Daily Archives: October 25, 2011

Kombucha

I savored my first sip of this tea-based fermented beverage in 2007.  It is surprisingly similar to fermented apple cider and I was instantly hooked!  Unfortunately, at $3.50 a bottle, it quickly became a rare indulgence.  About a year later I made an attempt to brew my own.  With not having anything to compare the growing culture to, I was convinced something was going terribly wrong!  After 3 weeks into what looked like a biohazard nightmare, I scrapped the idea and stuck to buying bottles.  This past summer, I decided to give it another try.  Turns out I was doing everything correct and the scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is supposed to look like a nasty mess while forming.  If only YouTube had all those time-lapsed tutorials back then, maybe it would have restored my confidence in what I was doing!

Kombucha, which has an undocumented history dating back hundreds of years, requires nothing more than a few easy-to-find ingredients and a bit of patience.  I brew mine in gallon batches.  Once it has reached maturity, it is transferred into a separate vessel and the process begins again.

If you do not already have a mother culture, it will take approximately 4 weeks for one to develop depending on its growing environment.  Each time you ferment a new batch of kombucha, a second scoby will grow, which is referred to as the baby.  Eventually you will end up with several cultures resembling a stack of pancakes.  You can compost them or give them away; I do both.

(Freshly fermented black tea kombucha ready for refrigeration.  The top layer of bubbles are from transferring from one vessel to another.


Kombucha

1 gallon filtered spring or distilled water, do not use tap water.

1 scoby or a bottle of commercially brewed kombucha tea if you are starting from scratch.

1 cup sugar – This acts as the food source for your growing colony of bacteria.

6 organic tea bags, either black, white, or green (or a combination).  Never use flavored teas or teas with oil, such as earl grey, since they can harm the beneficial bacteria you are trying to grow!

1 gallon glass jar - Never use plastic, the fermenting process can leach harmful chemicals into your tea!

a piece of tightly woven cloth, such as muslin.  Do not use cheese cloth or other open-weave fabrics, since dust, fruit flies, and other insects can make their way into your jar.

rubber band

Pour a bit of the filtered water into a stainless steel sauce pot, add the sugar and turn the heat to med-high.  Once the sugar is completely dissolved and the water is about to boil remove from heat and add your tea bags.  Steep tea in the sugar-water for 15 minutes.  Carefully pour your tea into the glass jar and add the remaining bottled water.  Be sure to not overfill the jar since you will need a bit of space for your culture to sit.  Once the jar has cooled to room-temperature, add the scoby, or pour in the bottle of kombucha.  Place the cloth over the opening of the jar and secure it with a rubber band.

(Freshly brewed green tea ready for fermentation.)

Growing a scoby: Over the course of about 4-5 weeks a mother will form.  I warn you, it will look really really gross, which is completely normal.  Do not disturb the jar, just leave it alone to do its thing.  Once you have a fully formed scoby scoop out a cup of kombucha and with clean hands pull out the mother.  Dump the kombucha that grew the mother, it will be too sour to drink, and begin brewing a fresh batch of tea.

(A scoby/mother)

If you already have a scoby: Allow your tea to ferment for 10-14 days, remove the mother and reserve a cup of the kombucha tea for starting the next batch.  It is at this time you can do a secondary fermentation to increase the carbonation or begin drinking your tea.  If you are just going to drink it, strain and transfer the kombucha to another food-safe container and refrigerate.  You don’t have to strain it, but another culture will begin to form if you don’t.

Secondary Fermentation:  To increase the CO2 in your kombucha, a secondary fermentation will need to take place.  You will want to use a closed vessel, such as a growler, since carbon dioxide build up can cause bottles to explode!  Allow the kombucha to sit out for an additional week.  I have found that by the second opening of the growler the kombucha is flat once again… my solution to that problem!

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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