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Continuous brew! the way of the ancients!

5 Questions with Michael Roussin – Kombucha Legend

Kombucha Researcher Michael Roussin

Kombucha Researcher Michael Roussin

What is a Kombucha Legend? A Person or Story that has contributed to the history, knowledge or proliferation of this ancient beverage. Enjoy!

Michael Roussin, like most of us who are fascinated with Kombucha, is just a regular guy.

He stumbled upon Kombucha and, driven by his curious mind and grasping intellect, decided to research it for himself to see what he could discover.

His Kombucha Reasearch Report (aff. link) which took nearly 2 years to complete, contains a host of enlightening information about Kombucha.

I have read it myself a couple, few times and each read brings deeper understanding.

So let’s hear from Michael himself how this whole project got started.

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Kombucha Kamp: How were you first introduced to Kombucha?

Michael Roussin:In 1993 my sister-in-law introduced me to it. It was a “magic mushroom” that was supposed to cure what ails you. That’s what we all called it then. Soon thereafter, there was an article about Kombucha in the Salt Lake Tribune that mentioned Gunther Frank’s book. I was curious to learn more so I ordered his book.

The internet was still the wild west in those days, but I found a Kombucha listserv and joined. It was a bit nasty back in those days. If you didn’t follow the Laurel Farms method for brewing Kombucha, you were treated as a heretic. And told that your Kombucha would turn into the dreaded bogeyman – a yeast pattie!

When Colleen Allen took over the listserv, she was open to hearing all different kinds of opinions about Kombucha and if you flamed anyone, you’d be kicked off. She didn’t tolerate any personal attacks.

KK: What health benefits have you noticed since you started drinking KT over 15 years ago?

MR:I refereed competitive soccer leagues for over 20 years. I have spent countless hours running up and down the field. When I was introduced to Kombucha, it helped my knees regain their flexibility and alleviated pain. It also lowered my blood pressure.

A few years back, I was remodelling my house when the wrong wall was targeted for removal, it took out my Kombucha brewing operation. So I haven’t been drinking it for the last few years and you know what? The pain came back and my blood pressure has increased. I’m really looking forward to getting back to brewing at home!

KK: What lead you to test over 1100 home & commercial brews in a lab?

MR: From reading books by Frank, Pascal, Fasching, Tietze and others, I learned that there were several beneficial acids in Kombucha and I wanted to know for myself what was in my own brew.

Tietze’s comment that no reputable lab had ever found glucuronic acid in kombucha put me on a quest to prove him wrong, so I sent a few samples to a lab and told them what I was looking for.

The organic chemist at the lab suggested that we grow it there and test the entire process from start to finish. It took 18 months from 1995-1996 and I still have over 14 boxes of documents in my garage.

The research was a long, complex process of elimination. We tested brews with different sugars, teas, temperatures, etc. Several methodologies had to be employed in order to determine what was in there.

KK: Most research states that Kombucha contains glucuronic acid, yet your research didn’t find any in the brews you analyzed, how do you account for this difference

MR: Much of the research that had been carried out from 1940-1960’s was done by studying human subjects. The researchers had discovered higher levels of glucuronides in the urine of those who were drinking Kombucha so they surmised that there must be glucuronic acid in the KT.

However, when we tested it back in 1995, we couldn’t find any glucuronic acid present in any of our analyses. Glucuronic acid binds to a toxic molecule in a 1:1 relationship. Then, when it is eliminated from the system, so is that toxic molecule.

But there is also glucuronidase – an enzyme that cleaves the bond between the two molecules.

Rather than detect the presence of glucuronic acid, what we found was high evidence of ‘saccharic acid 1-4 lactone” which is a glucuronidase inhibitor.

In plain English, that is to say, we found a molecule that binds with the enzyme and that prevents the breaking of the bond between the glucuronic acid and the toxic molecule so it is eliminated.

KK: Any words of advice for the homebrewers out there?

MR: Kombucha is a ferment that is difficult to standardize. It picks up wild yeasts native to the environment in which it is brewed. It is a very alive ferment and its not one single element that makes it beneficial, but rather a collection of things.

The mat grown by the bacteria and yeast (mother culture) doesn’t indicate the health of the brew, only the health of those particular organisms. .

There is no “one right way” to ferment with the Kombucha culture. We received hundreds of experimental submissions – some that were successful (astragalus seemed to catalyze the fermentation process) and others that were not (marijuana was not a good medium for the Kombucha culture).

My favorite Kombucha ferment is a hybrid that was created using d-glucose, a type of sugar that is readily found at chemical supply shops and some drug stores.

The ferment doesn’t necessarily need fructose and glucose and when you only provide one type (glucose in this case) then it builds more of the healthy acids that start with g (gluconic acid, for example).

I also discovered that fermenting in the dark produced better results.

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Hannah Crum, the Kombucha Mamma!Hannah Crum is The Kombucha Mamma, founder of Kombucha Kamp, Industry Journalist & Master Brewer, educating others about Kombucha since 2004. Connect with her on Google +