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.”

At this week’’s Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, Mintel research announced what a senior analyst called a “major milestone” — specialty food and beverage sales account for 16% of all food and beverage sales, with a record year of growth at $148.7 billion.

The biggest drivers of the specialty food market are 1) functional drinks aiding the microbiome, 2) snacks rich in protein and low in sugar, 3) plant-based foods with unique innovation and 4) international sauces and seasonings from  new regions of the globe.

Research from Mintel and the Specialty Food Association shows that nearly three in four consumers purchase specialty food products. The specialty food market is defined as premium products, food made in small batches, food featuring authentic recipes or food made with high-quality ingredients. 

“I think so many consumers are more aware of what they’re eating and are more interested in what they’re eating, they’re curious about it, they care about clean ingredients and quality foods. And were on the cusp of all of that,” said Denise Purcell, director of content for the Specialty Food Association.

Some key points from research highlighted at the winter show:

  • Specialty beverages hold 18% share of all specialty products, totalling $14 billion in sales. Consumers want functional drinks that boost energy, mental focus, relaxation and microbiome health.
  • Snack foods total $18 billion in sales, 27% of the specialty food and beverage share. The fastest growing sellers were turkey and meat (10% growth), then chocolate and other confectionery (9% growth) and juices and functional beverages (7% growth). 
  • Plant-based foods “It’s a movement, it’s hard to call it a trend anymore,” Purcell noted. Innovations in plant-based items are leading growth in their segment, like shelf stable creams and creamers (37% growth), plant-based meat alternatives (36% growth) and refrigerated creams and creamers (20% growth). One-third of specialty food consumers have purchased plant-based products. And 90% of specialty food consumers, Mintel found, are “committed plant-based consumers.” 
  • E-commerce is the key specialty food purchasing channel. Today, 41% of shoppers buy at least some of their groceries online, with Mintel estimating online specialty sales will double to $6 billion in sales in the next few years.
  • The top 10 online specialty categories for sales from specialty food consumers include: 
    • Sparkling water (15%)
    • Nuts, seeds, trail mix, dried fruit (11%)
    • Soda and carbonated beverages (11%)
    • Bars (10%)
    • Juice (10%)
  • Marketing and positioning claims is an important branding element, too. Sales from positioning claims were led by:
    • Natural (68%)
    • Organic (55%)
    • Non-GMO (45%)
    • Locally-sourced (41%)
    • Eco-friendly (40%)
    • Ethical (37%)
    • Fair trade (36%)
    • Plant-based (34%)
    • Gluten-free (27%)
    • Sustainable (25%)
  • Global sauces and seasonings are also trending, especially flavors interesting new regions of the globe. Trends are showing customers are willing to pay more for these higher-quality, authentic ingredients. “People…always want to see a value,” says Mat Schuster, chef at Canela Bistro & Wine Bar. “It doesn’t mean they want to pay less, per say, but they want to feel the value. So if they’re getting an ingredient that they feel is special, that is authentic, that is flavorful, then that is part of the thing that builds the value to them.” 

2020 is the year of the adventurous eater. A new survey reveals 74% of people love to discover new flavors. The Innova Trends Survey highlights botanicals, spices and herbs as popular flavors that will drive the food and beverage market in the new year. Innova calls these trending ingredients as “functionally flavorful.”

Fermented food brands are active in this regard. Kombucha brands are adding more botanical flavoring to their beverages, and fermented vegetable products are experimenting with unique spice and herb combinations. Flavor is still the No. 1 factor for consumers when buying food and beverages. Fermented food brands can use the trending ingredients of 2020 to develop new products and experiment with new flavor combinations. 

“Ingredients have become the stars of many products,” says Lu Ann Williams, Innova Market Insights Director of Insights & Innovation. The industry, she notes, is experimenting with more unusual ingredients to the delight of customers.

Fermented food brands can use 2020’s most popular ingredients as they develop new products. One in two consumers associate floral flavors with freshness, and they associate herbal flavors with healthiness. Flavor is still “the No. 1 factor of importance when buying food and beverages.”

Below is a breakdown of the ingredients consumers want in the New Year. 

Ethnic

Today’s consumers don’t just want to have food, they want to experience their food. Innova refers to this as living vs. having.

“Consumers are really living and focusing more on experiences, and a  big part of that is food and where it comes from,” Williams adds. “Consumers are also looking for richer experiences. You can have Mexican food or you can have authentic Mexican food. And you definitely have a richer experience with authentic Mexican food with a beer paired with the product, with ingredients that came from Mexico.”

Evidence that globalization is changing food, six in 10 U.S. and U.K. consumers say they “love to discover flavors of other cultures.” There was a 65% growth in food and beverages with ethnic flavors. Products with the biggest growth rate have Mediterranean and Far Eastern flavors. Meat, fish, eggs, sauces and seasonings lead the ethnic flavor categories.

