Home Brewer Profile

Kittee Berns
Portland, OR

Brewing since: 2014
Favorite second ferment flavors: Rose petal and chai


Kittee Berns’ introduction to kombucha happened in the 80's via a former roommate, who brewed his own batches. “I thought the scoby was revolting, and his brew was unflavored and flat and very unappealing,” recalls Kittee, who is the author of “Teff Love,” a vegan Ethiopian cookbook. Despite that not-so-enticing entree into home-brewed booch, Kittee nonetheless fell in love with kombucha and began brewing her own batches a few years ago. She's even added her own unique twist during second fermentation: Herbal tea bags as a form of flavoring!

Photo courtesy of Kittee Berns

Photo courtesy of Kittee Berns

Kombucha Hunter: What got you started on brewing kombucha at home? 
Kittee Berns: I got into making it myself, because I realized how much I was spending on store bought kombucha, and I wanted to try to flavor it myself. In the 80s, I had a roommate who used to brew kombucha, but I thought the scoby was revolting, and his brew was unflavored and flat and very unappealing.  

KH: How many brews do you usually have going at one time, and where do you like to keep them? 
KB: I usually have two brews going at one time, and I keep them in giant jugs on top of the refrigerator. I brew more in the warmer months, because my house tends to be too cold in the winter, and I haven't invested in warming blankets (yet). 

KH: Do you have a tea that you like to use the most? Or do you experiment/do blends? 
KB: I’m really, really sensitive to caffeine, so I usually brew with four bags of green tea and two bags of decaffeinated black tea per gallon of water. I'm not picky about what brands I use when I steep the water, although I always choose something that's organic. Once I'm ready to bottle my brew for the second fermentation, I play around with herbal decaffeinated teas. My favorites are rose petal and chai, and I put a single tea bag in each bottle with the addition of lemon, ginger and whatever fruit is in season. 

Photo courtesy of Kittee Berns

Photo courtesy of Kittee Berns

KH: What have been your most successful/favorite homebrew flavors? 
KB: Using herbal tea bags during the second fermentation has been really sucessful for me, and I usually stick to a couple of combinations: Chai tea bag with julienned ginger and lemon; Rose petal tea bag with hibiscus, ginger, lemon and blueberries or strawberries.

KH: What flavors have you experimented with that were "busts"?  
KB: I like any booch as long as it's carbonated, so my busts were those that came out too flat. I did make an exceptionally fizzy batch last year, that ended up all over my kitchen ceiling, so I guess that would be a bust, too. 

KH: How do you think using tea bags in second ferment affects your brews? What's usually your 2nd ferment length? 
KB: I’ve been adding herbal tea bags to my second fermentation ever since I got serious about brewing kombucha, about two years ago. I haven't experimented too much flavoring with juice, because adding an herbal tea bag during the second fermentation adds so much flavor, but I really want to play around with a beet-hibiscus kombucha. Usually, I stick with organic herbal tea bags and whatever fruit is being sold at the Farmers' Market. Sometimes I add fresh mint from my garden, and sometimes I add extra cinnamon to my chai brew. I'm not supposed to have refined sugar, so I usually let my first fermentation go until the brew is quite sour, and then once I bottle up the booch and flavor it, I usually let it go for another 3-4 days, or until it's quite fizzy. 

KH: What are some of your other interests/passions? 
KB: I’ve been an ethical vegan for 25 years, and I love to cook and develop recipes (I wrote a vegan, Ethiopian cookbook called Teff Love, that was published last year). I also love to sew my own clothes knit/crochet, and hit up all the estate sales. This year, I've also gotten more involved with One Tail at a Time, a local dog rescue that's getting off the ground in Portland. 


Stacy Gueraseva