All about kombucha.

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There is so much out there on the web about kombucha: how to brew, cautions, health benefits. I decided to compile all my research into one gigantic blog post, for the use of whoever cares to read it. This is a living document, please take all content with a grain of salt. If you have any additions, please comment below and I will do my best to update this article.
Happy fermenting 🙂

THE MASTER RECIPE IS LOCATED IN THE “RECIPE” SECTION.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEFINITION
HISTORY
NUTRITION
SETUP
FERMENTATION
CARE
RECIPE
REFERENCES

DEFINITION:

Kombucha is a probiotic drink consisting of:
– SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) also called “mother” or “mushroom”. Wiki “SCOBY” for a full description of composition.
– Steeped tea (camellia sinensis)
– Sugar
Kombucha may also contain flavoring substances.

 

HISTORY:

Kombucha originated in China and made it’s way to Russia. Legend has it that Japanese samurai carried a small bottle of kombucha in a flask necklace. (more info coming later…)

 

NUTRITION:

Kombucha, as well as the SCOBY itself, can be consumed to aid gut health, increasing healthy levels of gut flora. Kombucha also clears lactic acid out of muscles quickly. Reports of improving joint health have also been noted, though the reasons are not clear.

CAFFEINE – Depending on the brew, kombucha contains about 1/3 of the caffeine of regular tea, contrary to popular belief that most of the caffeine is digested. If caffeine is an issue, stick to black tea, or use CO2 decaffeinated tea. Attempting to decaffeinate your own tea by a 30 second pre-boiling is not very effective, as it only eliminates 9% of the caffeine. 3 minute pre-boiling can eliminate about 50%, but at point, you may be losing out on flavor and tannins.

SUGAR – The SCOBY will leave sugar behind if you don’t let it ferment for a good month or so. If kombucha is fermented for 7-12 days, about 4 tsp (16 grams) will remain per cup. 15 days leaves about 3.3 tsp of sugar per cup. Fermenting longer is a better idea if you plan on adding fruit juice, or want to minimize sugar content. Using a whole cane sugar, such as sucanut will be healthier for you, but can be a little tougher on the SCOBY. One last bit about sugar, apparently the SCOBY breaks down the white sugar into fructose and glucose, which makes it more digestible and doesn’t spike blood sugar.

 

SETUP:

VESSEL– Don’t use plastic or metal, use glass. Be skeptical of continuous brew containers spigots, as even the “safe” ones may still leech contaminants into kombucha. Large pickle jars are splendid. Batch brew is preferred to regulate fermentation.

CLOTH – Use an unbleached white cotton cloth to cover the vessel.

RUBBER BANDS – Big ones.

HEAT ELEMENT – This is not always neccessary, but kombucha likes to be in an environment between 72 – 85 degrees. Much cooler, and kombucha will go to sleep. You can try using an oven with the light on, but air circulation is poor, so you’ll need to keep opening the door every so often to let in air and let out excess heat. Heating pads also work.

THERMOMETER – My mother inlaw came up with this: Stick an aquarium themometer on the outside of your kombucha jar. The sticky strips can be found at Walmart for less than $2.00.

TEA – Try to use organic tea, as conventional contains high amounts of flouride. A half and half mix of black and green tea makes for a nice flavor, though at least 1t of black tea per 3/4 cup is healthy for the SCOBY, increasing tanin content. Actually, oolong is reported to be terrific in terms of balanced flavor – it’s in the middle of green and black. If you’re sensitive to caffiene, use CO2 decaf tea. Try buying Tea in bulk at Mountain Rose Herbs, or Frontier Herbs.
Be careful when adding certain tea blends, for example Earl Grey has essential oils that prohibit SCOBY growth, but English breakfast tea is safe. Do the research if you plan on mixing things up. (See “Nutrition”)

SUGAR – White sugar is best for beginners. You can also use whole cane sugar “sucanut” or other cane sugars. Honey may be used, but you may need to adapt the SCOBY to it. Honey can turn against the SCOBY. Raw honey is advised against use.

WATER – Filter your water as best you can. Never add SCOBY to hot water, let there water be 80 deegrees or cooler.

SCOBY + STARTER – You’ll want to get a healthy mother SCOBY + some premade kombucha as a starter. Companies that ship kombucha mothers online include starter, but you can also try using GT’s Raw Original Kombucha (sold at most supermarkets). I’ve never tried kombucha powder because I’ve heard it’s not as healthy of a product.

FLAVORING – The main thing about flavoring is that it can cause problems if you try to add it during the primary ferment. Sometimes essential oils can get in the way of your SCOBY’s health. Most people say don’t use Earl Grey tea for this reason. I have a friend who adds a lavender infusion to the primary ferment without problems, so I’m not sure which oils are bad, and which are fine. Google is your friend.

 

FERMENTATION

PRIMARY FERMENT – This is the essential first step that one must master in order to actually create Kombucha. It involves steeping the dissolving sugar, steeping tea and adding the SCOBY and starter. Airflow allows bacteria to feed, while the yeast remains less active.

