Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Making Kombucha

I thought I'd post on one of my latest "experiments", making kombucha. I've been keeping records on an Excel spreadsheet. There are many, many websites with information about it, so I won't bother posting a bunch here...you all know how to "google"!I did learn about it from my friends at WTM, though, and there's a bunch of great threads over there! Kombucha is a fermented beverage (though not considered alcoholic) and is healthy for you. To make it, you need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacterium and yeast), or what is sometimes called a "mother" or "mushroom", though it resembles neither of those! Here's a picture of one of my SCOBYs, the underside of which developed a bubble, which is perfectly normal:

To make kombucha, you start by brewing some tea. The basic recipe is to use black tea. You need the caffeine in it for the SCOBYs benefit, so don't worry about it making you a caffeine addict. You also add regular white sugar, which is what the SCOBY "eats". Again, this is not a sugary drink, and in fact is more like sparkling apple cider if prepared correctly, and will eventually turn vinegary if left long enough. It must be "brewed" and bottled in glass containers! Each batch is finished when you like the flavor, and when the "mother" has "reproduced" a "baby" on the top of the liquid. There will be bubbles underneath it, too, which is a good indicator it's ready.

What follows is how I've made our 'bucha, and how/when I've switched from "regular" to flavored, which we prefer.

*Note: all my batches are approximately 1 gallon size*
*Note: Most are bottled in 1 quart jars; I have also used empty Sobe, wine cooler, and wine bottles with the metal screw-on lids. The smaller containers get fizzier than the jars.*

Batch 1, 3/20/08:
6 black tea bags
1.5 cups sugar
unknown qty of starter+3Tbl ACV
brewed 9 days
pretty good, like sparkling cider, esp. after sitting bottled for over a week.

Batch 2, 3/29:
same ingredients, except 1cup starter
only brewed 6 days
still tart like cider

*now have 2 containers*

Batch 3&4, 4/4:
still 6 blk tea bags
one batch 1 cup starter+2 cups sugar
other batch .5 cup starter+ 1.5 cups sugar
brewed 8 days, both very fizzy when bottled!

*note: have stuck with 1.5 cups sugar for all subsequent batches*
*note: 1 cup starter*

Decided to branch out into flavors...

Batches 5&7, 4/12 4/27:
4 black+2 Stash wild raspberry
made 2 batches this way, brewed one for 8 days, and the second got left for 19 days! We like this flavor, was very "zesty" and bubbly right from the start.

Batch 6, 4/12:
5 black tea bags + fresh ginger
brewed 8 days
I liked this flavor, was less "tart" than plain

*now have 3 containers*

Batch 8 & 9, 4/27:
another "regular" one w/ 6 black (was out of ginger)
brewed 19 days
was very fizzy with big babies!

1 black, 5 green
16 days
pretty mild, I liked it

*note: at this time I've cut back to .5 cup starter for all subsequent batches*

Batch 10, 5/21:
2 black + 4 CS wild berry zinger
8 days, was fizzy!

Batch 11 & 12, 5/21:
6 blk + ginger
2 blk + 4 CS country peach passion
brewed 14 days

Batch 13, 5/30:
4 black + 4 CS blueberry ice
brewed 15 days

Batches 14 & 15, 6/4:
2 black + 4 wild berry zinger
2 black + 4 country peach passion
brewed 13 days

Batch 16, 6/14:
2 black + 3 raspberry
I decided since it's so zippy, I'd try less of the flavor to see what results I get. Still brewing, so results are unknown today...

Batches 17 & 18, 6/17:
1 black + 4 peach
1 black + 4 blueberry
I decided to try less black since these flavors are good, but not as zippy as the raspberry and wild berry. Just started today...

The first half (?) of my batches, the jars were inside a cupboard so it was dark. I now have 3 batches going at the same time, no more room in the cupboard, so they're out in the light on top of it. It hasn't seemed to affect anything. Here's what they look like today:
(l-r: blueberry, peach, raspberry) I didn't separate the "mother" and "baby" this time, but tossed them back in together. The middle one has too much liquid for them to float on top, so it looks kind of like a giant pancake in there. Sometimes my SCOBYs sink to the bottom, but that's perfectly normal, too.

I've been brewing for longer lately, but I don't know if that's from laziness &/or forgetfulness. I have taste-tested these longer batches earlier on and dh and I decided to leave them longer.
We've decided we prefer the fruity flavors, though once I get into the bigger apt I will probably get more containers and do some green and ginger again. Sometimes I mix one of these flavors with half of one of the fruity ones. I haven't tried mixing any with juice yet.

I keep the jars in a box for now, with post-it labels on top, so I don't forget which flavor each jar is. I don't bother refrigerating them, but it's okay if you do. They keep getting fizzier if left out of the fridge. We simply put ice in a glass and then strain the 'bucha into the cup. (it will start growing new "babies" while bottled, but they pretty much look like boogers, so not very appetizing to see plop into your glass...or to have slide down your throat!

(l-r: green tea, raspberry, ginger, peach, blueberry) Don't they look pretty?


Whiterock said...

Yes, they do look pretty!

Jenny said...

Yes, they are pretty!
Is that a Sobe bottle? I need to start collecting those for my k-tea.

mgirl said...

Yes, it's a Sobe bottle. They happened to be on sale for $1 each one day, so dh and I picked up a few. I like bottling in smaller than quart size, because they get fizzier!

~healthybratt said...

Hey, thanks for checking this out for me. I think it might be a sparrow after all, but ours has a small white speck near the eyes rather than a white crown or "head band". It looks something like this illustration.

Unknown Sparrow Illustration

Other markings are similar to the sparrow including the sideburns and beard; however, unlike this guy, our specimen has a black crown rather than gray, like the Black Capped Chickadee

Betsy said...

Thank you. I have my filtered water on and will get going on this today.

Betsy said...

I really appreciate you yaking the complexity of kombucha brewing away for me. It does not have to be complicated. :)