FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT ARE KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA?
They are probiotic drinks that are made by fermenting liquids using SCOBY (symbiotic colonies of yeasts and bacteria) cultures. They are believed to help aid digestion system, strengthen immunity, and detoxify body by ways of gut microflora. Read here for more info on kefir and here for kombucha.
WHY SHOULD I DRINK KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA?
Drinking kefir and kombucha promotes better health by detoxifying and improving the efficiency of your digestive system which boosts immunity. All fermented foods are good for you in this regard. In fact, choose varieties of probiotic-laden fermented food (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natto, milk kefir, yogurt, tempeh and list is on and on), to build diversity in your gut microflora. Let your palate be your guide.
ARE KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA SAFE FOR KIDS?
Kids love kombucha and kefir because they remind them of soda pops. Health studies show that high consumption of sugary commercial soda and boxed drinks has negative impacts on school kids’ performances. Sugar contents in kombucha and kefir are much lower (2-8 grams per cups as compared to 39 grams in soda). Packaged or boxed tea beverages sold ubiquitously on Jakarta streets and supermarket also contain plenty of sugar, and worse, artificial sugar and preservatives - so choose carefully tea beverages you will hand to your kids.
There are contamination concerns in homemade kombucha and kefir as they are kept raw and unpasteurized to keep probiotics alive, so only buy unpasteurized kombucha and kefir made by reputable brewers. Rule of thumbs is, if you let your kids eat raw fermented food (such as yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut), chances are kombucha and kefir will not be a leap.
Active probiotics in kombucha and kefir are believed to help mental state and digestive system in kids (especially after antibiotic regiments). Michelle Crowder, ND, senior naturopath at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, MI, even calls the connection between fermented foods and mental health “a very active and exciting area of research.”
HOW MUCH SHOULD I DRINK KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA AND WHEN IS THE BEST TIME?
If you are a complete beginner, it is recommended to begin drinking half a cup to a cup 2X a day with a bit of food, followed by plenty of water to flush the toxins. Over time, you can increase your intake as your body craves it, and eventually try to drink it on an empty stomach to increase absorption, after your body adjusts to them.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO DRINK KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA TO GET THE BENEFITS?
In general, slow and steady is a better strategy than hit and run. Probiotic regiment is a holistic approach, that requires us to build a healthy gut flora to boost immunity. Half-a-cup twice a day for two weeks is better than a liter one day then quit.
Having said that, some people reported the positive feeling after first cup, but every experience is unique for each individual.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE: KOMBUCHA, PROBIOTIC MIX, OR MILK KEFIR?
Kombucha, Probiotic Mix (water kefir + kombucha), or Milk Kefir, each contains different varieties of probiotic strains that are very beneficial for our gut health.
Ideally, we maintain 400-1000 good bacteria in our digestive system. Modern lifestyle does very little to help maintain microbial diversity in our gut. Fast food, over-processed frozen dinners, limited variety dinners, fried food, food with preservatives, lots of sugar and unhealthy fats, galvanize opportunistic bacteria to take over our gut causing sickness. Good bacteria thrives on fresh, fiber-laden, colorful fruits and vegetables, roots, beans, and active probiotics. Maintaining a rich and diversed gut microbiome help ward off diseases and sickness by boosting our immunity.
Kombucha is believed to contain 10-15 probiotic strains, whereas water kefir 15-30, and milk kefir 30. Our idea of combining kombucha and water kefir in a probiotic mix is precisely for a good measure of probiotic strains in one bottle. Combining our drink line with other probiotic-rich food (e.g, yogurt, miso, kimchi, natto) plus fresh fiber-rich fruit and vegetable is advisable.
Between kombucha, probiotic mix, and milk kefir? Let your palate be your guide. Kombucha and probiotic mix are vegan and dairy free, perfect for those avoiding animal products. Milk kefir is creamy, delicious and satisfying, perfect for those on Paleo and Keto diet.
ARE KOMBUCHA AND KEFIR SAFE for ulcer sufferers?
Many believes that ulcer sufferers should not drink kombucha and kefir because their sourness will erode further the thin lining in the stomach.
On the contrary, actually, even if it sounds counter-intuitive.
In general, foods may be classified in relation to the metabolic process as acid alkaline. Kombucha and kefir are considered alkalizing (alkaline forming food), which means they affect the body to increase the pH condition after being digested. Also, live probiotics in kombucha and kefir actually help normalize digestive system by balancing the gut flora and restoring stomach lining. So go ahead, try drinking them, starting slowly with quarter-a-cup twice a day.
HELP! WHY IS MY MILK KEFIR SEPARATING AND CURDY?
