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!