FIX8 KOMBUCHA

Kombucha is fermented tea. And like kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, it’s part of the Cultured Club. Fermentation transforms the tea into kombucha – a ‘super’ tea that’s naturally rich in amino acids, active enzymes, beneficial bacteria and polyphenols. The ultimate elixir.

We steep a combination of loose leaf green and black tea in fresh filtered water. In goes the sugar to stir and wait to cool. Once cool, we add a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that kick-starts the fermentation process. We cover and leave in a warm room for a couple of weeks, then decant. All that’s left to do is to infuse the kombucha with our unique blends of fruit, herbs and spices, then simply chill and chug.

It should be the perfect balance between sweet and sour. Tangy and tart, yet deliciously refreshing. Kind of where apple cider vinegar meets soda. If you’re used to super sweet, it can be an acquired taste, but before long you’ll be hooked on that sour hit.

There are some great kombuchas out there, but each brand has its differences. Ours is handcrafted, natural and distinctively tasty. We worked with our dear friend and expert herbalist Michael Isted to create a unique blend of multi-dimensional flavours. Everything is made with medicinal-grade herbs, spices and flowers so they’re full of real flavour and will genuinely do your body good.

That’s the sign of a healthy culture. It’s just cellulose that has formed since bottling, and means the kombucha is active, which is exactly what you want. It’s totally safe to gulp down, or you can filter it out if you prefer.

Cold. Ice Cold. In the fridge (0-4)°. Always.

Whenever you want, however you want! Try it in the morning on an empty stomach, with lunch as a digestive, or in the evening from a wine glass (add a shot of gin if you’re feeling frisky). We only ask that you drink it ice cold.

As much as you like! A bottle of booch should give you a little buzz, but listen to your body, it’ll let you know when you’ve had enough. (Obviously don’t drink 10 gallons).

We ferment between 10-14 days. Each batch is unique so the time it takes to reach perfection differs. That’s what we love about it!

We use a combination of green and black tea to create the right flavour profile. The black tea adds an earthy, dark fruits flavour to the brew. We balance this with the aromatic citrus, grassy profile of our green tea.

There is small amount of natural caffeine in kombucha from the tea used to brew it, about a third of the amount of caffeine in your regular cup of joe. If you are sensitive to caffeine, try exploring what the right amount of kombucha is for you. Alcohol-wise, our kombucha has trace amount (<0.5%) from the fermentation process.

Without sugar there is no kombucha – it’s an essential part of the fermentation process. The sugar we add to the brew is not for us, it’s for the SCOBY to consume! There is only a small amount of sugar remaining in the brew, to keep the cultures happy. They also need a bit of a buzz…

To date, there haven’t been any large-scale studies on this, so we have to recommend you avoid it.

Yup. We only use ingredients which are naturally gluten-free.

110% yes, and again, naturally so.

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HOMEBREW Q'S

Kombucha can appear a bizarre entity at times. The aesthetic (for something you are planning to consume) can be divisive at best, and sometimes down right ugly for certain individuals. Do not be concerned about this - if you saw how many things you consume were prepared, you might think twice about consuming them (for quite different reasaons). Things you will likely see:

A pellicle forming on the surface of your liquid. This usually manifests as a jelly-like pancake anywhere from translucent in colour to off-white/beige/brown. This is normal and is the iconic aesthetic of kombucha brewing.

Brown stringy bits floating in the liquid/on the bottom of the vessel/hanging from the pellicle. This is yeast cells that flocculate after they have finished the early stage of the fermentation and the pH begins to drop and bacteria take the lead in the process. They can look weird and wonderful, but are nothing to worry about. Yeast also adds body and flavour to your kombucha. These can be filtered out before you come to drink the liquid.

Cloudiness! Your liquid will naturally be turbid and this is a good thing - it means that all of the organisms in the culture are in suspension and working.

Bubbles. CO2 is a natural product of both fermentation and respiration. It is a very positive sign to see gas bubbles as this means the metabolic rate is high.

