Kombucha 101

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What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is the process in which food and beverages are preserved with the help of bacteria and fungi.

Wait, don't freak out! Not all bacteria and fungi are the enemy. Certain strains are extremely beneficial to the gut microbiome (beneficial bacteria found in the large bowel).

Flip over your favorite yogurt next time you are at the grocery store and you might see a bacilli-like strain listed on the ingredient label. These bacterial strains ferment the milk sugars, lactose, into lactic acid therefore forcing the milk to thicken and give it the texture we all crave. The addition of these beneficial bacterial strains promote healthier lactose digestion, lower pH, and stimulates the immune system.

Why Should I Ferment?

Do you drink chlorinated water? Are you eating enough vegetables? Have you ever experienced constipation or diarrhea? Are you struggling with weight loss? 

Adding fermented foods and beverages to your daily routine may improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, lessen cold and flu-like symptoms, clear the skin, aid in sleep and more. 

"...quite an awesome array of medical studies have identified specific anti-cancer and other disease-preventing properties in fermented foods." Sandor Katz Wild Fermentation 

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is fermented tea that is sweetened with cane sugar. Or, as I say in my Texan drawl, "Kombucha is Texas Sweet Tea with a twist!" Seems to go over well with the unfamiliar folk. Basically this is the only form of fermented food besides yogurt I can get my kiddos to consume. And they LOVE IT. 

How do you "ferment" tea?

Sweetened tea is fermented underneath a fungus-like layer of bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. The Mother, or Scoby, is what your tea will be submerged and sealed under. The end result of this fermentation provides a delicious bubbly beverage that provides beneficial acids and vitamins to our bodies. 

This baby scoby was found in a bottle of homemade Kombucha. 

This baby scoby was found in a bottle of homemade Kombucha. 

Basic Equipment & Ingredients Needed for Continuous Brewing:

1. Stockpot that will fit enough liquid to fill a 1-2 gallon container

2. 1-2 gallon container for the 1F* 

3. 1-2 gallon's worth of jars with leak-proof lids, flip top bottles or recycled Kombucha bottles from previous purchases for 2F**

4. (Organic) Black, Green or White Tea

Tip: Make sure the only ingredient on the packaging is pure organic tea. Loose leaf is best as it promotes less waste

5. White Cane Sugar

Tip: Use pure cane to avoid GMO beet sugar

6. Filtered Spring Water OR Tap water that has been boiled for at least 5 minutes (if Chlorine/Fluoride is present in your city water)

7. 1 SCOBY + 1 Cup of Kombucha liquid reserved for each gallon you are brewing. If you are making Kombucha for the FIRST TIME, then you will need 1 16 oz. bottle of plain Kombucha. 

8. 1 wooden (or non-metallic) spoon for stirring 

9. 1 Tea Towel + 1 Large rubber band

*1F=1st Fermentation, **2F=2nd Fermentation

 

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RECIPE-Per 1 Gallon brewed

1 Gallon of water

1 Cup Kombucha liquid + 1 Scoby OR 1 16 oz. bottle of plain Kombucha

8 tsp. tea (or 8 tea bags) green, black or white tea (I love to mix tea varieties)

1 Cup Cane Sugar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Wash all equipment with hot water and a couple splashes of vinegar. Set aside to dry until ready to use. 

2. Bring 1 gallon of water to boil. If using tap water, boil for 5 minutes to remove any chlorine. Allow the water to cool to 165-170 degrees. Add tea once appropriate temperature is reached. 

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3. Add tea and allow to steep for 4-8 hours. 

Tie tea bags to a ladle that can lie across your steeping vessel for easier clean up.  

Tie tea bags to a ladle that can lie across your steeping vessel for easier clean up. 

4. After tea has steeped, remove tea bags from the liquid, squeeze out remaining liquid and compost.

5. Add the sugar and cooled tea to your 1 gallon brewing container. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 

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6. If you have a Scoby + liquid reserved, add now. If you do not, add the entire bottle of Kombucha you purchased. 

