Monthly Archives: June 2014
Welcome back! It's been awhile since part 1, hasn't it?
Well, to be honest, my brew didn't go exactly as planned. A couple of my wines had a really hard time getting fermentation underway, and some started bubbling the airlock right off the bat. But really, all of them took quite a bit longer than I had expected!
To start, I'll touch on the alcohol issue with kombucha. We're trying to do wine since kombucha alone will not inherently or with time make an alcoholic beverage that is palatable and appreciably alcoholic. I get that question sometimes - "If I let my kombucha brew for 3 months, will I end up with alcohol?" The answer is no - you might get a 'buch that is over 2% ABV, but this won't always be palatable and will be similar to vinegar, if you let it sit for that long. As such, we're going to force anaerobic fermentation, using a 1 gallon glass carboy, champagne yeast, and an airlock.
Let's take a look at the different brews I started back in October 2013.
Heavenly Peak Pu-erh - Pomegranate Kombucha Wine
Pu-erh teas are a fun way to experiment with kombucha. You're guaranteed a finished product that is almost always different from what you expected - even if you know what you are getting into in having a good grasp of the pu-erh's flavor profile, there will be aspects that are accentuated or forgotten in the final brew.
My pu-erh pomegranate wine is no exception. Sure, I expected a strong body and an appreciable acetic acid note with pomegranate early on. Something I've noticed that happens with kombucha wine, however, is that there's an abundant yeastiness that is not always seen as a good thing when you taste it in a wine. I've lost a lot of the notes of the initial, cooked pu-erh, picked up a ton of pomegranate and yeasty characteristics, and an easily-detected alcoholic aspect. And after about 2 months of secondary fermentation under an airlock, followed by almost 6 months of being stored in the refrigerator, not much has changed. A success, yes - it's definitely alcoholic - but I'm reminded that I'm a novice at making 'buch wine, as there isn't much about this one that is supremely desirable. Acidic, alcoholic, pomegranate barnyard. Fascinating, for sure, but I'm calling this one a pu-error.
Hairy Crab Oolong - Papaya Kombucha Wine
This one sounds silly, but aside from some initial difficulty in getting fermentation underway, there wasn't anything undersirable about this one. It was clear very early on that something wasn't quite right. I did 1/2 gallon of two different brews with this one, one pasteurized before adding the yeast, and one not pasteurized before the secondary, anaerobic fermentation. I wanted to see what effect killing off all of the probiotics in the kombucha had on the final wine.
Once fermentation started (after about 3 weeks, mind you - you will be able to tell because your air lock will be bubbling), I allowed this one quite a bit of time to undergo fermentation. After about 6 weeks, I could tell from tasting that there was still more to go, and ended up calling it off after about 3 months. This is the point where I found the 'buch wine to taste best - within the first few days after the champagne yeast fermentation. The longer the wine sat in bottles, the more bread and yeast notes contributed to its flavor profile.
Upon tasting, I could tell that there was still quite a bit of sweetness from the papaya, but there was a marked acidity and alcoholic nature to the brew as well. The pasteurized version definitely had a cleaner, less sulfuric aspect to it. Also, there was no overreaching, bready aspect as there had been in the pu-erh pomegranate 'buch. Lower in alcohol content than the pu-erh, but quite a bit more delicious. I call this one a success.
How to Make Kombucha Wine
I'll bet you've been sitting on that champagne yeast for quite a while, eh? Well hopefully by now you've honed your kombucha craft and are ready to take it to the next level with a wine. Most yeast packets you find at brew shops contain 5 grams, and are intended for a 5 gallon brew. So, just use the 1 gram of yeast per gallon you're going to make. You'll want to dissolve the yeast in some warm water before mixing it with your kombucha, that way it's nicely dispersed throughout the fermentation vessel.
As for the kombucha, my methodology was to cease primary fermentation while the 'buch is still slightly sweet, in an effort to minimize any strange acidic notes I might not want in the final wine brew. I also added sugar to the 'buch, after dissolving it in warm water so I didn't have to heat up my kombucha. If you're interested in trying this method with pasteurized kombucha, go ahead and boil your brew and add the sugar so that it will dissolve nicely. I used 1 cup of sugar per gallon of wine I was going to brew, to be sure the yeast had plenty of food to metabolize into alcohol.
Wine usually features some type of fruit, and so did this one. Utilizing organic papaya and organic pomegranate concentrates served this purpose; also, the sugar and other nutrients in the juices will be additional food for the yeast. The sweetness, flavor and consistency of your fruit juice will likely vary from mine, but I used 6 ounces of concentrate per 1 gallon brew. Keep in mind this is a matter of preference and you should probably err on the side of more concentrate rather than less.
After pouring the fruit concentrates into my designated carboys, I added the warm yeast-water. Then, I poured the kombucha into the carboy, capped with airlocks, labeled them, and let them sit until the airlock's bubbling ceased.
Now for the hard part - waiting. Try not to let this part bother you! One of the great things about kombucha in general is the speed with which this ferment is ready to be consumed. But if you want to take your brewing repertoire to the next level, it's going to take a little patience.
So, get another 'buch brew going, put a wine reminder in your calendar (start tasting when almost all bubbling has ceased), and relish that day in the semi-distant future when your fruity, dry 'buch wine is boozy and bodacious!
