Interview: Dr. Simone Bellassai, CDR FoodLab, Florence, Italy

Brewing commercial quantities of kombucha is a challenge. To produce ‘booch with consistent taste, that meets customers’ expectations and passes inspection, a number of parameters need to be carefully measured and controlled. Accurate measurement enables better control of the fermentation and in the quality of the finished product.

Traditionally, kombucha companies have relied on external labs to test samples. This involves delays and even reports of inconsistent results.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Dr. Simone Bellassai, a Division Manager at CDR FoodLab in Florence, Italy. His company has recently introduced a compact ‘lab in a box’ solution that gives real-time analysis of samples, performed in-house, at an affordable price. Dr. Bellassai reviewed the features and benefits of their new system — the podcast audio of the interview is available below.

Key parameters

The three key parameters are levels of alcohol, acids, and sugars.

The majority of kombucha sold lists alcohol content below 0.5%.  Legally, higher concentrations require registration of the beverage as alcoholic. Measuring ABV levels with a hydrometer works well for beer and wine but can be a problem with the low levels found in ‘booch.

During fermentation, the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts promotes the formation of acetic, gluconic, and lactic acid. The quantity of these acids influences the organoleptic characteristics of the finished product.

It’s critical to measure sugar levels to know when to stop fermentation once the optimal level has been reached.

The CDR KombuchaLab system

CDR KombuchaLab is a fully-functional laboratory for the chemical analyses of kombucha. It’s a complete system, equipped with everything needed to carry out checks during the entire production process, from the beginning of fermentation to the bottling of the finished product. The lab sits on a desk and enables brewers to choose the most appropriate production strategies to achieve the desired organoleptic characteristics. It can be used by anyone, even if they have no experience in laboratory techniques. What’s more, the system gives real-time results, meaning brewers can promptly take the best action.

Components

KombuchaLab is a two-part solution.

The analyzer, based on photometric technology, is available in a Standard or Junior versions. Both are equipped with state-of-the-art LED emitters, reading cells and 37°C thermostated incubation cells.

A low toxicity, disposable reagent is required. Reagents are pre-vialed, sold in packages of 10 or 100 tests.

Analysis

The KombuchaLab performs a wide range of analytic tests:

Pricing

  • CDR sell a Standard system for approximately €6,000.
  • The Junior System, offering a smaler number of tests, is half this cost.
  • Reagents, in sealed packages, are sold in lots of 10 or 100 for €3.5 – €4.00 per test.

The systems are available in the US through their distributor Quartz Analytics.

Podcast

To hear what Dr. Bellassai told me about the new KombuchaLab product, click on the podcast icon below.

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