Kombucha is popular. You’ll find it at any health food store, Safeway, and most Costcos now. Pacifi c Culture has installed taps all over Chico in places like Chico Natural Foods, Tin Roof Bakery, and Naked Lounge. Like with brewing other types of bubbly fermented beverages, kombucha is something people don’t just do: they get into.
A type of fermented and often carbonated tea, kombucha is made in a simple, approachable, and straight-forward two-step fermentation process that over the course of about seven to twenty days, transforms sweet tea into a type of probiotic soda. The basic process involves tender care and affection for your beverage-brewing pet—a SCOBY, an acronym for symbiotic community of yeasts and bacteria. It doesn’t require much to make kombucha: just fresh air, time, an occasional refreshment of sweet tea, and your kombucha SCOBY buddy. If you can keep a goldfish alive, you can successfully brew kombucha.
Step one, also called the primary or aerobic fermentation, involves preparing sweetened black tea, cooling it to body temperature, slipping in a SCOBY and starter liquid (a portion of mature kombucha from a previous batch), covering with a cloth, and leaving it undisturbed on the countertop for seven to fourteen days. During this step, wild bacteria present in the SCOBY get to work on transforming sugar in the tea into lactic acid.
This lactic acid aids our gut in digestion and absorption of important vitamins and minerals, while also maintaining a low pH, which plays an important part in keeping your fermenting kombucha safe from putrefying bacteria, even at room temperature. After this initial fermentation, the sugars in the tea have been reduced and lactic acids have taken their place. We can now call our kombucha “mature.”
After the primary fermentation, a second step is required for creating a flavorful and carbonated kombucha. This is secondary, or anaerobic, fermentation is where all carbonation and flavor are created. By funneling mature kombucha into flip-top bottles and adding a combination of fruit or vegetable juices, we’re giving the wild yeasts present in our mature kombucha the chance to feed on sugars in the juice and give off carbon dioxide. When this transformation occurs in an environment devoid of air (like in our flip-top bottles), the carbon dioxide builds up over three to five days, creating an on-going cascade of bubbles when poured into a glass. Some call this final product “kombucha soda.”
CREATIVE FALL FLAVORS
Some fabulous fall flavors for your fi nished kombucha soda include pomegranate and sage, pomegranate and cinnamon, persimmon and nutmeg, carrot and apple, or chai spices like cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. That’s the best thing about brewing your own kombucha: you have the power to create whatever flavors you want.
SPICED APPLE KOMBUCHA
- 12 ounces finished kombucha tea
- 3 ounces fresh apple cider
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice
- 3 whole cloves
- Funnel kombucha into a 16-ounce flip-top bottle to build carbonation while the flavors steep. Add the cider, ginger juice, cinnamon stick, and cloves before sealing the lid. Leave the sealed bottle at room temperature to build carbonation for 3–5 days. Place in the fridge for at least 12 hours before opening, to settle any overactive yeasts. As a precaution, you might consider opening the bottle outdoors, incase the carbonation build-up threatens to paint your ceiling with cinnamon spice.
- To serve, pour into glasses and enjoy as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as a sort of kombucha float.
Kala Riddle is a nutritionist turned sourdough baker, who enjoys celebrating the seasons through cooking, growing, and sharing our most basic and personal connection: food. Keep up with her at www.untamedbakeshop.com