Kombucha tea is a popular drink that is said to have numerous health benefits. However, there are concerns about whether it is safe to drink kombucha tea, particularly due to its potential for contamination. Kombucha is a fermented food, so it can harbor harmful bacteria if it is not made or stored properly. For this reason, some kombucha brands choose to pasteurize their kombucha products.
Pasteurized kombucha will not contain the live and active cultures that raw kombucha does, but it will be free of any harmful bacteria. Pasteurized kombucha is safe to drink and should pose no health risks. But what does pasteurization involve, and is it really necessary? This blog post will explore the pasteurization process and help you decide if this step is right for you.
Kombucha, A Living Beverage
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from sweetened tea and a “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY ferments the tea, and over the course of several weeks, kombucha becomes a lightly effervescent, slightly acidic beverage. Kombucha is rich in probiotics, vitamins, and minerals, and it has been consumed for centuries for its supposed health benefits.
Although kombucha is generally safe to drink, there are some safety concerns that you should be aware of. Kombucha is a fermented food, and like all fermented foods, it can harbor harmful bacteria if it is not made or stored properly. These harmful bacteria can cause food poisoning, and in rare cases, they can even be deadly.
For this reason, it is important to take precautions when making kombucha at home and to only purchase kombucha from reputable manufacturers who follow proper food safety procedures. Some manufacturers choose to pasteurize their kombucha products as an additional safety measure.
Health benefits of kombucha tea
While there is some evidence to support the health benefits associated with kombucha, it’s worth noting that a lot of the research is anecdotal.
Some benefits of Kombucha include:
- Aiding in digestion – Kombucha tea is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health.
- Boosting the immune system – The vitamins and minerals in kombucha tea can help to boost the immune system.
- Detoxifying the body – Kombucha tea is said to be a good way to detox the body, due to its high levels of antioxidants.
- Reducing inflammation – Kombucha tea can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- Improving joint health – The glucosamines in kombucha tea can help to improve joint health.
- Fighting cancer cells – Some studies have shown that kombucha tea may help fight cancer cells.
Kombucha Brewing Process (Steps)
The brewing of kombucha is simple. Here are the steps to take:
- Boil water and steep tea bags or loose-leaf tea in a teapot.
- Remove tea bags or leaves and add sugar to the hot tea, stirring until dissolved.
- Let the sweetened tea cool to room temperature.
- Pour the sweetened tea into a clean glass jar or fermentation vessel, then add the kombucha starter culture (SCOBY).
- Cover the jar with a coffee filter or cloth napkin secured with a rubber band, and set it aside in a warm, dark place to ferment for 7-10 days.
- After 7-10 days, taste your kombucha to see if it’s ready. If it’s too sweet for your liking, let it ferment for a few more days.
- Once it reaches your desired level of sweetness, remove the SCOBY from the jar and set it aside. You can save it to use for future batches of kombucha, or you can give it to a friend who also brews kombucha.
- To bottle your kombucha, sterilize swing-top bottles or jars by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. Then, using a funnel, pour the kombucha into the bottles, leaving about an inch of headspace at the top.
- Seal the bottles and set them aside in a cool, dark place to carbonate for 1-2 weeks.
- Once the kombucha ferment is carbonated to your liking, refrigerate it to stop the fermentation process.
- Enjoy your kombucha.
Fermentation is the process by which yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates into alcohol or organic acids, giving them a certain level of alcohol content. This process occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, and it is also used to produce beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, and pickles.
The fermentation of kombucha tea produces a variety of acids, including acetic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, and usnic acid. These acids give kombucha its tart, sour flavor and also contribute to its health benefits. Acetic acid, which is the main acid in kombucha, has antimicrobial properties and can help to kill harmful bacteria in the gut. Gluconic acid is a type of probiotic that helps to improve gut health. Lactic acid can help reduce inflammation, and usnic acid is an antioxidant that can help fight cancer cells.
Fermentation is a crucial step in the preparation of kombucha. Starter culture (SCOBY) ferments the sweetened tea over the course of 7-10 days, turning it into kombucha. The SCOBY consumes most of the sugar during fermentation, which is why kombucha has a slightly sweet/sour taste.
With kombucha, fermentation time may vary depending on the temperature of your brewing environment. Kombucha will ferment more quickly in warmer temperatures, and slower in cooler temperatures. This is because the bacteria and yeast that make up the SCOBY are more active in warm temperatures.
Kombucha labeling requirements
Kombucha products must be labeled in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDA) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. The label must include the product name, the net contents, the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor, and any required nutrition information.
The FDA has specific guidelines that all manufacturers must follow. These guidelines include:
- The use of the word “fermented” on the product label.
- The inclusion of a statement that identifies the presence of live microorganisms in the product.
- The use of the phrase “contains live and active cultures” on the product label.
- The use of an expiration date on the product label.
It is a natural beverage rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It contains live bacteria and yeast cultures that are beneficial for gut health.
The fermentation process of kombucha creates carbonation or production of carbon dioxide, so kombucha is slightly effervescent. It is also slightly acidic, with a pH of <4.6 and an alcohol content not exceeding 0.5%.
Kombucha ingredients include:
- Tea: Black, green, or white tea leaves are used to brew kombucha.
