Monday, November 7, 2011

Kombucha: Adventures in Tea-Fermenting

Kombucha brewing away.
So. If you've never heard of kombucha, you should probably go to Wikipedia and get a little introduction. If you're not totally disturbed by the idea of fermented tea, read on.

Top view of a healthy SCOBY at work. Tinted pink because I used some Tazo Passion tea. That stuff stains.
After having homemade kombucha at some cafes in Thailand, I decided that it would be my project to start brewing my own kombucha after returning home. It's a really easy process, as long as you have a starter culture. After some Craigslist sleuthing, I found a woman in a hippie co-op who was giving away kombucha cultures. I picked one up and got started.

Layers growing on the culture.
Making kombucha is incredibly easy. I got a 2-gallon glass container, brewed 2 gallons of green tea, added 2 cups of sugar, and waited for the sweet tea to cool. Then I added the kombucha culture (also known as a SCOBY, or "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast". Yum.

Another batch: Chai Kombucha
Then I waited about a week and half. During that time, the culture eats the sugar and ferments the tea, producing a mildly vinegar flavor. It's not alcoholic, although it has a tiny bit of alcohol from the fermentation process (about 0.5%).

Big batch of berry green tea kombucha, next to small batch of chai & clove kombucha
After the tea is done fermenting, I removed the culture and bottled it. Kombucha isn't supposed to come into contact with metal, so I've been using glass jars with plastic lids.

Repurposed bottles
After bottling, I waited a few more days for the secondary fermentation process, during which the kombucha can develop carbonation and become deliciously fizzy.

A glass of the good stuff
Waiting for the secondary fermentation to occur. After a few days waiting, you can pop the bottles in the fridge, where the cold will stop the fermentation process. Enjoy! Kombucha's supposed to have a host of health benefits, but at this point I'm addicted to the flavor. My favorite mix so far? Chai with clove and cinnamon.

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