Caramel Kombucha

I read the results of few different experiments on the effects of different sugars in the fermentation of beer, and was inspired to make my own caramel use as the sugar source for a batch of kombucha. One of the reasons this appealed to me is that I’ve never followed the conventional advice to dissolve my sugar in my steeped tea as it cools. I’ve avoided this out of a concern that some of the sugar might caramelize, which could have some effect on the flavor of the kombucha (seems somewhat likely) or health of the microbes (seems unlikely).

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Kombucha Fermented on Raisins

How will the flavor of kombucha change if raisins are added at the beginning of fermentation? I’ve seen raisins recommended for water kefir and other kitchen fermentations, and the seem to be helping my water kefir grains (which have never thrived) come back from the brink of death. I added 1/2 cup of Thompson raisins to an otherwise normal 1 quart micro-batch.

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Date Syrup Kombucha

I was intrigued to see that date sugar is nothing more than dehydrated dates ground into a coarse powder. I wondered what the effects would be from the non-sugar components, so I decided to give it a try. While shopping I noticed that date syrup was a lot less expensive than date sugar, so I decided to use 1/4 cup of that in place of the usual sugar in an otherwise normal 1 quart micro-batch.

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Erithritol / Stevia Kombucha

I know many people are wondering about this, because they want to limit their sugar intake and think this may be a way to do it. The big question is whether the yeast and bacteria in kombucha can actually use the erythritol or stevia as a carbon source. Everything I’ve read says that they won’t, but there are yeast and bacteria that will ferment stevia, and I’ve found one reference to a bacteria that will ferment erythritol. The big question is whether any of those yeast or bacteria are in the kombucha culture. I used 1/2 cup of stevia-blend sweetener in place of the usual sugar in a 1 quart micro-batch of my usual kombucha to find out. Continue reading

Kombucha Nutrient Experiments

I have an ongoing experiment (to described in a later post) in which fermentation stalled, and I wanted to add additional nutrients to see if that would get it going again. I didn’t find any kombucha-specific information on that, so I decided to run an experiment! A while back, I ran experiments trying to ferment with minimal ingredients, like tea-only and sugar-only. The tea-only trial did nothing, which would be great to see if additives help, but since tea already provides the needed nutrients, that wouldn’t make a good starting point for an experiment of nutrient additions. In contrast, the sugar-only trial was lacking nutrients, which makes it similar to my current interest. Unfortunately, it also kinda worked, though the results were weird. Still, it should be pretty easy to tell if I can improve on weird, so I used my sugar kombucha as the basis for this experiment.

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Hop-Tea Kombucha

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.

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Molasses Kombucha

I used blackstrap molasses in place of sugar in this 1 quart micro-batch that’s otherwise normal. Unlike white sugar, molasses contains vitamins and minerals, and I’ve seen it mentioned as a potential additive for kombucha and water kefir. A potential risk is that many vitamins and minerals beneficial within specific bounds, but detrimental above those. For example, magnesium and zinc are each needed for yeast to function, but too much zinc can reduce yeast growth while excess magnesium does not.

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Oaty Kombucha

I added 1/4 cup of rolled oats (not quick-cook) to a 1 quart micro-match of my usual kombucha. I know, this seems like a weird thing to do, but I got the idea reading a blog post in which Scott Janish reviews the research related to using oats in beer. In short, it’s good for yeast, and in many cases, what’s good for yeast is good for bacteria, so I decided to give it a try even though many steps of the process (of making beer and kombucha) are very different.

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Malted Kombucha

I made a 1 quart micro-batch of kombucha, following my usual recipe, except that in place of sugar I used Briess Pilsen omried malt extract (DME). Malt is a particularly interesting sugar source because a kombucha culture should be able to thrive on malt alone. In this case, malt + tea should have provided a surfeit of nutrition. Would this produce similar effects to my double-sugar kombucha?

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Lactose Kombucha

Lactose isn’t fermented by normal beer yeast and is added to make it sweeter without increasing alcohol content or carbonation. But some yeast and bacteria can use lactose, and some of the species that can (*) are known to be common in kombucha, so I sweetened a micro-batch of kombucha with it (in a 1:1 replacement for my typical white sugar) to see what would happen.

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Kombucha-Fermented Coconut Water

I added scoby to jar of Simple Truth coconut water. This brand appears to have quite a bit less sugar than other brands (even the unsweetened ones), so I wasn’t sure if I would need to add sugar to get it working. I decided to leave it for a week or two, and play it by ear. Most recipes for fermented coconut milk are either CW + water kefir grains, or CW + <your favorite probiotic capsule>, so I hoped CW + scoby will work just fine.

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Dry Hopped Kombucha

I’ve been experimenting with adding hops to kombucha for a more beer-like experience. In brewing terms, I’m dry hopping kombucha. Dry hopping is generally done for aroma, and doesn’t generally produce much bitterness, so dry hopped kombucha should emphasize all of the ancillary hop flavors that most people probably don’t think about. But I have to wonder if the kombucha’s low pH might affect the hops in such a way as to realize some of the bitterness too.