Watermelon Salad with Ajo Blanco (Spanish White Gaspacho) and kombucha
This bountiful salad is a wonderful Spanish / American cuisine blend that I recently created and would love to share. Ajo Blanco is a very old-school Spanish chilled garlic and almond soup. It's rich and creamy, though inexpensive and dairy-free. Usually this Gaspacho is served with green grapes or melon, which gives this blended soup pops of crisp crunchy texture and ever-so sweet grape fragrance, which is what got me thinking about watermelon. Start by making your Ajo Blanco, as you will need to cool it in the fridge before serving. If you are up for it, let it stand overnight in the fridge to really get the flavors working
- 225 grams blanched almonds (roughly a cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and cored
- 75 grams good white bread or stale baguette soaked in water
- 750ml (3+ Cups) Iced water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/8th large watermelon
- 1 washed cucumber
- 1 juicy tomato
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 2 tablespoons kombucha vinegar (long fermented kombucha)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by making your Ajo Blanco, as you will need to cool it in the fridge before serving. If you are up for it, leave it in the fridge overnight to really let the flavors meld.
- Blend your almonds in a food processor until they are as quite fine (3-4 minutes). You may need to push them back into the bowl with a rubber spatula as they clump and climb up the sides.
- slowly add 1/3 cup of the iced water into the food processor.
- Squeeze the bread of excess water and add to the mix.
- At this point, add your garlic. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it! Mash your garlic with a bit of salt into a frothy pulp, then add to the soup.
- Add the vinegar and the olive oil, salt and pepper, and the rest of the water.
- If there is too much water for your mixer, you can transfer the soup into a large bowl and stir in the rest with your spatula there.
- Be aware that the bread may make the soup quite stodgy. If it is so, keep adding ice water until the soup is nappe consistency, or just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- reserve and cool in the fridge.
- Peel stripes off your cucumber leaving some skin in tact.
- Cut the cucumber in half, and dice it as finely as possible. Add to a small mixing bowl.
- Take the other half, stand it up on your cutting board, and carefully cut a long, skinny, angular wedge. Then rotate the cucumber a bit and make the same angled cut. Continue to do this (imagine you are carving a large cucumber spear) until you have no more cucumber. This process is very similar to a roll cut or angled roll cut. Place this cucumber into separate medium mixing bowl.
- Wipe down your cutting board, then halve and core your tomato. Fine dice the entire thing and transfer into the small mixing bowl.
- Now cut the watermelon into 1.5 inch slices, and clean it of the rind and any white pith. take your end wedge (smallest piece), small dice and add to the rest of the finely diced mix.
- Add salt, pepper, 1 Tbsp 'buch vinegar (if you don't have 'buch vinegar you can use champagne or white vinegar) and 1Tbsp olive oil to the small mixing bowl and give it a quick toss.
- Take the remaining watermelon pieces and cut off long 'shingles', about a centimeter thick. This will give you a nice piece of watermelon where you can get to the seeds and remove them, and then cut it into long, angular wedges. Add this to the medium mixing bowl.
- Add the rest of the 'buch vinegar and olive oil to your medium mixing bowl and lightly toss with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Wash, dry and pluck your cilantro into large plushes.
- Pour your Ajo Blanco into your serving bowl (s)
- Spoon on top your small dice mix, then arrange your large-cut mix ontop, vertically.
- Finish with sprinking your cilantro on top!
- Enjoy the taste of summer :)
For many first time brewers, receiving a warm SCOBY culture in the mail on a hot summers day can be disconcerting. “Shouldn’t live kombucha cultures be kept cold? How long has this been in the mail for? Is this SCOBY safe to brew with?”
These understandable concerns can cause undue worry and frustration. You’ve patiently waited for your package to arrive, and are eager to start brewing – or you just got back from vacation to find out your kit has been sitting on the porch for days! What a shame it would be if your baby SCOBY had frittered away in your absence.
Except in rare case of extreme weather conditions, SCOBYs will be totally OK to brew with if they have been out for a bit.
The combination of the acidic nature of the nutritional liquid the SCOBY sits in and the bag’s airtight seal keeps mold and other ‘buch invaders at bay. The bigger issue at hand, as foreshadowed above, is extremely high or low temperatures that will either cook the culture (85º through 90ºF) or start to destroy its complex cell structure if it starts to freeze.
Remember! This is a living culture, and is not unlike humans in this way. Too hot and we sizzle up, too cold and the damage can be irreversible.
Mid-70º’s to 80º's though, is the ticket. Give us a warm day and a nice breeze (SCOBYs love breezes, it keeps the flies away) and next thing you know we are all getting stuff done during the day and staying up all night. Just like the SCOBY.
BETTER WARMER THAN COOLER:
Kombucha is a stable beverage due to it's acidic nature, and its acidity is dependent on the plethora of pro-biotic bacteria having a warm environment to create acids like Glucaric and Gluconic acid, Acetic acid, Caprylic and Butyric acid.
If your brew is below 70ºF, you run the risk of not maintaining a stable pH environment and expose your brew to mold!
What the fridge is great for:
Keeping your culture cold (~40ºF) when you are taking a brewers break.
- Simply set your culture in a cup (depending on how big it is, you may want to add more or trim your SCOBY) of kombucha in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover it, and set it to the back of your fridge.
- There it will hibernate, as its metabolic rate slows into a state of low activity.
- You can keep it there for a couple months at a time, but it's best to give it a quick refresher every couple of weeks with a little jolt of fresh tea and sugar.
You can also vintage your kombucha in the fridge for great lengths of time - the flavor can be as complex and delicious as great wine. Just remember:
- Use a bottle / cap with a good seal
- Label what your brew is, and what ingredients you used
- Date it
- Resist temptation! if you open it early on, you will loose some excellent fizz. Save it until you are ready to drink most of it.