Occasionally you may be unfortunate to get some mould growth on the surface - we have a whole document dedicated to this, what may have caused it and how to avoid it.

The liquid provided is the S.C.O.B.Y: an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Your bottle contains a liquid medium of strong sweetened tea liquor replete with the nutrients that feed this culture and keep it active. Kombucha is a unique fermentation which involves both the action of wild yeast and microbes to create its signature flavour in a multi-stage process. As part of this a layer of cellulose is usually created, forming on the surface of the liquid; this bio-film or pellicle is what some people refer to as a physical SCOBY. Be aware that the creation of this jelly-like pancake is neither the goal of fermentation, nor is it a necessary component to the continuation of the fermentation process. Cellulose is produced in layers with every successive cycle of fermentation and can be retained or not when the process is complete. You will rarely be able to prepare a full batch of kombucha with the micros in the pellicle alone - a rule of thumb is that you will always need 10% of the volume of any batch of kombucha you intend to produce to be composed of already fermented liquid, so you should save this each time you produce to ensure you can continue brewing.


Temperature is the number one factor that usually means homebrewed kombucha takes a little longer than that produced commercially on a larger scale in a controlled environment. The metabolic rate of the organisms is slower when they are cold (like all of us!). There are some things you can do to mitigate this:

Wrap it up! A good old fashioned insulation from a jumper or thick blanket can help the vessel retain the heat energy produced in fermentation. But please make sure it is fresh and clean!

The warmest space in your house is good - some people find joy in keeping the vessel next to hot water tanks/boilers, airing cupboards and the like.

Use a heat mat/jacket. These can be purchased online from homebrew suppliers and are not hugely expensive - it depends on how seriously you are taking your kombucha. A heat mat will not only maintain temperature but also raise it above the ambient, so this is a good solution if you live somewhere very cold.

Remember, wherever you keep your kombucha and whatever you use to keep it warm - ensure the environment and materials are clean to avoid contamination.

You should never refrigerate your starter as it is a living culture and requires a warm environment to stay active - this is for exactly the same reason that the finished kombucha must always remain cold, to ensure the micro-organisms remain dormant and don't make the product volatile or subject to a change in flavour profile from further fermentation or acidification. Culture that has been chilled has a greater propensity to develop mould when employed in future fermentation.


Tap water has a lot of dissolved minerals which buffer and slow the fermentation making it sluggish. It also contains chlorine by way of a disinfectant and this can produce a taint in beverages.

 


Depending on the speed of your fermentation (this is affected by the profile of your water - dissolved minerals - the temperature of your environment etc) your kombucha can take 1-4 weeks to ferment. The key here is to keep doing a sensory analysis; taste it often and when you are happy with the flavour profile, it is time to syphon off your liquid for secondary and set aside the remainder to start your new brew. 10-14 days is typical at warm temperatures, but the variability of homebrew environments means this timeframe is often longer; as long as you are happy with the taste and ready to drink you can make this decision at any time. Things to watch out for if you think your brew is struggling in fermentation are: blue mould (often furry in appearance), or failure to produce a bio-film on the surface.


The cellulose layer often develops unevenly and differently depending on the action of the bacteria - it is gluconacetobacter that are responsible for this action primarily in most cases, but different bacteria and strains of yeast will create bio-films of a varying nature, depending on which is predominating over time. If you hold on to this cellulose, you will notice that it develops and changes somewhat in colour and structure; this is nothing to worry about, but you can also get rid of it at any time should you so choose - remember that it is really only a by-product of fermentation and not necessary to brew with; in addition, a fresh layer will develop with each successive fermentation.

With regard to your cellulose pellicle, bio-flim or physical ‘SCOBY’, this can be kept with the volume of kombucha you will be retaining as starter for your next batch (this needs to a minimum of 10% of the projected volume you seek to make in the next cycle). We usually recommend that you just decant the volume you are going to drink into secondary, leaving the starter and pellicle together in the original brewing vessel, allowing you to simply brew sweetened tea and once cooled add this to the same vessel to keep a continuous brew going without disturbing the culture. If this ever becomes full of too many artefacts or the jar is too grubby (or indeed if you are seeking to increase production volume in a large vessel) you can consider transferring out to clean your vessel, but you should be able to complete a number cycles without needing to do this. A reminder that you do not necessarily need to keep the cellulose - it is a by-product of the fermentation and a new layer will develop with every ferment, but really it has limited intrinsic value to the process, the important factor is the health of your liquid culture.


