My favorite kombucha flavors – July 2018

I’ve had two friends (and about a dozen people at the YMCA) sample my home-brewed kombucha. Both times I was asked how I flavor it and what are my favorite flavors. I’ve also been asked about carbonation, sugar content, and accidental bottle explosions. I’ve answered a few more questions below about this in a FAQ post. Please feel free to ask more questions in the comments!

I personally love my “original” (non-flavored) home-brewed kombucha after about 10 days of fermentation. Others that I know love very tangy kombucha and will ferment theirs for several weeks and will use pH strips to ensure that the acidity is perfect.
I would recommend using pH strips like this. Remember to use your straw to draw up liquid. Never dunk the strip into the fermenting tea as you may inadvertently contaminate it.

There is a direct correlation to sugar/acidic flavors to fermentation time. The longer you leave your kombucha to ferment, the less sugary (or more vinegary) the flavor.

What about flavoring your kombucha? Even though I like the “original” flavor, I also love the ability to be creative and devise unique flavors. How does one go about doing this though?  I was a bit vague on how to do this. Once you have made kombucha, you can carbonate or flavor it. I suggested the following:

“To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you’d like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.”

I’m going to share with you my personal favorites flavors thus far. Flavors are best enjoyed about 12 hours (or overnight) after mixed.

Very berry mint:
Brewed herbal peppermint tea (at room temperature) and a handful of berries.
I use Celestial Seasonings Magic Mint Herbal Tea and ~5-10 frozen blueberries
Steep tea bags in water for 5 minutes.
Allow peppermint tea to cool to room temperature.
Transfer cooled tea to 16 oz glass jar (or mason jar).
Add a handful of berries to the jar, then fill with kombucha tea.

Mojito
Mint leaves and fresh lime juice
Chop or muddle fresh mint leaves, place in empty 16 oz glass jar.
Squeeze juice of half of a lime into the jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Summer Breeze
Ginger, cucumber, strawberry
Peel and chop 1/2″ knob of ginger and ~1″ cucumber.
Add ginger, cucumber, and frozen strawberries to 16 oz glass jar. 
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Blackberry Cream (from The Brewkery in North Kansas City)
Blackberries and vanilla
If blackberries are large, cut in half. 
Add a ~5-10 blackberries and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Cocoa Cream
Cacao nibs and vanilla
Add 1 teaspoon of cacao nibs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Westy Blonde Clone

Westvleteren 12 is said to be one of the best trappist beers in the world. It is produced by the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. On our last European adventure (and second adventure with Oliver), we visited the abbey-owned cafe and visitor centre called In de Vrede, which is across the street from the monastery.
We have tried all three of the beers: the blonde (5.6% ABV), the Westvleteren 8 (formerly called Extra; 8% ABV), and the Westvleteren 12 (formerly called Abc; 10.2% ABV). I personally love the Westvleteren Blonde the best. Due to my preference and because both the Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 12 are bottle conditioned (something we have yet to attempt), our next beer on the docket was to attempt to clone the Westvleteren Blonde.

This brew was adapted from The Mad Fermentationist and BeerSmith recipes.

 

Westvleteren Blonde Clone

Recipe:
6 lbs Belgium Pale Ale
3 lbs Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt
½ lb Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1 oz German Northern Brewer (5.3 aa)
1 oz German Hallertau (2.7 aa)
2 oz Styrian Goldings (5.7 aa)
¾ lb granulated sugar
Yeast: Safale BE-134 Belgian (dry)
1 tablet whirlflock
Gypsum, if needed

Total grain bill: 9.5 lbs (10.25 lbs with sugar)

Process:

  1. Heat 4 gallons of water at 147°F (63.9°C)
  2. Mash for 60 minutes
  3. Check pH during mash, adjust pH to 5.2-5.5 using acidulated malt and gypsum
  4. Mashout at 165°F (73.9°C) for 20 minutes
  5. Sparge 3.5 gallons (13.25 L) to 6.5 gallons (24.6 L).
    Target SG=1.053
    If SG is a bit lower (1.047), add sugar to increase the SG.
    In our experience, 0.25 lbs of sugar increased SG by ~0.0025
  6. Boil for 75 minutes
    Hop 1 @ 60 minutes: 1 oz German Northern Brewer
    Hop 2 @ 20 minutes: 1 oz German Hallertau
    Hop 3 @ 12 minutes: 2 oz Styrian Goldings
    Target OG=1.063
  7. Rehydrate 1 sachet of yeast in 1 cup (250 mL) room temperature water
  8. Oxygenate wort in fermentation vessel as much as possible
  9. Pitch yeast at 68°F (20°C). Target volume = 5.5 gallons (20.8 L)
  10. Allow fermentation vessel to warm up to 76°F (24.4°C)
  11. Primary for 1 week, secondary for 2 weeks

BrewDay Notes:
We accidentally added 1 lb of acidulated malt to the water (good thing it was the first thing we put in the tank). We scooped out what we thought was half of the malt.
We therefore ended up with a pH of 3.2.
We sparged with 2¾ gallons (10.4 L) because we were concerned about hitting a specific SG. We sparged to 5.5 gallons (21 L) with a SG=1.054.
We transferred 4.25 gallons (17 L) of wort into the fermentation vessel with an OG=1.063.
After 5 days in fermentation vessel, we transferred beer into a corny keg and force carbonated to 7 psi. We then placed the keg into the kegerator for its secondary.

