Kombucha

This is likely to be the first of several posts. There’s a lot of different information online, some of it contradictory, so I’ll document what I’ve tried and what I’ve discovered.

My first batch followed a typical recipe:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 gallon distilled water (because my tap water has chlorine and flourine)
  • two tea bags (Luzianne family-size black decaf), steeped for 5 minutes
  • one scoby and 1 cup starter kombucha from a generous donor

I started with it fermenting in a corner of the kitchen, but the adhesive aquarium thermometer indicated that my temps were too low (68-74). After a week I moved it to the garage where it’s been consistently 74-76. After two weeks I used a straw to take samples every few days, until it tasted like the sugar was gone, and any more acetic acid would probably be intolerable.

I bottled it into mason jars and put those in the bottom of the refrigerator to stop fermentation. I poured out 8 oz at a time adding a different flavor to each serving after the first few, seeing what worked. Here’s what I tried and my impressions:

  • plain it tasted a lot like GT’s raw plain kombucha, only less intense.
  • strawberry-kiwi juice made it taste like the juice
  • maple syrup was pretty good, a bit more balanced than plain
  • honey did little for the flavor
  • vanilla didn’t help
  • almond extract was interesting, but not great
  • orange oil was pretty good, but the oil burned my lips.
  • a bag of Lipton Blackberry-Vanilla tea was pretty good, and added no calories

My first batch produced a viable baby, so I set my first scoby aside and used the new one to start a second batch. It was like the first, but using a 24-hour cold extraction for the tea. After two weeks, it’s still a little sweet; it seemed to have a slow start. Two days after that, I acquired another jar and started my third with the original scoby.

By this point I had read Günther Frank’s book and was intrigued by the suggestion (and online inconsistencies) that I could use over-steeped tea. I boiled my water, threw in my two tea bags, and let it steep until it was room temperature. It was, unsurprisingly, very dark. I just bottled it last night, and was surprised by how much richer and fuller the flavor was, without any of bitterness associated with tea that’s steeped too long. This batch was done after twelve days, in the same conditions as my other batch, so I can only conclude that the more complete extraction allowed the scoby to thrive more, and giving me a nice thick third scoby and a relatively quick fermentation.

It appears that I’m getting ready to venture into relatively uncharted territory, so I’ll map my progress. I’ve started an apple-cider extraction of the same tea, and a future batch will use the resulting tincture as the tea portion of the brew. At some point after that, I’ll repeat the experiment with a vokda-based tea tincture. This evening I’ll probably start batch 4 with oolong, green, or white tea.

I’ve also read a lot about what function the tea serves, and what else might serve that function, as well the results of brewing with different saccharides. More to come…

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