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Kombucha-Fermented Red Wine?

Yes, fermenting something that’s already fermented sounds a little crazy, what can I say? Inspired by my success at adding vodka to the normal kombucha fermentation process, and the ongoing batch of kombucha-fermented cider, I decided to see what would happen if I added a kombucha scoby to a bottle of red wine. Rather than a nice continuation of the vodka experiments, I mashed the two together.

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Glucose Kombucha, Take 2

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I’ve made glucose kombucha before. I made it again in hopes of stopping fermentation before all of the sugar fermented out. I wouldn’t expect it to taste sour at that point (despite a relatively high acidity), but it would probably be rather drinkable while still imparting the usual probiotic benefits to my vinegar-phobic family. If nothing else, it could be used to make lemonade, sweet tea, etc.

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Kombucha Cider, Batch 2

My first batch of kombucha-fermented cider turned out pretty well, to the point of sparking interest from my kids, so I quickly made another batch. This was largely the same as the first time around, this time remembering to have the heat on the whole time (as the first batch was intended). There was also a small procedural difference: since the first batch ended up over-fermented, I was careful to check pH and flavor every two days. Continue reading

Yerba Mate Kombucha

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I’ve seen yerba mate mentioned as a possible “tea” for kombucha. My research indicated that it should have adequate levels of nitrogen and other nutrients to sustain the culture, so I decided to give it a try. Reed’s kombucha is made from a mix of yerba mate and oolong tea, which also suggests that it should work, but I don’t think most commercial kombuchas actually use cultures that propagate from one batch to another, so it doesn’t really speak to the sustainability of yerba mate. Then again, anything that isn’t overtly antimicrobial is probably workable in a blend.

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Piloncillo Kombucha

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I picked up 4 cones of piloncillo from Meijer, and grated three of them to make ~1 cup of sugar. Piloncillo is made by putting sugarcane juice into a mold, and letting the moisture evaporate. It’s a lot like brown sugar used to be, before they made brown sugar by mixing a little molasses into plain white sugar.

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Kombucha-Fermented Apple Cider

I’m fond of cider, and I was curious what would happen if the “usual” cider fermentation process was augmented with a kombucha culture. I dropped a scoby into unpreserved apple cider to find out. On one hand, it seemed promising, since hard cider (fermented “naturally” or otherwise) tends to happen readily and has tasty results. On the other hand, I wasn’t adding anything with acid or alcohol to help ensure that the kombucha culture dominated the process. It would be possible to end with something disgusting, or even toxic.

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Starting Acids for Kombucha

As I was thinking about what to title this post, I was tempted to give it a very academic-sounding name, like “Effects of Inoculating Acids on Kombucha Flavor”, because it is clear and precise. But it seemed a bit too wordy, and since I wasn’t intending to come up with an academic title until I was struck that it sounded like one, I decided it was too much.

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Tea-Tincture Kombucha

As a follow-on to my two-week-old post about kombucha made with spiked tea, and my one-year-old post about kombucha made with vinegar-extracted tea, I made kombucha with tincture of tea. For the tincture, I steeped 1/2 cup of organic Ceylon tea in 1/2 cup of Exclusiv Vodca (vodka) for almost six months. At the same time as the tincture-based kombucha, I made a batch of kombucha using 1/2 cup of organic Ceylon tea that I purchased from the same bulk bin at the same time as the tea used for the tincture.

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Kombucha from Spiked Tea

Just over 1 year ago, I made kombucha from a vinegar extract of tea. In preparing to follow that experiment with kombucha made with a homemade tea tincture (alcohol extraction), I made a series of kombucha batches with the addition of vodka. I wasn’t sure how much of the tincture I could add before the amount of alcohol would have a detrimental affect on the brew, so I gradually increased the amount of vodka until I reached the volume that my tincture would produce when it was ready. I chose vodka because it is relatively inexpensive and contains minimal “contaminants” that would flavor or be potentially harmful to the culture.

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Kombucha Brewing Temperatures

As spring turned into summer, I noticed that my scobies seemed to be very thin in the middle. At time I had a scoby 1.5″ thick at the edges and 1mm in the middle. A veritable donut scoby. At first I thought it was due to the formation of large bubbles of CO2 pushing the middle of the scoby out of the surface. I started checking the scoby weekly, also making sure that it wasn’t sticking to the side of the jar. I’ve now resolve the problem by reducing the temperature of the heating pad located under the jars.

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How I Make Kombucha

There are hundreds of sites with instructions on how to make kombucha, and I hadn’t originally anticipated that someone would want that information from me. Generally speaking, my blog is for my own use, primarily recording my experiences for future reference, and secondarily for sharing those with my friends and family.

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Sassafras Kombucha

This is not just kombucha flavored with sassafras, which was a disappointment when I tried it. Instead, this is 1 quart of sassafras tea fermented with a kombucha culture. I steeped 2 tablespoons of dried sassafras in 1 pint of boiling distilled water for three hours (until it was cool). Then I added 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup strong (pH 2.8) kombucha tea from my scoby hotel.

