Brewing up Kombucha in Oceanside

Fermenting a beverage in your bedroom isn’t typically an action that leads to a thriving business—at least since prohibition ended. But after attending an hour long “How to Brew Kombucha Class”, Rachel Rappa fell in love with the craft and started making her own batches at home. Friends and family became hooked on what she affectionately dubbed her “behind the bed buch.” Now, a few years later, she and partner Daryn Stoger are making hundreds of gallons of kombucha—often based on those homebrew recipes—at Coastal Craft Kombucha in Oceanside.

Coastal Craft was built, with a little help from Rappa’s father, in a space that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. If you look closely, you can still see faint water lines half way up the walls, behind rows of stainless steel fermenters. In fact, the space looks more like a microbrewery than anything else.

Though kombucha is brewed and fermented, much like beer, that’s about where the similarities end. Most notably, kombucha is non-alcoholic. Simply put, kombucha is fermented sweet tea. The first step is to basically brew a giant batch of tea—Coastal Craft likes to use a blend of black and green. A sugar is then added along with a scoby.

You’re probably wondering what a scoby is. Essentially it is a jelly-like cake that is composed of good bacteria and yeast. If you’ve never seen one in real life—as we hadn’t before our visit—it looks otherworldly. As the kombucha ferments, a layer forms on top of the whole vessel forming a new “baby” scoby.

Rachel Rappa and Daryn Stoger examine a scoby.

Kombucha normally takes about 2-3 weeks to ferment and oxygen is the most important part of the process. If you so much as close the door to the fermentation room, the process will stop and the kombucha will not thrive. This is also when fresh pressed juices and spices can be added to a base kombucha to make different flavors.

We first met Rachel at the Huntington Farmer’s Market in May, and by fall she was using Crimson and Clove Ras El Hanout spice blend and locally grown kabocha squash to make a new seasonal flavor—kaboooooocha. Year round favorites include Red Eye Ricky, made with cold brew coffee instead of tea, and Hawaiian Fire which combines pineapple and cayenne for sweetness with a kick.

In their tasting room and at farmers markets, Coastal Craft’s kombucha comes right off the tap. Reusable growlers are filled with the naturally carbonated beverage—again drawing a parallel with beer. And like beer, kombucha can be bottled to give it a longer shelf life in stores.

Rappa and Stoger pose with the finished product.

Besides being a deliciously refreshing beverage, the health benefits are what drive most people to kombucha. “Everyone’s body is really craving probiotics,” says Rappa, adding that they help with digestion. Kombucha is loaded with naturally occurring probiotics and it also has tons of Vitamin B which gives a natural energy boost. Plus, the entire line of Coastal Craft Kombucha is raw and organic.

Coastal Craft Kombucha is open to the public, so customers can stop by the brewery and fill a growler. And in warmer months, Rappa and Stoger set up shop at several local farmers markets serving regular customers and pouring samples for people who have never even tried kombucha. Last summer a woman on vacation from the Carolinas stopped by saying she was obsessed with kombucha, found them online and came to the market just to try theirs. Luckily, you won’t have to travel nearly as far to try their “buch.”