by Mandy Osborn
Hi! Long time no see. Mandy here, and this post (and subsequent following posts) is about something I am very excited and passionate about: homemade kombucha. Some would agree with me that the mildly carbonated and sweet-tart taste of a fresh bottle of kombucha is perfect any time of day, but I also have friends and family members that can’t stand the taste of the stuff. Some people have also compared the SCOBY (a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast- the stuff that transforms sweet tea into kombucha) to dead aliens, jellyfish, leather pancakes, flesh frisbees, the list goes on and on. In reality, the SCOBY may be interesting to look at, but they’re also pretty magical.
This post is mainly going to serve as an introduction to homemade kombucha. In following posts I want to walk you all through the process of making- brewing, fermenting, and flavoring your own “bu” (say it like “boo”), AND if you’re Albuquerque based, I have SCOBY adoptions available (please someone take some, they keep growing and I hate to throw them away-references required).
Kombucha essentially consists of fermented sweet tea. It can be flavored with an innumerable variety of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables to make for a pleasant tasting experience. It has been made for thousands of years, and once you get the hang of things, really isn’t too difficult to make either, though there is definitely a good amount of trial and error involved. I have been making my own kombucha for almost five years now, and I finally have a more seamless process with consistently yummy brews being produced. A resource that defnitely made a big difference, and I can’t recommend it enough, was purchasing The Big Book of Kombucha by Alex LaGory and Hannah Crum- their writing gives lots of insight and information I hadn’t encountered before, and also has a TON of creative flavoring ideas as well.
My usual fermentation routine takes place over about a three week timespan, with weeks 1-2 dedicated to the primary ferment. This is the time that sweet tea hangs out with the SCOBY, and the magic happens. The bacteria and yeast start to consume the sugar, and begin to release carbon dioxide and change the taste of the tea from sweet to more fizzy and sour/tangy. After their two week primary ferment (which is sometimes longer in cooler months as the ferment slows a little, and sometimes shorter when the kitchen is warmer), I remove the SCOBY from the tea and transfer it to fermentation-safe swing-top glass bottles with herbs, fruits (chunks or purées), syrups, or anything else that strikes my flavoring fancy. After a week of secondary fermentation with the flavorings in the sealed bottles, I am able to strain the resulting flavored brew and bottle it! I like to recycle store bought kombucha bottles, and I’ve found that the bottles from Health-Ade and Synergy are my favorites.
Though it may be slightly time consuming and a little labor intensive, I truly enjoy my kombucha making time each week. Exploring new flavor combinations and getting to know my ferment over the years has been a very rewarding and interesting experience thus far. The next post in this series will cover the primary fermentation in a greater depth, with explanations about tools and ingredients I prefer to use!