- Sugar: Sugar is needed for the fermentation process.
- SCOBY: A Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, also known as a “mother” or “mushroom”. The SCOBY is a living organism that ferments the sweetened tea and creates kombucha.
- Starter Culture: A small amount of fermented kombucha tea is used to start the fermentation process.
- Flavorings: Fruit, herbs, or spices can be added for flavor.
Water: filtered or spring water is best.
What Is Pasteurization Of Kombucha?
Pasteurization is a heat treatment process that kills harmful bacteria in food and beverages. This process was developed by Louis Pasteur in the 19th century as a way to prevent food spoilage and disease.
Pasteurization involves heating the actual kombucha to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time, then cooling it rapidly. This kills any harmful bacteria that may be present, but it also destroys the live and active cultures in the kombucha. As a result, pasteurized kombucha will not have the same probiotic benefits as raw kombucha.
This involves holding the products at a lower temperature for a slightly longer period of time, mostly 30 minutes. This method is less likely to damage the probiotic bacteria, but it may not be as effective at killing harmful bacteria. It also does not chemically alter the ingredients.
This involves holding the kombucha at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. This method is more effective at killing harmful bacteria, but it can also damage the probiotic bacteria. In addition, this process alters the chemical structure of the kombucha and can change its flavor.
- Ultra-pasteurized (UP) 280 F for 2 seconds – this process uses the highest temperatures and is used for products that have a long shelf life, such as milk.
- Higher Heat Shorter Time (HHST) 161 F for 15 seconds – this process is used for products that are very heat-sensitive, such as juices.
- Ultra-high temperature (UHT) 275-300 F for 2 seconds – this is the highest pasteurization temperature and is used for products that need to be sterile, such as infant formula.
Why Pasteurize Kombucha?
Kombucha needs to be pasteurized to make it safe for consumption. Although the SCOBY will remove harmful bacteria from the tea, there is always a risk of contamination during the brewing process. Safety is the number one priority when it comes to food and beverages.
Pasteurization also extends the shelf life of kombucha by preventing further fermentation. This means that you can store pasteurized kombucha for longer without it going bad. Raw kombucha only has a shelf life of 7-10 days, while pasteurized kombucha can last for 3-6 months. This is because the live bacteria and yeast cultures are destroyed during the pasteurization process.
Pasteurized kombucha is also less likely to cause digestive issues than raw kombucha. This is because the live bacteria and yeast cultures can sometimes be difficult for the body to digest. Pasteurization helps to break down these microorganisms, making them easier for the body to absorb.
Raw Unpasteurized vs. Pasteurized Kombucha
Raw kombucha contains live and active cultures, which are beneficial for gut health. It is also slightly acidic and effervescent due to the fermentation process.
Pasteurized kombucha does not contain live and active cultures, and it is not as acidic or effervescent as raw kombucha. However, it has a longer shelf life and is less likely to spoil.
Pasteurized kombucha is the better choice if you are looking for a safe and shelf-stable product. However, raw kombucha is a healthier option overall due to its probiotic benefits.
Does the taste of Kombucha change when pasteurized?
The taste of kombucha does change when it is pasteurized. The fermentation process gives kombucha its slightly acidic, effervescent taste. Pasteurization kills the live and active cultures in kombucha, so it will taste less acidic and effervescent than raw kombucha.
Does pasteurized kombucha have probiotics?
Pasteurized kombucha does not have probiotics because the pasteurization process kills the live and active cultures in the kombucha. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are good for gut health. However, pasteurized kombucha is still a healthy beverage because it contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Does kombucha promote good bacteria?
Kombucha does promote good bacteria because it contains live and active cultures. These cultures are beneficial for gut health and help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. Kombucha also contains introduced probiotics during manufacturing, which are beneficial bacteria that help to improve digestion and boost immunity.
So, what is the pasteurization of kombucha? In short, it’s a process that kills off any harmful bacteria in the tea while preserving the probiotics and other beneficial elements. This makes pasteurized kombucha safer to drink and helps ensure that it will have a longer shelf life. While some people argue that raw kombucha is better for you, there’s no doubt that pasteurized kombucha still offers plenty of benefits. If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy beverage to enjoy every day, pasteurized kombucha is definitely worth checking out.
Edward A. Michalski Bio
Ed Michalski started his career in the beverage industry by designing stainless steel, higher flow, spray headers for Pabst Brewing. Along with the header design he also developed a process to produce the new headers.
Ed, along with his brother David, formed PRO Engineering/Manufacturing, Inc.
Based on what they learned by re-designing and refurbishing other manufacturers’ pasteurizers, Ed and PRO started to offer the pasteurizer marketplace superior new pasteurizers, specifically tunnel pasteurizers and batch pasteurizers
PRO Engineering/Manufacturing has been designing and manufacturing great pasteurizers for over four decades.
PRO Engineering and Manufacturing was established in 1977 by Ed and Dave Michalski as a steel fabrication shop. For more than 40 years, PRO Engineering and Manufacturing, Inc. has been delivering solutions for beverage product shelf stability and consumption safety. As leading innovators in post-fill pasteurization, our skilled team offers the best in high-quality pasteurization equipment.
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