A few years ago, the wine industry looked for a reason to market wine as a health food. They studied health statistics across the world, and discovered that France and Italy had lower heart disease rates than the United States. (Of course, so do many other nations… but France and Italy are the ones they wanted to pay attention to!). France and Italy have higher than average wine consumption. So wine began to be marketed as a heart healthy substance, and they acredited this to the “antioxidants” in it.
Funny thing about that study. France and Italy differ from the US in many ways. They eat more fresh vegetables year-round, they eat fresh fermented foods that have not been pasteurized, and their eggs are handled differently making them less prone to superbug contamination. But to the wine industry, there could only be one answer – it had to be the wine! Actually, grapes have more antioxidants than the wine, and they also have probiotics. Yeah, that’s right, fresh foods contain probiotics too. The natural bacteria and fungus that grows on and in fresh foods, that aids digestion and improves our health. It wasn’t the wine at all.
The lacto-fermentation world has done the same thing with fermented foods. They have failed to distinguish between those foods that contain alcohol, and those that do not, and to identify the ones that are really helping. Foods that do not contain significant levels of alcohol have a FAR higher benefit to the body than those that do.
Now, some people will say that ALL fermented foods have alcohol. This is true. But NOT all fermented foods are ALCOHOLIC. Many are – far more than most avid fermenters are willing to acknowledge. For the purposes of distinction, alcoholic foods are defined as those having an alcohol content near or above the legally recognized level for alcoholic beverages. This is .5% alcohol content, as recognized by the US government as amounts high enough to produce intoxication, and illegal for consumption by minors.
Foods with an alcohol content close to this point will have the following characteristics:
1. They will smell of alcohol, or they will smell “yeasty” like beer. The boozy smell may be unmistakable for many people, or difficult to detect for others, depending on their sensitivity to it.
2. They will have a fizz or tingle on your tongue. Carbon dioxide will NOT suspend in liquids normally, unless they are under significant pressure (like commercial sodas). It WILL suspend (dissolve) into liquids that have significant alcohol content. That “carbonation” tingle, or the fiery burn of strong alcohol, is evidence of significant levels of alcohol in a food or drink. The finer the bubbles, the higher the alcohol content. This is the time honored method for detecting unwanted alcohol content in foods that are not supposed to go alcoholic.
3. They have been fermented with sugar, OR they include some kind of starchy carbohydrate. This includes fruit or fruit juice, cane sugar, unrefined sugars, agave, fructose, honey, and ANY OTHER carbohydrate based sweeteners, potatoes, grains, etc. If it has been fermented with sugars, it WILL go through an alcoholic phase, characterized by the fizz – this is not a “maybe” thing. Sugars or starchy carbs in foods WILL produce HIGH AMOUNTS of alcohol as they ferment! ALWAYS.
ANY fermented fruits, kombucha, fermented sodas (including but not limited to ginger ale and rootbeer), water kefir with or without fruit juice added, and fermented salsa (tomatoes have sufficient sugar), fermented potatoes, fermented grains, etc, all contain ALCOHOLIC levels of alcohol. Yes, this is provable… Ginger Ale and Rootbeer, made by fermenting, have an alcohol content of .05-11% (.05% is the level considered to be the minimum needed to produce sufficient carbonation to be identified as a soda). The potency depends on the length of fermentation. Longer ferment means higher alcohol content. Other fermented beverages with sugar contain similar amounts of sugar, and therefore WILL develop alcohol at a similar rate and level. This point is indisputable – the science behind this is very clear and so simple that you cannot misunderstand that this is so.
Alcohol is not an All or Nothing kind of thing. The levels will vary from item to item. The presence of suspended carbonation is an indicator of significant alcohol levels, and a good measurement of whether the alcohol is enough to cause harm. With alcohol though, more of it means more harm.
In fermented foods that have minute amounts, the probiotics and nutrient content provide enough benefit to offset any minor damage by the alcohol. Once you get to the point of being able to DETECT the alcohol through non-scientific means though, it is high enough so that the damage it is doing is equal to, or MORE than the benefit it is offering. ELIMINATING alcohol is an unrealistic goal, and isn’t the point at all. Keeping it to UNDETECTABLE levels (cannot smell or feel it on the tongue) is the goal.
How does alcohol cause harm?
- Nothing can live in alcohol. It has been used historically as an embalming and preservation fluid because it stops growth and decay.
- Alcohol is used in the medical field as a sterilizing fluid. It kills microbes on contact. This is NOT a 100% solution that is used, either. Standard is about a 50% alcohol content solution.
- The higher the alcohol level in your ferments, the lower the helpful probiotic content.
