Coffee & fermented drinks by Benjamin Richardson

17/05/2018 in News

My fascination with fermented drinks

I grew up with all sorts of fruit trees and vegetables in my families front and back garden, I guess my family was the cultivating type. I also remember the homemade products were abundant around the home. I have many memories of things in jars curing, pickling, jams and mum’s cumquat brandy. One I distinctly remember was in a jar on the back porch, covered, filled with an amber liquid, with an ugly looking foreign matter on top. I quite early connected it with my mother mixing some sugar and black tea and placing it there. This ugly foreign matter turned out to be the magic that turned all that sugar into a sweet, vinegary and carbonated drink. It was a kombucha scoby. I don’t think I ever loved the drink back then but mum would give it to us as a kids as we never had soda in the home. When all the kids were full-time in school (5,7 & 9 years old) mum went back to work. I think this beautiful assortment of homemade things started coming to an end. I never really thought much about komubucha or homemade/cured things till my 20’s when living in the United States. Bottled Fermented drinks were fastly becoming a huge trend there, and it some what brought up nostalgia and sparked my interest that something mum was brewing in our home years ago was now just trending in all these chic, eco stores. A drink so ancient and simple could be so beneficial and delicious! From that time on I started experimenting with fermenting products myself, and tried a wide variety of products fermented by craftsman.

In my early days of coffee in Australia, I had an amazing ‘local’ (a regular customer) coffee drinker that was studying nutrition in a Sydney University. As a gift, she gave me my first kombucha scoby and some kefir grains. It wasn’t long before we were swapping recipes and sharing with each other our successful brews. My love for these brews and the quality of the drinks themselves just got better. Because of the live bacteria in the fermenting, I always have at least two things fermenting in my home at one time, to keep the bacteria strong and healthy. This amount fermenting allowed for a lot of practice, experiments and trail and error

Fermentations place in coffee

When we think specialty coffee, we think quality. This is good thing, but many things come at a cost when trying to chase the highest boundaries. To achieve quality, you shouldn’t have to waste products. But, when exploring quality, you can end up with some less then desirable results. This waste may be seen as a necessity to grow in specialty, however I think it is something that should be managed. Waste should have a second journey. A chance for it to be re-used.

The nature of a fermentation is to transform. Placing an ingredient into an environment that will change its identity and giving that ingredient a new purpose. I have always wanted to marry my two loves of coffee and fermenting. Although I had tested a lot of fermentations, nothing had push my capacity to ferment more than a couple litres to share amongst friends. The opportunity to really test my skills and theory was to come. Bocca’s Amsterdam Coffee Festival team wanted to share coffee’s possibilities, I saw no better platform then this to share the possibilities of coffee uses with the public and spark energy into some coffee geeks. Amsterdam Coffee Festival was the vessel upon which I wanted to show that old coffee can be transformed into a drink thats quality is not defined by the coffee itself, but by managing how coffee met with a fermenting environment. The result, we hoped, was a quality fermented drink.  We were happy to open up the first bottles of coffee kefir to hear one of our staff saying, “WOW, I could sell that”. It was a success!

Every project like this needs a bigger purpose than just to create. When looking at this project I know I wanted to go into it with the mindset of solving a problem, not creating new ones. For this reason I decided to use old coffee brews and old test roasts from our roastery. The way that the coffee ferments dramatically changes coffees inherent flavour and quality. I therefor felt no need to use the highest quality brews, but wanted to give older coffee a chance to taste good again. I firmly believe that the coffee I fermented tasted better after it had fermented. The fermentation made this drink to be of higher quality, adding value. It was no longer coffee, but it was now delicious!

I see products like this as a support for chasing the quality that we want to taste daily. I hope that people can enjoy the creative and innovative ways we can use coffee. It’s definitely worth putting a lot of thought and love into trying to fixing problems that exists in specialty coffee, in this case it was waste. It would be encouraging to see people actively work towards working better for the future of coffee. Supporting the making and the consumption of these types of drinks can carve a more sustainable way of working in this quality focused industry.

How to make this mysterious fermented beverage

Ingredients (recipe is per litre of finished product):

– 50g of organic sugar (medium molasses content)

– 500g of old brewed filter coffee

– 100g Water Kefir grains

– 500g of water

– 2 litre jar

– 1 litre air tight bottle

– Cloth for the jar

– Elasticband

Caution: don’t let Kefir Grain come in contact with any metals. use plastic or glass.


Mix the sugar into the coffee, make sure it is totally dissolved, Pour this and the water into your 2 litre jar.

Add the Kefir Grains only if the beverage is between 5-35 degrees celsius. If not the Grains can be damaged or die. Place the cloth around the top of the jar to replace the air tight lid. It is good for the beverage to breath a little. Place in a warm but not hot place out of direct sunlight for 48hours. This is called the first ferment. Next is to pour the liquid from the grains into your 1 litre air tight bottle. (please don’t use a metal sieve, I use a nylon one) The liquid poured should have no obvious chunks of the culture in the drink, or it will continue to ferment too much. Leave minimal liquid with the grains.

At this time you can start another batch in your first ferment jar. Now, second ferment time. Seal the bottle and let it sit for a further 48hours at room temperature 20-24 degrees is perfect. This is the second ferment and will complete the beverage. You should now always store your completed batch in the fridge, this will minimise the continuation of fermentation. It is best consumed in 3-5 days. By that time you should have another batch, perfect.