NatRecipe: Kombucha Like Fine Champagne
Kombucha is an artisan product, and like all hand-crafted foods, the best results require patience and time. A good hand-brewed kombucha is like a fine champagne, fizzy with tiny bubbles, a delightful combination of sweet and sour, and even slightly viscous on the tongue.
The secret is plenty of time—it takes about 30 days to make kombucha that tastes like fine champagne.
Here’s the method I have developed over the years. I use the 2-gallon kombucha crock from kombuchakamp.com, along with the heating element and the cloth cover (“brewer cap”)—and your SCOBY culture of course. You’ll also need plenty of airtight bottles. I prefer 16.2 fluid-ounce bottles (which I have accumulated by saving bottles of store-bought kombucha) but you can also use bottles with wire-held stoppers, which come in 16 and 32-ounce sizes. If you use the smaller 16-ounce bottles, you will need 3 sets of 16 bottles, 48 in all. If you use quart-size bottles, you will need 3 sets of 8, or 24.
Your ingredients are organic cane sugar and organic black tea—I have found that the best buy is Paul Newman’s organic tea, purchased in boxes of one hundred tea bags each.
2 gallons good quality water
2 2/3 cups organic sugar
12 tea bags
Place water and sugar in a large pot, bring to a simmer, stir to ensure the sugar is dissolved, and add the 12 tea bags, with the strings wrapped around a wooden spoon (this makes them easier to remove). Turn off heat and allow the liquid to cool; this will take several hours.
Pour the liquid into your crock, place the SCOBY on top, cover with the cloth cover, and attach the heating element. Leave for ten days.
After ten days, brew a second batch and allow to cool.
Now it’s time to transfer your first batch into bottles. I don’t use the tap on the kombucha vessel as the liquid runs out way too slowly. Instead, I remove the heating element and the cloth cover from the crock and pour the liquid through a strainer into an 8-cup Pyrex measuring pitcher, set into a sink. If you pour carefully, the SCOBY will remain in the crock, but if it spills out, the strainer will catch it.
Now pour the liquid through a funnel into the individual bottles, leaving a little room at the top. Then add ½ teaspoon organic sugar to each 16- or 16.2-ounce bottle—add 1 teaspoon for quart bottles. Put on the wire stoppers or screw the screw tops very tightly. Leave these on the counter for ten days, while the second batch is brewing.
Now repeat the process, making a new batch of kombucha and transferring your second batch into more bottles, adding the extra sugar to each bottle. At this point, you have one batch of kombucha brewing, and two batches in bottles, sitting on the counter at room temperature.
After another ten days, you can transfer your first batch into the fridge—allow to cool and your kombucha is ready.
Now make another batch of kombucha; transfer batch number 3 into the third set of bottles and your liquid into the crock.
Once you get the process going, you will have at all times, 1 batch brewing in the crock, two batches in bottles brewing on the counter, and one batch that you are working through in the fridge.
To serve the kombucha, open the bottles carefully, as they tend to be very fizzy. They will also have developed tendrils of SCOBY or even little whole SCOBYs in the bottle, so you need to pour through a strainer.
Flavored kombucha? This kombucha is so delicious, it really doesn’t need flavoring. However, I do flavor occasionally, using the juice left over from stewed fruit. (My husband is a real stewed fruit lover, which he makes with fruit, a little added organic sugar or honey, a little water and plenty of grated ginger.) Add about 1 tablespoon stewed fruit juice instead of the ½ teaspoon sugar. The result will be some lovely subtle flavors and extra fizziness.
UPDATE, October 4, 2016. Recently I made a batch and did not have enough 16-ounce bottles, so put some kombucha in a quart-sized bottle with a wire stopper. It had been on the counter about 15 days when it exploded–leaving glass all over the kitchen. Fortunately, this happened at night, when no one was in the kitchen. So I think it best to amend this recipe to stipulate only 16-ounce sized bottles (which I have never had any problem within over 2 years). If you want to take an added precaution (for example, if your kitchen is very warm), put the bottles in the fridge after 10 days, and let the last 10 days of brewing take place in the fridge.