Last month I attended a presentation at one of Chicago’s newest hot spots; The Kombucha Room. Nestled in the Logan Square neighborhood, the venue strives to support regional brewers and community wellness education.
For those absolutely new to the term, we are talking about fermented tea infused with flavors and, as the presenter (Kombuchade) advised, “good for the performance athlete and your grandmother”. The making of which is as much art as it is science, but definitely realistic to do at home. (Although supporting your local, organic focused businesses is definitely a great way to “‘buch on” as well).
The first priority is to start with a good scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). Like any good culture, this should come from reputable sources and those that are able to provide you data on the strains. There is actually a Kombucha Brewers International association which can help for resources and/or direction. Best yet, scoby can eventually be shared with other fellow ‘buch makers.
*I have seen other recipe bloggers, such as The Kitchn, demonstrate how to make your own with a pre-purchased kombucha as part of the recipe. However, this was not discussed in the presentation I attended. Again, it’s best to know your sources and go with the good stuff.
Next, is to think about and determine flavor profiles. This step has a part A & B.
- A) Determine your base tea leaves. These are needed for scoby growth.
- B) Additives, such as spices, should align with your health and wellness priorities.
- A “2nd level” fermentation, could have whole substrates like fruit or shaved ginger root. (Whole substrates will increase “fizz” effect, experimentation with them will likely have best outcomes after you have become a more savvy brew master playing with your base teas and other, more simple flavor additives).
Experimentation with infusions are seemingly endless, but you will always want to keep a “base” scoby (ie not infused with any additives). 15-20% saved should be sufficient, but up to 50% set aside for future batches could generate “aged textures”.
After determining what flavor combinations you want to tackle, stock up on appropriate supplies and derive a strategic game plan for the brewing process. Although some rules apply, this can be customized and fit to your lifestyle. Figure out personal logistics. Once a system is set up, input time could be, for example, an hour or two per week (keeping in mind, time put in will give back to you in more ways that one).
Pay attention to temperature in which you are storing your batch. Some brew masters like to place them in proximity to a heated cooking source or on top of a refrigerator. Colder temperatures will slow the ferment. This is where trial and error + personal circumstances will come into play. However, over time, you will get the hang of it and can tailor the plan accordingly. Think of this as nurturing.
Once the kombucha has cultivated to your desired taste and consistency, it an be poured directly from the container it was fermented in to enjoy OR into smaller, individual containers to be refrigerated.
Additional resource material is below;
- Sterilized jar (glass preferred). Can wipe with white vinegar wipe before use.
- Growlers, mason jars, etc.
- Large tea ball (metal strainer).
- Filtered water, such as reverse osmosis.
- Flip tops for jars (for example from Mason Jars Company).
Points for Processing
- Don’t burn your culture, ie overheat. Watch for little bubbles at bottom of the liquid (typically 150°).
- Keep liquid moving in pot.
- After pour onto scoby, stir up (can be with hand).
- Don’t move jar around too much.
- Don’t over seal the bottle or it could explode. (Also, don’t use cheap wine corker, etc. Be sure to buy something rated for kombucha pressurizing).
- To limit the primary fermentation, refrigerate. Otherwise, it will continue to culture/age.
Other Tips/Tricks of the Trade
- Keep tea portion to at least 50% and consider avoiding anti-bacterial varieties or additives, such as an earl gray tea or certain essential oils. (These might work for small batch, but it will definitely be trial and error).
- Don’t attempt to reduce sugar. The ‘buch needs this for energy.
- Scoby can be stored in a mason jar. Vinegar will preserve it (only warning is if there is a big black or green fuzz ball).
- Infuse flavors when kombucha is warm (vs after refrigeration).
- Your first batch may be a little thin. Taste the scoby as you go along through the batching (play with it).
- Individual bottles can be used to create more fizz.
- Note: different herbs have different fizz results.
- The bottles can be “burbed”.
- Although more advanced in technique, nitrogen can force carbonate.
- Secondary infusions, such as whole fruit, may be best when wrapped with cheese cloth (think of this as similar to a tea bag).
If excess scoby (as it will continue to grow);
- Recipes to convert into food
- Can feed to animals
- You can eat it directly
- Compost it
Other Lessons/Words of Wisdom
- Organic process ties into the energy/natural processes, ie ingredients don’t have to be organic, but quality of ingredients = quality of kombucha.
- Buying commercial brands will vary with regards to the level of kombucha. Translation; read labels.
- If asked about alcohol content, it is hard to measure b/c alcoholic measures pick up on organic acids in the profile and includes those. The short answer, is this shouldn’t be of too much concern and is likely gossiped about due to hype vs actuality.
In closing… enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill, practice mindfulness while doing, and reap the rewards of your custom creations!
If in Chicago, be sure to check out The Kombucha Room. Social media shot outs are below:
In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes? Contact me through my business site.
Disclosure – Links to Mason Jars Company may generate very small amounts of monetary income.