“Kombucha Tastes Like Vinegar!”
Have you heard this one before? While many first time drinkers say that Kombucha has a distinct vinegar-like flavor, the taste buds of long-time drinkers are often recalibrated to barely register the tartness of properly fermented Kombucha.
However, if allowed to ferment aerobically for a long time (at least 30-60 days or more in a small batch), the resulting liquid will grow more and more sharply sour until it can rightly be classified as Kombucha Vinegar, almost definitely too sour a flavor for sipping by even the most iron-stomached of Kombucha connoisseurs.
If you brew Kombucha for any length of time, at some point you will forget about a batch or just end up leaving a few Kombucha mothers in fermented tea for longer than normal.
Don’t worry, it’s not ruined…In fact, it now has even more uses around the house and can help you brew up quick batch of booch too!
What is Vinegar?
Vinegar has been in use as a flavoring agent, preservative and health tonic for over 10,000 years and can be fermented from nearly any sugar containing fruit. The word vinegar comes from the French “vin aigre,” literally sour wine, and was likely discovered by accident when wine was allowed to go bad in the vat. Sour refers not only to the taste but to the fact that it is fermented.
Not unlike Kombucha, the naturally occuring sugars of the grapes, malt, rice or other base ingredient for the vinegar is fermented into alcohol by yeast. Then bacteria consume the alcohol and convert it to healthy acids including acetic acid. Kombucha, like vinegar, is an acetic acid ferment.
Vinegar is well known to have many uses: from treating wounds, to cleaning, to salad dressing, it’s versatile and useful.
Kombucha and Vinegar: Similar but Different
The typical drinkable Kombucha ferment contains about 1% acetic acid. Compare that to the average vinegar (apple cider or white), which is quite potent in its original state and is diluted to around 5% acetic acid, and it’s clear that Kombucha is much less acidic and less concentrated.
Acetic acid, created by our bacteria the acetobacter, is responsible for Kombucha’s “bite” as well as some benefits. Kombucha vinegar will range higher in acetic acid concentration than regular Kombucha depending on many factors including the time of ferment, amount of sugar, amount of culture used, etc. A typical Kombucha vinegar is estimated to contain around 2% acetic acid concentration.
In addition to being easier to drink and containing a wide variety of healthful acids and vitamins, what sets Kombucha apart from vinegar is gluconic acid. Gluconic acid is a highly effective chelator which pulls heavy metals and other toxins from the body. It also imparts a sweet/sour flavor and inhibits bitterness.
If you don’t already have some very old Kombucha fermenting away, Kombucha vinegar is easy to make. Simply allow a batch of Kombucha to ferment until all of the sugar is consumed. You will know that all the sugar has been converted when the Kombucha tastes really sour. Once it has turned to vinegar, then use it according to the recipes below.
Here are some of the most popular ways to use Kombucha vinegar:
1. Hair Wash/Tonic/Rinse
A beauty secret of many celebrities is to remove built-up residue from artificial products using a natural vinegar hair rinse . The acetic acid cuts through the gunk, stripping the dull hair and returning a natural sheen. Kombucha is gentler on the hair than vinegar but just as effective. Some use Kombucha as a hair tonic after every shampoo.
I use the Kombucha vinegar straight on my hair. I still use shampoo but gave up conditioner ages ago(though after reading up on my brand at EWG, I’m considering no-poo (see below)) After rinsing out the shampoo, I apply the Kombucha hair tonic straight to my scalp starting with the top of my head and work my way down until it wets every surface. I squeeze out the excess and then leave it in to dry. The aroma quickly dissipates when your hair dries. Alex finds it a bit too intense for his scalp so he dilutes his hair tonic with half filtered water. I like to add herbs for a nice aroma and hair beautifing benefits.
A growing number of people are moving away from chemical laden shampoos altogether by trying out the “No-Poo” lifestyle. Alex stopped using dandruff shampoo several months ago and instead uses Kombucha hair tonic with organic herbs we add from our garden. After a brief adjustment period, his scalp and hair are healthier without the constant chemical bombardment and he is completely dandruff free after 22 years of using stinky blue shampoo. The Kombucha hair rinse leaves his hair soft, shiny and controls oil.
RECIPES – Herbal Infusions for Hair Tonic
Check out the table below for a variety of herbs to use for different hair types and problems:
There are a couple of different ways to utilize the herbs. I usually add them straight to very old Kombucha, then let them sit for 1-2 weeks breaking down the plant and soaking up the herbal goodness. From there, strain out the flower pieces so they don’t get stuck in hair. Once strained, I choose to store the hair tonic in a glass bottle in the shower.
