Kombucha Brewing

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Thus far, great success.

The kombucha mother is dutifully cranking out three gallons of delicious, vaguely apple-cider-flavored beverage every week – and it’s awesome. Right out of the brewing vessel, it is quite mellow, a tiny, tiny bit sweet and a little tingly, but not fully-carbonated in a bubble right up on your tongue kind of way. On the first batch, after a few days in the bottle, the carbonation ramped up a bit but was not quite as bubbly as I’d have liked. On that batch, I used a randomly unmeasured “dollop” of white sugar, maybe a teaspoon or so. When I unstopped the bottle, it fizzed up nicely, but there seemed to be little carbonation remaining in the kombucha itself. Those bottles with raspberries fizzed more than the others.

On the second batch, I used a full tablespoon of raw cane sugar – far too much. The carbonation was through the roof, to the point of ridiculous fizzing over of the bottles upon uncorking, and there was a vaguely syrupy consistency and flavor to the beverage. It was still quite tasty, but more like drinking a fully-sugared soda than a kombucha.I do like the flavor of the cane sugar much better than the white sugar, though.

The first two batches used black tea. For the third, I tried green tea, and I may never go back. Using a 2:1 mixture of brown sugar to white sugar, it is mellow, refined and nicely carbonated right out of the brewing vessel. I tried bottling with either no additives or only some ginger, and while it tastes great, there is no fizz. I guess what carbonation there was got pummeled out of it during the bottling process, after which I threw them right into the fridge, thereby arresting the fermentation process.

For this week’s batch, I’ll be adding about a teaspoon of the raw cane sugar to the bottles and putting them into the brewing cabinet for a day or two before sticking them into the fridge. I’m hoping to find someone with a refractometer (who can teach me how to use it!) to measure how much sugar is in these finished products – I don’t want to be drinking vast amounts of sugar.

I’ve tried freeze-dried blueberries, cherries and raspberries, of which only the raspberries seem to make much of a flavor impact on the final product. The blueberries turn the drink a wonderful shade of purple, but I can’t taste them. The cherries were much the same. The raspberries, though, particularly paired with fresh-grated ginger, does a really nice job. Still, the seeds are a little distracting.

Also, holy wow is freeze-dried fruit fricking expensive! A little tub of cherries was nearly twenty bucks! Not worth it, in my view, and I shan’t be doing those again. The ginger, though – mmmm. Good stuff, though I’ll be running it through a fine strainer to get the fibrous bits out on the next batch. I tried powdered ginger, but there is still enough fiber in that to show up in the drink as a texture. It’s not unpleasant to me, but I can see how others might find it so.

The mother has sprouted a daughter (of sorts) that I may try to separate off and get another vessel going. I’m drinking 2 – 3 bottles per day, so it’s not lasting a full week. Mike tried some of this batch and found it fairly tasty, too, so if he gets into it, we’ll definitely need more than one brewing at a time. 🙂 Still, I’m a bit reluctant to separate the daughter layer off, as I don’t know if it’s got the full SCOBY composition as the full mother. I may leave it awhile let to get bigger. The daughter area is where all the brown tendrils are, and those seem to have a big impact on flavor from what I’ve read online. They’ve also taken longer to develop than the rest of the mother, so I don’t want to completely yank them out.

It is definitely not rocket science! It’s quite satisfying and definitely delicious. I’m fairly confident once I get my sugar levels sorted, I’ll have a very nice mixture.

I wish I could say things are going as well for the seedlings, alas. My lights were too high up, resulting in very leggy plants that are unhappy and rather falling over – especially the tomatoes. But I’ll do a garden post next time.

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