Elderberry Kombucha

Kombucha going through a second fermentation to produce a fizzy, fruity final drink.
Kombucha going through a second fermentation to produce a fizzy, fruity final drink.

A few folks have asked for the recipe for a recent batch of elderberry kombucha.   There isn’t much of a recipe – it is simply kombucha put through a secondary fermentation with fruit added.  Here is the process:

I am currently brewing my kombucha using the Wild Fermentation group‘s method of 3 black tea bags, 2 green tea, and 1 oolong for each gallon of water.  You can also set up a continuous brew system, which I hope to set up in a crockery dispenser very soon.

Once the kombucha has reached the desired level of tangyness, remove the SCOBY, and reserve a 1/2 cup or so of kombucha to jump-start your next batch.

From here, you have a few choices.  The first option is starting a secondary ferment of your  booch right in the jar, and starting your new batch of kombucha (with SCOBY) in a new vessel.  This is how I have always done it previously – usually with lemon juice and a little brown sugar, or diced strawberries.  Covered and left on the counter for a few days, it will turn into a fizzy, fruity version that my kids find quite superior to plain-old kombucha.

The downside of this is that the entire gallon is one flavor.  This means you are taking quite a risk when experimenting with flavor combinations.  That persimmon-molasses kombucha I thought would turn out so great?  Yeah, well, that was a whole gallon none of my kids would drink.  But there is another option.

A while back, I had pinned a blog post from My Gutsy that featured fruit combinations for secondary fermentation of kombucha.  It was very late at night, and I was skimming whole-foody type blogs and knitting and half-dozing off, and I should have read her post more closely.  She does her second ferment right in the bottle!  Brilliant!  Why hadn’t I ever done this before?  Now, I can try small batches of different flavors, and it is already bottled up and ready to go when I am scrambling to get out the door for homeschool park day or church or what-have-you.

She recommends  re-using kombucha and tea bottles (about 16 oz), adding 1/4 cup fruit juice or puree and filling the rest of the bottle with booch, but also gives ratios for other sizes of glass containers.  I used some chia-drink and iced-tea bottles I had washed out and saved in our basement canning room (I knew they would come to good use someday!).

For some of the bottles, I picked a few blackberries from the yard, crushed them, and added a little orange juice.  For some, I used my old stand-by scaled down to = 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp brown sugar.   For the remainder of the bottles, I went with elderberry syrup:


For each 16 ounce jar, I added 2 Tbsp of elderberry syrup.  Because the syrup already contains quite a bit of sugar, and the elderberries have a strong and distinctive flavor, I thought it might be best to start with 1/2 of Gutsy’s recommended amount of fruit juice.   I was sure to leave a good 2-inches of head-space to prevent breakage, and left it on the counter, tightly sealed, for two days.

The resulting drink is a beautiful magenta color (see top photo), and has just the right amount of sweetness and berry flavor plus fizz.  Of all the flavor combinations we tried, the kids loved the elderberry best (George could be heard shouting, “BOOOOCH!! More  BOOOCH!!” Halfway across Sellwood Park).  So, today when I bottled up another round of kombucha, every jar has an added immune-boosting dose of  elderberry syrup.

A few notes of safety –

1)Raw elderberries contain some cyanide (which cooking removes), and the stems and seeds contain even more.   Please follow my safety guidelines, which can be found here, and do not add raw elderberries to your kombucha.

2)Kombucha is a living food, and helps populate good intestinal flora.  Begin consuming kombucha or any fermented or cultured food in small amounts (a Tbsp or so at a time).  Ease it into your diet in order to avoid digestive upset, gas, etc.)

3 thoughts on “Elderberry Kombucha”

  1. Oh, that looks delicious. I’ve been wanting to make some (after going to a kombucha workshop about making different flavors) but I still haven’t tried. YUM!

  2. Pingback: Pickled | Salt of the Earth Farm

  3. I add chopped crystallised ginger to kombucha straight in the bottle.It’s very yum after a few days.

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