“I just want everyone to understand the depths of Indian cookery,” says Usha Prabakaran, author of the 20-year-old cookbook “Usha’s Pickle Digest.” The New York Times published the fascinating story behind the woman known as India’s Pickle Queen. Her self published book is a cult classic today, highlighting India’s rich history with pickling and fermenting. “ India’s pickle culture goes back thousands of years to when cucumbers and other vegetables were simply preserved in salt. Modern Indian pickles are more complex and probably more delicious, too — hot and tangy, deeply perfumed with aromatics and ground spices.” 

Read more (The New York Times

By: KEFIRKO

Overfermentation is a phenomenon which is a result of fermentation that lasted too long or had too much culture in it. Read on to get more insight on it and some tips on how to avoid it.

Time is Important!

Usually overfermentation happens when we leave the culture to ferment longer than recommended. For milk kefir that means more than 24 hours and for water 48 hours. With kombucha things are a bit more complicated, since there are very different approaches on how long it should ferment, depending on the individual taste. In our opinion, to make kombucha a great tasting beverage, it’s best to ferment it for 7-10 days.

So, if you exceed the recommended time of fermentation, it’s quite possible your culture will overferment. How will you know if this happened? By the look and taste of it.

The liquid that separates form thicker kefir is whey. It is rich with proteins.

Overfermented Kefir is More Potent

Just by the look you are able to see if overfermentation is happening in your milk kefir. It will become more curdled and you will see separation happening. The liquid whey will separate from more thicker kefir. Additional fermenting time will also change the taste, it will become more sour.

Water kefir will not change much in appearance. When water kefir is finished, it tastes a bit sweet still. If you prefer it more sour you can overferment it. If you leave it for a very long time it may become even to sour to drink.

The same is with kombucha. After long fermentation, it becomes more sour, even vinegar-like in taste. If you overferment kombucha you will also notice it becomes a bit more cloudy.

If you like more sour kombucha just leave it to ferment longer, more than a week.

Why This Happens?

We already mentioned one important factor that leads to overfermentation – time. If you leave the culture in milk/water/tea too long, it will overferment.

This is also connected to temperature of the environment. Higher temperature accelerates the activity of the microorganisms in the ferment. You will notice that in warmer seasons or if you have very warm interior in cold season, the fermentation can be finished even in half time.

Too much culture for the amount of milk/water/tea you are using. If you have more microorganisms in the ferment it’s only logical they will need more food. If you keep the volume of your ferment the same all the time, but the cultures multiply, the ratio will change noticeably. Again the fermentation will be ready faster. Note, it’s not recommended to overcrowd the grains, take away extras regularly. This will ensure activity and well-being of your cultures.

What to do When You Overferment?

If this was not intentional, you probably will not like the taste of kefir or kombucha once it’s overfermented. Here are some ideas what to do with it:

MILK KEFIR

If it’s only slightly separated and you still like the taste, you can just stir it well then strain and use as always. But if the kefir is very curdled and dense, you will probably need a big colander, where you can gently stir the kefir and separate the grains.

If you don’t like the taste of overfermented kefir you can use it in smoothies or as ingredient in other dishes and baking recipes (pancakes with wheybriochemuffins).

WATER KEFIR

You can’t do much to change the taste of water kefir once it gets too sour. You can add sugar or other sweeteners. But maybe using it in smoothies or even for baking, would be better idea (ciabatta).

Water kefir gets more opaque if you ferment it for too long.

KOMBUCHA

The same as with water kefir, you can use the sour kombucha in the smoothies or other refreshing drinks.

You can also leave it to ferment even longer until it gets really sour and then use it as a kombucha vinegar. This means fermenting it a few weeks not just days longer. Some also use this very sour kombucha as a natural cleaning product.

IS OVERFERMENTATION PROBLEMATIC?

Overfermentation basically happens when the grains don’t have enough food, the content of sugar has disappeared. Once all the food is gone the cultures starve. If this happens very often it can pose a threat for the cultures and they may stop growing and multiplying or producing fermented beverage. With fermentation, it’s important to feed the cultures regularly and this ensures having them for a lifetime.

KEFIRKO is a company that designs products for fermentation enthusiasts making their own kefir at home. They make glass jars with specialty lids for making a kefir drink and kefir cheese. KEFIRKO launched their product on Kickstarter 6 years ago, an idea “born from noticing how kefir preparation at home can be quite messy and complicated. Not something most of us would gladly do every day.”

You’ll never find Jon Bertolone, chef of Nourish in Oregon, serving an Impossible Burger. He says there are other ways to be inventive with a savory, plant-based patty. “Umami is something that has sort of driven my culinary journey,” Bertolone says. He’s been experimenting with goram (fermented fish sauce) to capture beef flavor, too. Fermentation, Bertolone says, is “the key to bridging cultures, because every culture has them.”

