There are four main steps to brewing a lacto fermented beverage.
1. Obtain a suitable primary starter culture that contains the required microbial organisms.
2. Activate the starter by fermenting a starter extension.
3. Ferment the sugars with the bulk of the liquid.
4. Add any additives such as plant material, minerals and salt, and top up the liquid to the final volume.
THIS SECTION TO GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW TO BREW A LACTO FERMENTED BEVERAGE
Obtain or make a starter culture. This is your primary source of microorganisms such as to be found in a wild ginger beer starter, kefir whey, B.E. Grainfields liquid or an EM culture.
Use the primary starter to make a starter extension. In sourdough bread making parlance this would be the equivalent of the sponge. In EM parlance this is the EM extension or activated EM.
So in the same way that you use a small amount of sourdough starter to successively feed up a large amount of highly active sourdough sponge, which you finally mix with flour to make a dough, with lacto fermented beverages you make a starter extension.
Once the microorganisms in the starter extension are highly active you add it to the required amount of sugars (molasses, barley malt, honey) and water; give it 1 - 5 days to ferment and lower the pH below 3.9, then add the remaining ingredients such as salt, rock dust, bentonite clay, herbs, fruit juice, vitamin B12, and vitamin C, which could otherwise buffer the liquid and prevent the pH from dropping rapidly to below pH 3.9. In this way you ensure that these ingredients do not inhibit the proliferation of the lacto acid forming microorganisms, which could then result in the growth of pathogens.
Once a day for 1 - 5 days, while the probiotics are colonising the liquid, you should stir the liquid to slightly aerate it and to remix any sediment back into the brew. In this way you ensure that the sediment does not create a subenvironment within the brew which could harbour non favourable microorganisms, and that any scum does not dry out and form another sub environment.
Once fermentation is under way and the pH has dropped below pH3.9 you should assist the formation of an anaerobic state by not agitating the liquid and keeping the fermentation vessel covered. It also helps to limit the airspace by filling the fermentation vessel near to the top.
If you are using a non-breakable container such as a large PET bottle, home brewers plastic carboy or steel keg then you may wish to screw the lid on tightly to pressurise the liquid and force the CO2 and H back into the liquid. This may help the probiotics to proliferate and assist in a rapid pH drop. In most cases you should ferment the brew for about 5 days until the majority of the sugars have been digested and the liquid goes flat. If however you are making EM type brews or elixirs with a higher concentration of sugars, then the fermentation time may need be extended to up to 12 weeks.
At this point the brew should be transferred to bottles and capped. When filling the bottles you should aim to agitate the brew as little as possible to avoid the introduction of oxygen which could trigger a new fermentation cycle. To ensure a sparkling brew upon opening the bottles just add the equivalent of 1/2 teaspoon of rice syrup per 750 mls to the brew before you bottle it. Even without the addition of rice syrup at the bottling stage fermentation may continue for some months. Take care as exploding bottles may cause serious injury. Please note that sometimes the microorganisms may use up the carbon dioxide and the resultant brew will be flat.
Contingent upon the microflora present and the quality of the ingredients, fermentation times from 20 - 90 days should increase the antioxidant properties of the brew. Care should be taken with long fermentation times and the use of simple sugars such as sugar, fructose, dextrose, rice syrup, honey, light molasses as the pH may drop below pH 3.6 resulting in the demise of many of the microorganisms and if the pH rises then the brew could go off.
However as long as the pH remains below pH3.9 then it is unlikely that any pathogens will be present, however as just mentioned, pH can fluctuate over time and you should always apply the sniff, look and taste test before you drink any sizable quantity. (pH paper in the range pH 2.0 - 5.0 is available from scientific supply houses.)
The polysaccharide and minerals in blackstrap molasses, and the minerals in sea salt and rock dust should extend the shelf life of most lacto fermented beverages.
As with all cultured and lacto fermented foods you need to exercise some caution and common sense. If you have survived on a diet of processed foods and have a history of antibiotic use, then the flora in your digestive system are probably out of balance. In this case you would be well advised to introduce lacto fermented foods and beverages a little at a time. AGM Foods Australia recommend an initial serving size of 50ml per day for their B.E. Grainfields liquid, that can be increased to a litre per day once the digestive system has adjusted. If you read some of the 'official' websites for Effective Microbes (EM) you will see that they definitely recommend against consuming any more than 30 ml per day for some of their products. If the flora in your digestive system are out of balance then you may experience mild indigestion, diarrhea and even nausea, if you take more than 50ml per day of any lacto fermented beverage that contains live cultures.
