How to Brew Kombucha Champagne
Did you know that by doing a specialized second ferment you can make kombucha champagne? Read our detailed set of guidelines to learn how to achieve this kombucha take on bubbly.
The term kombucha champagne is sometimes used to describe kombucha’s effervescent cousin, Jun tea. In this post, however, we are going to be outlining how to make an alcoholic variation of kombucha, aimed to be as similar to champagne or sparkling wine as we can get it. However, just to make things confusing – we are going to be using a green tea variation of kombucha. More on that further on!
Regular kombucha usually has a small amount of alcohol present within it. However this amount is so little, that kombucha does not fall into the category of alcoholic beverages.
Kombucha’s Trace Levels of Alcohol
The trace amount of alcohol present in kombucha has raised concerns with regards to pregnant and breastfeeding woman – however for those of us who are not linked bodily to a little one, the alcohol levels in kombucha do not even feature. They definitely will not get you a DUI! Some people report getting a ‘buzz’ from drinking kombucha, or feeling odd. While some batches of kombucha might, have under odd circumstances, developed a heightened level of alcohol, usually these feelings are caused by the probiotic microbes getting into action within the stomach. It is amazing how potent they can be – to the point where you can actually feel the effect.
What Causes This?
So what causes these trace levels of alcohol in kombucha? Kombucha’s microbial makeup consists of both bacteria and yeasts species. The way it works is that the yeasts start to feed on the sugar within the sweet tea. Their waste product is alcohol. The bacteria in turn then feed on the alcohol. Their waste product which they produce from the alcohol is natural acids. These natural acids are one of the things, besides the probiotic value, which makes kombucha so healthy to drink.
How to Gently Increase the Alcohol Content of Kombucha
If however one is aiming to amplify the alcohol levels in your kombucha, then you do not want the bacteria eating up all of the alcohol. Kombucha yeasts are not adapted to produce large quantities of alcohol – so there is not that much to begin with. Combined with the bacteria’s boozy tendencies this is why kombucha usually has an alcohol percentage of less than 1%.
If you wish to moderately increase the alcohol levels in your kombucha to that of a light beer, you can encourage the yeasts and by that thereby inhibit the bacteria.
Use Yeast Rich Starter Liquid
Start off by using the yeast rich starter liquid from the bottom of your previous ferment or SCOBY hotel. This will be full of free floating yeast, visible to the naked eye in the form of brown strings and bits and pieces. Using this, and therefore introducing more yeast into your ferment, will mean that they will be given a head start over the bacteria.
Use More Sugar
If you incorporate more yeast, then it is also a good idea to add in additional sugar. This is because they need something on which to feed. Giving them more food will also help to give them a head start and a chance to crowd out the bacteria a little bit. You can add in up to 50% more sugar for them to convert. Once the primary ferment is complete, you can go a step further and add sugar to the secondary ferment as well.
Implementing these steps can give you an extra few percent for your booch. However, if you want to get serious and make some kombucha champers, read on!
Taking it Next Level
While it is possible to increase the alcohol percentage in kombucha a little by merely doing the above two steps, you will probably not be able to get anything more than 4% on average. However, if you are willing to get your hands dirty with some home brewing antics, then you can successfully create a fairly strong kombucha (alcohol wise), and develop some lovely flavors.
As mentioned above there are a few different types of alcoholic kombuchas one can attempt. The basic process for all of them is pretty much the same. However the additional ingredients vary between each, as these are what give the differentiating flavors.
Modifying the Second Ferment
The key to making a slightly more serious alcoholic version of kombucha such as kombucha champagne, lies within the second ferment. By doing an anaerobic secondary ferment, and adding in some extra goodies – you can transform your humble batch of booch into the next party piece.
If you are going to be making kombucha alcohol of any sort, it is necessary to put together a sort of a home brew set up. Daunting though it may sound if you have never seen one – they are actually pretty simple. Home brew setups consist basically of a large container which can seal. Onto the top of this container an airlock is fitted. You can simply buy a set from amazon – or you can DIY it a bit by using large glass bottles, and mounting airlocks onto the top of them.
Some people even make DIY airlocks by simply fitting a hose onto the top of their carboy containers, and then submerging the free end of this into a bucket of water. If the whole affair is airtight then this can work great. However this will usually entail working with silicone or some other type of sealant. If you are not geared for the project, airlocks are pretty cheap to buy online, and if you are into fermenting you can use them for other things like cultured vegetables as well.
No Plastic Carboys
Most kombucha making guidelines will tell you not to use plastic or metal containers in which to brew your kombucha. The reason for this if you didn’t already know is that the natural acids can eat miniscule-ly at these materials, causing a leaching of them into your kombucha which is unhealthy and toxic. When doing a modified secondary ferment in order to make kombucha champagne, wine, beer etc, you might find that while acid levels can be lower, the second ferment can take much longer to complete, heightening the chances of leaching. So, stick to glass.
Besides doing your second ferment in a sealed carboy style container fitted with an airlock, the other trick to making kombucha champagne lies in some additional ingredients.
The first and the most important of these is champagne yeast. Relying solely on the kombucha yeasts to produce alcohol will result in nothing but frustration, so adding in proper champagne yeast is a must! You can buy various varieties at any home brew shop or online.
