Kombucha in New York Times

As a kombucha homebrewer, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that MAKE columnist Tim Anderson brews his own kombucha as well. From the New York Times:
201003251314 Kombucha's popularity has also attracted home brewers. Tim Anderson, founder of a 3D printer technology company, moved from Boston to Berkeley, Calif., with his "mother" -- passed on to him from a friend who got it, as the story goes, from gypsies in Russia.

Mr. Anderson, an advocate for all things do-it-yourself, made step-by-step kombucha brewing instructions complete with videos for Instructables.com (one of over 200 tutorials he has made on everything from tire sandals to wheelchair shopping carts). Nearly 60,000 people have viewed the kombucha guide to-date, according to the site's page-view statistics.

"I'm surprised people would pay to get this stuff," Mr. Anderson said. "The kind you can buy tastes vinegary and dry, whereas the one you can make yourself is so incredibly delicious."

I agree with Tim. Homebrew kombucha tastes much better than store bought!

A Strange Brew May Be a Good Thing (Via Seth Roberts)


    1. I actually prefer the store-bought brand GT’s because it’s got an apple vinegar thing going on. I can’t seem to replicate it at home, even though I have a mother grown from one of their bottles. (I have two mothers, different sources, and they both come out tasting the same.)

      If anybody has any advice about a more apple vinegar taste, I’d love to hear it.

      1. I have two mothers, different sources, and they both come out tasting the same.

        I knew gay marriage was going to ruin everything.

      2. It’s not just the mother you use, but the types of tea can affect the taste. I personally find a 50/50 mix of Green Tea and Black Tea makes something very apple-cidery.

  1. Oh man! I remember the one (and only time) we made that. It was frickin’ VILE. Just the worst. Like sucking marinated urine out of a dead goat’s bladder – and that’s putting it kindly. We chucked the whole mess out with the garbage and that night the raccoons got into it. We could hear them retching and screaming all night long. In the morning the driveway looked like a crime scene. The big hunk of fungus was halfway down to the curb, looking like some alien creature trying to make a break for it, but it had huge bites taken out of it. At the curb was the physical evidence of the raccoon’s distress. They never touched our garbage again – and I never touched kombucha again.

  2. Kombucha is one of those things that should sit squarely in my deliciousness sector, but the one time I tried it, it made my mouth feel and taste like I had vomited about 20 minutes earlier and failed to brush my teeth after. I was shocked that it was not tasty to me, but that’s how it goes.

    (Oh but I do love the squicky homebrew fungus mother and the “you, too, can make science FOR DRINKING!” aspect.)

    1. I agree with y Nora. I love the whole idea of it, but not sure I like how it tastes. I am trying, but I kind of identify with the vomit guy. I feel the same way about sushi. I WANT to like it. It’s good for you, it’s pretty…but it just tastes wrong.

  3. What do you think of Dr. Andrew Weil’s views on Kombucha?

    “I don’t recommend kombucha tea at all. I know of no scientific studies backing up the health claims made for it. Beyond that, evidence that kombucha tea may have some antibiotic activity. If so, by drinking the tea you could be unnecessarily taking antibiotics, which could encourage development of resistant strains of bacteria.

    I am also concerned about the culture becoming contaminated, as it could in the home-brewing process. Some batches have contained aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus. This would actually pose significant risks to people with compromised immune systems such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. There have also been reports in the medical literature of adverse reactions including nausea, vomiting and headaches among those who drink more than four ounces of kombucha tea daily. Allergic reactions, jaundice and head and neck pain have also been reported. I would particularly caution pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, children and anyone with a compromised immune system against drinking kombucha tea.”

    1. When Andrew Weil says there’s not evidence to support something, you know there’s REALLY no evidence to support it.

      Nothing against fermented things (20 gallons of beer is gurgling away in my basement right this instant) but this stuff always strikes me as the equivalent of drinking the liquid off the top of my sourdough culture. Bleah.

    2. here is a related article by Paul Stamets, very detailed, i stopped brewing and drinking kombucha after i read it:
      “Herein lies my greatest concern: in all of the “home grown” literature—photocopies, mimeographs, and handwritten sheets—accompanying the many Kombucha samples I have received, not one mentions the possibility of contamination nor methods for re-isolation. Furthermore, with the complex associations between these multiple organisms, it is possible that other bacteria and yeast species may join in the symbiosis with unpredictable effects.

      In short, if you are dying from an illness not currently treatable with antibiotics, pure, uncontaminated cultures of Kombucha may help you. Otherwise, I think the danger of misuse should be a prevailing concern for us all.”

  4. I made kombucha tea for about a year in the early 90’s. After a few off batches at first, it tasted pretty alright, like slightly vinegary tea. But after I’d been drinking the stuff for a year, I really wasn’t too clear on how it was improving my life, and that being the case, I thought I might as well drink something that actually tasted good.