Read more (The Register-Guard

The same beneficial gut-friendly bacteria prevalent in yogurt is also in some beer, according to new research from scientists at Amsterdam University. Beer brands that ferment twice — once at the brewery, then a second fermentation in the beer bottle — are rich in probiotic yeast. This creates a sharp, dry taste in the beer that is “bursting with probiotic microbes.” Scientists found the brands using in-bottle fermentation use a different strain of yeast than traditional brewer’s yeast. Pasteurized beer and modern beer production processes have no probiotics. Their findings are supported by researchers from the University of Nebraska, who also found some beers contain a high amount of good probiotics. Professor Eric Classeen, a gut bacteria expert from Amsterdam University, said “You are getting a stronger beer that is very, very healthy. … In high concentrations, alcohol is bad for the gut but if you drink just one of these beers every day it would be very good for you.”

Read more (The Telegraph)

“Science is here to explain why fermenting vegetables is not only perfectly safe but also surprisingly easy and rewarding. Spoiler: Microbes do most of the work.

In our hyper-Pasteurian, expiration date-driven era, it might be difficult to relinquish control over our food to these mysterious forces. But a small measure of understanding yields rich rewards: crisp classic sauerkraut, warmly tart beets, bright preserved lemons and just about anything else you can dream up.” Katherine Harmon Courage writes in her article for the Washington Post “Eat Voraciously” section that fermentation adds a depth to fruits and vegetables. Harmon Courage, author of the book Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome

Read more (Washington Post)

By: Dr Miin Chan, BMedSci, MBBS (University of Melbourne)

Good gut health fixes everything! Fermented foods are good for your gut! Fermented foods are a panacea for all that ails you! 

As two behemoth trends in science and food – the gut microbiome and fermented foods – collide, messages such as these inundate the public narrative. But do they serve to educate, or confuse?

Everyone has their pet peeve. Mine is the violation of science to sell products and agendas. Intentional or otherwise, poor science communication distorts food literacy. Nutritional research is vulnerable to extreme manipulation, plagued by methodology issues, historical reputation damage and abuse by powerful commercial interests. In this era of rapid dissemination of alternative facts, it is essential to interpret and communicate research in a clear, accurate manner. These narratives guide our community’s daily food choices and thus, impact personal and public health outcomes.

Nuance and doubt are the key drivers of scientific practice; clickbait headlines and definitive language are the bread and butter of modern journalism and advertising. Private enterprise is the worst offender, exaggerating the health benefits of food products with purposeful vagaries and definitive language. Correlation and association in trials become causation. Studies in rodents equate to human health outcomes. The word “may” makes it acceptable to overstate findings or attribute them to unrelated food products. Labels and catchphrases are used loosely; think “probiotics”, “prebiotics” and the very grey “good for your gut health”. As a marketing strategy, many businesses now employ teams of “experts” to validate their claims’ scientific rigour, obscuring the inherent conflict of interest. These tactics serve to plump bottom lines, dodge government regulations that serve public interest, and ultimately, confuse vulnerable consumers.

Just as concerning are journalists, researchers and scientific publications that, in an effort to stay relevant, adopt the same techniques as their commercial counterparts to garner attention. Usually, this entails overblown health benefits. But sometimes it goes the other way.

Let’s look at a recent article published by The Conversation titled: “Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health” (1). By the time it had been republished in The Independent, as well as several other international news outlets, it had morphed into: “Why fermented foods could cause serious harm to your health”. Such headlines instill fear in readers. Headlines are important: research has shown that 59% of links shared on social networks are not clicked on (2); this means that the majority of people share articles without reading past the headlines. These insidious messages bleed into the collective consciousness and impact our attitudes towards food.

Overall, this is a well-written article, providing mostly appropriate references, but the author is an infectious disease expert, not a food scientist or nutrition researcher. To the average lay reader, her non-related credentials give the article clout and credibility. Lurking within the article are problematic false equivalences, misrepresentations and extrapolations used to bulk out the piece. 

Bloating is an issue for some consumers but is certainly not “harmful” nor “serious”. Reactions to biogenic amines, including histamine, are highlighted. But the article fails to mention that only 1% of the population (3) have histamine intolerance and even fewer have severe reactions. Why include food borne illness? This is a food safety issue and is not more likely to occur in fermented foods. The author even talks about how probiotics in milk products increase their safety, but then states that “probiotics can fail” leading to “hazardous” outcomes due to bacterial toxins, with no evidence to support this.

Lab-produced probiotic strains are not necessarily the same as those found in fermented foods (4). So it is misleading, in this context, to reference limited case reports of probiotic capsules causing infections in immunocompromised patients. There are no recorded infections due to the ingestion of fermented products, and the majority of people are not immunocompromised. 

Last but not least, the author cites antibiotic resistance due to gene transfer from microbes found in fermented foods. The research used to support this looks at particular strains extracted from fermented foods in non-human trials. No evidence is currently available to suggest that such gene transfer occurs when humans ingest fermented food, or that this would promote antibiotic resistance in a clinically significant way. It is irresponsible to include this as a reason why fermented foods may cause harm to human health.

