The Weston A. Price Way

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Your Kitchen a Kombucha Brew-Thru (Part 3 of "Kombucha!")

Take your kombucha daily to see and feel the difference. Everything I have read says to start with four to eight ounces, so...Start with four to eight ounces and slowly work up from there. Don't forget to drink plenty of water as your body will be detoxing and water helps flush out toxins. Remember that detoxing can make you feel a little ill...even a good massage can have the same effect. Water is the key to keeping those released toxins moving OUT, and you feeling well.

So, as promised for days...Here are the kombucha-brewing directions...I follow the recipe given in Nourishing Traditions...somewhat. Another great one can be found at Kombucha Kamp, and I'm fairly certain there are as many minute differences out there as there are Carter's Little Liver Pills...but we'll stick with the one I'm familiar with here. They all give the same final product.
Large scoby
Small scoby
I use: 1 kombucha scoby (Symbiotic Culture of {good}Bacteria and {good}Yeast.) Starter: 1/2 Cup kombucha from a friend's previous batch, from a store-bought bottle, OR, according to Kombucha Kamp, you can use distilled vinegar, although I have never had to do this. You will also need about 4 qts. of filtered water,  1 Cup of sugar, and 4-6 teabags.

                                           Let's talk ingredients:
So many sugars and teas to choose from, but experience taught me that plain old white sugar is, surprisingly, the best for this job.
Sugar: Believe it or not, white sugar is good for this recipe. According to Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions, it is actually better than honey or unrefined sugars. According to Wardeh of GNOWFGLINS, honey has antibacterial properties that can be harmful to even the good bacteria in the scoby. And according to Sally Fallon, white sugar just works better. I have found this to be true because I switched from refined white sugar to unrefined and noticed a decrease in quality. The good thing is that with the continuous brew method, which I now use, I could fix that and re-nourish my scoby before it became too weak.

Tea: For best health results, use first of all, organic tea. Second of all, black tea. Apparently the refined sugar and black tea combo are THE keys to making kombucha deliver us that magic ingredient, glucouronic acid...the detox hero of kombucha. The reason organic tea is recommended is because non-organic tea is high in floride, and for those of you still believing that could be a good thing, that is not a good thing.
Now, Sally Fallon (Morrell) basically tells us not to mess with the perfection and she would be correct, of course. But me, I have to mess with it a little just because I know I can and I won't get into trouble for it. But more about that later...

Water: Filtered because it's cleaner and chlorine can kill the life within the scoby.

Stove-top or electric teapot-what floats your boat?
I start with 3 qts. of filtered water. I usually bring it to a boil because that's when it gets my attention, but you don't have to wait for it to boil. It only needs to be hot enough to melt the sugar. You can use your electric teapot in successive heatings or just heat it all on the stove.

Place the scoby in a large bowl or crock.

Scobies in bottom of large crock.

When the water is good and hot, add the sugar and the tea bags. Allow it all to come to room temperature, or baby-bottle ready. (A drop on the wrist is warm but painless.)

Pour this mixture over the scoby in the bowl/crock.              
Add the kombucha starter.
Poured steeped, cooled tea over scoby-Remember to add starter!

Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Don't use cheesecloth...a friend of mine did and fruit flies got into it. If you have a large enough rubber band, stretch it out over the bowl and towel to keep the towel in place. Otherwise, use masking tape and criss-cross over the bowl and towel to hold it in place.

Put the bowl in a warm place, out of sunlight...the darker the better. I put my first batch in a stairwell that had been converted into a cupboard. The dryer vent passed right through it, so it was pretty cozy and dark in there. Look around your don't have to confine this first brew to the kitchen. Maybe an upper shelf in a linen closet with the light left on? Remember, heat rises, so if you have a drafty house and it's cold outside,  higher points in the house will be warmer.
Cozy on a heating vent-Needs band around rim, though!

When you find your kombucha a cozy spot, leave it there 7 days-for starters. Taste it on the seventh day. It shouldn't taste like tea. It will likely have a gentle fizz and taste a little sour. Many prefer it at this stage. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar will be converted and the more vinegar taste will prevail. Some really like that, too. If the batch doesn't have enough kick for your taste the first day, leave it another day. Most don't like it more than ten days fermented, but some like it as many as fourteen.

When you are satisfied with the taste, pour the brew into containers having tight lids and store in the fridge.

'Gentle-fizz' kombucha.
Kombucha normally has a slight fizz to it. It doesn't get a head on it like beer, and it doesn't knock your tongue around like soda, but if you want to get more fizz...Put it in a mason jar. Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap. Screw on the jar lid, tight and put it in the fridge. When you open it, do so over or in the sink. A neat trick I learned from GNOWFGLINS, is to cover the jar with a bowl while opening, like an umbrella, so if there is a lot of carbonation, it won't hit you in the face.

Keep your scoby in the fridge in a ceramic or glass container. You should notice when you remove it from the kombucha it has grown another layer. You will also notice that the scoby grows to conform to the shape of the vessel. These layers grow and can be peeled off ...I like to wait until my scoby is an inch to an inch and a half thick and then pull it apart in the middle. I save my scobies in a mason jar, just covered with kombucha. I give them to others wanting to try kombucha. Last week, I went to add another one to the jar and found there was no more room in the inn. So, for the first time, I added it to the compost pail. I have been told it's great for composting. Yesterday, I started a new batch  in a larger crock and used my 'stash' scobies to get it started. (It's not necessary to use more than one, I just happened to really like the looks of a smaller one, so I put it in.) I keep my extra scobies covered with kombucha.

