A Molasses Kombucha Sour

IMG_0733I’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.

IMG_0728Just 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.

IMG_0737We 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.

IMG_0738When 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.

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IMG_0735I 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!

  14 comments for “A Molasses Kombucha Sour

  1. 8/13/14 at 9:29 AM

    Great post! I’m so excited for this kombucha. But I wanted to pop in and say there shouldn’t be an apostrophe before the “s” in Flanders, as it refers to a location of the same name. WHO’S THIS FLANDER FELLA, HUH?

  2. Bret Woods
    8/13/14 at 9:31 AM

    Thanks, I’ll make an edit!

  3. Rosemary
    11/20/15 at 1:51 PM

    How did it work, Brett? I just experimented brewing a batch with Rapadura, and the resulting KT is both sour and has a strong molasses after taste. I’m thinking I need to sweeten it up a bit to actually enjoy it.

  4. Bret Woods
    11/20/15 at 2:01 PM

    I found the finished product dark and definitely in need of some sweetness right after the initial week of fermentation. But the molasses has such a distinct flavor that the more it aged the less I noticed the acidity and sourness of the kombucha, and was overwhelmed by the dark, blackstrap aftertaste. In the aged stuff sweetness didn’t seem to help me much, and the acidity had gone away.

    How much Rapadura did you use in your brew, and how long did the tea ferment?

  5. Rosemary
    11/20/15 at 2:29 PM

    I used a cup of Rapadura to a gallon of tea, and it’s been brewing since November 3rd. I tried it close to a week ago and wasn’t thrilled with that aftertaste with the sourness, and didn’t do anything else with it ’cause I wasn’t sure what I should do. Just took the mother out and I’m still trying to decide what I should do. Funny how I love the taste of molasses in glass of warm or cold milk, but it’s just bugging me in this ferment. Any suggestions? I may just bottle it up and use it in smoothies.

  6. Bret Woods
    11/20/15 at 2:43 PM

    Yeah, that’s been my experience as well. It’s almost like the molasses has its own acidity that messes with the pH of the fermentation. It’s doesn’t seem to mesh with the standard sugar acidity that goes well with ginger and citrus. It was a good experiment for sure, but I think in the future I would get some standard sugar from the store and ferment as usual, then try to add the molasses afterward to flavor and bring out that sour character I tasted initially.

    For your Rapadura blend, I think smoothies would be a good way to use it. Maybe your kombucha with cardamom or even smoky spices would be good with banana. Do you reuse your mother? I wonder if the different pH environment shapes the way future brews will ferment.

    I think it’s possible that generations of constant molasses fermentation might breed a SCOBY that could produce a nice, sour flavored brew, but that would take some more experimenting.

  7. Rosemary
    11/20/15 at 2:53 PM

    Mmm, good idea, I LOVE cardamom. Yes, I do reuse my mother, and I don’t continuous brew but I am currently keeping 3 gallons going in a staggered cycle. I’m curious to see how the mother will be affected by its experience with the Rapadura.

    It’s funny. I first tried brewing my own KT several years ago, but gave it up because I wasn’t consuming it enough and it kept getting too sour for me to enjoy. Then my husband was encouraged to try doing it to combat his acid reflux. By then I had developed more of a taste for it via the store-bought stuff, and when he started neglecting it I took over. I’m having lots of fun with different green and black teas–fruity ones, flowery ones, straight or in blends–and we are both loving it. Thanks for your feedback!

  8. Bret Woods
    11/20/15 at 3:45 PM

    Awesome! Yes, and thank you for the comments and conversation. Stop by again sometime and/or look me up on twitter; I’d enjoy reading about your green tea brews. I’ve been wanting to do an Imperial green tea with a post-fermentation steep of rose petals.

  9. Rosemary
    11/20/15 at 3:50 PM

    Nice! I read that green teas tend to work faster than black, and it seems to be true. I just started a batch of jasmine green, and I make black with rose petals (Zhena’s gypsy rose). Dragonwell green tea results in a yummy KT that is both citrusy and flowery, and blends well with both of the others. I tried a raspberry Earl Grey that I loved, too, but it did take longer due to the bergamot oil. Enjoy!

  10. Rosemary
    11/20/15 at 3:51 PM

    PS I typically use organic not-quite-so-refined sugar, and I have not idea how that would contrast with plain white sugar.

  11. Bret Woods
    11/20/15 at 3:55 PM

    Yes, we use organic not-quite-so-refined sugar as well. It makes my mothers look strange at times, but the brew is solid. Raspberry Earl Grey! Can’t wait to try that. Thanks!

  12. Sam
    2/14/16 at 7:08 PM

    I added a bit of blackstrap molasses to a half dozen bottles on 2nd ferment with some strong bitter root tea. (since i was out of honey and sugar). I find the finished product to taste more acidic than ususal, darker in colour, but sweet enough with an interesting compelling flavour. I don’t know if I will try it again, but found the experiment led to an interesting result.

  13. 8/4/16 at 3:48 PM

    Question if I may…..made a small bath of kumbacha using a molasses base & some stater tea. The tea has fermented, however the scoby is an odd color…what color should it be?

    thank

  14. Bret Woods
    1/25/17 at 6:33 PM

    The SCOBY will vary in color based on your solution and the type of sweetener you use. They can vary in color from pale white to light brown to dark brown. The SCOBY in my molasses mixture was very dark. What color was your SCOBY?

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