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kombucha

  • recipeFebruary 4, 2022
  • It's fizzy sour fermented tea

    Kombucha!

    I've been making my own booch for a lot of years now.

    Do you know what kombucha is? It's fermented black tea. That's pretty much it. It has a tangy, mildly vinegary flavor, and has a mild effervescence. Much less carbonated that what you buy in the store. And it has a very slight alcohol content. Because of the fermentation. Like, as much as is produced by a sourdough starter. It's basically the same chemical process. But it's in there. So if you're allergic to alcohol or something, don't drink this. But also if you're looking to get drunk, also don't drink this.

    Making it at home is fun, kind of like a science project. If you're into home ferments, or if you're not but want to be into home ferments, then kombucha is the way to go. It's easier than making sourdough, and definitely easier than brewing beer. It's also cheap as hell. Way, way cheaper than what you buy at the store. Certainly cheaper what you can get on tap at one of those fancy taprooms that serves kombucha. Seriously you can make it at home for pennies.

    Getting Started

    Here's everything you need to start your culture.

    1. A bottle of store bought kombucha. (Assuming you don't know anybody who can give you some booch with a mother in it.) Pretty much any kombucha should be okay because they're all about those live probiotics. But be sure that it says unfiltered, or live culture, or something like that.

    2. Black tea. I only drink decaff, but for my booch, I get regular old full-caff black tea. I think most of the caffeine must get processed during fermentation because I drink this stuff a lot and never get a buzz from it.

    3. Sugar. Plain while sugar. Don't be fancy here. No agave syrup, no sugar substitutes. Just plain white sugar. It's not for you, anyway. It's for the yeast. And they'll eat most of it.

    That's it!!

    Go home and drink half your store bought booch. Yum. Set the other half aside.

    Brew some sweet tea: I brew a little over a gallon at a time, and use 1 cup of sugar and 6 - 8 tea bags.

    Let that tea sit for half a day. Let it really steep.

    Okay, now your tea is at room temperature. Pour it in your container, add the store bought booch, and top it off with water until it's a couple inches from full. (Leave some space for the mother to form.)

    Put it somewhere warm-ish and dark. Mine goes in a cabinet above the fridge.

    In about two weeks you should start to see the mother forming. It'll look like a plastic film on top of the liquid. The bubbles will push it up to the top and it will form a natural seal and start that light carbonation process.

    You can start tasting it now and bottle it up whenever you want to.

    Bottling

    I like to do a secondary fermentation. Which means I let the booch sit in the big jug for a long time until I feel like it's eaten through all the sugar, and then I put half a cup of a little something something in my bottles and then rack the booch into the bottles and seal em up. Then I let those sit at room temperature for about two weeks while it digests before putting em the fridge.

    Your booch will continue to eat the sugars even in the fridge, but at a much slower pace.

    racking the kombucha
    Figure: racking the booch

    You can feed your secondary fermentation with pretty much whatever you want to. I've used a little bit of watered down fruit juice, and that turns out okay. You can put cut up fruit in. I made some really good lemon basil batches over the summer. You can add chili pepper. The batch I just bottled today, I added some lemon ginger tea.

    booch in bottles!
    Figure: booch in bottles!

    I do recommend these swing-top bottles, because I love them. You don't have to worry about bottle caps, etc.

    I have some plastic tubing and a wracking cane from that one time I tried brewing beer at home. So I use that because it's convenient. You don't need fancy equipment though, you could probably just carefully pour off the top.

    Tips and troubleshooting

    • Let your booch breathe! Keep the top of your jug covered with a breathable cloth. If you don't, little bugs will get in there during the summer, and that's gross. (You're basically making vinegar, which will attract the bugs.)

    • I've been brewing for +5 years now and have only had a batch go bad on me once. You'll know it when you see it. This was obvious, fuzzy, yucky colored mold. No biggie! Pour it all out, sterilize your jug, and just start a new batch!

    • The mother, aka the SCOBY will continue to grow. Forever. I have never found a good use for it, and just throw it in the compost these days. In the past I have tried to season it and dehydrate it and make kombucha jerky. This was somewhat successful. Maybe I'll do a recipe for that one day.

    • I have never had any problem with my kombucha dying. Sometimes I brew multiple times a week, and then I'll forget about it for months. No matter how long I leave it, it always bounces back as soon as I feed it. It is not stressful, scary, or high maintenance. It is basically not killable.

    Conclusion

    Now you know everything I know about kombucha!

    Go make some damn booch!