Kombucha

  • 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-napple

     

    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.

     

  • Cleaning an Auto-Siphon

     

    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn

     

     

    It's good to take care of your friends. Here are some general guidelines on cleaning an auto-siphon:

     

    1. As soon as you're done using it, rinse it - pull out the inner tube, run water through it, and remove the end cap for the outer tube, and rinse water through it.

     

    2. It can be tough to get SCOBY out of your auto siphon. Let the setup soak in soapy water to break down any residual culture.

     

    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    3. Vigorously pump soapy water through it, until any residue or culture is dislodged. Don't be shy, either - shake it or strike it against the palm of your hand so you can make sure to get all of the SCOBY out of it. If you want to get really intense, use some PBW (powdered brewery wash) as a soaking agent.

     

    Cleaning an auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn This end cap is removable, helpful when cleaning an auto-siphon

    4. Importantly, the loose plastic piece that is lodged inside your outer tube (not the end cap - that is removable) is meant to stay there - don't try to remove it! You'll hear it shaking around, but it is lodged there for a reason - it restricts some flow so you can get a good amount of pressure going easily so the flow can begin.

     

    Now that you know how to use and clean one - why not pick one up and watch your free time and cleanliness increase? Pick one up here.

  • Using an Auto Siphon: A Kombucha Brewer's Best Friend

     

    Auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    The auto siphon has become my favorite brewing implement for many reasons. It's saved my time and energy for years for the simple fact that it makes small batch brewing and farming SCOBYs faster and less laborious tasks.

     

    When transferring kombucha from brew vessel into bottle, I can think of no faster or cleaner method than using an auto siphon.

     

    Using an auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Hydraulic little guy. Rinse and clean your auto siphon immediately to prevent any sticky, tenacious kombucha buildup in the tubes!

     

    You'll find many other uses for your auto siphon to seamlessly transfer liquids! So pick one up today and say goodbye to sloppy pours and time-wasting spills.

  • Sunbather: Sun Tea Kombucha

     

    Not many things are more refreshing than an ice-cold glass of sun tea on a warm summer afternoon.

     

    As a child, I remember my grandma making sun tea in the summertime with simple big-name tea bags and orange slices. At the time, sustenance was simply handed to me, so to my young mind, thoughts of DIY anything were distant.

     

    Now, to make tea I've become accustomed to plugging in a kettle, or firing up a stove, but like many things, the old way turns out to be incredibly effective, simple, and economical. And my, how sun tea does taste distinct from the standard infusion! Not bitter, but earthy, and inherently spicy - a surprisingly exotic treat.

     

    White-rooibos sun tea with golden berries, Kombucha Brooklyn White-rooibos sun tea with golden berries

     

    And since I'm always thinking about sustainability, I thought I'd tackle an aspect of brewing that uses up lots of energy - boiling water. A good amount of energy is used for this, so it can be rewarding on a few fronts to avoid this unnecessary expenditure. Using the sun to brew your tea saves your time, since you can pretty much set it and forget it for a few hours. And of course, you're using no electricity.

     

    Already having about 16 gallons of kombucha to brew for SCOBY production, and wanting to try a couple of new things, today I decided to make some special sun tea, which used minimal effort, and see where the 'buch goes.

     

    So, I threw together a couple of my favorite teas - our house white tea and rooibos, along with some of my favorite new addiction - golden berries. If you haven't tasted golden berries before (or ground cherries as they are sometimes called), give them a try. Intensely sour, fruity and unique, I consider them the Sweet Tart of the berry world (and love to make water kefir with them).

     

    Golden berries, Kombucha Brooklyn Golden berries

     

    To complete my brew (and to bring my sustainability down a notch) I had to heat just a little bit of water (1 cup) in order to allow the 1 cup of sugar to dissolve. I'm sure you could let some sugar sit in water in the sun, too, and avoid this. Next all I had to do was add a SCOBY and starter, and the sugar-water to the brew jar and voila! Oh, yeah - I didn't remove the golden berries from the brew jar during primary fermentation...

     

    Please note:  Leaving any fruits or non-SCOBY solids in your vessel during primary fermentation is not recommended, as it can contribute a surface for mold to form upon - but for the sake of adventure, I'll concede to curiosity. Luckily, the golden berries in this brew stayed submerged, and a SCOBY was able to form over them.

     

    The recipe is very basic:

     

    Allow this to steep in the sun, and after about 8 hours add the sugar (dissolved in some warm water) and your SCOBY and starter, and let it sit for about a week! Drink the tea that you must pour off in order to fit the SCOBY and starter into your brew jar. Remember to taste periodically.