To get a true to type champagne style flavor profile you can use grape juice in your second ferment. If you want to play a bit and make a ‘pink champagne’ variation, try blending a little red grape juice in. If you want to expand the flavor profile in the unusual, then you can also go for something more exotic like raspberry juice to bring about a pink color.
Kombucha Champagne Recipe
As you can see, the basic process for making kombucha is not that complicated! Keep in mind that making alcoholic kombucha is an experimental process – one which can go wrong. However, it is absolutely possible to hit it on the nail as well! Not a whole lot has been written about making alcoholic booch, so if you are planning to set up a batch of booch champagne you are free to feel like a pioneer. : )
For this recipe we are going to be calling for a batch of kombucha made out of green tea. Green tea can make lovely light, fizzy kombucha – which are exactly the traits we are looking for to make our mock champagne. If you want to achieve a very clear and light in color looking champagne kombucha, then it might be a good idea to not use a lot of the tea from your previous batch of booch as starter liquid. What you can do is simply try to strain out some of those desirable free floating yeasties. Then add some white spirit vinegar (do not use natural vinegar) to drop the ph of your new green tea champagne batch to protect it from pathogens. Or you can just use starter liquid -the choice is yours.
Firstly we will be doing a primary ferment as described above, with extra kombucha yeasts and sugar. Once that is done we are going to be moving on to the secondary ferment with carboy, champagne yeast etc. Once that has matured all you need to do is bottle.
What You Need
To start off with here is a list of what of items you will need and what ingredients.
- Carboy style glass container with airlock
- Hose for syphoning
- Your regular kombucha brewing setup, fermentation vessel and cover etc
- Pot for boiling water
- Fliptop bottles or bottles which you can cap if you have a capper
- Thermometer (optional)
- Hydrometer (optional)
- 3/4 gallon brewed green tea
- Sugar (the usual amount you would use to make 1 gallon of kombucha + 50% +1 cup)
- 1/4 gallon yeast rich starter liquid (or just the yeast and about 4 tablespoons of white spirit vinegar)
- Champagne yeast
- Grape juice (or other juice of your choice)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup filtered water
First off you have gotta set up your primary ferment by brewing the green tea, dissolving in the sugar, and combining this with the SCOBY and starter liquid (or vinegar) in your kombucha fermentation vessel. Cover and leave to ferment for the usual time period.
Once your green tea kombucha is ready to go it is time to get on with the secondary ferment. Set up your carboy type container and airlock in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Try to find a spot where there is not much traffic, especially if you have pets or kids who could potentially knock over the brew and hurt themselves.
Now bring 1 cup of filtered water to the boil in a small pot. Dissolved in the 1 cup of sugar. Allow this to cool down to almost room temperature, but where it is still slightly warm to the touch. Mix in the champagne yeast. You will probably need about 1/3 of a teaspoon of wine yeast. Allow this to develop for about 10 minutes or so. If the yeast is fresh and still in good working order then you should start to see some nice bubble action. If it is not fresh and no bubbles appear then it will not activate your kombucha champagne successfully.
Step # 4
While you are waiting for the yeast to hydrate you can pour your kombucha into the carboy, and add in the grape juice. Once the yeast is hydrated, pour that mixture in aswell.
Step # 5
Now seal up the ferment making sure that the airlock is not blocked. You will probably have to fill the airlock up with some water.
Step # 6
Leave the brew to ferment until the champagne yeasts have stopped their work. You will be able to see this by the amount of bubbles coming into the airlock. If bubbles are being produced, then the yeast is still going. Once the bubbles stop, then it is time stop the ferment and bottle.
Step # 7
Stand your carboy on a countertop. Remove the top and airlock. With your plastic hose, siphon the liquid out into your bottles. This is done by submerging the hose under the surface of the kombucha champagne, and bringing the other end down to ground level or below the container. Have a bottle ready and give the free end of the hose a suck. This will pull some liquid into and down the pipe creating a suction. Quickly place your bottle under the end of the hose to catch the liquid!
Step # 8
Once you have bottled up all of your champagne kombucha, you will need to store the bottles. The best place for this is in the fridge. Kombucha wines are usually aged for a period of time, and not always in the fridge. However this does tend to develop higher levels of tartness, and can sometimes cause a flattening of the brew. In the case of kombucha champagne, you can let it rest in the refrigerator for a week, but after that it is probably best to drink it sooner rather than later. However you can space out your consumption, and maybe leave one bottle for a month or two to see how you like the flavor.
Alcoholic kombucha brewing can be temperamental and erratic in results, but as far as experimentation goes the carboy is your oyster. Do not be scared to tweak things if you feel that you will get even better results. We would be excited to hear of your brewing projects, feel free to hit us up in the comments down below.
Making alcoholic variations of kombucha can be a lot of fun – but making champagne kombucha is certainly one of the most exciting. Not knowing exactly what you are going to get just adds to the suspense of home brewing!
If you are very pleased with your outcomes, making your own kombucha champagne can become an inexpensive source of unique ‘craft’ brews for parties, gifts, anniversaries etc.
More Alcoholic Tutorials
Kombucha can be used as a base for many types of alcohol. We’ve written some starter guides for you, if you want to try your hand at making a Kombucha-based alcohol (or simply increasing the AVC in regular Kombucha slightly).