I’ve been brewing kombucha at home for just over a year now. If you’re not familiar, it’s a type of fermented tea that originated in Manchuria, made from sweetened black tea and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (or SCOBY); it is made through the process of open fermentation.
We follow the continuous brew method here, where we cycle out a gallon of kombucha when ready, cycling in a fresh gallon of sweet tea to begin another round of fermentation. After every three cycles or so the pot gets a bit low on water due to evaporation, so when my 2.5 gallon vessel only fills half way I usually clean everything out. It’s not too much work to maintain my SCOBY and it provides plenty of tasty kombucha for refreshment and to use in various recipes–especially bright, fruity smoothies in the mornings.
Just before vacation last month, we ran short on sugar. I usually do a full cup of sugar in my gallon batch of refill, but we were down to just under a half a cup. Jaime and I did a good bit of research, and decided that instead of heading out to the store we would use blackstrap molasses in addition to what remaining sugar we had.
We usually use molasses in smoothies or for certain other recipes, but after researching to determine if it would be harmful to the SCOBY, we decided to experiment and try it out. I brewed my usual batch, adding the molasses and a bit of remaining sugar, cooled the steeped mixture, and then added it to the vessel. Then we went on vacation.
When we got back, I checked the SCOBY and made sure everything looked healthy, then I sampled the kombucha. It was wild, and dark like molasses, but it had that bright, acidic center that is characteristic of regular kombucha. There was something different about the whole character of the flavor. It tasted new and interesting, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was so different about it. Then Jaime mentioned that she thought it had the character of a Flanders Red. I sipped a few more times and I think I agree. This molasses kombucha has the quality of flavor of a Belgian sour. It’s uncanny, and amazing.
I cycled another fresh batch today, this time back to my sugar SCOBY. We’re excited to chill and enjoy the molasses kombucha as it is, but I decided I want to experiment a bit further with half of the harvested batch. I added a half teaspoon of sugar each to six empty bottles that I normally use to bottle my home brewed beer, and then bottled half the molasses kombucha. I thought sealing the brew into bottles with a bit of extra sugar would encourage some CO2 and might make things a bit more bubbly. I’m going to allow that to remain in the bottle a while longer and then try it chilled to see how it turned out. Hopefully it will be a more matured version of the Flanders red-style molasses kombucha sour we have already. I’m excited to find out!