There are two things I want to tell you about kombucha that you won't find in Nourishing Traditions, but you may find even more about in places like the Happy Herbalist or Kombucha Kamp...Flavoring your kombucha and continuous brewing.

The easiest way to flavor your kombucha is to buy flavored tea. I have used all flavored, half black and half flavored, or just added two bags of the flavored to my steeping black tea....It's so about what you like. I have also cut up ginger and placed it in the crock. I have been told that you can add fruit or even raisins. I haven't tried this and don't know much about it, so if that interests you, you might want to check out one of the sites I mentioned in the previous paragraph. In flavoring a continuous brew, some say, well, they say not to. They say that once you flavor your continuous brew, you can't get the original flavor back. I do not agree with this.

I have noticed that when I flavor my continuous brew, I can actually change the taste every few weeks. For instance, I started last fall on a kick with chai flavors. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I ran out of the chai tea bags, and since I had some pumpkin-spice flavored bags, I tried them. It was a matter of NO time, before  the difference could be noticed...a day or two. By Thanksgiving, it had developed the full pumpkin-spice flavor. Since then, I have played with ginger-pear, mango...always with satisfactory results. The kombucha takes on the taste of whatever tea I use. In the case of the ginger-pear, the tea was a white tea, but I chanced it because it still has plenty of caffeine. It worked. I also noticed than when I use plain black tea, the taste, after a few days, does revert to the plain flavor.

You may not like to play with your food as much as I do, and of course, that's okay. But I didn't feel I had too much to lose...after all, I have a full jar of scobies just waiting to be used in my fridge.

Now, about continuous brew. So easy and I have Ellen to thank for this wonderful information. As I said in my post, Kombucha in My Dryer, I started off making batches of kombucha and having to wait between brews. I tried staggering them so I always had one ready to drink while another was fermenting. I found this more than a little inconvenient, and then Ellen told me the 'secret' of continuous brewing:

You will still have to wait for your first batch, but after that, it's easy street.

OK. You have your brew in your crock. You also have a half gallon or even a gallon of the tea, no mushroom in it, just the sweetened, steeped tea, in your fridge. You drink a glass of kombucha from the crock. You pour in the equivalent amount of tea from your fridge. That's a continuous brew.

It can be that simple.

I like convenience, and on my busiest days, I found that this wasn't quite convenient enough, either. So, because I forgot to fill it a few times one day, and didn't notice until that night, I just filled it then, back up to the rim. I sort of held my breath and waited. The next day, I taste-tested...Fine!

So, after that, I started just checking it at some point everyday to be sure it was filled to the top. I did notice as the days cooled and the childcare hours lessened due to school hours, we drank less. A few times it became too vinegary for our tastes, but rather than start over, I just dumped half out, poured the other half into a large bowl, cleaned the crock, put the saved portion back into the crock and added tea from the fridge to fill it to the top. If I didn't have enough, I made a batch, set it out to cool, then added it to the kombucha crock. It only took a day or two to 'get right' again.

A word about the continuous brew: It will not be as fizzy as brew kept tightly lidded, but it will have that gentle-on-the-tongue fizz that is refreshing without being overpowering. Still, if a lot of fizz is what you're after, you might want to opt for staggering your batches and keeping jars or bottles in the fridge, tightly sealed. (Use only top quality bottles if you plan to bottle.)

A few final notes: If you use continuous brew, you will want to clean your crock every now again. A tell-tale sign is when the flow slows down. When this happens it's because your scoby is so very happy in its environment that it's making babies. The 'mother' comes off the main scoby in strands or strings-sometimes little pieces. Whichever way, this is living matter and living matter likes to multiply. If your crock slows, you can know that one of these pieces has found its happy place somewhere within the nooks and crannies of the spigot. Time for a cleaning. You will have to take the spigot apart after you empty the contents of your crock into a temporary a large bowl. Fear not, this is an easy process. Just unscrew the spigot in any spot where it can be unscrewed. Most likely, you will find a rubbery little piece wrapped around the inside barrel. Take it off, throw it away or put it in the compost. Screw your spigot back together, pour your kombucha and scoby back into the crock and you're ready for business all over again. And although it took me a while to tell you how to do it, it won't take you more than five minutes to actually do it.

This same 'mother' usually floats to the bottom of the crock and is not a concern, but if it does begin to show itself, you may want to place a fine strainer under the spigot as you fill your glass. It won't hurt you to ingest it, except maybe psychologically.

Crock-Keeper's Stash
Finally, if you are the 'Keeper of the Crock', there is an even higher reward. The jar in the fridge with all those scobies is yours. (That's the rules.) Every now and then, when no one else is around, you pour yourself a glass of the kombucha from your scoby jar.

Baby, it's like the queen bee getting the royal jelly.

*THIS EXCERPT, written by Tom Valentine, is the BEST overall information I have found about kombucha. I am adding it to all my kombucha posts.

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