A funky, moldy belch clings desperately to the humid air, evoking a similar funk to a brewery.
Will Suiter, 18, is an amateur chemist and kombucha connoisseur. He makes kombucha in his HSU dorm room.
Kombucha, as many of us Humboldt dwellers know, is a trendy probiotic drink brewed with the help of “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY), similar to the “mother” found in apple cider vinegars.
The SCOBY appears much like an agar found in a petri dish or perhaps a somewhat slender jellyfish. It houses millions of bacterial colonies that help cultivate kombucha, as well as protecting the elixir from “bad” bacteria that could contaminate it.
The process itself is deceptively simple, but Suiter says that each nuance in flavor and carbonation is deliberately cultivated from many failed batches.
“Kombucha is brewed just like wine or beer,” Suiter said. “But instead of just yeast, it’s brewed with bacteria that converts sugar into acid instead of alcohol”.
Consumers can flavor the beverage any way they want during fermentation.
“The base of it is essentially a sweet tea,” Suiter said. “Once it’s brewed in a large jar, I add flavorings like ginger, blackberry juice or lemon peels… and transfer it to bottles.”
Once it’s in the bottles, Suiter lets the kombucha ferment a little bit longer, “which creates carbon dioxide that pressurizes the bottles and makes the kombucha fizzy.”
Explosion is pretty common, which is due to over-filling the containers or an excess of carbonation when a batch has been fermented for too long.
“Since I actually brew a lot of kombucha, I have several large glass jars I brew the base tea in so I can reduce risk of everything exploding,” Suiter said.
The process itself requires several tools that just about anyone can pick up at their local hardware store.
“Kombucha is really good for you,” Suiter said. “It has tons of vitamin B and probiotics from the bacteria we introduced, which are healthy for your gut.”
The drink pairs well with a multitude of snacks.
Suiter said his favorite meal is a “fat slice of pizza with a big glass of some sour kombucha.”
So if you are in the mood to experience a rather funky new drink, help out your digestive system or follow a trend, maybe reach for a bottle of kombucha.