Why is kombucha fermented twice?

Why is kombucha fermented twice?

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Let’s talk double fermentation, shall we? We’ll be the first to admit, the whole process of fermentation—and frankly perhaps even the word itself—is not so pretty. However, there is so much to love about all things fermented. We’re here to try kickstart the passion we feel for fermentation in everyone else. More specifically, we’re here to explain to you why and how double fermentation is the way to go.

You may have heard that Monceau is double-fermented. But what does that mean (apart from the obvious, of course)? Why bother with that second fermentation? What’s actually going on? Why is it any better?

We’ll have to start by really diving deep into the nitty gritty of fermentation to really understand what’s so great about this weird, and in some ways mystical, process. We’ll start with the basics of fermentation and kombucha, outlining why it’s become such a freaking popular healthy drink option among a huge range of different people.

Then we’ll move on to explain exactly what that second fermentation brings to the table. We’ll break down the process itself and what happens when you start to ferment something that’s already been fermented.

Hopefully, by the end of this blog post, you’ll be like us: declaring your love for fermentation for anyone who’ll listen. (Just a heads up – that might not be many people). So, let’s get into it. 

What is fermentation? How is kombucha fermented?

Fermentation is a naturally occurring chemical process where, when put into the right environment, sugars and starch evolve into alcohol and acid. Humans have been fermenting foods long before we understood what was going on at a microbial level. It’s evolved into an incredibly important process for our digestion, allowing us to absorb the nutrients in our food much more easily. So, once humans started understanding the science of fermentation and could harness its magical abilities to do what we wanted, we started fermenting like crazy.

Some test batches of Monceau, fermenting away

Some test batches of Monceau, fermenting away

Fermentation is used to produce a whole range of different products like the obvious pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, or kimchi, but it is also used in some other products we wouldn’t normally associate with fermentation, such as beer, wine, yogurt. Aside from pickled vegetables, kombucha has become one of the products most associated with fermentation and arguably the most popular of the ferments. A delicious drink that tastes like a soft drink but is also good for gut health? It’s no wonder why we’ve gone ballistic for the booch. 

When it comes to fermenting kombucha, nothing happens without the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, more commonly known as SCOBY. SCOBY is the true essence of kombucha. It’s there to aid fermentation and creep you out with its appearance. It’s really not the most appealing looking thing. Despite its looks, the SCOBY is beautiful in how it can turn some sugar and tea into some exciting, flavourful kombucha. SCOBY is that essential combination of yeast and bacteria that metabolises the sugars in tea to create kombucha. Kombucha itself needs to go through two separate fermentation processes. By the end of first round fermentation, you’d definitely be left with a kombucha, but it would have no flavour and would be mostly uncarbonated.

Ok, so what’s second fermentation (aka double fermentation)?

The second fermentation is where the flavour kicks in. It’s also where you get the nice fizziness that makes you feel like you’re drinking a soft drink. During the second fermentation, you pour your first ferment into a sealed container along with whatever you are going to flavour it with. In the case of Monceau, we use the fresh juice of West Gippsland Fuji Apples and Pears to make our Fuji Apple kombucha and Pear kombucha, and then the juice of Blood Oranges from the South Australian Riverland for our Blood Orange Kombucha.

Once it’s all in the sealed container, the fermentation kickstarts again. Most of the sugars from the fruit juice are consumed again and this results in the drink being naturally low in sugar and naturally low in alcohol. Here is also where the carbonation starts to form; when the yeast from the SCOBY eats up the sugars, it converts it into carbon dioxide and since we’ve just added a heap more sugar into the mix (from the fruit juice), there’s a lot more for the SCOBY to play with. This is really what makes craft kombucha so distinctive to other drinks on the market. The natural process of kombucha fermentation results in a truly unique batch every time. Since we ferment in-bottle, every bottle of Monceau is itself slightly different.

Why is second fermentation better?

Well, as we mentioned before, after the first fermentation, you’re not left with anything that exciting. There’s a drink that’ll be good for your gut health, but it won’t taste very good and there’ll be almost no fizziness to it.

Unfortunately, when you go to buy kombucha off the supermarket shelf, what you’re getting is not the double-fermented beauty. With all the added sugar and carbonation, you end up with that overwhelming and artificial, sickly-sweet taste. At Monceau, we’re committed to the natural and low-intervention fermentation. We want nature to do the work to give us the subtle flavours and natural carbonation that just feel right.

This process of fermentation is very similar to what is used to create pét nat wines and certain beers. We’ve combined the process of brewing pét nats with the process of brewing kombucha to create our unique Pét Nat Kombucha. It’s also why Monceau is ever so slightly more alcoholic than a standard kombucha and is also why the flavour profile of Monceau products is more complex and interesting than the store-bought stuff. Using this process opens the doors for a wide range of non-alcoholic beers, non-alcoholic ciders and other craft kombuchas to take the main stage in the world of non-alc drinks.  

In conclusion

We’re not just here to make a drink that's merely good for you. We’re here to make something delicious, unique, and social. A non-alc alternative that isn’t just your regular craft kombucha, non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic wine. The second fermentation is where the magic happens and is why we’re so obsessed with what fermentation can do.

from our craft brewery in Brunswick, we make pioneering, natural non-alc beverages: