I took my normal kombucha (scaled 1/4 to a 1 quart micro-batch), and added 1 cup of hop tea. I made the hop tea by measuring 1 oz of Cascade whole dried hops into my thermos, adding boiling distilled water, and steeping for 12 hours. The tea was 200° when I closed it and 130° when I opened it. I diluted it with cold distilled water to bring it down to room temperature before adding it to the kombucha. I used the extended warm steep in an effort to isomerize some of the hop’s alpha acids, mimicking the way it acts as a bittering agent and preservative added to beer wort.
- 7 days: pH 4.0. It tasted sweet and bitter, without any sourness. The scoby seemed a little thin.
- 14 days: pH 3.6. It tasted a little sweet, a little sour, and clearly bitter. The scoby grew rapidly in 1 week, and was 10mm thick!
The flavor wasn’t bad, much better than my earlier hopped kombucha experiments that reminded me of pickle juice. It definitely has a hoppy bitterness, but the hop flavor just isn’t that great; I’ll try it again with a different variety of hops. The bitterness is different from that I’ve gotten from dry hopping, and that I’ve gotten from fermenting on the hops, so I’ll guess that I did manage to get some isomerized alpha-acids. Those are supposed to have antimicrobial properties, but that doesn’t seemed to have prevented robust scoby growth.
Most of my previous experiments with the interplay of hops and kombucha have involved dry hopping kombucha. In the homebrewing world, what I’ve tried this time is roughly analogous to a “hop stand”. This exBeeriment compared the results of a hop-stand with dry hopping, and contains the following illuminating quote:
Tasters consistently reported perceiving the dry hop sample as being fresher smelling, more flavorful, and having a different quality than the hop stand beer. On the other hand, the hop stand sample was described as having a more muddled aroma, with two participants independently describing it as “mulchy.”
I hadn’t read this while I still had a bottle of the hop-tea kombucha on hand, but I think the description parallels my impressions so far. I think it’s worthwhile to experiment more here, but I suspect most kombucha brewers aren’t that interested in achieving the high-levels of bittering as many beer brewers. I’ve seen that dry hopping kombucha can add bitterness, so simply adding hops to kombucha at bottling (or secondary fermentation) is probably sufficient for most people reading this.
Tangentially, I recently sampled Brew Dr Citrus Hops Kombucha. I have to say up front that I’m impressed with how they have customized each kombucha to use a different tea or combination of teas for the each flavor, and that they don’t add any flavoring after fermentation. However, the actual flavor was pretty minimal (no hops detected), to the point that I found the exercise to be pointless (for me). Yes, it has probiotics, but I like flavors to be substantial and dense, not incorporeal and diaphanous. In short, it seems like a high-quality product, but the flavoring isn’t to my preference. It’s probably a good kombucha for tea-drinkers?