STEP 1. OBTAIN A SUITABLE PRIMARY STARTER CULTURE THAT CONTAINS THE REQUIRED MICROBIAL ORGANISMS
GRAINFIELDS B.E. WHOLEGRAIN LIQUID AS A SOURCE OF MICROBES
AGM Foods Australia make an excellent range of probiotic liquids for human consumption that are suitable for use as a starter culture for lacto fermented recipes. You can use any of their range of liquid products but the cheapest one is Grainfields B.E Wholegrain Liquid. The 'B.E.' stands for 'Body Electronics' as per John Whitman-Ray. AGM also repackage their products under a variety of names for resellers. I think MiEssence and NutriTech (if I have spelt it correctly) are both originally sourced from AGM. You can usually tell by reading the microflora list on the label. Grainfields B.E Wholegrain Liquid is also considered to be gluten free.
I don't recommend that you use a powdered culture from one of the above brands to inoculate your lacto fermented beverages because my experience has been that the cultures are too difficult to activate. In theory the powdered cultures contain live organisms, yet when I tried to culture them in a solution of rice syrup, sugar and water there was zero activity. So I advise using the liquid products.
According to the AGM literature, a typical microflora analysis of a Grainfields product is as follows.
Bifidus (Bifidobacterium bifidum)
KEFIR WHEY AS A SOURCE OF MICROBES
Kefir grains or kefir whey may be used as a source of microbes. More than 30 micro-organisms are to be found in wild kefir grains. According to the website Great Health to You http://www.greathealthtoyou.com/serv01 the dominant micro-organisms in kefir are:
Lactose fermenting yeasts
The micro-organisms come from four main groups:
2. Streptococci and lactococci
Some of the micro-organisms found in store bought yogurt or in probiotic supplements are also found in kefir. They are mainly from the Lactobacilli group:
Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis
Note: Candida albicans has not been found in kefir grains.
Encyclopaedia of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition  [pp. 1804-1808]
Edited by R. Macrae, R.K. Robinson, M.J. Sadler sourced from Doms Kefir
WILD CULTURES AS A SOURCE OF MICROBES
To make a ginger beer starter you employ the aid of naturally occurring micro-organisms (usually yeasts and lactobacilli). Just leave a mixture of sugar, ground ginger and water in a jar for a few days until it starts to ferment.
In a 500ml jar, mix 2 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Then add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar, stiring gently, each day for 7 days. Within 2-3 days the starter should be quite bubbly. Once the starter is bubbling you can stop feeding it and use it as your ginger beer starter culture.
CULTURES AS A SOURCE OF MICROBES
EM is a generic shorthand term for a consortium of five or more species of micro-organisms from at least three groups (lacto-bacilli, yeasts, phototrophic purple non-sulfur bacteria, actinomyces and streptomyces).
EM technology was developed by Dr Teruo Higa, a Japanese scientist from the Department of Horticulture at the College of Agriculture at University of Ryukyu in Japan. EM has many applications including bioremediation, agriculture and health products.
EM cultures provide an interesting group of organisms known as phototrophic purple
soil-based bacteria from the Rhodobacter and Rhodopseudomonas group. These organisms
are able to digest a wide range of substrates including toxic waste products,
animal and human waste and convert them into harmless substances and antioxidants.
EM type microbial inoculant cultures may contain anywhere from 5 to 100 different
species of organisms
Please visit the following sites for comprehensive information on EM. I have copied the first paragraph from each website to give you an idea of what information they may offer.
What is EM-X? "EM stands for a group of effective microorganisms which have been proven
safe through their long history of use in food processing; such as, lactic acid
bacteria and yeast and are collectively cultured in diluted molasses. Some microorganisms
are feared because of their harmful effects to human; however, many other microorganisms
are known to produce beneficial substances. For example, lactic acid bacteria
and yeast are well known to produce various kinds of vitamins and lactic acids.
Yogurt, cheese, and alcoholic beverages are made with the help of microorganisms.
Use of beneficial microorganisms has existed since the early beginning of human
"Antiox is an educational and informational website about live-culture fermented antioxidant liquid nutritional supplement beverages which have been fermented with a very special cluster or consortium of organisms know as "Effective Microorganisms", or EM."
"Sustainable Community Development,
L.L.C. ("SCD") is dedicated to providing the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health
and Sustainability) community with all natural, microbial-based products for human
health and environmental sustainability!
