The USC chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) hosted a design challenge in April 2022 inviting Viterbi undergrads to compete to brew the best kombucha.
The design challenge aims to give underclassmen better presentation skills by introducing them to pitch decks and a competitive environment, while also practicing teamwork and independence. Participants also attended a MATLAB workshop to introduce them to coding before they learn it in their chemical engineering course curriculum.
Teams were judged mainly based on the kombucha they created, as well as their presentation, which involved talking about their flavor profile for their homemade kombucha, fermentation process, safety considerations, cost, and scalability.
This year, three teams competed for kombucha glory: Team SCOBYfruit, TRB Brewing Co., and Team Tropica.
Each team strove to put a unique flair into their kombucha in order to make theirs the most appealing to judges. For example, Team Tropica made three different batches of kombucha with three different sugar levels to appeal to a variety of potential preferences that the judges might find tasty.
TRB Brewing Co., composed of Anna Wapner, Megan Lee, and Olivia Kukar, was crowned the overall winner the competition. They chose their team name because they all sat three rows back in general chemistry. Their kombucha creation process involved testing two different kombuchas, black tea and green tea, to see which one was sweeter, so that the end product could be more appealing to people who don’t regularly consume kombucha.
The judges praised TRB Brewing Co. for having the most detailed presentation and tastiest kombucha. The judges were not regular kombucha drinkers, so TRB’s decision to reduce their fermentation time helped reduce the carbonation and the unpleasant bitterness that other teams had. Using green tea increased the sweetness in a way that made it more palatable to judges.
Published on May 18th, 2022
Last updated on May 18th, 2022