The 'SCOBY pancake' or pellicle is something people are a little superstitious about, but from a scientific point of view it really is not integrally important and you can get rid of it if you find it easier - commercial brewers, for example, rarely keep these and a new layer will form on every batch where they act as a colony for the microbes. The liquid culture (hence the acronym ‘Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is what is needed for the fermentation at a rate of a minimum 10% by volume.


There are two options here:

1. Brew your tea in a separate vessel, adding the sugar, and dilute with cold filtered water. You can then pour this solution on top of the SCOBY + 10%, in the original brewing vessel. Do NOT pour hot tea on the SCOBY / 10% as this will kill the bacteria! 

2. Take the SCOBY + 10% out of the brewing vessel, brew your tea, sugar + water in the original vessel, just like you did the first time. When the solution is brought down to temperature, pour the SCOBY + 10% into the vessel, thus repeating the brewing technique you first did.

There will be a light carbonation present in your kombucha while brewing as the organisms are always producing CO2, but at warmer temperatures and while not under pressure, this will dissipate. That is why you place your liquid in a sealed environment under pressure for secondary fermentation, allowing the gas to be dissolved into the liquid to make your drink fizzy. This carbonation remains dissolved better at low temperatures, hence why things with gas in them often fizz up more when warm and why it is best you chill your kombucha before drinking. Kombucha is a slow gentle ferment and it is not always obviously actively producing gas as in more vigorous fermentations (beer, wine etc), so don’t be surprised (or dismayed) if you don’t see any gas appear during the 40 seconds you observed it on a given day!


The time frame for fermentation is very variable and temperature is a major driver to this; optimum temperature for the culture and to achieve the fastest turnaround is approximately 28 degrees centrigrade. This is hard to maintain at home, but lower temps will simply result in a longer, slower fermentation - some home brews can take as much as 4 weeks depending on the environment. You can try wrapping some cloth around the vessel or keeping next to a home boiler/in an airing cupboard to mitigate a cold ambient temperature. Another driver is the water profile - municipal supplies often tend to be relatively hard (contain a lot of dissolved mineral salts) and this will buffer the required drop in pH that is a characteristic part of kombucha fermentation as alcohol is metabolised to produce organic acids. We recommend filtered water to give as neutral a starting profile as possible.


The brown mass is usually flocculated yeast - this happens once the yeast has performed it's primary function earlier in the ferment and the pH drops, it is stifled a little and the microbial culture takes over converting the alcohol to acids.

Fermentation for kombucha is very variable - both because the desired flavour profile is quite subjective, but also because environmental factors greatly influence the process and hence each homebrew will progress and develop differently. When brewing on an industrial scale we measure values like pH (acidity) and the gravity (sugar content) of the liquid to chart its progress; but essentially, the most important diagnostic is sensory evaluation. Keep tasting your kombucha and depending on whether you prefer a tart, acidic profile or a sweeter softer feel you would either ferment your batch longer or move on to secondary fermentation. Bear in mind that when you add a substrate to your secondary ferment (either fruit, honey or simply more sugar) that you will bump up the residual sugar; some of this will be consumed in the secondary ferment, but just be aware that if you want something really dry and tart you need to ferment it longer first time around.