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Xylitol Kombucha

This 1 quart experiment was started early March, and ran for 6 weeks. At the time I wrote:

This is a quart of “normal” kombucha except that the white sugar has been replaced with xylitol. I’ve read that xylitol doesn’t work in kombucha, so this has the same expected minimal fermentation as the sugar-free kombucha, except sweetened by all of the starting unfermentable xylitol. In other words, I may end up with plain sweet tea. However, there are a few yeast or bacteria that can use the xylitol, and perhaps some are in my culture. We’ll  see!

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Agave Kombucha

Apparently, agave syrup is 60-90% fructose. I used C&H Organic Blue Agave, but I don’t know what the fructose content was. I’ve read that fructose becomes acetic acid while glucose becomes gluconic acid.  Since one of my goals is to produce a probiotic drink that doesn’t taste like vinegar, I want to better understand the process by which acetic acid is formed, and see if I can influence it. Thus, I made a batch of agave kombucha expecting it to taste very vinegary. It didn’t.

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Coffee Kombucha

I followed the same recipe as my usual kombucha, but using 1/2 cup of fine-ground, dark-roast Colombian coffee in place of tea. After brewing for 17 days, the fermentation was easily noticeable, but the coffee flavor was still prominent. Since I can’t really notice the tea flavor in my usual kombucha, I let it go a little longer to see if the coffee flavor would decrease. I tasted it again at 24 days and the acidity was getting a little overly strong without any abatement of the coffee flavor, so I decided to bottle it.

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Kombucha Sans Scoby, part 1

In my September post about anaerobic kombucha, I mentioned a study that involved brewing kombucha using a starter culture without a scoby. If you search online for “scoby growing”, you’ll find a lot of instructions on how to grow a scoby from an existing batch of kombucha. As far as I can tell, the only time when a scoby is useful, is when you don’t have a liquid starter culture of existing kombucha, and the scoby itself is acting as the culture.

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Hojicha Kombucha

As mentioned in my last post, I recently bottled kombucha made from hojicha tea. It started out really promising, as it had a really nice flavor that was rich and mild, but with enough strength to keep it interesting. However, I discovered that most of that disappeared upon bottling and refrigeration. It’s a bummer, but even still it was good enough to drink a quart without any added flavor. Perhaps this is something to consider as a continuous brew, where I use a spigot to draw off however much I need at the moment.

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Slow Going

I’ve read that kombucha fermentation tends to change as the seasons change. This certainly seems to have been true for me, as progress in each of my four 1-gallon jars slowed to a crawl over the last three months. This is despite the fact that they’ve been a room with constant temperature and a heating pad to make sure the temp is in the 76-86° range. Each one has been brewing for 4-10 weeks, and and only the 10-week batch was particularly strong.

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Doubled-Tea Kombucha

My last batch of kombucha had a flavor I didn’t enjoy, and I’d like to figure out why. I initially surmised that it must be due to the use of Gunpowder Tea, but it eventually occurred to me that this was also only the second time I’ve used loose-leaf tea. In the first instance I used 2 tablespoons of Oolong, which was approximately the same volume (though perhaps less density) as my usual family-size tea bags. My second time with loose-leaf I did a bit more research and decided that 4 tablespoons of gunpowder should be the common measure for 1 gallon of finished tea. (I also described this process here.)

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Vinegar-Tea Extract Kombucha

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.

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Anaerobic Kombucha

Last post, I mentioned that I had an experimental brew that I’d describe later. The time has arrived: I was inspired by the oxygenation experment, which contains:

According to the literature, human taste sensation of sourness not only depends on [acidity] but is also influenced by the shape of the molecules in question. Vinegar tastes considerably more sour than lactic acid with the same pH.

It has been suggested that one could cover the brewing container with a plate if a reduction in sour taste was desired. This would cause more lactic and less acetic acid to be produced. My experiment seemed to confirm this as far as flavor was concerned.

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Brown Rice Kombucha

The “sugar post”. I should really have more references, even it’s just a URL where I read about different things, but I wasn’t taking notes. Sorry.

Virtually all kombucha recipes call for sucrose (table sugar), though some call for brown sugar, sucanat, or other things that are still basically sucrose. Some even call for maple syrup, honey, molasses, etc. Chemically, sucrose is almost a 50/50 split between fructose and glucose, and the same is pretty much true for most natural sweeteners, including more exotic things like date sugar or coconut sugar (though not stevia, which is magically sweet without sugar). This means that, chemically, the difference these things will make in the final brewed kombucha will primarily come from whatever additional things (impurities) happen to be flavoring the sugar you use.

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Cold-Brew Kombucha

As mentioned last time, my latest batch of ‘buch started with decaf Luzianne tea that had been cold-steeped for 24 hours. I said that I thought it would be ready after another week, but at mid-week it didn’t seem close, so I wasn’t expecting it to be ready this evening. Nevertheless, my prediction was on the mark, and it was ready to bottle this evening.

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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

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