Kefir grains are extremely active and strong and as the fermented milk sits longer, the kefir will start to separate into whey and curds. It can create quite a panic for people and they fear there are something wrong with their milk kefir. Many will throw this over-fermented kefir out. Don’t do that, it’s still good!
First, it is not ruined, it is just past creamy and sour (or sometimes it becomes so effervescent that it pops when you open the bottle). This is not bad - it is just, well, maybe less appealing. Weather, temperature, variations in lactose sugar in milk used in fermentation, are major factors in natural fermentation of kefir.
Second, transit time and carrier condition from producers to consumers are also important factors. Hot, humid, weather will let kefir ferment further during transport. Unless milk kefir is under refrigeration at all times, we run the risk of separating kefir. Again, it is not bad. Use them in smoothies, or blend them in a blender to drink, or strain and make a batch of kefir cheese (add mash garlic, salt pepper, and herbs of your choice), or make kefir mask for a glowing soft skin.
SOMETIMES THERE IS A FLOATING JELLY-FISH LIKE SUBSTANCE IN MY KOMBUCHA BOTTLE, WHAT’S THAT?
Kombucha was also known in Asia as jelly-fish tea, because of SCOBY floaters that sometimes develop inside the vessel. NO WORRIES though, they are formation of cultures indicating that your kombucha is alive and kicking! And those floaters are basically the power house of probiotics. So ingest them and skip probiotic pills for real, or strain them, whatever your heart desires.
HOW MUCH IS ALCOHOL CONTENT IN KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA?
It’s true fermentation process does create some alcohol. As yeast consumes and ferments sugar to produce CO2 and ethanol (along with that distinct probiotic tang), some alcohol remains in the final product. It is a constant cycle and thus the alcohol in kefir and kombucha is self-limiting, unlike beer or wine, which are intentionally brewed to have higher alcohol content. Because real kefir and kombucha are naturally fermented and not pasteurized to kill the beneficial yeast and bacteria, the trace amount of alcohol in kefir and kombucha varies from brew to brew.
When you brew at home, primary fermentation (pre-flavors) alcohol content will likely be less than 0.5% (allowing them to be called non-alcoholic under strict guideline since ripened fruits will likely have higher alcohol content than this).
When in doubt, ask your commercial brewer to test the alcohol content from time to time. Getting drunk on kefir and kombucha is unlikely, however, because you have to drink A LOT (!) to feel the buzz. Having said that, consult experts whenever doubts arise for related religious reasons.
DO WE HAVE TO USE SUGAR IN KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA MAKING?
There are wide concerns over the use of sugar in kefir and kombucha fermentation process. However, the sugar is not for you.
SCOBY cultures either via acid hydrolysis or by producing enzymes cleave sugar into glucose and fructose. The glucose portion is what we are interested in as glucose is the energy source of our biological cells, and the energy source of our probiotics.
The synergy of the yeasts cleaving the sugar and the bacteria producing acids results in the common denominator that defines kombucha tea: acetic acid, gluconic acid and fructose, with myriad of probiotic strains. When done fermenting, kefir and kombucha contain 2-4 grams sugar per cup. Adding some flavors might bump up the numbers to 8 grams. By contrast, an 8 ounce glass of orange juice has about 24g of sugar, while natural carrot juices have 13g per cup.
ARE KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA SAFE FOR DIABETICS?
Kefir and kombucha contain gut-friendly bacteria or probiotics that may aid in digestion and boost the immune system. Kefir and kombucha haven't been extensively studied in humans but lab tests indicate that it may have a positive impact on blood sugar (read here).
In laboratory study, diabetic rats were orally supplied with kombucha and black tea and their bloods were collected and submitted to various measurements, including blood glucose, cholesterol, triglcerides, urea, creatinine, transaminases, transpeptidase, lipase, and amylase activities. The findings revealed that kombucha consumption induced curative effects on diabetic rats, particularly in terms of liver-kidney functions. Kombucha can be considered as a potential strong candidate for future application as a functional supplement for the treatment and prevention of diabetes.
With its low-cal, low-sugar nutritional profile, sparkling kefir and kombucha are great soda substitutes for people with diabetes. And unlike artificially sweetened diet drinks, kefir and kombucha are natural products with built-in health and nutrition benefits.
ARE KEFIR AND KOMBUCHA SAFE FOR PREGNANT AND NURSING WOMEN?
This is one of hotly debated areas in the fermented food world. There are some concerns to consider, and many benefits to weigh in. Concerns over contamination is fair, yet live probiotics will help relieve constipation, heartburn, indigestion, cramps, and sleeplessness. However, pregnancy and breastfeeding are very personal experience, and even when we tend to say yes, fermented food is safe for pregnant, nursing women, and their babies, we will invite you to listen to your bodies, consult with experts and proceed with caution.