A staple in my own personal kitchen space has always been a fermenting creation. Something on the shelf, bubbling away, growing and shifting (sometimes…developing that distinctive vinegary smell which I kinda love). It’s like a little kitchen baby that I end up obsessively checking on several times a day. I try to perfect things like my sourdough starters or my kraut batches, knowing that every time I’m not really the one in control of the deliciousness of the final result. All those billions of little bacterial critters do the heavy lifting. I like that variability, though. Making the same thing a little different every time, playing with the fermenting time or the flavorings….most especially with kombucha.
Kombucha is my true love of fermented things, and whenever I can I have a batch brewing on my counter I absolutely do.
Kombucha, like pretty much all of my other imbibed creations, is just another delicious and creative way to drink tea. Kombucha is made from fermenting a tannin rich tea with a Scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). It’a like a living, floating bacterial hotel that will hang out in your ‘bucha and make magic happen. The tannins in the tea will ferment along with the bacteria and yeast (and added sugar!) to create a delicious, vinegary, fizzy, probiotic rich beverage that’s super adaptable to flavorings. Creating the perfect batch of kombucha can be a bit temperamental and take experimentation (but don’t all good kitchen creations?), and my recipe is what I have found to brew the ultimate perfect batch, with three different flavoring options.
The basic ingredients for kombucha are extremely simple: Scoby. Filtered water. Organic cane sugar. A bit of an original batch. High quality black tea (which can make or break a good kombucha batch). My favorite black tea to use is organic Kumaon Black Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. So many black teas can taste too acidic or harsh or burnt. The flavor of this Kumaon black tea is exquisite – It’s slightly floral with a lighter taste and earthier undertones. It’s divine all on it’s own (and yes, I do drink it almost daily just from the tea pot!). It makes the most delicious kombucha I’ve ever made, and jives so well with fruit and herb flavorings which you’ll add later.
A few Variables…
Sugar: Some recipes fluctuate between 1-2 cups of cane sugar per batch. I err on the lesser side and one cup of organic cane sugar does the job for me and doesnt make the batches too sweet. Also yes – I have tried LOTS of other sugars. Coconut palm sugar, stevia, maple sugar (what was I even thinking?), turbinado, date sugar…I’ve tried all the “healthier” options and personally they just never work to make a good batch for me. Thus, I embrace the cane sugar and don’t think twice about it anymore. I made an effort.
Fermeting time: Once your batch is flavored, the amount of time you let it sit to carbonate depends on how fizzy you like your kombucha. I like mine pretty bubbly, so I let mine sit on the counter for about 40 hours before I stick them in the fridge. I let it for for almost 50 hours once and they all did, actually, explode in the fridge.
Bottling containers: I prefer to use 1 liter tightly air locked glass bottles to store my batches in for three reasons: 1) Each one of my batches fills exactly 3, 1 liter bottles. 2). Easily transportable to share. Because who doesn’t love the person who brings a bottle of ‘butcha to an otherwise alcohol overloaded party? 3). The fizz keeps longer. Only opening one bottle at a time keeps the others highly carbonated until you’re ready for them. I used larger growlers in the past and had to drink it SO FAST to retain the carbonation because I kept opening the same bottle over and over and over again.
Temperature: The temperature of your kitchen will kind of dictate how well your kombucha thrives while it’s fermenting. When I lived in an apartment with no air conditioning in southwestern Virginia for a year, I just couldn’t brew anything – way too hot and humid in the summer. Try to keep your space between 68-78 degrees for an ideal brew.
FLAVORINGS! This is the most fun. You can flavor your kombucha any which way you want to. With herbs or fresh fruits or other teas or fruit juices – it’s up to you! I’ve used them all in the past and have the most flavorful batches when I use juicy fresh fruits and/or fresh herbs. Here are three of my favorite flavoring combinations:
1. Peach + Rosemary (recipe below)
2. Pomegranate + Basil – Seeds of 1 whole pomegranate + 10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped)
3. Strawberry + Thyme (My sweet friend Renee Byrd served me a kombucha brew she made with this flavor combo and it blew my mind it was SO good. I’ve been flavoring every other batch this summer with this combo and it’s hands down my favorite. Also, beautiful pink kombucha – yes please!) – 1 cup chopped, fresh juicy strawberries + 5 tbsp fresh thyme.