Kombucha is a fermented drink that results from fermenting sweetened tea using a specific combination of bacteria and yeasts. Here's an overview of how the process works:
1) Tea preparation: First, black or green tea is brewed and sugar is added to create a sweet tea base. The sugar serves as a food source for the fermentation.
2) Cooling: After the tea is brewed, it is cooled to room temperature. Too hot tea can be harmful to the microorganisms needed for fermentation
3) Inoculation: A piece of existing kombucha or a starter culture is added to the cooled sweet tea. This contains a community of bacteria and yeasts that will start the fermentation.
4) Fermentation: The tea base is covered with a cloth to prevent dust or unwanted microbes from entering. Fermentation takes place over a period of about 7 to 14 days, depending on the desired taste and strength of the kombucha.
5) Microbial activity: During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar in the tea. They produce acids, carbon dioxide and a variety of flavorings, resulting in kombucha's distinctive taste
6) Second fermentation (optional): After the first fermentation, the kombucha can be fermented a second time, often with added flavorings such as fruit or spices. This can further enrich the flavor and add carbonation.
7) Filtration and bottling: After the desired fermentation time, the kombucha is filtered to remove any solid particles. The kombucha is then bottled in sealed bottles to absorb the carbon dioxide production.
8) Ready to drink: Once the kombucha is bottled, it can sit at room temperature for a few more days to continue carbonating. After that, the kombucha can be refrigerated and ready to be enjoyed.
A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) plays a vital role in the process of making kombucha. It is a gelatinous, rubbery disc that floats on top of the liquid during the fermentation process. The SCOBY is actually a living community of bacteria and yeast that work together to enable the fermentation of the sweet tea. Here's what a SCOBY does in the process:
1) Fermentation: The bacteria and yeasts in the SCOBY begin to break down the sugar in the sweet tea. The yeasts convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, while the bacteria convert the alcohol into organic acids, such as acetic acid.
2) Protection: The SCOBY serves as a protective layer on top of the liquid. It prevents air and harmful micro-organisms from interfering with the fermentation. The healthy bacteria in the SCOBY create an acidic environment that is unfavorable to the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
3) Aroma formation: As the bacteria and yeast do their job, various aromatic compounds and flavorings are formed that form the characteristic taste and smell of kombucha.
4) Regulating the fermentation process: The SCOBY regulates the rate of fermentation and ensures that the conversion of sugars takes place gradually and in a controlled manner. This contributes to the development of the desired flavor profiles.
5) Provide Nutrients: As the SCOBY feeds on sugar and tea, it grows and multiplies. During this process, the SCOBY also releases certain nutrients into the liquid, such as vitamins and enzymes.
Basically, the SCOBY is the heart of the kombucha fermentation. It creates the unique chemical environment necessary for the conversion of sugar into the diverse flavors, aromas and healthy acids that make kombucha so beloved.