     

    What happened during primary fermentation?

     

    Flash forward 5 days, and there's a very vigorous mother forming! This is a welcome occurrence but not necessarily expected - the best food for a kombucha culture really is black tea, and generally with other teas you may need to ferment a little bit longer to achieve balanced acidity and a healthy, thick kombucha culture.

     

    But, as you can see here, after just 5 days there's quite an intense SCOBY forming and lots of bubbling activity going on in the brew jar. Something I've noticed before in using golden berries with water kefir, and saw in this kombucha brew, is that both kefir and kombucha cultures take very readily to the golden berries, and brewing isn't slowed at all by their presence - indeed, the berries have even seemed to potentiate the fermentation process!

     

    day5

     

     

    The brew meets my goals for an aesthetically pleasing kombucha, but how does it taste?

     

    White and rooibos sun tea kombucha with golden berries, Kombucha Brooklyn White and rooibos sun tea kombucha with golden berries

     

    Even after just 5 days, this brew tastes absolutely transcendental. Notes of cherry, birch bark and orange peel strike the palate with tropical zeal. Each and every aspect of the ingredients comes through in this one - from the herbal, earthy taste of rooibos, to the light, malty grassiness of white tea, and of course the commanding citrus punch from tart golden berries.

     

    tasting

     

     

    The big payoff

     

    Time and again, the mantra that brings the prize at rainbow's end, that flavorful attractor for kombucha brewers, comes after treading into unknown territory. I had no idea what would happen with golden berries in the primary ferment. I wasn't positive that the sun, over the course of a few hours, would extract enough nutrients from which the culture could make 'buch. But the satisfaction and pleasure from disregarding apprehension is enveloping and driving. The feeling that you've gone into the unknown and come back with a treasure is something that will never leave me doubting the brewer's path.

     

    Fermentation is pure alchemy - and the end result is, without a doubt, as good as gold.

     

    Stay tuned for my next blog in which I'll delve into brewing with solids - fruits, berries etc. - in primary fermentation!

  • Kombucha Recipe: Ruby Daydream

     

    Ruby Daydream, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    One of the funnest things about summer time is the refreshments! We're always trying to think outside the box, and in this kombucha recipe there's no exception. In honor of the coming summer, here's a great brew to turn the proverbial heads of friends and family that is sure to please on those warm, sunny occasions!

     

    Ruby Daydream

    For a 1-gallon brew:

     

    1. Steep the following for at least 20 minutes in 32 oz freshly-boiled water:

     

    2. After removing the leaves and lavender from the infusion, add:

    • 1 cup sugar (stir to dissolve)
    • 64 oz (1/2 gallon) cool, filtered water
    • 1 cup already-brewed kombucha (or 3 TBSP white vinegar)
    • SCOBY

     

    3. Top the brew off with water so that the surface of the liquid is just below the neck of your vessel.

     

    4. Cover your brew jar with a cloth and rubber band. Allow the brew to ferment for 5-10 days. Be sure to taste it every day after 5 days!

     

    5. Once you have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, your brew is ready for secondary fermentation. Now, you'll need three more ingredients:

    • 5 grams dried (or fresh!) hops (pellet or whole-cone) such as Cascade
    • 1 cup boiling water
    • juice from (1) ruby red grapefruit (~ 1 cup)

     

    6. Place hops into a nylon mesh bag or tea ball and submerge into the boiling water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, remove hops, and allow to cool

     

    7. Siphon or pour off your kombucha into your filling vessel - this can be a tea pitcher, another brew jar, etc.; this is the jar from which you will fill your bottles. Be sure to retain 1 cup of brewed kombucha for your next batch.

     

    8. Once the hop-tea is cooled, you can add it to your filling vessel, along with the grapefruit juice.

     

    9. Stir the contents of your jar, fill into glass bottles and one plastic bottle (so you can tell how much pressure builds up).

     

    10. Allow to sit at room temperature until the plastic bottle has built up a good amount of pressure, indicating that your glass bottles will be carbonated (read here about secondary fermentation). Generally this will take 1-2 weeks, but this step is also totally optional - non-carbonated kombucha is delicious too! Place the bottles into the refrigerator and share once they've cooled.

    Optional: Steep a little bit of hibiscus and add it to your brew for secondary fermentation. This is a great way to add a little color to any brew!

    Once your bottles are ready to drink, pop one open and put your feet up! You deserve some time to sit back with this refresher. This is a good time to start daydreaming about your next brew!