 


If you are happy with the flavour profile of your kombucha, then you will next need to syphon off the volume of kombucha you would like to drink into a vessel for secondary fermentation. This vessel must be able to hold carbonation and here you can add flavouring ingredients - herbs, spices, fruit (or a little sugar) to reinvigorate the yeast and kick start fermentation again. If the liquid is very turbid or has a lot of artefacts, you can roughly filter it through some coffee filter paper or muslin cloth on the way into the vessel. Once you add the ingredients this should then be closed and kept under pressure at ambient temperature for 2-7 days, depending on the speed of your fermentation. It will naturally create carbon dioxide which you will be able to observe by shaking the bottle - when this has reached a level you would like you can chill, ready to drink. Remember to save over at least 10% of the volume you would like to produce on your next cycle in your brewing jar so you can brew again. If you would like to brew more next time, save more kombucha from this ferment – you won’t have so much to drink this time, but your next batch will ultimately be much bigger.


Flavouring is a fun and creative aspect of producing your own kombucha as literally anything goes here. Some people like their kombucha plain, others with all the bells and whistles! Don’t be afraid to try things. A good place to start is with classic combos you know work or have tried in your favourite kombuchas before - ginger and lemon for example is a much employed pairing. You can add fruit, herbs, spices and these can be frozen, dried, pureed, juiced, separately steeped or just thrown in whole. Bear in mind that a larger surface area contact and longer times generally produce more intense flavours. Think of the kombucha as a blank canvas where you can layer flavour on top. If you prefer a sweeter flavour you can add sweet fruits, honey, maple syrup and this will balance with the acidity of your fermented liquid. We don’t like to prescribe how people express themselves with their creations and we’re always delighted to hear your success stories. Too much or too little? Change your additions next time around, but you really can’t go wrong. If you get really confident, you can even consider fermenting some of your ingredients in primary fermentation...

In secondary fermentation you can add whatever flavourings you'd like (fruit, herbs etc - ideally something with a little natural sugar to reinvigorate the yeast) and place in a vessel that holds carbonation. Then leave for 2-7 days at ambient temperature to produce the CO2 level you desire, at which point you can chill and it will be ready to drink. Some ingredients, such as ginger, are classic bedfellows for kombucha, but feel free to experiment – raw fruit, frozen fruit, puree and juice are all suitable formats. This stage is where you can be creative - most things go! If using fruit, this is full of natural sugars and you will not need to add any further sugar; if only herbs or seasoning a few grams of sugar or some raisins will keep the ferment going without affecting flavour. How much you add and how long you leave it are both subjective matters; some people prefer a sweeter kombucha with a soft carbonation, in which case a couple of days will leave you with a pleasant residual sweetness and some mild carbonation. At the other end of the spectrum you can leave for up to 14 days to get a drier, tarter drink with a very spritzy carbonation. If doing this, you may want to burp the bottle occasionally over time to release some gas to avoid explosions. When you are happy with the flavour profile in your bottles, put them in the fridge to cool down which will make the culture dormant and stop any further changes and also help your carbon dioxide to stay dissolved in solution for a less lively and more pleasant drinking experience.


The organic acids in kombucha make it naturally tart and I would suggest your fermentation is almost done if the body is light as this would imply that most of the sugar has fermented out. You can add more body and sweetness back with flavouring in secondary fermentation.

Your brew will produce a pellicle - a disc of cellulose that sits like a lily pad on top of the liquid. You can save this along with the liquid culture medium as starter for a future batch. If you don't want to make a full batch right away, this can be kept at room temperature - just make sure to feed it a little (cooled) brewed sweetened tea every couple of weeks to keep it nourished until you are ready to brew again.

Carbonation in live kombucha can be tricky. Secondary fermentation is the process whereby the carbon dioxide gas (produced as a by-product of fermentation and respiration) is assimilated into the liquid by keeping it stored under pressure. In order for this to be successful, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

The vessel you are using for secondary must be well sealed and rated to hold carbonation - as the level of gas builds up it will increase the pressure and if there is any chance for molecules to and escape and equalise with atmopsheric, it will do so. We provide swing-top bottles with some of our kits and highly recommend these as the ideal solution.

You must keep the headspace in the bottles to a minimum - 1-2cm is recommended. This is the amount of space between the liquid level and the seal of the bottle; too large and all the gas produced will fill this space and not be forced to dissolve into solution so you will release all the CO2 on opening and have none in your kombucha! So make sure and fill your bottles adequately.

