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Monthly Archives: August 2015

  • Hops and Kombucha: Not Just for Beer Anymore

     

    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    We go on and on about flavoring kombucha, and have covered both pre- and post- fermentation flavoring. We've espoused a different approach than, generally, store-bought kombuchas have taken.

     

    But there's one avenue we haven't covered yet, and that's the use of the glorious herb that is hops in flavoring your kombucha. We've found that the combination of hops and kombucha makes an exceptional spicy, dry and floral kombucha whose thirst-quenching ability is second to none. For a couple of years we've gotten our hops from Wrobel Farms, in Bridgewater, NY and have been very pleased to use their whole cone and pellet cascade hops in our keg program's 'buch.

     

    Dry Hopping

     

    The approach we've taken with hops and kombucha is to "dry hop" it - that means that the hops are added to the kombucha after we've steeped the tea. Unlike our love for using herbs in the tea infusion, we've been leaving the hops out of this stage.

     

    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Generally, in beer brewing, it's common to add hops during the boiling process to contribute a bitter aspect - this can be early on in the boil, or at the end of the boil, depending on the amount of bitterness desired in the final brew. This does reduce the amount of volatile hop oils in your brew, but the addition of hops after the boil has become commonplace as well, and it is this practice we label "dry hopping." The end result is that the hops contribute an intensely hoppy essence to your brew, with a deeply floral aspect that is incomparable to boiled hops, which will have lost much of the volatile oil originally present in the herb.

     

    On the whole, hop with low alpha-acid ratings are chosen for dry-hopping, since they will have less of a bittering effect on the brew, and will contribute more highly floral and aromatic notes.

     

    When we're dry-hopping our kombucha, we simply add the hops to a vessel containing kombucha for secondary fermentation. For a 32-oz growler, adding 3 grams of whole cone hops gives your brew a nice, strong flavor.

     


    Consider this approach: add 12 grams whole cone hops, per gallon, to kombucha that is finished with primary fermentation. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least a week. After a week, strain out the hops, distribute into bottles, and allow to undergo secondary fermentation.


     

    Remember, though that you should monitor your secondary fermentations with a plastic bottle so you can observe the carbonation taking place in all of your glass bottles. Read more on this simple process here.

     

    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    So - get some 'buch going, and spice it up with some hops!

     

    Hoppy brewing!

     

    *Click here to purchase these same hops from our website*

     

  • Kombucha Recipes: 4 Brews That Rule

     

    We get so many questions on how to make kombucha, when sometimes all you need is a delicious recipe! We hope you tried Ruby Daydream - but here are a few more kombucha recipes to whet your appetite for killer 'buch.

     

    All recipes below are for a 1-gallon brew.

     

    Deep Purple

     

    Deep Purple, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    This is an old school blend that saw its heyday at the New Amsterdam Market at Manhattan's South Street Seaport. We made it only a few small batches in a collaboration with our friends at Runa, a company that distributes the delicious Amazonian energizing herb guayusa. We've done lots of brewing with yerba mate, and guayusa is its cousin. The result tasted reminiscent of grapes and flowers, which is where this tasty brew got its name.

     

    Steep:

    • 7 grams gunpowder green tea (though any unflavored green tea will do)
    • 6 grams guayusa
    • 1 gram lavender

     

    Allow to ferment until it's reached a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. You likely won't see incredible SCOBY growth from this blend, but of course that isn't necessary to make great 'buch ;-).

     

    Velvet Smoke

     

    We got the idea for this one when making a Motley Brü. The Motley Brü is pretty much as it sounds - leftover, unlabeled and orphaned tea is steeped and brewed into a kombucha that can usually never be recreated. One particular blend of this variety contained some Lapsang Souchong, resulting in an incredibly smokey 'buch. Thinking we could balance it out, Velvet Smoke was born. By pulling back on the amount of the smoked tea and supplanting it simply with English breakfast tea, and softening the whole number with some soothing chamomile we were able to create one of the most pleasant small batch brews ever.

     

    Steep:

    • 8 grams English Breakfast tea
    • 4 grams Lapsang Souchong
    • 2 grams chamomile

     

    Like any brew, ferment until balance is achieved. Allow to undergo secondary fermentation to impart refreshing effervescence, chill and serve. Strange but fantastic, this will be a classic in your 'buch repertoire.

     

    Chai-Pineapple

     

    This brew is a real crowd pleaser. If you've ever tasted pineapple tepache, popular in Mexico and Central America, you have an idea of what this recipe will turn out like. Fermented with black tea and herbal chai, it's finished in secondary fermentation with pineapple juice. The result is a citrus-fruity, spicy 'buch that cuts through the summer heat.

     

    Steep:

    • 12 grams English Breakfast tea
    • 3 grams herbal chai tea (use regular chai if you don't have herbal)

    With this brew, you will be able to let it ferment a little bit longer than normal - maybe a bit past the sweet/acid balance.

     

    Secondary fermentation:

     

    Add 3 oz of pineapple juice to a 16 ounce bottle, and fill the rest with the fermented English Breakfast / chai mix. Use the same ratio for other bottle sizes. Allow to become effervescent, but fill the exact same mix into a plastic bottle so you can use it as a model for the carbonation being built up in your glass bottles. Once carbonated, refrigerate and enjoy.

     

    Strawmary

     

    This one is a throwback to a bygone era when information on 'buch was few and far between. I was fermenting with way too much tea per gallon (48g!), but my did the linen closet 'buch flow like wine. Big into secondary fermentation flavoring, but not into the relatively plain flavors available at the store, I used two ingredients that were seasonal and readily available - strawberries and rosemary. Language can often give you hints at flavors to try, and these two words fit together so well I had to make it. I'm glad I did.

