D.I.Y. Kombucha Adventure
Updated: May 27, 2019
I love D.I.Y projects. Sometimes I get a little in over my head with the number of projects and the scope of the projects I would like to accomplish. A good example of this would be my 2018 desire to make homemade shibori dyed throw pillows (got the dye, check... got the fabric, check... got the pillow inserts, check.... took the class, check... but have yet to actually do the project - 2019 goals!). I am also a book fiend and when I find a book that makes me dream about a D.I.Y. project, I cannot say no.
This recently happened while perusing my local bookstore, Word After Word Books (awesome store, a great place to spend an afternoon!), when this gem caught my eye:
Now, I already have the two classic books on fermentation by Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. Have I used them recently? No, but I should! What really caught my eye in this book that I could not live without is that it explains how to ferment some things that I would never have thought of trying to ferment. Like plums. Or Gooseberries. Or mushrooms (next up for my fermentation experiments- fermented local shiitake mushrooms from Little Roots Farm!)
The Noma Guide to Fermentation also has an extensive section on Kombucha, and makes the point that you don't necessarily have to ferment just the run-of-the-mill caffeinated tea as I had previously been taught. You can also ferment sweetened herbal tea preparations, fruit juices and maple syrup! Mind blown!
I haven't brewed Kombucha in several years, so I went looking for a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that needed a home. Avid kombucha brewers always have plenty of SCOBYs because each batch produces a new one, so they are pretty easy to find on community Facebook pages. I quickly found one and got brewing! I cut the large, floppy round disk into 4 pieces and prepped 4 batches:
Green tea with cane sugar (this is my safety batch, just in case the others fail for some reason)
White tea with Rose petals and cane sugar (this just sounded delicious for spring)
Douglas Fir Spring Tips tea with cane sugar (no caffeine experiment)
Vermont maple syrup with no tea whatsoever (no tea or caffeine experiment)
With the first 3, I took 1/2 gallon jars and filled each one 1/2 way with boiling water and 4 tea bags each to brew a strong tea for 10 minutes or so. I then added a 1/2 cup of cane sugar and stirred it until it had dissolved. I then filled the jars almost to the top with cool water to bring the temperature down. I then added about a cup of regular, unflavored kombucha to the jar to lower the pH of the solution and make a happier environment for the SCOBY. Then it was time to add the SCOBY. Because this is a colony of bacteria and yeast, I did not want to contaminate it with my hands, so I used a pair of tongs to transfer it to the top of the jar.
For the maple syrup version, because there was no tea, there was no need to heat any water. I followed the recipe in the Noma book, which was only slightly more complicated because they are a very precise and use weighed measurements for their ingredients. I made a 1/2 batch so it would fit in my 1/2 gallon jar (with plenty of headroom, which also makes this batch brew faster due to less liquid to ferment). It contains 180 grams Vermont maple syrup (I am married to a Vermonter, so only Vermont syrup is allowed in our house), 820 grams of water, 100 grams of unpasteurized kombucha and the SCOBY. Mix up the liquids and add the SCOBY to the top and you are done!
I covered all of the jars with a scrap of a clean old kitchen towel and a rubber band to keep the fruit flies out. Fruit flies love ferments....
They have been fermenting for about a week, and still have a few days to go (my house is not the ideal 70-75 degrees, thanks to our cold Sierra nights). I was super excited about the flavors though- even though they are still too sweet, they taste delicious! I particularly love the Douglas fir spring tips and the rose/white tea versions. The maple is a little further along since there was less liquid to ferment and is also quite yummy. I have moved them to the warmest spot in my kitchen to speed up the process (on top of my 1970s stove which has two lit pilot flames under the hood at all times). Once they are fermented to my liking, I will rebottle them into closed bottles so they carbonate for a couple of days before I move them to the fridge. I cannot wait to start drinking these and to crafting my next batch!
What should my next version be? Have you ever brewed your own Kombucha? If anyone is interested in trying to brew, I will have some extra SCOBYs soon and I would love to pass them along for your experiments!