SCD distributes environmentally friendly probiotic products for human health, personal care, home & garden and waste & septic treatment most of which incorporate beneficial and effective microorganisms ("EM")."
Introduction to EM "This EM Info website is intended to provide a complete introduction to a synergistic, metabiotic (where each organism creates favorable conditions for the growth of the other ) and antioxidative microbial technology generically known as EM."
Caution: Some sources suggest that the consumption of beverages made with EM type microorganisms should be limited to around 50ml twice a day. Please ensure that you do your own research before consuming any beverages made with live probiotic cultures.
All trademarked names and registered names are trade marks of their respective owners:
Efficient Microbes (EM), "Xtra (EM)" and Beneficial
and Efficient Microbes (BEM) are trademarks owned by Sustainable Community
- "Beneficial Microbes (BM)" and "BM Ecology" may be trademarked names belonging to Crown Biotech and Crown Organics in Australia.
Source of the above trademark information: http://www.eminfo.info/disclaimer.html
EM-1? is a trademark of EMRO.
Source: http://www.eminfo.info/moreem1.html. See also: http://www.emrousa.com/
STEP 2. ACTIVATE THE STARTER BY FERMENTING A STARTER EXTENSION
This step assumes that you have procured a primary source of microorganisms. If not, then please go back to step one at the top of this page.
Once you have your primary source of organisms then you activate them in a solution of barley malt extract and water for 1-3 days. You do this so that when you make your recipe it will begin to ferment immediately and in the process out proliferate any other organisms that may be present, and also cause a rapid drop in pH which should prevent the growth of any pathogens. The recipes below are intended as a guide to making a starter extension from various sources of microorganisms, for use in culturing a lacto fermented beverage.
GRAINFIELDS B.E. WHOLEGRAIN LIQUID STARTER EXTENSION
Dissolve the barley malt in the water in a clean jar. Add the B.E. Grainfields liquid and stir. Leave in a warm place (25C). It should show signs of fermentation after 24 hours. 500 ml of Grainfields starter extension should be sufficient to culture 6 litres of a lacto fermented beverage.
KEFIR WHEY STARTER EXTENSION
Dissolve the barley malt in the water in a clean jar. Add the kefir whey and stir. Leave in a warm place (25C). It should show signs of fermentation after 24 hours. 500 ml of kefir whey starter extension should be sufficient to culture 6 litres of a lacto fermented beverage.
WILD GINGER BEER STARTER EXTENSION
Dissolve the barley malt in the water in a clean jar. Add the wild ginger beer starter. Leave in a warm place (25C). It should show signs of fermentation after 24 hours. 500 ml of wild ginger beer starter extension should be sufficient to culture 6 litres of a lacto fermented beverage.
STEP 3. FERMENT THE SUGARS WITH THE BULK OF THE LIQUID
In this step, in the fermenting vessel, you dissolve the total quantity of sugars called for in the recipe with about 3/4 of the total volume of water required. Note that you need to leave enough space for any other liquids that you might add, such as fruit juice and herbal preparations. You then ferment the brew for about 1 - 5 days for the microorganisms to establish themselves and drop the pH to below pH 3.9. You do this just in case any of the ingredients (such as plant material, salt, rock dust, minerals, bentonite clay, vitamin B12 and vitamin C) inhibit the growth of lactic acid forming organisms or have a buffering action and prevent a rapid drop in pH.
STEP 4. ADD ANY ADDITIVES SUCH AS PLANT MATERIAL, MINERALS, AND SALT, AND TOP UP THE LIQUID TO THE FINAL VOLUME
Once the sugars are actively fermenting the pH should have dropped to below pH 3.9. (pH paper in the range pH2 - pH 5 should give you an accurate enough indication.) Now is the time to add the rest of the ingredients called for in the recipe. This procedure should also preserve more of the bioactive substances in any raw plant material (such as raw fruit and vegetable juices) that you use in your recipe. And finally it goes without saying that you should consult a qualified health care professional about any and all of the ingredients that you plan to use in your lacto fermented beverages.
1 teaspoon = 5 ml / 5 gm. 1 tablespoon = 15 ml / 15 gm. 15 tablespoons = 1 cup / 225 ml. 1 cup = 8 fluid oz / 225 ml. 1 US gallon = 3.6 litres. 1 lb = 16 oz / 454 gm. Temperature 20C = 68F. Conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius: C = (F - 32) / 1.8. Conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit: F = C x 1.8 + 32
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