Sunday, May 13, 2012

BYO Kombucha

It's mothers day! Perfect timing for my post on Brewing Your Own Kombucha since kombucha relies on its 'mother' just like we all do! This post is for my beautiful mama. Happy mothers day, mom. I love you to the moon!! 

My gorgeous mama!!

So I know I'm not the only who cannot realistically afford their daily kombucha habit. Lucky for us hopeless addicts, it's super easy to make at home. I think I might be the last person in all of Brooklyn to brew kombucha, but whatever, better late than never. Once I started my own booch, I had this weird connect-the-dots moment when I realized THIS is what my hippie parents were brewing at home when I was a kid. I remember seeing the weird mushroom-looking creature in a pot on the stove and smelling the strong vinegar aromas coming from the kitchen. I'm not sure what I thought it was. A small part of me thought it was some after-birth matter... Thankfully, I called my dad and he assured me it was booch; "That was when it was illegal. You had to know someone who made it." My mom told me a story of when they sent me down the street with a bottle for a neighbor friend that was sick. Apparently, she recovered soon after and her parents had everyone talking about my parents miracle kombucha. So I've come full circe. My parents brewed it in the 90's and now I'm brewing it in 2012. 

When I came home and told Steve "I got a SCOBY at work today", he didn't seem too jazzed. But when I explained that SCOBY means Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast and that it's all we need to start brewing our own kombucha, he changed his tune. And then when I started referring to the SCOBY as mother, everyone in the house got a little weirded out. Fermenting is weird. But it's also AWESOME. You can buy kombucha kits with everything you need to brew your own, or you can ask someone who already brews it to give you one of their babies. Every time you make a batch, your SCOBY mother makes a baby, which you can discard (and by discard I mean make use in some other way! Compost, chicken feed, face mask, or gift to some eager new booch brewer.) I got mine from a co-worker. We actually did a little culture swap. I gave her some sourdough starter and she gave me a SCOBY. 

SCOBY before beginning - about 4 inches


1 1/2 cup "starter tea"
6 tea bags (I prefer Oolong but any black tea will do)
1 1/2 cup organic sugar
3 quarts distilled water

Supplies Needed:

Large pot for boiling water 
Gallon-size glass jar
Clean piece of cloth to cover top of jar
Rubber band to hold cloth in place
8 16 oz glass jars/bottles for bottling
Non-metallic spoon and measuring cup

First you have to give your kitchen counter a good cleaning. Make sure everything you're using is squeaky clean. This process is super prone to bacteria and you don't want to chance your whole batch going bad. To be safe, I boiled all instruments and rinsed the gallon jar with boiling water. And wash hands! 

Brew 6 bags of black tea in 3 quarts of boiling water inside the gallon glass jar. Steep for 20 minutes. Remove bags and add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Allow tea to cool to room temperature before moving on to the next step. (This takes a while. Next time, I will try brewing the tea with only half of the distilled water and then adding the other half cold to speed up the cooling step.)

From top left to right: tea bags steeping, stirred in sugar, added "starter tea" and SCOBY, day 1, day 4, day 12

Once your tea has cooled to room temp, add your "starter tea" and drop your SCOBY into the brew, brown side down. Cover with cloth and secure with rubber band. Find a nice warm, dark hiding spot for your booch. 70-85 degrees is ideal. Try to put it somewhere it won't be disturbed. Fermentation doesn't like to be moved. 

SCOBY will floats to the top during fermentation

I started tasting at day 10 and it wasn't until day 12 when I felt it was perfect. Nice and vinegary, not too sweet, and slightly effervescent.  

Your SCOBY will grow to whatever size container it's living in

Once your kombucha is done fermenting and you're happy with the taste, remove the SCOBY and place it in a SCOBY hotel until your ready to brew again. Make sure to pour about 2 cups of your tea over the SCOBY to be used as your next "starter tea". The SCOBY will continue to grow and your tea will slowly reduce so keep an eye on them if you don't plan to brew continuously.
Sterilizing the jars before bottling

Now's the time you can flavor your kombucha! Pour the tea into your clean glass bottles/jars, leaving some space at the top. Add whatever you'd like to flavor. I used orange peel + fresh ginger in some and tart cherry juice + chia seeds in the others. I haven't found a solution to keep the chia seeds from clumping so my preference was the orange ginger.

Home crafted funnel, thanks to my smarty pants boyfriend
Flavors in!
Flavored booch is sealed tightly while the SCOBY hotel is covered with the same cloth piece

Make sure to use bottles that seal completely so that no oxygen can escape. I used mason jars which worked fine. Eventually I would like to invest in a bottle capper so I can use recycled beer bottles. Set the bottles/jars in the same dark, warm spot you kept your brewing kombucha and let sit for 3-4 days. The yeast continues to work and produces gas, which is was makes your finished product nice and bubbly. After about 4 days, transfer your kombucha to the refrigerator to chill.

It sounds more time intensive than it is. You brew some tea on day 1, bottle it up on day 12, and by day 16 your drinking your own delicious home-brewed kombucha. Do it once and you'll be hooked. Enjoy!

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