SECONDARY FERMENT – Not neccessary, this step involves bottling the kombucha to achieve a carbonation. Air is restricted and the bacteria stop feeding while the yeast begin feeding. The taste is greatly altered with more bubbles. Flavoring is usually done here, but not always.

FLAVORING – Flavoring can be done either in primary or secondary fermentation. Primary flavoring can be hard on SCOBY. REMEMBER TO KEEP A PLAIN BOTTLE OF MOTHER off to the side if you attempt to try a primary flavoring. The last thing you want is a SCOBY death on your hands.
Secondary flavoring is much easier. Simply drop in some sticks of ginger into a bottle and add kombucha. Fruit juices, in fact any juices, seem to work best. Anything sweet will help carbonation bubbles form faster. In fact, strawberries can speed up the fermentation process.

 

CARE:

– Don’t let kombucha touch metal or plastic for extended periods. It can weaken the culture and leach chemicals from said materials. Glass jarsand wood utensils are best.
-If you want to put your SCOBY to sleep for a while, keep it with some starter in the fridge. Leave the jar lid on loosely. Give the SCOBY some air every once and a while.
-If your SCOBY grows little brown clumps, it’s fine. That’s just the yeast getting hyper. Clean them off and lower the environment temperature down, but not under 72. If the spots are green, something is wrong – mold.
-Keep primary kombucha warm (72-85F) and secondry kombucha cool (60F).
-Avoid the light.
-It’s good practice not to fill the brew jar much higher than it is wide. This helps with air circulation.

RECIPES:

Post your recipes and I’ll include them here!

PRIMARY KOMBUCHA RECIPIE~~~~~~
Adapted from http://www.HealthyHomeEconomist.com
INGREDIENTS
1 cup Sugar (white)
4 tsp Tea (organic oolong OR 1/2 green 1/2 black)
1 SCOBY
1/2 cup Starter
3 quarts filtered Water
METHOD
– Bring filtered water to a boil in a pot.
– Add sugar to water. Cover, and boil until dissolved (5 min).
– Remove pot from heat. Add black tea, steep 5 min. Add green tea, steep another 5 min.
– Strain tea into a glass jar, bowl, or multiple containers. Cool until at least body temperature. Do not add kombucha to hot tea!
– Add kombucha and starter. Cover lid opening with cloth and put kombucha in a safe warm spot, away from light. It is not recommended to store kombucha in the kitchen, as food and oil may contaminate flavor. Choose an area that is undisturbed yet still allows for air to circulate. Kombucha wants to me 72-85 degrees.
– Check taste after 10 days or so, depending on heat. You want a sour taste with a hint of sweet, not the other way around.
-Suggested ferment period is 15 days. Do not ferment over 30 days unless temperature is very cool.
– S train kombucha and refrigerate for drinking, or proceed to secondary fermentation for carbonation (yay bubbles!).

SECONDARY KOMBUCHA RECIPIE~~~~~~
INGREDIENTS / EQUIPMENT
3 quarts Primary Kombucha
Several airtight bottles
Basin
METHOD
– After Kombucha has fermented to desired taste strain into bottles, leaving 1 inch of air.
– Make sure bottles are tight and stand them up in some kind of basin. Sometimes bottles have been known to burst. The basin isn’t necessary, but in case something strange happens, its a tidy precaution.
– Ferment in a cool environment (60 degrees) for 7 days typically.
– If it’s summertime, and you can’t find a cool place, consider releasing pressure on the 3rd day, or at least test out one of the bottles to see what the carbonation is like.
– Sweet brews might not need 7 days.
– After the 7th day, refrigerate. Carbonation will slow down dramatically, but will continue. If there aren’t enough bubbles, ferment longer. Too many, open the bottle and release pressure.

LAVENDER KOMBUCHA~~~~~~Fresh tasting and soothing.
When Steeping tea, add about1.5 TB of dried lavender. Strain and use as normal.
-or
Add 1.5 TB lavender tea for1 cup of kombucha.

GINGER KOMBUCHA~~~~~~Healthy ginger-ale 🙂
1/2 tsp or more of freshly grated ginger or ginger pulp
1 cup primary kombucha
Ferment for 7 days

HIBISCUS KOMBUCHA~~~~~~Sooo good! Cranberry-ish without the tart.
In secondary ferment, add:
1 teaspoon (a little less) of dried hibiscus flowers (buy cheap at Mexican markets)
1 cup primary kombucha
Ferment for 7 days

SCOBY SALAD~~~~~~For those extra mushrooms
Add chopped up bits of SCOBY to any salad for a tangy addition. Goes great with mango, quinoa and sprouts.
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REFERENCES

I am lazy right now as far as providing specific footnotes. This will have to do for now:

http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/25/kombucha-myths-vs-truths/
https://www.happyherbalist.com/analysis_of_kombucha.htm
http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-thursday-how-to-make-kombucha/
http://yumuniverse.com/how-to-flavor-homemade-kombucha-tea/

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