Something in the way lactic acid moves me. I love the bright, clean tartness of the profile when it hits with a fruit sweetness that rounds and mellows that sharp sourness. In beverages, I also appreciate the way carbonation pushes it through the palette making the flavor sting and fade quickly. The carbonic acid adding to the rush of intensity that burns fast and fades away even faster. Dark star. The result is a desire to take another drink, to chase the dragon. Kombucha is an excellent way to explore these flavors and experiment with creating bombastic fizzy drinks!

I’ve been making kombucha off and on for years. The process is so easy once you get it going. The real difficulty is the maintenance. You have to mess with it every two or three weeks consistently. Not doing so will allow certain bacterial cultures to grow out of control and change the flavor in a different way, usually through the strong buildup of acetic acid. Acetic acid is another carboxylic acid with a different profile than lactic. Where lactic is generally considered a “cleaner” flavor profile more closely associated with citric acid, acetic is the rougher of the three. A great example of acetic acid is vinegar, especially malt vinegar. This acid generally adds a fuller mouthfeel to food and drinks. It can be buttery and slick while at the same time being very sharp and acidic. Almost always associated with gnats or fruit flies.

Anyways, leaving your kombucha unattended tends to move it more towards vinegar and less towards five alive. Does anyone remember five alive? I think the pH of that drink was below 3. I remember it burning so damn much and yet still I loved it as a kid. Like eating spoonfuls of tang and claiming I was training to be an astronaut while my grandma giggled and called sugar “dope.” Good times!

I’ve been chasing that type of flavor all my life. So, when I began working on a new hot sauce made with Montmorency cherry juice and I bought a little too much I decided to use it as a primer to add carbonation to my bottled kombucha. Holy cow! Okay, when I was a kid, I lived adjacent to my best friend. I could go out my backdoor, around the back of the garage and slip through the fences that didn’t quite meet up and be in his backyard. There, right in the middle of his yard was a cherry tree. The typical cherry tree that you see in Ohio, complete with aluminum pie pans strung up in the branches to scare the birds away. In the summer I would climb that tree and eat cherries until I literally ran to the bathroom. That flavor, the notes of slightly overripe fruit, is the first thing I truly remember tasting in my life.

And this batch of kombucha, with the cherry juice… puts me right back up in that tree.

For those of you that want to give this a try I used 8 oz in 2 gallons of pretty dry kombucha.


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Jeffrey McElfresh
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