Tasting Notes:
Nose: banana, wheat, almond, hint of footy
Palate: pleasant sweetness, hint of clove, orchard fruit (apple, pear)
Finish: fairly dry, bit of “funk” though not unpleasant, no lingering flavors
7% ABV

Final Thoughts:
We love this beer. It is not exactly Westvleteren Blonde, but it is a great tribute and has a nice Belgian flavor to it. 
The ABV is a bit on the high side, but the beer is still an easy-drinker. 
We’d love another go at this. Next time, we would sparge with 3.75 gallons 

DIY Kombucha

I love kombucha. I was introduced to it (and hated it) when I was an undergrad. My friend John re-introduced me to it several years ago in graduate school. That’s when I fell in love with ‘bootch and discovered two things:
1) you can get a small discount at Whole Foods if you buy a case of it at a time and
2) I love kombucha with chia seeds floating around in it. I’m kind of a weirdo that likes that texture.
Drinking the probiotic elixir daily didn’t last long; it was an expensive habit that took up a lot of fridge space. 

Skip ahead to the DIY Kombucha Recipe below.

Fast forward to the end of September. My in-laws were in town visiting us Oliver. And I somehow convinced my mother-in-law and one of my sister-in-laws to go to the kombucha class with me at Grain to Glass in North Kansas City. Grain to Glass is a fun little homebrew shop that has a little bit of everything: supplies for brewing (beer, cider, wine), a bar with rotating beers on tap, and a few fridges with bottled beer. It also hosts brewing competitions, beer tastings, and classes for all things related to brewing.

Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law already make their own kombucha, but their interests were still peaked to learn more from a guy named Keith who has been making kombucha for years and teaching others to do the same. The bonus features of this class were that you had the opportunity to try his homemade kombucha, receive a SCOBY (more below on this), see his “SCOBY Hotel”, and acquire some of his kombucha knowledge. Grain to Glass also had kombucha kits available for purchase (for $12, I believe) that included everything you needed (minus the SCOBY) to get started. 

Now that I’ve successfully made three batches of kombucha at home and feel a bit more comfortable with the process, I’ve also made a post with some knowledge that I learned from Keith, the internet, and making my own kombucha. I also answer the questions I get the most at kombucha on that post.

 

DIY Kombucha
Serves 14
1 serving of kombucha is 1 cup (~250 mL)
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
56 calories
14 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
277 g
10 g
14 g
0 g
0 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
277g
Servings
14
Amount Per Serving
Calories 56
Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
0%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 10mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates 14g
5%
Dietary Fiber 0g
0%
Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
1%
Iron
0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 14 cups (3.5 L) water
  2. 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  3. 8 tea bags
  4. 1 SCOBY
  5. 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) kombucha (starter tea)
  6. Coffee filter or muslin cloth
  7. 1 thick rubber band
  8. 1 gallon glass jar (4 L glass jar)
  9. Soda straw
  10. Tongs
  11. Plate
Instructions
  1. 1. Bring 2 cups (500 mL) of water to boil.
  2. 2. Remove water from heat and add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  3. 3. Bring another 12 cups (3 L) of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 6-8 tea bags. Allow them to steep*
  4. 4. Let the tea and sugar water to cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour, but up to overnight).
  5. 5. Add the room temperature sugar water and tea to the 1 gallon glass jar.
  6. 6. Add the 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) of kombucha (starter tea from the previous batch of finished kombucha**) to the jar.
  7. 7. Add 1 SCOBY to the jar.
  8. 8. Cover the jar with a coffee filter. Secure filter with the rubber band. Set the lid aside as it is unneeded.
  9. 9. Let the sweetened tea + SCOBY sit at room temperature in normal lighting*** for at least 5 days and up to 1 month.
  10. 10. At the 5 day point, draw up a sample of the freshly fermented kombucha using the straw. Taste for desired sweetness/tartness. Fermentation may take longer than 5 days (or up to 4 weeks), depending on desired taste. The longer you allow the tea to ferment, the more tart and tangy it becomes.
  11. 11. When brewed to you desired taste, remove the original SCOBY and the newly generated SCOBY with a pair of tongs and place them on a clean plate.
  12. 12. Check the SCOBYs for green or black mold. If you find mold, discard the SCOBY and the kombucha/tea - start over with fresh ingredients!
  13. Remember that brown or stringy bits are totally normal as are shades of brown.
  14. 13. Set aside 2 cups (500 mL) of newly finished kombucha and one SCOBY to begin you next batch of kombucha.
  15. 14. Pour the remaining kombucha into bottles. If you'd like to carbonate or flavor your kombucha, then now is the time. To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you'd like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.
  16. 15. Chill the bottles before opening.
  17. 16. Take care when first opening your kombucha as the contents will be under pressure.
Notes
  1. *I usually allow my tea to steep for 5-10 minutes. You can steep the tea bags overnight.
  2. **You can use unfiltered, unsweetened, commercial kombucha as the starter tea.
  3. ***Keep the solution out of direct sunlight, but don't keep in a cupboard or out of the sun.
Adapted from from Keith Krieger
beta
calories
56
fat
0g
protein
0g
carbs
14g
more
Adapted from from Keith Krieger
The Adventures of El and Jen http://www.elandjen.com/