7. Cover with a tea towel, secure with rubber band, (always a good idea to have backups) and place in a dark, warm place, away from other fermenting goods.  This process is called 1st Fermentation or 1F. 

Read if you had the Scoby: After 3 days, start monitoring your brew. Try to keep it in an area between 70-80 degrees. Taste it. Gently push the Scoby Mama aside,  stir the liquid underneath ever so gently, and taste. If it tastes like Texas Sweet Tea, she ain't ready. Some brews take 4 days while some take 7-10 days. Once you taste a pleasantly sour liquid and possibly see bubbles (like a carbonated beverage) you are ready for 2F. 

Read if you had the bottle of Kombucha: The process of growing your own Scoby "mushroom" will take awhile, sometimes weeks. Please be patient. Once you see a jelly fish layer, as my kids call it, on top of your tea, you are ready! This layer usually pops up around 1 week. The Scoby will be thin and translucent but will grow as time progresses. You can use it when it's thin, but it is best to let it grow and become thick enough to handle. Some websites recommend waiting up to 30 days for this to happen. (The resulting liquid will not be tasty after the process of growing your own Scoby. You can use this liquid, after reserving the desired amount of cups for future ferments, as a Vinegar substitute or Kombucha cleaner. Look up recipes!) 

2nd Fermentation or 2F

Adding flavor to your brew is a personal choice. It adds character and body but is not necessary. 

Once you are satisfied with the sourness of your brew, gently remove Scoby into a deep bowl  with 1 Cup of liquid from the batch/gallon you need to continue the brewing process. Please be sure to stir the liquid before removing, as the beneficial yeasts will be settled at the bottom. 

Cover the bowl with a light tea towel for now until you are ready to brew. If you are the prepper-type, you will have a second jar with sweetened tea ready to start your next batch of Kombucha!  

CONTINUE THIS CYCLE FOR A CONTINUOUS BREW OF KOMBUCHA. IF AT ANY POINT YOU NEED TO STOP OR GO ON VACATION, SIMPLY RESERVE A COUPLE CUPS OF LIQUID WITH THE SCOBY AND PLACE IN THE FRIDGE, COVERED WITH A LID OR PLASTIC WRAP. 

RE-STARTING YOUR REFRIGERATING BREW IS AS EASY AS STARTING FROM STEP 1. MORE ON THIS IN THE NEXT KOMBUCHA FAQ & TROUBLESHOOTING POST. 

The remaining liquid in the jar can now be transfered into bottles and placed in the fridge OR you can flavor with just about any dried fruit, juices or fresh fruits. We find it best to use a funnel for tranferring from the large jar to individual bottle as it gets messy!

A good ratio I use when flavoring for 2F is 80% Kombucha liquid per bottle to 20% fruit or juice. Always leave enough head space as gasses will be produced in this process. 

Tip: Be mindful of the size of fruit you use. Fruit can be pushed through the neck of a bottle pretty easily but can you get it out once the Kombucha is consumed?

Once you have flavored your 2F to your liking, close the lid. Open this lid (or burp your brew as they say) at LEAST twice a day to prevent too much gas build up. Taste daily! We usually leave our bottles out until there is good bubble formation and flavor, which is usually at 2-3 days. 

Refrigerate. Consume. Enjoy. 

Our favorite flavors: Hibiscus Petals + Mint, Blueberry + Fresh Turmeric Root, Fresh Ginger, Strawberry + Unwaxed Organic Lemon Peel, Candied Ginger + Unwaxed Organic Lemon Peel. My 8 year old loves to buy glass jars of Lemonade and asks me to make strawberry lemonade Kombucha for him.  

Thanks for reading y'all. Happy brewin'!

 

I am NOT a Doctor, Health Coach or Nutritionist. If you are struggling with a Chronic disease, chronic vaginal infections or gut issues, consult your Doctor before adding fermented foods to your diet. Some immune system responses can worsen with the addition of fermented foods.