- The higher the alcohol content, the more cells it will kill passing through your digestive tract – it kills fast growing cells especially well, which includes both the natural and necessary bacteria in your intestines, and the cells that line your entire digestive tract. Alcohol is a known irritant to ulcers, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac, IBS, Colitis, and other forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
- The higher the alcohol content, the more alcohol circulates in your bloodstream – alcohol in the bloodstream kills living cells, and is especially hard on neural cells which do not easily repair themselves, and on the liver, which is responsible for helping your body detox.
- Even fairly low levels of alcohol consumption may lead to catastrophic harm to a fetus, if alcohol is consumed by either the mother (during pregnancy) OR the father (prior to pregnancy). It has as much to do with TIMING as it does with CONTENT.
There are foods that pass THROUGH an alcoholic phase (during which the bacterial content decreases as the alcoholic content rises), then vinegarize (the alcohol is gradually consumed by increasing populations of microbes), after which it will no longer contain significant alcohol. Apple Cider Vinegar is one such food, which is recognized as a supplement with strong health benefits – RAW ACV is once again alive with a wide range of probiotic microbes which are purely helpful. These foods are not a problem – when the fizz is gone, the alcohol is reduced to safe levels and generally the bacterial and fungal count will be correspondingly higher.
The alcohol may also be COOKED out of foods. This is why Sourdough Starter IS an alcoholic food, but baked bread is NOT. Of course, cooking the foods also kills the probiotics, so this is not a solution you’d want to use when you are going for maximum probiotic benefit. This MAY be a good option though, when you want to consume something with alcoholic content, and give your children a version of it that does not contain the alcohol. Just cook it until the boozy smell is gone, and make sure the tingle is gone after it is cooled down.
So… if you enjoy Kombucha, but do not want the alcohol, what do you do?
Ferment it as usual, but then let it OPEN ferment until the alcohol smell and fizz are gone (this can take days, or even weeks, depending on the recipe). You’ll get a sour taste – just sweeten it up again with the sweetener of your choice.
This can be done with water kefir, fermented juices, and many other foods, and they’ll end up with a nice high probiotic count without the backlash of the alcohol.
It CANNOT be done for fermented sodas. You’ll lose the carbonation. Sorry, no alternative here for fermented sodas. You can make soda for a party though, using dry ice.
If you’ve been trying to heal, and you seem to take two steps forward, two steps back, it may not be the fermentation method that is holding you back. It may be the KINDS of ferments you are relying on to heal.
Alcohol is NOT a helpful element in lacto-fermented foods and beverages. Yes, it DOES matter, and yes, it IS a significant amount in many kinds.
And whatever you do, PLEASE do not give your children ANY potentially alcoholic ferments. Not only are they especially vulnerable to the neurologic damage caused by alcohol in the bloodstream, you are just BEGGING for your children to be taken from you by Child Protective Services.
Enjoy your pickles and kraut and milk kefir (without the fizzies!). But avoid the alcoholic ferments if you want to supercharge your chances for good health.
The ORIGINAL one-way valve fermenting airlock! Imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery, and we have noticed that our product has been copied by other sellers of fermenting products. Remember, if you see someone else selling a one-way valve airlock for fermenting, THEY copied US, not the other way around! Fermenta Lock is still the only original invention, handmade in the US. If it isn't orange, it isn't the original!
We invented Fermenta Lock, Fermenta Free, and the valve used for Fermenta Fido and other Fermenta Airlock products. We invented Fermenta Dunk Extender. Patents are prohibitively expensive, and designed by the government not to protect the rights of individuals, but to provide another source of revenue and control for the government and lawyers. We are good at what we do. We have endless ideas and endless creativity, and competition does not scare us. Impatient thieves do not scare us - they are too busy taking shortcuts to make a success of it anyway, and they won't want to take the effort to actually MAKE a product and fill orders.
So if you want to copy our idea, go right ahead. If you want to market and sell a competing product, you are welcome to do so, as long as you do not patent our idea - we had it first, and our posts on FaceBook announcing the invention and launch of it will prove that. This idea is officially in the public domain, placed there by us. We will NOT release supply sources, or part names unless you want to buy them - we'll be happy to sell you an instruction kit. If you buy our product, or look at the images and figure it out for yourself, good on you. Compete with us if you like, just don't screw us, and we'll get along just fine. Big companies who might want to screw us may have more money, and more lawyers than we do, but we have more to gain by suing the pants off a big company, and believe me, we will be well motivated to do so if anyone patents our idea and claims it as their own - this is a free idea. Everybody now owns it.
Published June 23, 2012
Wholesale, Export, and Manufacture of this product by other companies is an option. International distributorships are available for those wishing to export. Please email us to inquire about access to our wholesale website, or in regards to manufacturing any of our products.
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