Researchers in Ireland, having carefully monitored the microbial populations in Kefir, are now claiming they have matched-up individual microbial species with corresponding flavor compounds. By tracking changes the microbes underwent during fermentation, scientists were able to confirm these connections, though the precise mechanism still remains a mystery.
One microbe, known to investigators only as Acetobacter “Ace” pasteurianus, has now been confirmed to have significant ties to an acidic, vinegary flavor. Another, who goes by the moniker Lb. kefiranofaciens, is now known to be associated with a slightly cheesy aftertaste. Other microbial species were also found colluding with unspecified groups of metabolites commonly recognized by researchers as related to buttery and fruity flavors.
The investigation brings to light a new understanding of microbial evolution during fermentation that will allow future fermentologists to cultivate specific microbes in order to customize unique flavors in various fermented beverages including Beer, Kombucha, and Cider.
By studying the culture of Kefir, researchers are also gaining valuable insights into similar microbial communities that thrive in both the stomach and soil. In all of these various biomes the bacteria interact in surprisingly arcane ways. Kefir, with its brief 24 hour fermentation period, provides the researchers an ideal laboratory in which to study these complex relationships.