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My friend recently gave me the idea of making a kombucha-inoculated beer. Having never done it before, the principle seems fairly straightforward to me (this is my own guesswork):

  1. Ferment kombucha as normal (done!)
  2. Prepare base beer recipe/wort, let it cool
  3. Pitch enough kombucha starter to inoculate wort (for my 8L batch, about 1L of starter according to normal kombucha ratios)
  4. Let it ferment normally as with any other yeast pitch

It seems that this would inoculate the wort with the bacteria and yeast I want (Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces). It, in theory, should slightly sour and acidify the wort, and of course ferment it. Let's assume I have an OG of about 1.060 using primarily 2-row malt, nothing too high.

There are a few things I'm not sure about:

  1. Is approximately 1/8 wort volume enough kombucha starter to get fermentation going (1L for 8L of wort)?
  2. Can the kombucha SCOBY actually ferment down the beer appropriately (e.g. below 1.020) - or do I need to pitch additional yeast?
  3. Will hop additions during the boil later kill the bacteria in the SCOBY when I pitch?
  4. Am I doing this all wrong and there's a better way?

I think that the end product should be a fermented, slightly sour and acidic wort with more or less the same qualities as kombucha in terms of flavor, but with a slight malt backbone.

PS - I could use some other Lactobacillus-laden product to sour the wort, but I thought that since I have mature kombucha sitting on my counter I may as well use it!

  • You could make a batch of kombucha, using malt extract instead of sugar. – Kingsley Mar 7 at 0:27
  • I feel like you'd just end up with a kombucha-like beverage, not a beer. I think hops would pose an issue, especially for any lacto strains in there. Probably fine for the brett and acetobacter. I do think it might end up being a bit of a waste of wort, tbh. – Frazbro Mar 7 at 1:33
  • Do it! The idea sounds intriguing, and I suspect you'll at least be surprised by the results. My only recommendation is to use glass instead of plastics for fermentation. Be warned though, you will create a SCOBY, so removing it from a carboy will be a pain in the ass. – Scott Mar 7 at 6:46
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If you want to play it safe, over-pitch (sorta) by pitching a regular amount of yeast to ferment the beer, and as a secondary fermentation pour in a bottle of your favorite basic kombucha with no flavor additions after the first fermentation has completed. The hops may slow the souring, but in reality, that's probably a good thing unless you're aiming for a malt vinegar flavor.

I'd definitely drink it fresh and not wait long. Carbonation is going to be an exciting roller coaster of experience with this one. As a side note, I'm curious to hear of your experience when you taste it.

  • So I should do primary as normal and then add the kombucha starter to secondary? That sounds like a better idea to fully ferment the beer and slightly sour it later. Do you think dry-hopping at the same time would kill the good bacteria in the kombucha starter? I was thinking of a lemondrop dry-hopped black IPA, but I don’t know how the antibacterial properties of the hops will interact with the kombucha... if they slow the process I’m fine with waiting an extra week in secondary just to see what this experiment leaves me with haha. I will post an update in any case! – Chris Cirefice Mar 7 at 8:19
  • You're in uncharted territory that most homebrewers wouldn't take the risk when it's an entire batch of beer on the line, so unfortunately you probably won't find many who have solid advice. From what has been reported though, some bacteria strains (e.g. brett) have dramatically improved shelf life of the hop characteristics. One would hope that the bacteria in kombucha would do the same despite it not being predominantly brett, but there's only one way to find out. I will say from a purely subjective, personal standpoint, a very slight souring can actually produce a very unique IPA. – Scott Mar 8 at 7:12
  • I think so indeed! Fortunately I only have equipment to make 1-2 gallon batches, and enough fermentation vessels that I won’t be messing up the timeline of my other experiments. So worst-case scenario I lose $10 on ingredients and a few hours on brew day, nothing substantial ;) I’ll post an update in a few weeks following your pitching advice! – Chris Cirefice Mar 8 at 10:10

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