Basic Kombucha in the bar (or at home)

I am fermenting (...) already so long, that it seems pretty easy in my eyes. Yet a lot of people asking me over and over again, how to do it. 

Well there are a lot of websites which have good kombucha recipes. However I still think, that there is too much of a "tree-hugger" approach to the topic - hence I think, it is a good point to write up a post how I make kombucha (as straight forward as possible).

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a ferment made out of (real) tea. It is made with a designated culture, which is called SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of bacteria and Yeast). 

What is kombucha for?

There is not much scientific evidence for or against health benefits. It is for sure lacto-fermented which is quite gut friendly. It also made with tea, hence it has caffeine which has a vitalizing effect. And real brewed kombucha is further low in sugar (as the sugar has been converted).

And in the bar?

We are not using kombucha for its health benefits. But in the bar the acidity in kombucha is quite helpful to use instead of lemon or lime. We can use kombucha in classic cocktails just give those cocktails a whole different "paint job". And especially in alcohol free (or low alcohol) drinks, kombucha can give enough bite and funk, that people don't miss the alcohol.

So the basics...:

You need to understand that there are two fermentations (similar to champagne - hope you know how this is made 😉)

First fermentation is your "basic kombucha". 

Second fermentation is for carbonating and flavoring the kombucha (final product).

First fermentation:

1x Kombucha SCOBY
100ml Kombucha (starter liquid)
100g sugar
1000ml water
4x tea bags (2 green / 2 black)

Heat the water and add the sugar. When the water is boiling add the tea bags. Turn the stove off and let it chill down to room temperature. Take out the tea bags and add the room temp sweet tea into a glass (...) vessel. Add the kombucha liquid and the SCOBY. Close the container with a breathable cloth (cheese cloth, napkin or even a kitchen paper) and let it ferment at room temperature for 7 to 10 days.

Thats your basic kombucha.

Second fermentation:

Have some pressure-save bottles (I like to use PET soda bottles - carbonated PET soda bottles are certified to be able to withstand 300 PSI - hence they will not explode on you). Add ⅓ to ¾ of kombucha liquid. Add either way: fruit (or vegetable), fruit juices, sweetened infusions - whatever makes you happy - important is, that there is more sugar available for the cultures. Close the bottle (finger tight) and keep it at room temperature at 1 to 2 days. Check the carbonation level (tough the bottle, if it becomes very hard, it is sufficiently carbonated) - and then put it into the fridge.

Back to the first fermentation:

It is important never to use all produced kombucha. The mother likes an acidic environment and thrives in its own "buch". I am usually using a "solera" method (continuous brewing method), so you can always keep the same container and don't have to sanitise in between etc. 
Just remove the "growing SCOBY babies when they take too much stuff (you can either way start a new batch/glass of kombucha - which is a great idea, in case anything goes wrong with your original batch, or you can give it to a dear friend - don't forget the starting liquid, or you can sell it to a not so dear friend... or you can compost it or throw it (which is the worst option). One kombucha baby in sufficient liquid in a freezer bag in the fridge, is also a good idea, if something might go wrong with your original batch. It is also possible to freeze, but the SCOBY takes some damage, and it might take some TLC to revitalize that.

That's really it!

Important points are: Have enough sugar (but don't make a sugar syrup, too high sugar contents are damaging microorganisms). Have patience. Use white or organic light sugar (no honey, no maple syrup, no Demerara sugar in the first fermentation. In the second ferment you can try though). 

The Best Vessel:

For the moment I am using a Chinese fermentation glass jar (which has a rim where you can add water, as an air trap. Instead of water I am just using kitchen paper, to ensure, that no pest can get into my "buch".
It is difficult to pour out (because of the water lip) and the tight lip.
I thought that big glass juice dispensers are cool. But the spigot is usually obstructed by some culture of the kombucha - hence it doesn't work as great as in theory.
You probably find your own best vessel. Just make sure, that it is not too small, because the SCOBY will grow fast, and otherwise you won't have a lot of space for the kombucha liquid.


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