     

    Steep

     

    Honestly, steep whatever you've got. I'd recommend a blend of black, green and white tea, because strawberry is relatively overpowering and a nice backbone of black tea will maintain more of a tea flavor at the end of this brew. This one is all about secondary fermentation.

     

    Secondary Fermentation

     

    Here's where it gets fun. You're going to make a decoction of strawberries and rosemary. For one gallon, you'll want 1-2 cups of this mixture for flavoring your bottles. Dice up a handful of strawberries and add them to 24 oz boiling water, and a tablespoon of dried rosemary. Allow to simmer on low until the mixture has reduced by about half. Taste it periodically in case you need to add more rosemary. Be sure to bottle into plastic as well so you can tell when you've built up a good amount of carbonation. This is another hot day masterpiece that will turn the heads of your BBQ patrons!

     


     

    The recipes here have been developed with a spirit of fun and experimentation, as outlined in the blog Home Brewing Kombucha:  Think Outside the Box. Our tea blends Buffalo Soldier, Red Chai, Holy Diver, Easy Rider and Sunbather have been made in the same spirit. 

     

    Great kombucha can come from a bottle at the store, or on tap at a bar or restaurant, but the most satisfying 'buch in the world comes from your home, the product of chaos, courage, and enthusiasm. You're highly encouraged to try these recipes, but really we hope they are springboards for you to develop your own truly unique kombucha!

  • Using a Pocket Scale: Low-Tech Precision for Kombucha Brewers

     

    DSC_9057

    We receive a lot of questions on the use of loose-leaf teas in kombucha brewing. This is a good thing - loose-leaf teas provide the most flavor and the most bang for your buck, as compared to commercial teas packaged in bags.

     

    That's not to say tea bags aren't practical - they make it very easy to steep your tea, and what's in the bag is usually the remains of the processing of loose-leaf tea - this can include dust and fannings, or broken pieces of leaf - and is intended to be able to be steeped relatively quickly.

     

    Loose-leaf tea, however, requires more effort than simple dunking to elicit the flavors and nuances of the tea. And, you're actually steeping the whole leaf - ideally, no broken pieces are part of the infusion.

     

    Since the whole leaf is used, it poses an issue for many people used to volumetric measurements common in baking. Twelve grams of one tea will comprise a different volume than another tea. See below an example of 12 grams of 3 different types of tea:

     

    12 grams of 3 different teas, Kombucha Brooklyn 12 grams of 3 different teas

    Consistency is important

     

    For any brewer who wants to consistently reproduce brews and generally improve technique and the quality of your brew, it helps to be accurate with your measurements. This couldn't be more important than with the steeped ingredients for your kombucha brew; you could be steeping all one tea, or using a multitude of different teas and herbs in a blend. We can easily make suggestions and approximations of the volume of teas, using tablespoons etc., but the most accurate way to measure tea is by weight. This can be simple, but expensive with a digital scale; it can be inexpensive and simple, too.

     

    Using a pocket scale

     

    For starters, you'll need something in which to weigh your tea. One of the easiest things to use is a nylon mesh bag that you may be steeping your loose-leaf tea in, or any zip or sandwich bag you have handy. You'll need to put your tea into the bag, and add or subtract some based on the weight you're looking for.

     

    Holding the pocket scale, Kombucha Brooklyn Hold or hang the scale from the attached ring, as shown above; clip your bag to the scale on the left

     

    In this example, our nylon mesh bag weighs 4 grams:

     

    Taring the bag, Kombucha Brooklyn Taring the bag

     

    So, we can "tare" the scale at 4 grams - meaning that after we weigh the tea in the bag, we'll subtract the 4 grams that represents the weight of the bag.

     

    Once you know how much your bag weights, you can then begin to add your tea:

     

    Adding tea to the bag, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Once you've added the correct amount of tea for one gallon, you should see this - a 16 gram reading on the scale:

     

    16 grams, Kombucha Brooklyn 16 grams, minus the 4 grams (bag weight) leaves us with 12 grams of tea!

     Simple, effective, economical

     

    A pocket scale is an excellent, inexpensive way to make your recipes accurate, and therefore consistent and easily replicable. This is one of those must-have items for any kombucha brewer (in addition to the regal auto-siphon). Pick one up and you'll be on the way to 'buch brewing perfection in no time!

     

  • Auto-Siphon's Best Friend: The Auto-Siphon Clip

     

    You've got your best friend (the auto-siphon). You know how to take care of it. But really, the auto-siphon is a much needier friend than to rely simply on you. That's where the auto-siphon clip comes in.

     

    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    I thought I had single-handed siphon operation down, but when I discovered the clip I started to wonder what I was doing without it. Not only is it great for stabilizing the down tube, it makes it so I can make the siphon hover in the fermentation vessel just above sediment-level. That way I get less sediment in my bottles when I'm filling them, and I can be active with both hands just in case anything goes awry in bottling (when doesn't it...).

     

    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    After my contentment subsided in just using the clip, I realized another part of my routine that was about to receive an upgrade - drying my auto-siphon. Just laying it in the drying rack doesn't do much for it, you really need to hang it. So, I simply clipped it to my metro rack and voila! It's now an essential part of my 'buch brewing procedure.

     

    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    So if you're a regular 'buch brewer, and haven't discovered the wonders of the auto-siphon and its sidekick the auto-siphon clip, why not give them a try? You'll be glad you did.

     

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