    I still don’t really understand exactly what it’s supposed to do for you that justifies the trouble and the flavor. Although I admit that I definitely enjoyed the “look at this crazy shit I’m doing” cred that it gave me.

    1. LOL. Exactly! It’s just a trendy drink propigated by health nuts with the “if it tastes good, it’s probably bad for you” mindset. I’m sure some people probably actually do enjoy the acquired taste, but many probably just choke it down to impress their buddies.

  5. The whole “home brew” side of this really should appeal to me, but I really can’t help thinking that it looks like tripe.

    I think I’ll stick to a decent ale…

  6. You know you have a problem when this perked your interest (then promptly disappointed it with further reading) as a better way of getting your hands on more concentrated Acetic acid.

  7. My mom used to make me take shots of kombucha in the morning when I was a kid and coined it “mushroom tea.” It had such a rotten apple cider taste. There was always a “mushroom” growing in the fridge and a fresh batch of “tea” every week. Eventually we all got really sick and thankfully had to stop drinking it.

    1. In Russian, Kombucha is called mushroom tea, and the culture is a “tea mushroom” чайный гриб. Is your mother Eastern European, or perhaps learned of it from someone who is?

  8. I brewed for over a year, I LIKE the taste, did from the first- from the bottled GT brand. Another appealing feature is that it will never be mass-produced commercially- One reason why store brands are expensive is because every bottle provides a starter for homebrew projects. Buy one and you’ll never need to buy another. Another project is Russian квас http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kvas Made from rye bread, it is a traditional summer drink. BTW I don’t know why the kombucha pictured keeps multiple SCOBYs in a vat. Leave one at the top, throw the rest away!

  9. I think the supposed health benefits are probably crud but I like the taste for some reason. I don’t know why. The first time I tried it I thought “this is odd” and yet I enjoyed it and looked for it again.

    I don’t think I’ll try brewing my own any time too soon. Between the giant jar of yeast for sourdough, the giant vat of nut butters for lotions, and the home-made liquors my kitchen is starting to look like an old apothecary.

    Besides I’d hate to waste all that nice tea on some kind of mishap.

  10. Ugghh, that stuff is nasty, I really don’t go in for the “if it tastes nasty, it must be good for you” but for those who do…

    Try Noni, it is this disgusting stuff made from a mulberry or mulberry relative. Having lived in Hawaii awhile I got to watch the commercialisation of noni and the revisionist history of it’s aboriginal usage (in reality it was a famine food and not believed to have medicinal value by the Hawaiian natives) but now it is a faddish kombucha type nasty drink.

    Oh gads, my stomach is turning just from thinking about kombucha and noni… combined they could be a sort of homebrew ipecac.

  11. I drank kombucha a few times without knowing about the strands of the ‘mother’ culture that could be in there. I was drinking some in front of this cute girl and hit upon some of the culture. My immediate reaction was to drool it out of my mouth with a disgusted ‘bleeeah’ sound. The girl was none too impressed. Warn people in advance, please! :)

  12. I drink the GT stuff occasionally. I really, really like the ginger version, because the kombucha taste is already quite similar to good ginger beer: slightly burning, a weird tang, and small bubbles. I think it’s really good.

    I will say this, though: the first time I tried kombucha it tasted like ass. Knowing that it was the kind of taste I would probably learn to like, I tried it a second time. Like ass, but at least clean ass. The third time it was quite drinkable. And by the fourth I really started liking it.

    I friend of mine went though the exact same stages of learning to like it. Really, it’s like beer: most people don’t like beer the first few times they try it.

    I think that 95% of the health claims are woo, but I do think that fermented foods are good and getting plenty of weird yeasts and bacteria in your system is generally a good thing, and I generally like both the biological-science-experiment and the back-to-2000-years-ago aspects of making sour dough, yogurt, sourkraut and so on. Maybe I’ll give kombucha a try (but man does it look weird).

  13. Kombucha is great! it is so healthy and keeps your immune system running strong. BUT BE CAREFUL homebrewing is kind of dangerous, and a bad mother or common mis-steps can kill you. seriously, this shit can kill you. be careful, but don’t be deterred. it’s awesome

  14. Kombucha was recently pulled from shelves due to higher than expected alcohol content. In addition, according to Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic: “To date, there hasn’t been a single human trial reported in a major medical journal. . . . In short, there’s not good evidence that Kombucha tea delivers on its health claims. At the same time, several cases of harm have been reported.” You can read more about Kombucha at http://www.defraudedconsumer.com/Kombucha. My name is Andrew, and I am an attorney in Houston, Texas.

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