While reading Gunther Frank’s book, I was intrigued by the description the use of alcohol in making kombucha. It’s also mentioned on his website, albeit with less less discussion than what I recall (or imagined) being in the book. I’ve read somewhere that Kombucha starts to brew with the yeast turning the sugar into alcohol, and then continues with the bacteria turning the alcohol into acid. Thus, adding a little high-proof alcohol not only helps prevent contamination by unwanted organisms, it also allows the bacteria to start working without waiting for the yeast.
I’ve not tried that yet, but as I was pondering that, it occurred to me that before adding the alcohol, I should be able to use it to make a stronger extraction of the tea than I would normally get with hot water. As I was researching methods of extraction (making a tincture), I ran across the suggestion that vinegar could be used as a lesser substitute. Many sources suggest that, in a pinch, cider vinegar can be used in place of a cup of starter kombucha when starting out. I took this as a green light to use the material on hand (no vodka) to create an apple cider tincture of the same tea that I’ve been using to make most of my kombucha.
I emptied two family-size tea bags (2 TB) into a 1 cup jar, topped it off with vinegar, and put it next to my kombucha in the garage. I gave it a shake each time I passed by, and did that for 1 month. Just to be sure I was getting everything possible, I strained the tea out and added that to a quart of boiling water. After that cooled, I combined my tincture with my weak, vinegary tea, and started my next batch of ‘buch. Tonight I bottled it, just one day short of a two-week ferment.
It definitely has a richer, fuller flavor than my last two batches (one oolong, one anaerobic). Unfortunately, I don’t know how much of that is from the extraction process, and how much is from the added flavor of the apple cider. It doesn’t striker me as particularly acidic or apple-cidery, which is nice, though the pH is 3, just like my last two. Flavors seem to have a tendency to get milder over time, and I’ll be interested to see if it’s any different after a day or two of refrigeration. I bottled 1 quart plain, one with a bag of Celestial Peach, and one with a bag of London F&H Raspberry.
Last week the night temperatures fell into the 40s and the daytime temps only rose into the 70s. This meant that my kombucha was only maintaining a temperature around 68-70°, which isles than I’d like. This past weekend I pulled out a heating pad and stuck it between my two jars. My temps are back up to 76-78° (also aided by higher temps outside), but we’ll see how it goes. I’ll have to think about where I can put these once it actually gets cold out.
I’ve not yet decided what to do for my next batch, it may be a repeat of the anaerobic brew that I allow to ferment longer (maybe to pH 2.5?), or maybe something else. Coming up will also be bottling the Gunpowder brew. I tasted it tonight and it was a little bitter and definitely tasted of gunpowder tea. Not all that sweet, but also not much kombucha tang. It’s been brewing for 12 days, and I think I’ll let it go another week before I try it again. If the flavor doesn’t work out for me, I suppose I can use it for a new scoby hotel, and drink my old one (which has only been going for the same amount of time.