Wednesday, May 25, 2011

kombucha tutorial

When I first moved to oregon I was totally enamored with kombucha.  It was one of those expensive habits that I tend to pick up, and at $4 for a bottle of that irresistably fizzy tonic, it was not sustainable.  So I started brewing my own.  It's super easy, cheap, and brings me back to to elementary science class.  This is how I do it.

What you need: 
gallon sized wide mouth glass jar
filtered water
plain sugar
already brewed kombucha
a scoby

Bring about a quart of your filtered water to a boil.  Once heated, stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves.  You'll want to turn the heat off at this point so the sugar doesn't caramelize.  Then add 7-8 tea bags and steep for about 15 minutes.  You can use any variety of true tea (camellia sinensis), of which black, white, green and oolong are all varieties.  I usually experiment with a combination of white and green teas, as they are less processed and retain more nutrients.  It's fun to play around with this, as each tea will give a slightly different flavor to the final product.

For the next step, you'll need a scoby.  This stands for "symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria", also referred to as "the mother" or a sometimes a "mushroom".  This living organism is what turns your sweet tea into kombucha, as the yeast and bacteria feed off the sugar and tea and produce all the good healthy fizzy stuff like B vitamins and probiotics.  You can get a scoby from craigslist, or from a friend who brews kombucha.  Or you can grow your own over a few weeks from a store bought bottle of kombucha.

To do this, leave the half-full bottle un-capped, covered with a cloth, in a dark place until it grows a scoby on the surface.  The wonderful thing about brewing kombucha, is with each batch, a new baby scoby is produced, so they are usually pretty easy to find!  Mine is named Stella and was given to me by an artist friend of a friend.

mother and baby from my last batch
You'll also need about 8-10 ounces of already brewed kombucha.  If this is your first time brewing, buy a bottle from a health food store.  Make sure it is unflavored, raw and unpasturized (such as GT brand).  I always make sure to save some from the last batch I made.  

Pour the brewed sweet tea into your *clean* gallon jar.  Then add another few quarts of your cold filtered water.  It is important to bring the liquid down to room temperature, as heat can kill your scoby.  Then add your 8-10 ounces of kombucha, and your scoby.  Sometimes the scoby will look brown on one side and white on the other, if so put it brown side down.  Cover with a cloth and stash your jar somewhere dark and out of the way. 

Wait!  Depending on the climate, your tea will take 1-5 weeks to ferment ( hotter temps lead to faster fermentation). I really like the jars with spouts because they're easy to sample from.  Your kombucha is done whenever it tastes good to you, it will get tangier and fizzier with time.  When you like the taste, you can bottle or jar and refrigerate your tea.  Use glass, not plastic.  This is also a good time to experiment with fruit juices, or added flavors.  Some of my favorite flavors are ginger and pear..... but it's also delicious as is!  

    Enjoy your new symbiotic relationship. Fini!  xo

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