We love making special blends and infusions of kombucha. We’re constantly doing R&D and creating new flavor profiles. We are endlessly curious about concocting flavors to delight and excite our taste buds.
When experimenting with fresh fruits and juices, we have a way that we’ve been doing it since the beginning. We found out early on that putting fruit or juices into finished kombucha and then sealing it up is a pretty bad idea most of the time. I’ve seen it everywhere! People putting juice, chunks of fruit, slurries and all kinds of things in a sealed bottle for F2 of Kombucha. Not too sure why this became the trend? I mean, it looks pretty for pictures. You are creating some good carbonation, sure. But you are also creating a small bomb.
Most people have no idea what measurements of liquid volume per blueberry to use. Most people just slap a handful of blueberries in there. Or shove a finger of ginger in a bottle and watch the pressure build. This is a great way to lose a good deal of your kombucha as well as create more alcohol, not to mention scare the crap out of anyone nearby when the bottle pops open with a sound much like that of a gunshot.
The safest and best way to infuse fruit and juices is to strain your kombucha off from the mother and then put it in an open vessel with the fruit/juice/slurry/etc. Then cover it with a cloth. This gives the kombucha opportunity to infuse the fruit while letting the extra alcohol evaporate off and the extra, often volatile, CO2 to fizz off a bit as well. The result is you get a more flavorful infusion with lower alcohol and a nice amount of fizz without it being too explosive.
Usually, we let the fruit sit in the finished kombucha for about 24 to 48 hours. We like to put the fruits into cloth bags to cut down on yeast formation on the fruits, and to keep chunks of flesh from floating all around the place. We have some big brews we work with. Then, when we remove the bags we squeeze the ever-loving sh!* out of ‘em. After that, we strain the kombucha into kegs.
We are so excited for spring, as that is when we get to really explore our local fresh foraged ingredients. Being herbalists, Alla and Vanessa love to set out and see what’s coming up. Vanessa has a huge yard where she grows quite a bit of herbs and fruits that are used in many of NessAlla’s specialty and exclusive flavors, the ones you can find at our Exclusive Monthly Bottle Releases or at the Saturday pop-ups at Garver Feed Mill. Many other retail locations are also starting to get these incredible specialty flavors that can only be found on tap. Often, these flavors are a bit too volatile, especially over time, to sit in a bottle on the shelf for months. This is why so many companies use artificial flavorings, preservatives, and massive filtering. We don’t like using that stuff. We avoid it in our own lives as much as possible, so why would we want it in our beloved booch?
This is why we don’t do certain things in bottles. Some flavors, for one, cannot be duplicated. Aronia, for example—it’s very difficult to duplicate the color and flavor of the fresh berries. We’ve tried syrups and dehydrated berries, freeze-dried stuff, and eh, they are fine. But you just can’t quite capture that incredible vibrant natural color or the brightness and liveliness of the fresh flavor. There is quite a bit of native aronia around us here in Wisconsin. So we love to take a few hours and get out in the sun and pick em until our hands are stained bright magenta from their bitter juices. We do freeze a lot of fruit, so we can get through the cold months and do some yummy summer flavors. Freezing is a great way to preserve fresh fruit.
Another reason we love fresh stuff is that it gets us out and about and in contact with our local farmers. We become connected to our community, to the land. At the end of our brewing process, we give all of our spent compost to a 40-acre farm on the south side of Madison. Robert Pierce uses our biomass made up of SCOBYs and teas to create some of the most outstanding compost for his 20 acres of land to grow food. This food is farmed and sold at local markets by newly released prisoners so that they can learn a hard-working livelihood in a safe environment free from judgment and shame. It’s important to us that our kombucha has a positive impact on the health of our community as well as our bodies.