Humans have consumed fermented foods for many human generations. This in itself suggests the safety of fermented foods for the majority of people, and the human clinical trials that have been conducted indicate few side effects, let alone serious ones. 

Fear-mongering headlines and articles exploit poor science literacy in the general population. One has to ask, what is the purpose of such articles? Is it simply a matter of publish or perish, a hankering for a sparkly headline that draws attention?

Food is central to every human’s daily life, with long-term effects on their health and wellbeing. Businesses, journalists, government bodies and most of all, scientists, need to recognise their responsibility to create clear nutritional science narratives. Science and food literacy need to be priorities in our education sector. Government bodies, informed by up-to-date research, must better regulate food-related health claims to protect public interest. We must avoid exaggeration of both benefits and harms and introduce nuance into our science communication. Our health depends on it!

Dr. Miin Chan, BMedSci, MBBS (University of Melbourne) As a medical doctor & researcher obsessed with taste, food culture, ferments and nutrition, Miin founded Australia’s first tibicos business, Dr. Chan’s. She helped to create the local wild fermentation industry through products, education, science communication and consultation. Working with farmers’ markets, Slow Food Melbourne and urban agriculture charity Sustain, she has a deep love for all things food, from soil to gut. Engaged in a love affair with microbes, Miin is undertaking a PhD at the University of Melbourne researching the effects of fermented foods on chronic disease via gut microbiota. @dr.chans @slowferment @gastronomymagic 

(1) Mohammed, M. Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health. The Conversation 2019. https://theconversation.com/kombucha-kimchi-and-yogurt-how-fermented-foods-could-be-harmful-to-your-health-126131

(2) Gabielkov M, Ramachandran A, Chaintreau A, et al. Social clicks: what and who gets read on Twitter? ACM SIGMETRICS/ IFIP Performance 2016. Antibes Juan-les-Pins, France (Conference Paper) https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01281190

(3) Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007; 85(5):1185-1196 https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185

(4) Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, et al. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2017;44:94-102 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27998788

Fermentation is becoming a flavorful and cost-effective technique for food companies to make plant-based proteins with reduced sugar. Food Business News highlights numerous companies using fermentation in their processing to make a product with less sugar. Florida Food Products is using a lactic acid fermentation process, lowing sugar content in beet juice by 10%. Christopher Naese, the vice president of business development, says: “The result is a clean label ingredient with a fresh flavor and light sweetness coupled with beet’s inherent health benefits. Fermented beet juice is an opportunity to offer on-trend label benefits for health-conscious consumers while delivering appealing taste attributes along with lower sugar content and a simple label declaration.” Besides lowering sugar content, the fermentation process also lowers the beet juice’s pH, which results in a brighter flavor with red berry notes and a less earthy taste, he said. “Though long established in Eastern European, African and Asian cuisines, fermented flavors have only recently captured American consumers’ taste interest, and while there appears to be widespread interest in fermented foods and beverages, this trend toward global flavors is driven mainly by adults under 40 years old.”

Read more (Food Business News)


Food movements from the past decade have changed how we are eating. Fermenting is one of the trend-defining innovations (and resurrections), according to a list by The Sunday Times in Britain. The article, titled “We foraged, we fermented, we went vegan” — the decade that changed the way we eat,” highlights the “real increase in locality and seasonality; a revival of the crafts of foraging and pickling and fermenting.” Author Marina O’Loughlin’s other food moments from the past 10 years: diners desiring independent restaurants instead of chains, an explosion of regional food (think Sichaunese or Hunanese restaurants instead of Asian), “dinner got cool” with food festivals and food trucks, veganism turned mainstream (same with nut milk, alternative meat products, zero waste and organic produce) and people are avoiding imported ingredients. Media is changing the restaurant scene, too. Netflix, The Food Channel and social media turned food photos into art.

Read more (The Sunday Times)

A feel good story from a fermentation dogooder — an anonymous sourdough baker in Washington DC is delivering free sourdough boules to lucky recipients on Twitter. The mysterious Samaritan posts a photo of the daily bread on Twitter (@FermentDC), then delivers it via bike to the first responder. Their Twitter bio reads “Fermentation without representation” and their purpose is to brighten someone’s day. The idea has now spawned another sourdough giveaway account in Durham, N.C. (@FermentDurm).

Read more (The Washingtonian)

Civil Eats declares: “Tempeh, the ‘OG of Fermented Foods,’ Is Having a Moment.” More artisanal tempeh producers are selling around the country, and restaurants are beginning to sell tempeh-based dishes. The founder of Tofurky (Seth Tibbott) says tempeh is one of the company’s fastest-growing product lines, increasing 17% from 2017 to 2018. Pictured is Tibbot in front of his first tempeh incubator, in 1980.

Read more (Civil Eats)