In years past I’d have told every fermenter to buy a copy of everything Sandor Katz has ever written and call it good. There are a few other books out there, like Make Mead Like a Viking, but it’s specific to open-air wild ferments for mead. The NOMA Guide to Fermentation is a new idea book with some seemingly radical ideas for fermenting in vacuum bags to kombucha’s first ferment with stuff in it.
After reading the NOMA book I had ideas. In August I started with these ideas. I’ve wanted to make kombucha with a healthy dose of ginger and plenty of other spices. Think spiced ginger ale, but kombucha based, so sweet sour and loads of flavor.
Using NOMA and Making Mead Like a Viking as guides, I created a ginger bug- I minced a generous thumb of ginger, placed it and a quarter cup of cane sugar into a quart mason jar and poured a single cup of hot tea over it all. Once cooled, I added two cups of kombucha from my “scoby hotel.” I then covered it with a cloth and let it sit.
A scoby hotel is better called a pellicle suite. When you make kombucha the top layer, often called a mother or daughter, and erroneously called a SCOBY, is scientifically called a pellicle. The pellicle is full of kombucha making bacteria but is also kinda useless. Folks like myself have difficulty tossing away these mats of cellulose, so we stick them into a spare jar add liquid, and keep them. Part of this is that when you give folks kombucha starter, they expect a pellicle. Anyway, these pellicle suites create really strong vinegar-like kombucha that is perfect to use as starter liquid for your kombucha. This is what I used to make my ginger scoby.
The goal with this was to create a ginger scoby. That is to say- make a scoby that can tolerate ginger as part of F1 without molding or otherwise being damaged. After 2 weeks it created a sturdy looking pellicle at the top. After 3 weeks the liquid started to clear and take on a delightful golden hue. After 4 weeks it smelled like booch and had a Ph of 3. I could have brewed a batch of kombucha at that point.
Then life intervened and I had to wait.
For my batch of ginger kombucha I used 125g of fresh minced ginger, 1/2 star anise, half a stick of cinnamon, 12 allspice berries, a teaspoon of cardamon, 2 teabags and half a cup of sugar. I allowed this to steep overnight. The next morning I pulled the tea bags, added 1 cup of starter liquid from my ginger starter, and then topped off with water. This I covered and put onto my fermentation shelf.
After a few days I started to test for ph and tasting. Because my fermentation shelf is warm on day 5 it started to taste close to right. At day 7 it is perfection, sweet and sour, with warm spices and the bite of ginger. The flavor is similar to spiced chai but with a ginger bite and tartness.
For carbonation, I bottle conditioned (often called F2 among kombucha fermenters) with Naked peach ginger. It’ll impart some flavor and a hint of sweetness and give the yeast lots of sugar to work with. I bottled it into 3 reused GTs and Kevita bottles which are usually good for carbonation. The next round will use plain unflavored apple juice, all I really want is something to add a bit of sugar to my ferment so I am able to get carbonation.