Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kombucha

I wrote this blog post for the Daughters of Promise magazine and wanted to share it here in case any of you had questions.

I was first introduced to kombucha from a guy I worked with. He kindly gave me a scoby and a list of instructions on how to make it. I remember reading the list over and over making sure I did every step just right so I wouldn't kill my prized scoby. The first months of kombucha brewing were rough. It either tasted like bad sweet tea or vinegar. But then, one day, I hit it just right, and my life hasn't been the same since. It was smooth, fizzy, and a little sweet. I poured it over a glass of ice and the fizz rose along with my confidence. We now drink kombucha in place of sweet tea with our meals. 

Brewed kombucha ready to drink.

Kombucha is a bit like friendship bread, the mother 'scoby' grows with each brew and can be peeled off to share with friends. 

The world wide web is filled with many ways to brew kombucha. You just have to start and find which way works best for you. I do not claim to be an expert on the matter, but I will share with you the way that works best for me.

Here is my recipe. 

Kombucha

1 scoby
1 gallon Lipton tea bag or 8 tea bags
1 1/2 cups regular sugar
ice cubes
1 1/2 cups starter tea, saved from previous brew
1 gallon pitcher

1 gallon glass jar 
plastic funnel
snap cap bottles
 
Two kombucha no no's; 1. Never use metal utensils. 2. Don't wash kombucha equipment or your hands with anti-bacterial soap. It can harm your kombucha.
 
To start you will need a scoby. A scoby is the living home for the bacteria and yeast that ferments your tea. You can purchase one online or buy raw kombucha and grow one yourself. Just pour a cup or so in the jar and cover with a loose cloth, then set it in a dark place for a week or so until a scoby forms on the top.

 This is what a healthy scoby looks like.

Okay now that you have your 'scoby' it really is a simple process. It's just like brewing sweet tea! I do know if you do not brew your tea well, it does make a difference on how your kombucha tastes. Bad tea, bad kombucha.

Here is how I brew my tea.

Boil water in 1.5 qt. saucepan, then remove it from the heat and add one gallon size Lipton tea bag. Push the bag down to make sure its covered in water, cover and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. I like my tea strong. 

Scoop 1 1/2 cups of sugar into pitcher and add three handfuls of ice cubes on top. Then pour your steeped tea over the ice. I have found pouring tea over ice makes better tea. Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Then fill up the pitcher with warm water so you don't have to wait until your tea is room temperature. This may seem like a lot of sugar but the sugar is what ferments and by the time it's done brewing the sugar sweetness reduces. The longer you brew your tea the more the sugar minimizes.

Pour your brewed tea into your glass jar and place your scoby on top. Cover your jar with a cloth and place in a dark place. When fruit flies are in season cover tightly with a rubber band. Since you have no starter tea the first batch will take 5-7 days. A regular brew with starter tea takes 3 days. On the fifth day start tasting it to see how it's coming. It will start to lighten in color. I can't write how its supposed to taste. That is something you will learn with time. Some folks like it strong and more vinegar like, I like it smooth with only a teeny tiny bite at the end.


 Brewed and ready for bottling.

Now that your Kombucha is brewed it's time for bottling. If you want fizz you need to have a bottle that seals well. I love these snap cap bottles I purchased from my mother-in-laws kitchen store, The Kitchen Kupboard. 



With a funnel add 1/2 tsp. sugar to your bottles. This helps feed the yeast so carbonation can be made. This is called the second fermentation. Some folks flavor theirs with fruit on the second ferment. The fruit has natural sugar so you won't need to put any sugar in it. I like plain kombucha the best but if you want to flavor yours, the sky is the limit. Remember to save 1 1/2 cups of starter tea for your next brew. Brew your next batch while you are bottling your previous batch. I have tried letting my starter tea set with my scoby a couple of days until I brewed the next batch and it does not work. The starter tea becomes too strong and makes your next batch taste like vinegar.


You can use a funnel to fill your bottles or if you have a beverage 
dispenser the spigot saves you of a lot of mess. 

Return your bottles back to a dark shelf and let set two more days. After two days they are ready to open and drink. Be sure to open them over the sink in case it spews over. If you havent drank your bottled kombucha within a week you may need to burp your bottles. I had a bottle explode and it was a sticky mess!

Pour over ice and enjoy.

So what are the health benefits of kombucha? I'll give you the short version. It adds good bacteria to your system, which helps keep things running smoothly and regular. It is a great replacement for those who drink soft drinks. It has fizz just like soda and is healthy to boot. It's also known to help with weight loss, joint care, cancer prevention, and it gives you energy. As for a personal testimony, my skin is clearer than it has been in years.

If you are tired of kombucha brewing you can take breaks of up to 6 weeks,  by simply allowing the kombucha to brew in a batch of fresh sugar tea and starter tea for that length of time. Of course, don't use that tea for starter tea. You will need to start with fresh tea just like you did to get started.

Whew, I thought I said kombucha brewing was easy. It is, but there is an art to brewing it with lots of fizz. If your's doesn't turn out the first time, keep brewing! It took me months to master it and some brews still turn out differently for me.


Happy Brewing!

Hope



6 comments:

  1. This makes me want to get back into kombucha brewing!

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  2. I'd love to try this sometime :) Thanks for your wonderful directions. I enjoy checking in on your blog every so often! Jody

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  3. I loved seeing your article in DOP. I have made kombucha for years - but usually if I tell others, or give a sample to a friend, they look like I'm from Mars. Fun to find a kindred spirit that likes strange brews, creativity in the kitchen, and even blogging. I'm adding your blog to my Feedly so I can come back again.
    Gina

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  4. Hi there,

    I just found your blog through Alicia and am happy I did!

    Getting ready to learn to make this with a friend next week. But wanted to know where you purchase your bottles from?

    Thanks,

    Amanda

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  5. Hi, I was wondering if I can make kombucha with unfiltered water from our well? We drink the water and it's just fine. I didn't know if it'd be healthy for the scoby or not? Thanks! Marcia

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  6. So I finally got around to making some kombucha!!! It's been fun experimenting 😊. Still haven't been able to get foam on top though...any suggestions?

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