Kombucha 101: Answers to Your Fermented Tea FAQs

kombucha bottles

At Bootleg Bucha, flavors run the gamut. Pictured here: hibiscus lime, ginger beer, and citra hop.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent, slightly tart/sour beverage that’s typically brewed from a green or black tea base. While its exact origin is unknown, it’s believed that kombucha has been consumed for generations. Until recently, it wasn’t widely commercially available, but instead was produced and championed by passionate home brewers who prized the drink for its delicious taste and reputed health benefits.

What Are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?

kombucha health benefits

Kombucha is held in high esteem for the positive effects that its proponents claim it has on health, including boosting the immune system, increasing energy and sex drive, digestive regulation, and detoxification.

Evidence of these health benefits is anecdotal. But even people who don’t fervently claim that it is some kind of health miracle readily admit that the beverage does contain probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins, and other nutrients that are beneficial.

kombucha on tap

Bootleg Bucha dispenses kombucha to customers by the growler or glass bottle via a kegerator.

How Is Kombucha Made?

Making kombucha is pretty easy. It requires brewing green or black tea with sugar, then adding starter tea (from a previous batch) and SCOBY, then letting it rest to do its thing (hint: that “thing” is fermentation). The duration of the fermentation process can vary depending on environmental factors and how acidic you like your drink, but once it is complete, kombucha can be infused with various ingredients (fruit, herbs, spices, vegetables) to add greater depth of character and flavor.

What’s a SCOBY?

Now, we’re guessing you probably don’t know what a SCOBY is, so let us explain. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” Basically, it’s a naturally occurring rubbery disc that gives physical home to the community of microorganisms that feed on the nutrients and sugar in your tea base–sort of like an organic, microbial jello. The byproducts of the metabolism that’s fired by that feeding are carbon dioxide, alcohol, and other compounds that give rise to kombucha.

SCOBYs are essential to fermentation, but they are also a natural product of the process. That means they can generate and grow with each batch, allowing them to be reused if kept alive and well nourished. In some ways, they are like a sourdough starter.

Because the SCOBY is the catalyst that makes kombucha possible, it is often referred to as a “mother.” Basically, without a SCOBY, you don’t have kombucha, so if you want to brew at home, you’ll need to get your hands on one. You can purchase a SCOBY or give growing your own a shake.

kombucha drink healthy

Kombucha was long relegated to home brewing, but a burgeoning commercial kombucha industry has taken root as of late.

What Does Kombucha Taste Like?

The flavor is dependent on the kind of tea you’ve brewed, the composition of your SCOBY, the length of fermentation, and any additional ingredients you’ve included. But, in general, a “standard” kombucha will exhibit a certain effervescent tartness. Kombucha that results from a short fermentation will be markedly sweeter and less acidic than kombucha that’s allowed to ferment for 30 days or more. And because it is fermented, it is also contains a slight amount of alcohol (generally around .5 to 1% ABV).

How Do I Store and Dispense Kombucha?

kombucha bottles growlers

Kombucha can be bottled or stored in kegs. If you go the latter route, you can make like our friends at commercial brewery Bootleg Bucha and dispense into growlers via a combination of growler filling station and homebrew picnic faucet. Or you could opt for another draft dispensing setup. One note of caution, however: much like coffee or wine on tap, it’s recommended that a kombucha dispensing system feature all stainless steel contacts (faucets, shanks, and couplers). The acidity of the beverage could erode contacts made of chrome-plated brass, resulting in off flavors. 

Kombucha should be refrigerated once it reaches proper maturity to stunt the fermentation process. Well chilled, it is relatively stable and can be consumed for at least a month. If fruits, herbs, and vegetables are left in too long, however, they could grow mold, so it is best to remove them once the mixture is properly infused with flavor. 

At KegWorks, our draft dispensing experts are happy to help you choose a kombucha dispensing system that works for your needs. Just give us a call at 1.888.415.2803, and we’ll make sure you’re well on your way to enjoying effervescent fermented freshness with just the pull of a faucet handle!

Bootleg Bucha is located inside Horsefeathers at 346 Connecticut Street in Buffalo, New York. Check them out on Facebook and Instagram!

2 Comments

  • Chris September 5, 2018 @ 4:33am

    Hello.
    I’ve started my own little Kombucha setup in South Africa and have been looking at moving to Kegs. One of my concerns is that the buch will keep growing in storage even in while stored in the fridge. I’ve had most of my bottled buch keep growing even after filtering and keeping in the fridge. I’ve been through many other forums and sites but haven’t really been able to find out how to prevent this. I see Kombucha in the shops and wonder how they are not forming new SCOBY’s. Is there any equipment you can recommend or method I can use to go about setting all this up.

    • Chris September 25, 2018 @ 10:21am

      Hi Chris,

      I have to refer you to our draft experts at Customer Care. They can be reached at 877.636.3673, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST. You can also reach out here. Kombucha setup will lead to additional questions, that you are clearly already keeping in mind. They will be able to discuss specifics about your system and answer your questions. Cheers!

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