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Home Brewed Kombucha

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Ok, friends. I LOVE kombucha! If you know me personally, you know I am a pretty picky eater, it has become much better over the years, but alas, my taste buds do not like certain textures. So, when I grabbed a glass jar of Kombucha one day from Whole Foods I was very skeptical! The first one I tried was mango, which was very sugary that I believe it helped me ease into the unique flavor. From then on I have bravely tried different types, until I ended up with plain.

Fermented foods, for me, are hard to eat. I don’t typically enjoy the sharp, strong flavors that go along with fermenting. However, the benefits of fermented foods are unbelievable and I knew I needed to start eating/drinking them on a regular basis. Kombucha was oddly the first one I got into.

Here’s the facts:

Q. What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a Kombucha starter culture. The starter culture is a mushroom and typically goes by the names, scoby or mother. The tea is prepared with sugar and is allowed to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. It can be consumed plain or by adding flavoring such as fruit, juice, or spices. Kombucha contains a number of vitamins (particularly B vitamins) and may have a number of health benefits. 

Q. What does kombucha taste like?

A.  “The taste of kombucha varies greatly depending on the amount of time it was allowed to ferment and whether or not flavoring was added. For example, fermentation time determines whether the kombucha tea has a very mild taste or a very strong vinegar taste. (Kombucha is made using a method very similar to the one used to make vinegar.) If you desire a more sweet taste, we recommend a very short brewing period of about 5 days. If the vinegar taste doesn’t bother you, a longer fermentation process will allow the tea to fully culture. When you are first making kombucha, we recommend you taste the kombucha starting at day 7 (using a straw makes this easier) to determine at what point you wish to stop the fermentation process. Adding fruit or juice following fermentation can sweeten the kombucha. Alternatively, you can add water to the finished kombucha prior to drinking to cut the flavor. Click here for more information on influencing the flavor of homemade kombucha.”
– I recommend buying a bottle or two from you local health food store to sample the flavor. It really can’t be described well. It is typically in a cold case with the other bottled ready-to-go drinks.
Fermentation process:
“As the kombucha ferments, the scoby consumes the tea and sugar producing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, carbon dioxide, etc. The longer the fermentation process is allowed to proceed, the less sweet and more acidic the resulting liquid will be. This process can be used to one’s advantage by strategically halting fermentation when the brew has reached the right balance between the sweetness and vinegar flavors for your particular taste preferences. While we recommend allowing the kombucha to ferment for at least 7 days given ideal conditions (click here for more information), once that initial week has passed, it is a matter of personal preference when the process is halted. For example, many people prefer to stop fermentation between 7 and 10 days which yields a more sweet kombucha due to higher sugar content. Fermentation periods of 3 to 5 weeks will generally yield a much more vinegar-like flavor profile (but also significantly lower sugar content).”
Bacteria:
Fermenting is great because of it’s “good” bacteria content, but what does that actually mean?? 

If you have ever seen kombucha being brewed than you are familiar with the leathery pancake called the mother or scoby. You have seen the strands of Symbiotic Culture of bacteria and Yeast. In short, symbiotic, means that the bacteria and yeast are living together in a complex and depend on each other for their lives.

“The specific bacteria and yeast strains in the kombucha are what make it act the way it does, and what produce the fizz and flavor we expect from kombucha. Not all kombucha cultures will contain the exact same strains, but generally, these are some that you might expect:

  • Acetobacter: This is an aerobic (requiring oxygen) bacteria strain that produces acetic acid and gluconic acid. It is always found in kombucha. Acetobacter strains also build the scoby mushroom.Acetobacter xylinoides and acetobacter ketogenum are two strains that you might find in kombucha.
  • Saccharomyces: This includes a number of yeast strains that produce alcohol, and are the most common types of yeast found in kombucha. They can be aerobic or anaerobic (requires an oxygen-free environment). They include Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyes, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
  • Brettanomyces: Another type of yeast strain, either aerobic or anaerobic, that are commonly found in kombucha and produce alcohol or acetic acid.
  • Lactobacillus: A type of aerobic bacteria that is sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha. It produces lactic acid and slime.
  • Pediococcus: These anaerobic bacteria produce lactic acid and slime. They are sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha.
  • Gluconacetobacter kombuchae is an anaerobic bacteria that is unique to kombucha. It feeds on nitrogen that is found in tea, and produces acetic acid and gluconic acid as well as building the scoby mushroom.
  • Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis is a yeast strain that is unique to kombucha. It produces alcohol and carbonation as well as contributing to the mushroom body.

