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Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium

The creation of flavour in water kefir and what we can learn from it

By Julia Sick, Nordic Food Lab / Taste for Life

Water kefir is a fermented carbohydrate-rich drink. The water kefir grains work as a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). It can ferment any carbohydrate-rich liquid into a sour-tonic beverage with a refreshing flavour due to its carbonated characteristics.

As part of a Nordic Food Lab project (summer 2017), exploring the flavour world of water kefir made me think that the culture of kefir grains seem to work quite similar as humans do in a living society.

The Lactobacilli bacteria found in the kefir grains produce dextran (a polysaccharide structure), that build the environment for the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. This is best comparable to a human community consisting of a diverse group of cultures. The grains are surrounded by a liquid, basically consisting of water and sugar that are the source of energy for bacteria and yeasts. It should also contain essential minerals and vitamins (from water, sugar and added fruits), which are essential for growth and survival. Humans do as well require a specific environment that includes available food sources. Additionally, as humans and a part of society, we are formed and influenced by our environment including relationships, culture and available resources.

When experimenting, the best flavour of water kefir was created when using organic and fresh ingredients. This can be transferred to how we treat our environment. Following, people should take good care of the environment by making it more sustainable - a sustainable environment to produce better food for more people.

So, flavours produced by kefir grains are an example of how to explore food and flavours that go beyond deliciousness; how to make us reflect upon the food system we live in and the people whom we eat with. Everyone can choose how to flavour his or her life; it is just a matter of ingredients.

References: 

  • Corona, O., Randazzo, W., Miceli, A., Guarcello, R., Francesca, N., Erten, H., Moschetti, G., Settanni, L., 2016. Characterization of kefir-like beverages produced from vegetable juices. LWT - Food Sci. Technol. 66, 572–581. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2015.11.014
  • Laureys, D., De Vuyst, L., 2017. The water kefir grain inoculum determines the characteristics of the resulting water kefir fermentation process. J. Appl. Microbiol. 122, 719–732. doi:10.1111/jam.13370
  • Randazzo, W., Corona, O., Guarcello, R., Francesca, N., Germanà, M.A., Erten, H., Moschetti, G., Settanni, L., 2016. Development of new non-dairy beverages from Mediterranean fruit juices fermented with water kefir microorganisms. Food Microbiol. 54, 40–51. doi:10.1016/j.fm.2015.10.018