Monday, September 24, 2012

how to make kombucha...

"kon, kon, kombucha"...my 5 yr old started singing in the car one day his ode to kombucha.  Friends refer to it as 'booch', 'kombuchi', it seems everyone who loves it comes up with their own term of endearment.  So here's my recipe for humble kitchen kombucha...

 

Kombucha: 
a probiotic drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with a SCOBY culture (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).  

Kombucha is basically sweet tea transformed into a living drink full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids with antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties. It's been shown to improve energy levels and protect against stress as well as benefit digestive problems, allergies, candidiasis, hypertension, cancer, HIV, arthritis, metabolic disorders, liver function and chronic fatigue.  And it's yummy!  If you're trying it for the first time I recommend the Synergy brand (guava is our favorite) and don't get it on tap at a restaurant unless you like the taste of warm beer-disgusting!  If you follow this recipe it will be delicious...

SUPPLIES:

2.5 Gallon Glass Container (Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond have one with a metal lid for $20)
Clean Dish/Tea Towel
Large Rubberband (the one that comes on broccoli is the perfect size)
Funnel
Mesh Sieve and Cheesecloth 
8 Quarts Filtered Water
2 3/4 Cups Organic Cane Sugar
12-14 Bags Plain Organic Tea (Black, Green or White.  Green is mild and a good one to start with)
2-3 Cups Kombucha from a previous batch or 2 Bottles Original Synergy Kombucha (no flavors!)
SCOBY (from a friend, make one, or buy from Cultures For Health)

METHOD:


Set out your 2-3 cups of kombucha (previous batch or store bought) to allow to come to room temperature. Bring about 8 quarts (32 cups) filtered water to boil. Turn off water, add 2 3/4 cups of sugar and stir to dissolve. Next, add 12-14 tea bags. Let steep until you have a good and strong, dark sweet tea (around 30 minutes or so). Remove tea bags. Let the tea mixture COMPLETELY cool. I let mine sit all day or overnight. Do not get tempted to jump the gun on this-you could damage the scoby if the water is too warm.


Once cooled completely, put 2-3 cups PLAIN kombucha (or about 2 bottles if store bought) into your brew container. Add your cooled tea/sugar mixture and the SCOBY. The SCOBY will float on top or may sink to the bottom. Cover the jar with a clean towel (not cheesecloth as this is too loose a weave) and put a rubber band around it to secure. Pull the overhanging ends of the towel taut to be sure it is not sagging into your kombucha brew. 


You want to let it sit, preferably in the dark, but definitely NOT in direct light. Ideally, it should be in a warm-ish place (I have a growing mat that I sit mine on in the bottom of my pantry but you don’t have to do this). The temp needs to be between 75-85. The time it takes depends on a number of factors. Usually about 3 weeks-sometimes more or less. In cooler weather it will take longer. I usually wait 3-4 weeks to decrease the sugar content but it will sometimes have more of a vinegary taste, especially if you're using black tea.  Green tea doesn't taste right until at least 3 weeks.  You can start taste-testing after 8-9 days.


To check kombucha, dip a NON-METAL spoon or cup in, gently push down the SCOBY and fill your spoon with the liquid. You are looking for a balance between sweet and vinegary. When it is ready, the SCOBY will have consumed the sugar and the tea. If it tastes like sweet tea it’s not ready. When ready, bottle and refrigerate. This is where you would strain it if desired, using a sieve.  Depending on how clear you'd like it to end up you can line your sieve with cheesecloth.  As it sits your kombucha will produce string regardless-even in the refrigerator, but this is just a sign that it is a good, live drink.   I leave some of mine in a pitcher in the frig and bottle the rest in cleaned, store-bought kombucha bottles or the big glass apple juice bottles-sometimes mason jars (goes nicely with the moonshine theme!)

Never let your scoby come in contact with metal. It's ok to brew your tea in a metal pot and to strain your final brew through a metal strainer, but do not put metal spoons/cups into your brewing container and make sure everything is rinsed completely free of soaps. 

 

During brewing your SCOBY will either thicken or a completely new SCOBY will form on the top of your jar. I usually leave the second and start the process in the same jar again.  The next batch I tend to take 2 out, leave the newest baby in and give away/save/compost the others.  Then I clean my jar and start over with just one SCOBY. It's ok to tear them apart and I keep my extras in a glass jar with a non-metal lid in the frig in case something goes wrong with my first.  

Soap residue left in your brewing container,  contact with metal,  pesticides from using non-organic tea/sugar and unfiltered water can all damage your SCOBY.  If your SCOBY ever gets orange or black or greenish, toss it and start over with a new one. Darker brown spots are ok. 

Here's to your HEALTH!


Resources:

Cultures For Health
Seeds of Health

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