To accelerate the process, make sure the liquid stays warm - do not refrigerate until you are satisfied enough carbonation is present and you are ready to drink. The mico-organisms go dormant at cold temperatures, so no metabolic activity will continue when chilled.

Do not open your bottles until you are ready to drink. As long as you are satisfied that you have bottles that seal well, are suitable for carbonated beverages and you have not left your secondary fermentation for an excessively long period of time, you do not need to worry about the bottle exploding - kombucha yeast is fairly slow working and you will be keen to consume the liquid before it would be in any danger of building up the pressure required to evacuate its surroundings in a violent manner. Opening the bottle regularly allows the pressure to drop and inhibits carbonation. A gentle shake every day or so will allow you to determine how much carbonation is present. Always chill before drinking - CO2 is more soluble at cold temperatures so this will keep your liquid calm on opening and also ensure that there is a nice spritzy fizz in the liquid in your glass!

You can increase your kombucha batch to whatever size you wish as long as you have a big enough vessel - the rule here is that your starter (a portion of your previous brew which contains the active cultures) must always be equal to at least 10% of the projected volume you wish to make. So, as you increase your batch, just keep more of your previous batch over to use as the basis of the fermentation on your next brew. The rest of your brew is made from brewed, then cooled sweet tea as before - you can extrapolate the numbers from the sugar in your original recipe, but be aware this is just a guide: you can use more sugar for a higher starting gravity if you prefer a sweeter kombucha and the opposite corollary for a drier iteration. Dependent on the rate of your fermentation you can also vary fermentation time to suit your preferred profile with reference to a sweet/dry and acidic balance.


There are a few reasons this can happen. Often, it can be the result of a foreign body falling inside the vessel before the pH has dropped low enough and the brew has been properly inoculated. It can also perhaps be the case that the vessel wasn't entirely sterilised before the tea was added. Once the pH is low enough and a small bit of alcohol produced (early on in the ferment) then the brew becomes very stable and impervious to infection from any pathogens or spore forming organisms. Temperature plays a big part in this as well: the culture thrives at a temperature of around 26-28 degrees centrigrade - if it is below 20, it will take much longer for the metabolic processes to begin and therefore leaves the brew more vulnerable. Try to aim for a starting temperature when pitching your culture of 28 - this can be difficult to maintain in a homebrew setting; somewhere like an airing cupboard can be good and perhaps also wrap your jar in some warm textile material to help insulate it.


There's no need to clean the vessel between every single brew, but it is advisable to clean after every 10, if you are able to keep track!

We advise to keep your SCOBY and roughly 10% of the original liquid to use as the "starter" in your next batch. You can add the tea solution straight on top of the SCOBY and starter liquid; however do make sure to only add the tea once you have diluted it with cold water - if you add boiling / very hot water, it will kill the SCOBY.

The clarity or brightness of your kombucha will depend on a few factors. Live kombucha has a mixed culture of yeast and microbes in suspension and the metabolic processes in mixed culture fermentation cause the liquid to be turbid (hazy). There are also often strands of darker coloured yeast, bits of tea dust and aretfacts of cellulose that come from the pellicle which usually floats on the surface of the fermenting liquid. There are a few things you can do to have a clearer final product ready for drinking. A rough filtration as you transfer from primary fermentation (we recommend recycled coffee filter paper or some washable muslin/cheese cloth) will remove any large unsightly floating particles as you begin your secondary fermentation. The ingredients you use in your flavouring will also affect the cloudiness of the final beverage - whole, crushed or pureed fruit for example. There are ways around this, should you so wish - try making a separate infusion in hot liquid with your ingredients and then sieving this before adding to the final kombucha or use high quality essence or extract to add aroma and flavour. Always chill your finished kombucha well before drinking; cold filtration is a naturally great way to drop anything in suspension to the bottom of your serving vessel allowing you to simply pour gently and steadily to leave this behind and not carry it over in into your glass.

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