciate the delicious beverage produced inside your brewery. Then reflect on the rich data outside your brewery that makes an exciting case for the future of your brand.
Author Emily Kozlowski is a Brand Marketer at BrewLogix®, a technology company transforming on premise data for the benefit of the independent craft community. Connect with her via email, LinkedIn, or in person at KombuchaKon 2022 in Long Beach, CA.
By Bill Nootenboom
President, Stout Tanks & Kettles
Visit Stout Tanks at Booth #107
Kombucha brewers have long struggled to keep the alcohol content of their kombucha low. Federal law is clear: If kombucha EVER exceeds 0.5% Alcohol By Volume (“ABV”), at any point in the production process, then all Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) regulations regarding alcoholic beverages apply. Compliance can be costly and difficult. You must register with the TTB, get all of your recipes and labels approved, pay all applicable state and federal taxes, and comply with the rules about how your product can be stored, distributed and sold. The only way to avoid the taxes and regulations is to make sure the ABV is ALWAYS below 0.5%. Most Kombucha producers want to provide compliant products to provide peace of mind for their customers who are seeking low alcohol beverages to share with their family or those who do not consume alcohol.
Stout Tanks and Kettles has been working with Bare Bucha, a kombucha brewery in Waco, Texas that took the ABV challenge seriously. Toby Tull and David Aycock, the owners of Bare Bucha, conducted over 800 tests of different batches in prototype stainless steel fermenting vessels manufactured by Stout Tanks in order to figure out how to best produce legal, low-alcohol kombucha. The result: The Symbiosis FermenterTM, a one-of-a-kind patent-pending kombucha brewing vessel that ferments faster, reduces alcohol content, and makes it easier to comply with federal laws.
Innovating The Symbiosis FermenterTM required a return to the fundamentals of fermentation. kombucha is fermented with a SCOBY, or a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Kombucha uses both yeast and bacteria to ferment the beverage. Yeast convert sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The bacteria use oxygen to convert the alcohol into organic acids, including acetic acid, lactic acid, and gluconic acid. David and Toby realized early on that creating a balanced symbiosis of bacteria and yeast was the key to using nature to keep alcohol levels under the legal limit, and provide healthy and flavorful kombucha, with all its probiotic benefits.
When Toby Tull and David Aycock started Bare Bucha in Waco Texas, they were unapologetically pro-probiotic. They loved the health benefits that kombucha offered, full of healthy bacteria and organic acids. And they were also committed to following the rules, and creating a product that proudly complied with all rules. They wanted to use nature itself, and the symbiotic power of the community of microbes in kombucha. They did not want to dilute their kombucha with water before bottling to meet the 0.5% ABV requirement. They did not want to rely on million dollar machines to remove the alcohol with an industrial distillation process. They also did not want to pasteurize their kombucha at any point in the process in order to kill the yeast before they could create more alcohol. Killing the yeast with pasteurization removes the very biotics that make kombucha probiotic.
In the course of over 800 tests, Bare Bucha found that fermentation in traditional cylindrical shaped fermenters favors the alcohol producing yeasts. Cylindrical fermenters capture carbon dioxide from the yeast, which displaces the oxygen that bacteria need, thereby skewing the kombucha toward yeast and alcohol and away from oxygen and bacteria. Kombucha yeast includes largely Brettanomyces species, which are not typically present in beer, and are usually associated with off-flavors of wine. These yeasts start consuming sugars and creating alcohol long before the bacteria can get going. The shape of the traditional fermenter means that the bacteria are always behind the curve. Hundreds of fermentation tests in traditional fermenters show that the yeast start fermenting early, reducing sugars, and creating alcohol. The bacteria take much longer to start consuming alcohol and creating acetic acid.
When testing the Symbiosis Fermenter™, which features a unique shape, Bare Bucha found the bacteria were able to get ahead of the curve, and start consuming alcohol before it exceeded the legal limit, and creating more acetic acid sooner. The result was that they were able to reach their desired flavor profiles more quickly, with the same levels of organic acids as produced in a traditional fermenter, and also never exceed the legal limit for alcohol. Bare Bucha was able to achieve its desired flavor profile after only 14 days of fermentation in a Symbiosis FermenterTM. In a traditional cylindrical fermenter, it takes over 40 days to get the alcohol levels and organic acid levels to the proper result. This allows Bare Bucha to use less sugar and less time to achieve the same flavor and probiotic result, and never exceed the current ABV limit.
The Symbiosis FermenterTM is a new shape of fermentation vessel engineered especially for kombucha. The bacteria primarily responsible for consuming the alcohol are Komagataeibacter species, which require oxygen to metabolize alcohol and ferment best at the surface.. To directly accommodate this behavior, we created a shallow pan with an open top creating a large surface area to give the Komagataeibacter bacteria access to oxygen so they can thrive. The bacteria perform best in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so we created a single walled pan that allows the kombucha to absorb heat from the surrounding air. Brewers can control the heat by increasing the ambient temperature of their fermentation room.
Stout Tanks is proud of this collaboration and are glad to be able to offer this significant step forward in commercial kombucha fermentation. It’s a big win for those who want to brew authentic, traditional, live and raw kombucha product we all love while maintaining low ABV without additional processing stepsFor more about The Symbiosis Fermenter™, please visit us online at www.StoutTanks.com or contact us directly at (503) 972-9580.