Earthy

The growing sect of health-conscious consumers want green, earthy flavors. Matcha, seaweed ashwagandha, turmeric and mushroom are all trending ingredients. 

Fermented food brands shouldn’t hesitate to use bitter ingredients. Consumers more and more are embracing green vegetables with bitter flavors. Spinach, kale, celery and Brussels sprouts are ingredients used in product launches. 

“Bitter-toned beverages are also on trend, with gins particularly popular over the past few years, and now seeing further differentiation via a growing variation in flavors, colors and formats,” according to Innova.

Floral

Thanks to the plant-based, natural, organic, healthy eating revolution, consumers are buying food and drink products with botanical, floral flavors. These are becoming more common in beverages, especially kombucha.

Bell Flavors and Fragrances EMEA launched a concept “Feel Nature’s Variety,” capitalizing on the trend. Chamomile and lavender are two of the most popular floral flavors. 

“Although many emerging botanicals need more scientific investigation to support anecdotal evidence, many consumers trust ancient, traditional herbals,” according to an article in Prepared Foods.

Spicy

Consumer interest in spicy ingredients has increased 10 years in a row, according to global flavoring company Kalsec. More than 22,000 new hot and spicy products were launched in 207, while 18,000 hot and spicy products were launched in 2016.

“I think the trend has gone from shaking a bit of hot sauce on something to give it some heat to present day where consumers have a better understanding of how chili peppers can add depth and layering of both heat and flavor,” says Hadley Katzenbach, culinary development chef at food company Southeastern Mills.

Spicy ingredients gochujang (a red chili paste) and sriracha (a hot sauce) has grown about 50% in condiments and sauces, with mole, harissa and sambal following. Spicy peppers, including peri peri, serrano, guajillo, anaheim, pasilla and arbol, are also growing.

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)

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)

Fermentation: Ingredient of the Future?

Is fermentation the ingredient of the future? As more consumers fear technologically-processed food, manufacturers are turning to ancient processing methods to make ingredients. Nutritional Outlook published an interesting article detailing how manufacturers are using fermentation to extract ingredients from foods. It’s a sustainable solution that produces ingredients like MSG, cultured dextrose and the sugar alcohol erythritol. Erythritol, for example, is produced by some fruits and mushrooms in very small quantities. But by fermenting the fruits and vegetables, an economical, high-quality sweetener is produced. The article notes “in an environment that prizes transparency, fermentation present a refreshingly open book. …Fermentation may not strike the romantic chord of tugging an ingredient from the soil, but it’s unambiguously traceable, quantifiable, and safe.” Brands like Impossible Foods (plant-based meat) and EverSweet (sweetener) both use fermentation to extract ingredients.

Read more (Nutritional Outlook)

How Alcoholic is Kombucha?

Researchers are studying kombucha to determine whether kombucha brands are unintentionally selling the fermented tea with a high alcohol content. The study, by the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, is testing hundreds of kombucha samples sold at grocery stores and farmers markets for ethanol levels. The fermentation process makes all alcohol slightly alcoholic, but in the U.S. the drink has to be sold below 0.5% to be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage. In Canada the amount is higher, at 1.1%. Researchers are looking at how different control factors affect kombucha’s alcohol content, like how cold refrigeration temperature, where it’s stored in the fridge, how it’s made and type of tea and flavors used.

Read more (CTV News)

Does Wine Fermentation Vessel Matter?

Wine Enthusiast breaks down the different variety and sizes of vessels — and why winemakers use them. James Mantone, co-owner and winemaker at Syncline Wine Cellars, says: “It is really amazing to taste wines from different fermentation containers. They don’t even taste like they come from the same vineyards.” The magazine concludes winemakers do not prefer any particular vessel. They enjoy the creativity of changing vessels. Aryn Morell, owner/winemaker at Alleromb and Morell-Peña, and consulting winemaker for numerous wineries, says: “We probably move wine from vessel to vessel more often than people would think. It’s like, ‘Well, I liked the way it was in this egg in January, but in February it’s starting to get a little tense or a little reductive. Let’s move it.’ Now we’ll move it into a large format barrel, open the wine back up or visa versa.”

Read more (Wine Enthusiast

Americans are embracing the Nordic way of life. An article in Harvard Political Review examines two aspects of Nordic culture that make the Nordic people happy and healthy: hygge and fermentation. Hygge translates to “cozy” in Danish and is a method people in countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland use to adapt to their long winter season. A fireplace, family dinner or cozy blanket can be hygge. Fermentation, the ancient technique used in Nordic cuisine to preserve food, is still practiced today. The article notes fermentation is pushing against fast-food consumerism. It’s a form of slow cooking the Nordic people traditionally do at home with the food they’ve foraged in the summer.

Read more (Harvard Political Review)