A few weeks ago, I shared a novel of a post with YU all about brewing your own probiotic-rich Kombucha Tea. This week, I’m going to talk you through flavoring it with everything from ginger to raspberries to thyme. Once you start making your own kombucha, not only will you save money and boost your immune system just in time for the cold weather to arrive, but you will instantly add more fun and adventure to your culinary life. You can experiment with different teas as your kombucha base, and you can then flavor your brew with fruits, juices, herbs and spices.
As you’ll recall from Part One of this two-part How to Brew Your Own Kombucha Tea series, you brew your kombucha for 7-10 days (initial fermentation), then you do a second fermentation where you bottle it, add a raisin or two for fizz factor and 1-3 days later, you’re ready to enjoy.
I love to use fresh fruit to flavor my kombucha—the probiotics eat up the fresh, natural sugar and I find that the flavor is more intense. There are two points in the process where you can flavor your kombucha. After the 7-10 days—your initial ferment (not as fizzy) or for the second ferment (very fizzy and I recommend for a more complex flavor profile). There are infinite possibilities for adding flavor to your probiotic brew…
Flavoring with fruit:
If you don’t care about fizz and want to enjoy it sooner than later, puree or smash some fruit, stir it into to your brewed kombucha and enjoy right away (this is the sweetest option). If you want fizzy and a bit less sweet, add the fruit for a second fermentation (you can also add raisins or ginger for extra fizz). Dice, or smash your fruit. The more surface area exposed to the liquid, the more flavor.
With fresh, frozen or dried fruit, you want about 1/2 cup fruit per 3-4 cups liquid.
I find that stone fruit makes the kombucha more creamy and smooth, which some folks like and some don’t. Nectarines, plums and peaches work well. My favorite fruit flavors are raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry, or a combination of all. Apple is also quite nice with fresh herbs and spices…
Try these combos:
Raspberries and ginger
Any berries plain (my all-time fave is raspberry)
Green apple, cinnamon, cardamom
Blackberry and thyme
Mango and a pinch of cayenne
Watermelon and jalapeño
Flavoring with herbs and spices:
Herbs provide the most flavor with a second ferment. And little goes a long way when adding herbs and spices.
For every 3-4 cups of liquid:
2 cardamom pods
1/2″ crushed cinnamon stick
2 tsp fennel seed
Rosemary and lemon zest
Pineapple and basil
2-3 whole cloves
1 split vanilla bean (here’s how to open)
1/2″ fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp lavender buds
1 tbsp hibiscus leaves
1 tbsp rose petals
Combos to try:
Strawberry and rose and/or hibiscus
Cherries and rose and/or hibiscus
Blueberries and rosemary
Strawberries and thyme
Flavoring with juice:
For every 3-4 cups of kombucha, you’ll need about 1/4 cup organic juice.
Flavoring with extracts or infused waters:
You can also play with using organic, oil-free extracts like orange, lemon, almond, hazelnut and vanilla, or waters like orange blossom and rose, to flavor your kombucha after the first or during the second fermentation (flavor will intensify here). For every 3-4 cups of kombucha liquid, you’ll use about 1 tsp of extract and 1-2 tsp of waters.
Try these combinations:
Orange blossom and green apple
Strawberry, vanilla extract and rosewater
Apple, hazelnut and orange extract
Just like you see with store-bought kombucha, you can add chlorella, spirulina and chia seeds for a second fermentation. For chia, add 1-2 tbsp per 3-4 cups of liquid. For chlorella and spirulina, 1 tsp per 3-4 cups liquid. Don’t strain these ingredients out when your second fermentation is complete.
Ideas for the kiddos:
Instead of sugary sodas, do a second fermentation of kombucha with fresh fruit and raisins (and/or ginger) for extra bubbles. After 1–3 days, blend up some more fruit (raspberry and strawberry are winners) and add to the fizzy drink (you can strain if you have kids with pulp phobia). This bubbly beverage is so much better than soda—fruity, bright and flavorful enough that the kids will enjoy it. Plus, they are getting all sorts of beneficial probiotics and fiber that are non-existent in soda and plain pasteurized juice. Have them help make it, call it homemade soda pop and I bet it will go over quite well.
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It is so important to monitor the gas buildup in each bottle with a second ferment (and even with a first). You are basically creating little bombs if you leave the bottles too long without checking them. I’ve read, and heard about, bottles long forgotten on the top of a warm fridge that have exploded, and I’ve experienced the creation of a scene from Dexter in my own kitchen with a bottle of beet kombucha. Ooof.
You can “burp” your bottles 1–2 x a day by opening the tops and slowly letting the air release.
And one of my favorite tips to avoid (and monitor) too much gas build up comes from Sandor Katz (the man when it comes to fermentation). He recommends keeping a plastic water bottle and filling it along with the same second ferment batch that you fill your glass bottles with. This plastic bottle is a gauge for how much pressure is building up in the others, because it will tighten as CO2 builds up inside, while the glass won’t give you a clue. A second ferment can be complete after a day (in warm environments) or a week, even longer, but that plastic bottle will tell you when you need to release some pressure from the bottles. If it’s bloated and tight, you know the glass bottles have just as much buildup, so carefully release some gas over the sink for all and transfer to the fridge (to slow fermentation) or back to the counter. When adding fermentable sugars from fruit for a second ferment, the probiotics are super excited, eating all the fruit and in doing so they release a lot of CO2—it’s this build up that gives us bubbles, but we have to monitor it so no one ends up with glass all over their kitchen, and precious kombucha wasted.
More about the benefits of a second fermentation. I can’t recommend a second fermentation enough. 1-3 days is plenty, and the longer you let the brew continue to ferment, the more acidic and less sweet the taste. If bottled in an airtight container, the live yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to gobble up the tea and sugar that remained after the first fermentation. The fresh sugar that comes from fruit is turned into carbon dioxide which gives the kombucha the bubbliness it’s known for. If you want to skip the fruit and experiment with herbs like lavender (which makes a beautiful kombucha on its own), just add a raisin or two for that second fermentation fizz. It won’t change the flavor, but it gives the brew food to turn into bubbles. Fill your bottle with flavoring ingredients and brewed kombucha only 3/4 full, to accommodate bubbles and expansion.
After your second fermentation, open your kombucha bottle over the sink! And for insurance, place the bottle in a large glass bowl to catch any spill over. Slowly release the cap—there’s a lot of bubble build up in there and the pressure can make your brew spill out volcano-style.
Strain the flavoring ingredients out, rebottle and place in the fridge to slow fermentation. Enjoy anytime.
The measurements above are just ideas to get you started. I hope you will experiment with quantities, combinations and share with us all what YU discover.
So to recap:
1. Initial fermentation 7-10 days—instructions here.
2. Bottle brewed kombucha with ingredients, seal and let it ferment a second time (1-3 days)—more tips here.
3. After second fermentation is complete, open bottle carefully over the sink, strain, rebottle and refrigerate. Enjoy!
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Now, I want to hear from YU.
What flavors will you experiment with first?
Can’t wait to hear your plans…