The origin of kombucha coffee
It’s not clear where kombucha coffee comes from. Some say it comes from Northeast China around 250 BC during Qin dynasty and from there on it would be known in Europe via Russia and East Europe. The origin of the name though may come from the Japanese word “kobucha” or “konbucha”, which means “kelp tea”. Others believed it was traded in China in the tea and silk trading routes.
Regardless of its origin, kombucha coffee has now become a drink consumed worldwide. But what exactly is?
Simply put, kombucha coffee is a refreshing, fizzy, acidity drink made by fermenting brewed coffee instead of fermenting black or green tea when making the original kombucha.
But let’s dig deeper. Kombucha coffee is now part of the speciality coffee industry and, therefore, you can find this drink on the coffee shops’ menus and bottle coolers worldwide. The acidity perceived in the drink is due to the fermentation process that takes place when making the drink. Bear in mind that we are talking about the natural fermentation that happens inside the beverage and not the fermentation process of the coffee that occurs at the coffee farm.
So, let’s go back to the fermentation process.
The fermentation process occurs thanks to small microorganisms, like fungi, bacteria and yeast. In the case of kombucha coffee, a bacteria called acetic bacteria and some types of yeasts are responsible to eat the sugars and so produced acetic acid which is an acid compound (to make it easier, it’s the same compound you find in vinegar), and also carbon dioxide which is a gas that you normally find in carbonated drinks and sodas.
So, to make the fermentation happens, you need to add these microorganisms into the solution. In the case of kombucha coffee, a sort of gelatinous, semi-solid form called “SCOBY” is added. SCOBY is made with a mix of microorganism (bacteria and yeasts) that works together to start the process. That’s why it has been called SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts.
Without this cooperation, the fermentation process couldn’t occur.
Firstly, yeasts break the sugars turning them into alcohols and then bacteria eat alcohols turning them into acids, such as the acetic acid.
Now, let’s see what to do and what doesn’t to make kombucha coffee.
Essentially, there are three things that we need to take into account to make kombucha coffee:
- as we are making kombucha coffee and not the original kombucha, we do not need to add vinegar along with the SCOBY; coffee is already acidic by itself unlike green or black tea;
- as I mentioned before, SCOBY consists of live microorganism so they required the perfect place in which to work. If heated up too much they will die making useless any fermentation attempt. Therefore it is recommended to drink it at room temperature or cold adding ice cubes;
- as coffee contains oils, do not ferment the coffee kombucha too much. If you do not limit the fermentation, your kombucha coffee will become too sour, and at worst, rancid.
Kombucha coffee recipe
Let’s make a standard kombucha coffee recipe with these four steps:
- brew the coffee according to the cups desired; any kind of brewing method can suit, from espresso, Aeropress or V60. Add sugar syrup while coffee is still hot and let it cool down and pour into a jar. Even here, the amount of sugar depends on you. However, I recommend making the syrup with sugar and hot water in equal parts;
- start the first fermentation by adding the SCOBY and one tablespoon of raw, unpasteurized kombucha to the same jar. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and let it ferment at room temperature for 5-6 days. After these days, keep tasting until you’re happy with (it may take up to two weeks);
- once you like how it tastes, take out the SCOBY from the jar and add some simple syrup to the solution. Mix it and bottled it in air-tight bottles for the second fermentation. Let your coffee kombucha fermented for other days until you are ok with;
- your kombucha coffee is ready to drink and to be kept in the fridge for a little while.
- Want your beverage sweeter, less sweet, more acidic or less acidic? You need to work it out by how much time your keep fermenting. Sweetness decreases as time goes by but on the other hand acidity increases. You will need to find the right time of fermentation as more time of fermentation will make your kombucha coffee too sour and not very sweet. Less time of fermentation and your sugar content will be too high.
- People usually add some juice during the second fermentation to make it tastier. However, the average time of fermentation according to the recipe all around the Internet is within 7-15 days.
- The caffeine content does not decrease as time goes by: there’s no study at the moment that shows a reduced amount of caffeine at the end of the fermentation.
- Even if low in alcohol, kombucha coffee does contain a small amount of alcohol, especially in the case of a second fermentation. However, the alcohol content of your kombucha coffee will not exceed 1% even if fermented for a month.
Now you know how to make kombucha coffee. Bear in mind to try different SCOBY, as there is a lot available to purchase on the net so different results are achieved.
Try with different coffee (choose light roast coffee over dark roast one), cold brew coffee if you want less caffeine content on your final kombucha coffee or decaffeinated coffee. Change the ratio of the coffee, the quantity of the sugar to add at the start, the number of fermentation and the environment in which to ferment.
The good thing of making kombucha coffee is that there will not be a final recipe but instead, there are plenty of ways of making your own according to your taste.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.