Kombucha Brewing: How Is Kombucha Made?
The Science behind Kombucha
Have you ever wondered how kombucha is made? How does it get its fizz and unique taste? There’s a reason why kombucha is reportedly the fastest growing product in the functional beverage market. Nielsen found kombucha to be one of the most popular low-alcoholic fermented beverages in the world.
When you dive into kombucha brewing, you realize just how amazing kombucha really is. It’s so wonderfully different than carbonated beverages, sugary drinks or simple teas. Speaking of tea, that’s where we’ll get started because kombucha is basically sweet tea with some pretty cool science behind it.
All kombucha begins as sweet tea: tea leaves, water and sugar. The tea leaves used will depend on the kombucha manufacturer. At Brew Dr., we do things a little differently than anyone else. We started out as a tea company. You may be familiar with Townshend’s Teahouses in the northwest, where we’re sort of a big deal. There’s a reason Townshend’s gets so many great reviews. We partner with the world’s best tea buyers who travel the globe to curate teas just for Townshend’s, forming personal relationships with tea growers and importing their teas directly to us.
With tea as the foundation for kombucha, we think the tea part matters. So do our customers who choose our kombucha over so many other options.
After the tea is brewed, the fermentation process is where science takes over. A combination of specific yeast and bacteria are added to the sweet tea, often referred to as SCOBY. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. The sugar from the sweet tea feeds the SCOBY, aiding in its growth of beneficial colonies of bacteria.
You can even see this bacteria on the bottom of most kombucha bottles. It’s often referred to as “the mother.” If you see this floating in your kombucha, don’t fear! It’s a great sign that the kombucha is raw (unpasteurized, unprocessed and unfiltered) and contains these beneficial colonies of bacteria.
Related: What Is Raw Kombucha?
Much of the sugar in the sweet tea is consumed by the yeast in the SCOBY during the fermentation process, producing byproducts of carbon dioxide and alcohol. This is what gives kombucha the slightly fizzy and vinegary taste. Residual sugar gives the kombucha it’s mildly sweet taste, although some manufacturers add additional sweeteners to further sweeten their kombuchas. Brew Dr. does not. We believe our kombucha tastes fantastic just the way it is.
The fermentation process continues over a set number of days in a controlled-temperature environment. Because commercially-sold kombucha must remain below 0.5 percent alcohol, we use a unique, non-heat distillation process that removes excess alcohol without compromising the live and active cultures.
You’ve probably seen dozens upon dozens of kombucha flavors on the market. How kombucha is flavored depends on the manufacturer. At Brew Dr., we use organic botanicals and fruit to flavor our kombucha, and we add those whole ingredients directly to the sweet tea before the fermentation process begins. In this way, our flavors are not only completely from nature, but they “marinate” in the tea during the entire fermentation process, giving our kombuchas a deep, complex and rich flavor profile.
Kombucha brewing isn’t always done this way, however. Some kombucha manufacturers add flavorings after the fermentation process. They use ingredients such as fruit juices and concentrates, added sweeteners and artificial sweeteners, and other additives. Be sure to check your labels and keep an eye on the sugar content.
Most commercial kombuchas are sold in glass bottles and stocked in refrigerated coolers. Kombucha contains live organisms that will die if improperly stored. If you’ve ever picked up a bottle of room-temperature or warm kombucha, the flavor may still be there, but there’s a chance those live and active bacteria cultures are no longer alive.
Brew Dr. packages our kombuchas in two ways: the glass bottle and aluminum cans. Our bottles and cans aren’t your basic bottle or can, either. We put a lot of thought and work into the design. Our bottles are brown to keep the sunlight out and to prevent oxidation that could compromise flavor and quality. It’s a shorter, sturdier bottle to prevent knock-overs. They are also upcyclable as decor.
Our cans were specifically designed to be transportable. The lightweight cans have a distinctive wide-mouth for a smooth flow. Both our bottles and cans are 100% recyclable.
Kombucha brewing is a somewhat complex process with results that are well worth the effort. We hope you’ll explore all of our flavors and try mixing them into your favorite cocktails and recipes. Trust us. Once you get the kombucha bug, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!