Let the experiments begin
So, as i mentioned in my earlier post about growing fake leather, we are running a series of experiments for growing the most efficient scoby. The scoby is the layer of cellulose that will be turned into the textile/ fake leather, and will serve as an eco friendly alternative to what is currently available.
At least for now, we are solely focused on growing the scoby as fast as possible. This means that the end product does not necessarily have to be drinkable, even though that this would be preferable. If making the kombucha undrinkable can result in a significantly accelerated growth rate, this seems to be a worthy sacrifice (as long as this doesn’t result in a toxic product that is environmentally dangerous).
Anyhow, when changing the recipe in order to test the growth rate, we want the added ingredients to be widely available, so they can be recreated by people around the globe. We have therefore limited ourselves to items that can be readily bought at sites like amazon other web stores. The factors we are looking into is the amount of sugar, the complexity of said sugar, time, temperature, and a few different ingredients based on a few research papers.
In the first set of experiments we will be focusing on the caffeine content of the kombucha. The assumption that caffeine affects the growth rate of the scoby is based primarily on the paper Kombucha, the Fermented Tea: Microbiology, Composition, and Claimed Health Effects (Greenwalt et al. 2000)
I will here quote from the paper:
“Fontana et al. investigated cellulose biosynthesis stimulators naturally occurring in plant infusions (10). Caffeine and related compounds (theophylline and theobromine) were found to stimulate the ability of the bacteria to produce cellulose (10). Apparently, these methylxanthines inhibit the normal switch-off mechanism of cellulose synthase (10). As a result, oxygen availability to the colony is maximized in caffeinated tea (3). However, increased caffeine levels at 4 to 16 times the normal level of caffeine (40 mg) proved to inhibit the Kombucha fermentation, not stimulate it (13).”
Greenwalt et al. (2000) p 977
It seems that caffeine, in the right proportions, has a positive effect on the growth rate, as it allows for the kombucha to consume a larger quantity of oxygen. As the scoby is dependant on oxygen, this should in turn ,enable it to grow faster (Sievers et al. 1005).
Looking around on the internet, there’s quite an abundance of caffeine related products available. Everything from highly caffeinated drinks, to pills and powder is available at the click of a button…. Unfortunately not in Denmark that is. Most of the stuff we found on amazon wouldn’t allow shipping to Denmark. We did however find an english site dedicated to fitness suplements, that would ship to Denmark. We were able to buy 500 grams of pure caffeine for 16 GBP, which honestly is a bit scary as a single teaspoon could kill you (Vice). This does not sound too bad, but considering that it is seen as a workout supplement, an overdose certainly seems possible.
Anyhow, we were able to buy a large amount of pure caffeine at this website https://www.bulkpowders.co.uk/caffeine.html . As soon as we received the package, we started the experiment. We made 5 liters of tea, and split them up into 5 equally sized containers. Kombucha and scoby was added to each container, along with varying doses of caffeine. The dosages where 0,2 grams, 0,5 grams, 1 gram, and 10 grams. These were chosen in an effort to cover a broad spectrum of different levels of caffeine content. They were all set in a remote corner of the office, and left for 3-4 weeks. I will make an update once the experiment is over. Even though the experiment is not yet over, the scoby IS growing in every container, so so far, the high caffeine content has at least not killed it.
That is all for now, until next time, have a great evening
C. J. GREENWALT, K. H. STEINKRAUS, AND R. A. LEDFORD (2000) Kombucha, the Fermented Tea: Microbiology, Composition, and Claimed Health Effects
MARTIN SIEVERS, CRISTINA LANINI, ADRIEN WEBER, URSULA SCHULER-SCHMID, and MICHAEL TEUBER (1995) Microbiology and Fermentation Balance in a Kombucha Beverage Obtained from a Tea Fungus Fermentation