Kombucha also contains a variety of other nutrients, particularly various acids and esters that give the drink its characteristic tang and fizz. Included in these components is gluconic acid, which is the primary difference between the makeup of kombucha and the makeup of apple cider vinegar!

The actual bacteria, sugar, and acid content of kombucha depends on many factors, including the culture you begin with, the type of tea used, the type of sugar used, the strength of the tea, the type of water, the length of time brewing, the temperature at which it is cultured, and more.” (cultures for health)

Adding Flavors

This post is getting long, I recommend checking out the cultures for health page on how to flavor and bottle. 
Use caution when opening the bottle. Creation of carbon dioxide during the secondary fermentation period means the contents of the bottle will be under pressure and caution should be used when opening the bottle. We recommend covering the bottle with a cloth to catch any spraying liquid, and opening the bottle slowly while applying downward pressure.

BEST PLACE FOR INFORMATION: I found this site a couple weeks ago when my kombucha came out lacking carbonation. I HIGHLY recommend this page for more questions on the actual process of fermenting kombucha.

Quick Recipe/Process:_DSC0329

Ingredients/products:

    • Starter tea/other teas
    • Scoby

getkombucha, KOMBUCHA STARTER KIT, Make Raw Organic Kombucha Tea Starter Kit …

    • Filtered water
    • Vinegar
    • 1 gallon jar

Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass Cookie/Candy Jar, 1-Gallon

  • starter tea
  • clean dish towel.

Process:

  • Buy your kombucha starter kit. 
  • Buy 1 gallon jar 
  • Buy a bottle of kombucha from your local health food store, Make sure it is plain/original!
  • When your kombucha package comes in, get started! :) There should be a recipe card in your box.
  • In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add 1 cup sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Add 4-6 TBS of starter tea or what ever tea you choose. I usually add some jasmine tea to mine (2-3 bags)
  • Let tea steep for 10+ minutes.
  • Next add the rest of the cold/room temp. water to equal a gallon. (16 cups in gallon)
  • NOTE: Make sure that this is clean filtered water! You are working with bacteria, you don’t want to grow bad bacteria. :)
  • Strain loose tea if need be.
  • Cleaning your jars: Be sure to clean the jars thoroughly, but leaving ZERO soap residue! I recommend rinsing all utensils and jars/bottles with vinegar, INCLUDING your hands, before handing kombucha/scoby. You really don’t want cross contamination or kill your scoby.
  • Place Scoby into glass jar with the liquid it came in, along with your original/plain bottle of kombucha
  • Pour room temperature tea into jar with the scoby.
  • Cover with a clean dish towel and store in a warm, dry, dark space.
  • NOTE:  you want the room temperature to be between 65-75 degrees. My new scoby did not form due to it being to cold in my last batch. I  had to move it upstairs into a closet.
Here are some pictures from the process! After I finish making one batch, I usually will make more tea for my kombucha within 2-3 days, if not immediately. Since the process takes time to brew, It is good to start a new brew soon if you are planning on drinking it everyday. :) 
NOTE: there is no need to remove scoby during the process… I keep it going in the same jar for quite a few batches. Once it starts getting extra dirty I will switch it over. 
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Sources: 
http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-tea-frequently-asked-questions-faq
http://users.bestweb.net/~om/kombucha_balance/#HeatItUP
http://www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2013/11/top-kombucha-recipes
http://dontmesswithmama.com/8-non-traditional-uses-for-kombucha/
http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/25/kombucha-myths-vs-truths/

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