The DIY Life: Fermenting your own Kombucha Tea. Part 1

1 Jul

Good things come from fermentation – pickles, wine, beer, kraut. But who would have thought tea? I know I didn’t. Until I heard a friend talking about brewing up her own Kombucha. The short of the process is you brew up some tea, sweeten it, add the SCOBY to the cooled sweet tea, cover with a clean cotton cloth and let sit for 7-21 days to ferment. The longer you let it ferment, the stronger the tea. Drink a little of the tea each day for the health benefits. The health benefits are wide and don’t really have a whole lot of documented proof because Kombucha tea is not evaluated by the FDA. I think it’s pretty refreshing to have a  jelly jar full each morning or evening.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. They are also known and kombucha mushrooms, Mother, Baby or plain old kombucha.

Why did I decide to start brewing some? Because it DOES contain probiotics, like those found in yogurt. Probiotics are good for you. They help keep the good bacteria in your body from going all wild. Here is a great article over at Kombucha Camp if you want to see more of the purported benefits of drinking Kombucha.  Since I have only been drinking it for a couple of months, I can’t confirm or deny any of the implied benefits. However, I like the taste and the process of making it is so easy that I can’t find a reason to NOT make it. So far I made a batch up with black tea and let it ferment for only 7 days. I wanted to see how it tasted at that point. At the 7 day mark, the tea was slightly carbonated and still sweet. My next batch was a green tea, and I let that one ferment for 10 days. It was a lot milder in flavor over the black tea I had from the first batch, and was a teeny bit more carbonated and tangy. Batch 3 I went back to black tea and let ferment for 15 days. The carbonation was pretty good, with a nice flow of small champagne like bubbles. It had a bit more zing to the taste. I think 7 days will continue to be my max first fermentation time for right now, until I get a little more adventurous.

The longer that you let the tea ferment, the more pronounced vinegar flavor it takes on. I like vinegar, but I don’t want to drink it. If for some reason I forgot about my tea, and the flavor was more vinegar like than I could handle, it can easily be saved and used AS vinegar – in dressings and what not.

Below is a basic recipe for Kombucha, for a single fermentation process. You can do a double fermentation, where after the first round you remove the SCOBY and ferment with a fruit or flavoring. I’ll be doing a follow-up post on how to do the second fermentation.

Since the Kombucha is fermented, there is a low percentage of ABV – the highest I’ve seen is 1%. So no, you can’t get drunk off of it. It does have a very slight booze taste when you first take a sip, because of the little bubbles and the whole fermenting process. But you are fine.

And please, don’t freak out about the sugar content. The sugars are for the SCOBY, not for you. The SCOBY will eat the sugars, which are what causes your brew to ferment. There will still be SOME sweetness to your finished brew, but it won’t be like the overly sweet tea you started with.

Tips

* If you don’t have a friend who brews their own Kombucha and can hook you up with a SCOBY, be sure to purchase one from a reputable supplier. Kombucha Camp does sell them as well as kits.

* NEVER allow any metal to come in contact with your SCOBY. Contact with metal will kill it. Nobody wants to have “SCOBY killer” as their nickname.

* NEVER use organic teas. They will cause the brew to grow mold and you will have to throw everything out.

* Don’t worry if your SCOBY sinks or is sideways. It will float back to the top of the container and right itself. This usually happens if the SCOBY and tea are not at the same room temp. No biggie.

* DISTILLED WATER ONLY. Just suck it up and spend the $0.88 on a gallon of the stuff. Don’t use tap, whatever you do. Just don’t.

* Don’t be sloppy with your sanitation skills. Make sure all jars and containers are clean. You wouldn’t want to eat dinner off of a dirty plate, so don’t use dirty utensils for brewing!

* NEVER store your SCOBY in the fridge.

* Share your baby SCOBY’s with others! Be sure to include some of your finished Kombucha tea/Mother with the baby so they can get their own brew going on.

* Too many SCOBY’s from brewing tons of Kombucha? Toss extras or old SCOBY’s into your compost pile. They are good for your garden.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar – I use Zulka Pure Cane GMO free 

4-6 tea bags

1 SCOBY + 1 cup Mother (starter tea)

8-10 cups distilled water

Tools:

Large glass container (I use this 1 gallon mason jar, minus the lid)

Tea towel

Rubber band

Large pot

 

In a large pot, bring your water to a boil. Add your tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Add your sugar and stir until dissolved.

Let your sweetened tea cool to room temperature.

In large glass container, add your room temperature sweetened tea. To the sweetened tea, add the starter tea. Gently place your SCOBY into the jar, letting if float on top.

Cover the top of your jar with a clean flour sack/tea towel that is secured with a rubber band. This will let your tea breathe and ferment, while keeping out bugs. Place your jar in a dark corner of your house out of direct sunlight and let sit, undisturbed for at least 7 days.

At 7 days, remove your SCOBY and 1 cup of the freshly fermented kombucha. Store in a ziplock bag or jar until you are ready for your next round of brewing. If you have a second “baby” SCOBY, separate it from the Mother SCOBY and store with another cup of Kombucha to give to friends. I always keep 2 SCOBY’s on hand, in case something happens to the original.

To store your finished tea, strain the tea through cheese cloth to remove any of the stringiness that happens when you brew Kombucha. You do not have to strain the tea if you don’t want to. Store in a gallon sized glass jar in the fridge, or pint/quart mason jars for easily portable drinking.

Enjoy daily, and get started brewing your second batch!

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2 Responses to “The DIY Life: Fermenting your own Kombucha Tea. Part 1”

  1. Yinzerella July 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    I’m frightened by anything that has a “mother.”

    • seasonedwithsarcasm July 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      haha I won’t lie, I was totally freaked out about the whole thing. The SCOBY, the Mother, the fermenting of tea…..it was just weird. But I had to give it a try. Now I’m hooked!!!

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