Whisky Notes: Kilkerran Glengyle

Whisky from Scotland is broken up into several regions: Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown. If you are a believer or not, there are some suggestions that “Islands” be there own region. I’ll let you decide if you want to follow classification or not.

My wife is amazing and bought me a wonderful birthday present: the Kilkerran Glenglye 12 year old whisky from the self-proclaimed “newest, old distillery in Campbeltown” with an interesting history that you can read about here. Apparently, there were only 9,000 bottles made of this stuff.

You don’t care about me telling you about the distillery. You want to know about the dram. Let’s talk whisky. The Kilkerran Glenglye 12 year old is non-chill filtered and with no added coloring. It is bottled at 46% ABV. The whisky was matured in 70% bourbon, 30% sherry casks giving it a great nose and taste. Below are my tasting notes:

Nose: brown sugar or toffee, brine (subtle), grass (subtle), dried apricots, green woodiness, oak.

Palate: sweetness resembling honey with lemon peel, possibly angel food cake, vanilla. Palate not nearly as developed as the nose.

Finish: grassy notes, lingering bitterness, slightly oily, slightly briny

This is an easy, everyday drinker with the price point is £35 per 70 cl bottle (if you were one of the lucky ones able to buy it before it sold out).

Update: The palate improved considerably after having been opened and exposed to air. It tastes much, much better and, in my opinion, definitely needed some oxygen.

Whisky Notes: Aultmore 12

Many of you know that Jen and I were on the committee (USA language: officers) of the Cambridge University Whisky Appreciation Society (CUWAS) – Jen was the Vice-President and I was the webmaster/IT guy. Let’s be honest though; work sometimes kept me away from maintaining the website, so Jen definitely stepped in to help when something needed to be done in a time-dependent manner.

If you live in the Cambridge, England area, definitely check out the society and go to one of their events. Each tasting is an opportunity to try six whiskies, generally along some sort of theme. This term’s events look really varied:
Introduction to Whisky – this event is great for those who may not know much about whisky but still great whisky for those that do
Liquid Gold – some of the “best of the best” whiskies currently available
Out of its Element – if I had to guess, this would include whiskies that don’t generally fit into their own genre: a smoky Speyside or Highland whisky or an unpeated Islay)
The well-loved Christmas tasting – whiskies that just make you want to settle in and enjoy the winter season
They also snuck in a Brandy tasting this term, which shouldn’t disappoint!

Both Jen and I receive a lot of questions on what whiskies we recommend or normally drink (or in Jen’s current state (pregnancy), what she used to drink or what she’s looking forward to drinking in 15 weeks from now). Since I have the “chore” of trying to drink all of our opened bottles of whisky in the next several month before we move again, I thought it would be fun to give you some tasting notes on what I’m drinking. I guess that’s the least I can do!

Without further ado, here is some general information on the Aultmore 12, why we have it in our possession, and my tasting notes*:
Last fall, Jen bought a couple of bottles of whisky that were released by Dewar’s as part of their The Last Great Malts series. There was some sort of online contest that required participants to purchase two bottles in the series to be registered to win all eight of the series. The series included three bottlings of Aberfeldy (12, 16, and 21 year olds), Aultmore (12 and 25 year olds), and Craigellachie (13, 17, and 23 year olds). She loves a good whisky contest and/or deal; this is the reason of why we have a bottle of the Aultmore 12 in our whisky collection.
Aultmore of the Foggie Moss, as the label reads, is non-chill filtered and has no added colorings. Hence its lovely pale caramelly-yellow color. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV and can be found at various places for just under £45 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh grass, orange chocolate, sponge cake, aromatic and floral undertones. Jen said it smelled like salted caramel-covered apples.

Palate: Vanilla, spice-cake (possibly cinnamon notes), floral notes continue. The overall mouthfeel is spicy and warming.

Finish: Clean and inoffensive. Slightly floral notes. No lingering flavors here. This whisky has a very short finish.

At the price point, this is a very classic example of a Speyside whisky that could be a daily drinker for those who don’t particularly like peated or overly complex whiskies.

*Note: The tasting notes provided here are my own thoughts. Unfortunately, neither Jen nor I were given whisky to review.