**USE CAUTION & YOUR BEST JUDGEMENT
WHEN STORING OR USING GLASS BOTTLES IN YOUR SHOWER OR TUB**
Another way to infuse the herbs is to steep them in hot water for 20 mins or in cold filtered water for 24 hours. Strain and add the liquid to your Kombucha vinegar – this has the added benefit of diluting the old KT. A 50/50 Kombucha to water mix is a good starting point for experimentation.
Want even more herbal body care recipes?
Check out Earthly Bodies Heavenly Hair.
2. Facial Toner
Vinegar used on the skin has a tonifying effect, inspiring cellular regeneration by stimulating the small capillaries under the skin. The weak acid gently dissolves the bonds that hold dead skin cells together and creates a mild, completely natural acid peel which exfoliates. Because Kombucha Vinegar is at a lower concentration than regular vinegar, this toner can be used daily. Its mild antiseptic properties rebalance the skin’s natural pH, preventing an imbalance of bacteria that can lead to acne.
RECIPE – Lavender Rose Facial Toner
Add 1 Tbl Lavender flowers & 1 Tbl Rose petals to 2 cups of Kombucha vinegar. Allow to steep for 2 weeks. Strain flowers. Apply toner to cotton ball and gently swab face. May be used daily.
Regular drinkers of Kombucha report that drinking 4-8oz of KT daily helps curb sugar cravings, which in turn helps clear up acne from the inside!
3. Cleaning Fluid
Most commercially produced cleaners carry a skull and crossbones – if they are so toxic, then do you really want them on your countertops?
Vinegar has a long history as a cleaning fluid. Here are just a few of the ways in which you can use Kombucha vinegar in your household cleansing routine. For loads more cleaning tips, check out this site.
RECIPE/USES – Kombucha Kleaner
- Use full strength in a spray bottle on all surfaces. Wipe clean with a soft cloth – no rinsing needed. Add a drop or two of tea tree oil or lavender oil for anti microbial properties and a pleasant scent.
- Spray down showers and tubs to reduce soap scum.
- Add ½ cup of Kombucha vinegar to the wash to brighten colors and soften clothes.
- Remove mineral deposits from your coffee maker or dishwasher – run 1 cup of Kombucha vinegar through a cycle.
- Add ½ Kombucha and ½ water to a bowl. Boil in microwave. Wipe microwave clean.
- To keep the drain running – Pour baking soda down a drain, follow with Kombucha vinegar. When foaming stops, rinse with hot water. Repeat until clog is loosened.
4. Salad Dressing
Kombucha vinegar can be infused with any number of herbs, garlic or savory spices to create unique, flavorful dressings. Greens are often bitter – adding salt makes the greens taste more palatable. Several vitamins found in vegetables are fat soluble so the olive oil aids in delivering them to the body. Plus you get a small dose of beneficial bacteria to help digest your food more efficiently.
Add your favorite herbs to old Kombucha. Allow to infuse for 2 weeks. Strain and combine with your favorite oil, salt and spices.
RECIPE – Hannah’s Mustard Vinagrette
- ½ cup of old Kombucha
- 2 Tb of rosemary, oregano, sage, parsely and mint – fresh herbs, chopped fine
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 1 clove garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
After the herbs have infused then combine ¼ cup of Kombucha vinegar with ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove of fresh garlic finely chopped), salt & pepper to taste. If the mixture is too tart, add a pinch of sugar. Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Pour over salad.
This Kombucha Vinaigrette Recipe from my friend Jenny at Nourished Kitchen is another great option.
Marinades not only add flavor to meat or tofu dishes but also break down the meats tough fibers. Weak acids like lemon juice, vinegar or wine work best at accomplishing both of these tasks. For less expensive cuts of meat that are known to be tougher, marinating is essential.
Beef and tougher cuts can be marinated for several hours or overnight. For tender meats like pork, only a few hours is needed. I use Kombucha vinegar when I brine a chicken for roasting.
RECIPE – Kombucha Chicken Brine for Roast Whole Chicken
I like to get whole organic, free range chicken at the local co-op. My favorite way to get a moist, juicy bird every time is to brine it first.
- 1 orange, 2 limes, 1 lemon – cut in half & juiced
- 1 cup of quality sea salt
- 1 cup of Kombucha vinegar
- 2 T sugar
- sprigs of rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender
Chop fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano and combine with ½ cup of softened butter. Apply liberally to exterior of chicken after brining for delicious flavor and crispy skin.
Add the whole chicken to a deep pot or bowl. Cover the chicken with filtered or fresh water. Add all ingredients. Make sure the chicken remains submerged in the liquid. Store in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Drain liquid from the chicken. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Gently loosen the skin of the chicken using your fingers. Insert pieces of garlic and herbed butter/ghee/coconut oil under the skin. Place in roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Every 10 minutes, baste the chicken with herb butter. Broil on high for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the skin. Remove from oven when thermometer reads 165F and juices run clear.