  • Choosing a Brewing Vessel

     

    Ceramic kombucha crocks, Kombucha Brooklyn

    While it's easy to brew kombucha in pretty much any container, it's an important decision to choose the best vessel you can find. Choosing a brewing vessel can make a huge difference in the quality, and of course quantity, of your kombucha brew. So, in an effort to clarify a few things for brewers new or seasoned, read below to find out more about these essential instruments.

     

    In choosing your brewing vessel, look for a few key characteristics:

     

    Stainless steel pot, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    1. The vessel should be glassceramic, stainless steel (304 or brewer grade, not cooking grade) or wood. While many will say that food-grade plastic can be used, undesirable flavors often result from continued use of plastic. Glass is an inert material and will not allow the leaching of chemicals into your brew. If brewing in a ceramic vessel, be sure it is lead-free (the crocks that KBBK carries are lead-free and USA-made). Stainless steel is especially popular in commercial brewing environments and as such will work for home brewing as well. Some choose to brew in wooden barrels, which is also fine, and will contribute woody characteristics to your brew.
    2. The vessel should be wide-mouthed. The kombucha SCOBY requires that air be constantly exchanged with the outside environment, as it is constantly taking in oxygen and expelling CO2. A wide surface area ensures fast growth, as well as quick acidification of the tea. This results in a healthy culture. The wider the area for the culture to exchange gases, the more numerous are the antibacterial byproducts of SCOBY metabolism. Keep in mind that although your SCOBY will grow in tall, narrow-mouthed vessels, it will do so less vigorously.
    3. The size of the vessel is important, though not quite so much as the available surface area. Similar to the surface area, however, the more shallow the depth of liquid in the fermentation vessel, the faster the SCOBY grows and processes the tea into delicious kombucha.
    4. The shape of the vessel is a matter of personal preference, and the culture will take the shape of the container at the level of the liquid’s surface.
    5. Vessels with a spigot can be intermittently convenient but can also tend to cause headaches. While it may seem useful to use the spigot and not worry about using or cleaning an auto-siphon, or requiring precise pouring technique, brewers will find the spigot becoming periodically clogged with kombucha culture; you'll find yourself not using the spigot as frequently as you are using it.
      • Additionally, the materials from which the vessel's spigot is made could be contributing chemicals to your brew through leaching. As kombucha is very acidic, any substance that is reactive to such liquids can potentially release toxins into your brew (something interesting to consider when kombucha is a detoxifying drink). It's for precisely this reason that we advise against brewing in plastic, even BPA-free or food-grade plastic vessels.
      • An auto-siphon can be just as simple to use to extract kombucha, resists transfer of large chunks of culture, is easy to clean, and requires no relocation of the brewing vessel.

     

    Barrel, Beehive and pot, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Additional Considerations

     

    Ventilation is very important for your brewing vessel. Without proper ventilation, your brew's bacteria will be unable to access the oxygen they need to produce a nicely acidic kombucha. So, consider using fans in bigger brewing setups as well as completely porous (but not too porous) covers for your brewing vessel! Remember that cheese cloth is too porous and can allow fruit flies entry into your brew.

     

    Remember that it's not only kombucha that you can ferment in your vessels - pretty much any vegetable ferment (kimchi, sauerkraut) and some liquid ferments will work too - think kefir, mead, kvass etc. So, open up your horizons and start scouring flea markets, pawn shops, garage sales and antique malls for some sweet fermentation vessels!

     

  • From Urban to Ulster: KBBK Has Found Peace and Quiet

     

    KBBK's New Space, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Well, we've done it! KBBK has completely relocated to the beautiful Catskill mountains, on the outskirts of Kingston, NY. KBBK has found peace and quiet. While we miss the busy night life, bodega sandwiches, nearly effortless transportation and the 'buch-thirsty masses, the move has been for the best.

     

    View from Overlook Mountain, Kombucha Brooklyn View of the mountains from Overlook Mountain

     

    We're trading sirens for birdsongs, exhaust for dust, bikes for boats, and towers for trees. Not all of us grew up in a big city, so it's been a pleasant return to rural life for some, and for others an unfamiliar but welcome change of scenery and lifestyle.

     

    Echo Lake, Kombucha Brooklyn Echo Lake

     

    So, come visit us in Kingston - you'll surely be welcomed with a cold pint of kombucha when we open our retail space within the next couple of months. We might even take you on a hike or for a quick visit to the beautiful fishing lake behind our store!

     

    Onteora Fishing Lake, Kombucha Brooklyn Onteora Fishing Lake
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