Perfection is not always a speedy process. When it comes to our hard kombucha, we don’t take any shortcuts, from our organic ingredients to the brewing process itself. We’re passionately obsessed with what we do, so we’re always working on brewing the highest-quality, best-tasting drinks.
Several steps, ingredients, and processes go into creating a perfect batch of kombucha. If you were to try to make your own kombucha, there would likely be a lot of troubleshooting involved. But that’s what we’re here for — so you don’t have to worry about growing your own SCOBY or fermenting your own booch.
Don’t be intimidated — we’re going to break down each step of the process and how long it takes to brew kombucha.
All kombucha, whether regular or hard, relies on fermentation to transform simple ingredients into a tasty masterpiece. Fermentation involves what seems like fairly complex science, but we’ll break it down for you.
Fermentation is a chemical change in which organic molecules — usually yeast, bacteria, or mold — break down and become another substance, like acid or alcohol.
Fermentation can only happen when microorganisms that get their energy by breaking down other substances (AKA decomposers) are in an environment that lacks oxygen. Fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning that it can only happen if oxygen isn’t there to kill the vibe.
If fermentation was a math problem, it would look something like this: Hungry decomposers + something to break down - oxygen = fermentation.
Fermentation might have a lot of science behind it, but our ancestors were fermenting foods long before we developed our modern understanding of how it works. There’s evidence of early human civilizations using fermentation, making it one of the oldest methods of food preservation. This process was used all over the world to create a ton of different foods, from bread to pickled cucumbers to ancient beer. And yes, we’re also wondering what those foods tasted like.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Louis Pasteur discovered that fermentation occurs because of living organisms. This discovery led to the revolutionary invention of penicillin, winning Pasteur a Nobel Prize.
While fermentation has its share of cool medical uses, today, we’re focused on how it's used in your favorite foods. The ancient art is still used today in foods including yogurt, cottage cheese, sourdough bread, and of course, kombucha.
What Causes Fermentation in Kombucha?
So what ingredients cause fermentation in kombucha when you begin a new batch? Most kombuchas start with a similar recipe: a combination of tea, sugar, and yeast.
Black and green tea are the most common types of tea used for the base of the brew, even for homemade kombucha. That tea is always brewed in clean, filtered water to avoid contaminants, and it can be either loose-leaf or in tea bags.
We like to use premium organic black tea as our first of many essential ingredients. Our starter tea is steeped with our adaptogen blend of ginger, turmeric, and ginseng to add a little extra boost to the brew. Our adaptogens are soluble in alcohol, so you can enjoy them within a hard drink.
After tea, sugar is added to our signature brew. The sugar in kombucha can come from a variety of sources, but honey and sugarcane are the most popular choices for canned or bottled kombucha. We choose to use organic sugarcane to keep our booch vegan-friendly and to make it as clean as possible.
Next up is the magic ingredient: yeast, which is part of the SCOBY (we’ll talk more about this in a sec). Yeast is responsible for kickstarting the fermentation process and transforming tea into booch. We use champagne yeast to ferment our booch to perfection — and give it that fizzy texture to make it a little extra fancy.
Manufacturers add many different ingredients to this fermented tea at this point, but some sugars and preservatives aren’t the types of things you want to put in your body. That’s why every ingredient in Flying Embers hard kombucha is USDA certified organic — so you never have to worry about what’s in your drink.
Transforming Sugar with SCOBY
There’s one more important piece to the kombucha puzzle: the SCOBY. The acronym stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and it just might be the most important element of any kombucha.
SCOBY is a mixture of yeast and good bacteria that lives at the top of a kombucha brew. Because it looks a bit like a mushroom cap, some have nicknamed kombucha “mushroom tea,” even though mushrooms aren’t involved — in SCOBY or any other part of kombucha.
Without this kombucha culture, your favorite booch would just be a regular old sweet tea. Our SCOBY eats up the organic sugarcane, creating a small amount of alcohol in the process. That alcohol is then metabolized by the bacteria in the SCOBY and converted to acetic acid. The acid is responsible for that distinctive booch tartness you know and love.
Some kombucha brewers choose to add extra acid during this stage to increase tartness, but we skip that step.
Our two stages of fermentation allow our kombucha to reach the perfect level of tartness without taking shortcuts — or giving it that too-tart, vinegary taste that turns some people off kombucha.
Remember SCOBY, because it’ll come into play later. Don’t worry; there won’t be a quiz.
Brewing for a Botanical Buzz
When it comes to hard kombucha, the fermentation process requires extra time to put the ‘hard’ in hard booch.
We’ve already mentioned how all kombucha produces some amount of alcohol from the SCOBY. To bring the amount of alcohol to the 21+ level, kombucha needs extra fermentation time to up the alcohol by volume content. We don’t spike our drinks or add any extra alcohol — all the magic happens during the brew itself.
Because we’re perfectionists, our hard kombucha undergoes two separate rounds of fermentation.
The first fermentation round is all about the kombucha SCOBY. Round one can take anywhere from a few days to nearly a month for the SCOBY to increase the bacterias and acids that give our kombucha its distinct tangy flavor. We keep it out of direct sunlight and around room temperature to make sure the finished kombucha is up to our (high) standards.
For round two, we use champagne yeast. This second fermentation ups the alcohol content and gives our drinks the crisp carbonation that gives each sip its distinct effervescence and refreshing edge.
In total, it takes about 18-30 days to ferment our drinks to perfection. Not all brewers choose to use two rounds of fermentation, but we find that they keep our drinks at top-notch quality. A longer brew also allows more time to bring a bolder flavor, whereas shorter fermentation times can lead to a weaker taste.
Creating Our Unique Flavors
We ferment with plant botanicals, superfruits, and adaptogens to create more complex, unique flavors. Our flavors are inspired by the plants that create them, resulting in refreshing, uplifting flavors. By using elevated ingredients, each sip is filled with flavor that tastes as good as it feels.
Some brewers may choose to add extra sugar to flavor and sweeten their drinks, but all of our hard kombuchas are 100% sugar-free. We brew fully dry, meaning the SCOBY consumes all the sugar in our drinks.
The process of making kombucha is an ancient art, but we combine it with modern science to put our own unique twist on brewing.
Some of our favorite flavors include:
We keep our ingredients vegan-friendly, keto-friendly, and gluten-free, so our booch fits into your lifestyle. It’s a drink that everyone at the party can enjoy together.
Bringing Our Brew to You
Kombucha production has a rich history, and we believe it deserves a bright future as well. To keep our packaging eco-friendly, each case of drinks uses a cardboard ring to hold the cans in place, rather than a traditional plastic one.
Once the brewing, canning, and packaging process is complete, our booch gets delivered to stores across the country.
And the Total Time Is…
At the end of the day, how long does it take in total to make kombucha? There’s not really one definitive answer. Depending on the brewer, alcohol content, and length of fermentation, the total amount of time can vary.
Even among our own products, fermenting kombucha alone can take anywhere from 18-30 days. It might sound like a long time, but when it comes to quality, we’re not interested in skimping. Every extra second is worth perfection.