Thursday, December 14, 2017

how to brew your own kombucha...


Ok stay with me here. This is going to be a looooong post PACKED full of information. I'm doing this for two reasons: 
  1. My heart in this is that you guys get the most in-depth "how to" that I can possibly muster up in hopes that this will hopefully lead to...
  2. Full awareness and understanding with what's needed so you can make your own kombucha without a doubt in your mind! 

Because you guys, once you get started, this stuff is SO easy to make AND SO FRIGGIN ECONOMICAL. I mean let's break it down for a second: one bottle of a well known kombucha can run you anywhere from like $3-5 (PER BOTTLE!!!) unless it's on sale. If on sale, I've found certain brands go for like $2-3. But still, that adds up! And if you're like me (and my husband), you drink a bottle a day! Which means at least 2 bottles a day. Multiply by 7 days in a week and we're at around 14 bottles! 14 multiplied by $3 is $42 JUST IN KOMBUCHA. #nope

So naturally, we needed to make our own! Ha! Which I'm assuming is your same predicament as well, which is why you're here! Yay! This recipe and post is going to teach you how to brew ONE GALLON of your own, probiotic filled, unprocessed, kombucha which is the price of a cup of sugar, filtered water and tea bags. Boom done. Now if you're just starting you will also need to find a friend that brews and get them to give you some of their SCOBY (more on that later) and some of their starter OR buy some online. We'll get to sources where to buy and stuff later. But after that initial start up cost, you're back to just sugar and tea. AND YES PLEASE USE REAL SUGAR. Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

You're going to love this, I promise. But let me say upfront, first and foremost- read through this whole post first. Then read it again. And maybe even read through it a third time and start to envision yourself doing each step so that you are fully understanding what's required. We are dealing with a living thing and want to make sure we're doing it right. Now like I said before, it's EASY stuff, but it does take some doing, some patience, and a little practice. 

Just to give you guys a little background; I've been brewing my own kombucha for almost 2 years. Every week. So that's a lot of time to experience troubleshooting, learn from mistakes, and get into a really good routine for what works easily. And it needs to be easy for me! I brew this solely on my own and I have to do it while being a stay at home mama to a toddler and also homeschooling him and doing house stuff too! If I can do this, so can you.

THAT all being said; read through the whole post, get a feel for what it is you're doing and if you have ANY questions, please contact me! 

Makes 1 gallon (or about 8-16oz bottles, 16 cups, 128 fluid ounces)
For printable "how to" click here

You'll hear me using these two terms through the post. Here is their definition so there is no confusion!
  • Scoby:
    • ""Scoby" is actually an acronym: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. And that's exactly what it is! A scoby is the living home for the bacteria and yeast that transform sweet tea into tangy, fizzy kombucha — think of the scoby as the coral reef of the bacteria and yeast world. It a rubbery raft that floats on the surface of the kombucha. Aside from being a home for yeast and good bacteria, the scoby seals off the fermenting kombucha from the air and protects it from outside, undesirable bacterias while it's fermenting. P.S. You'll also sometimes hear scobys referred to as "kombucha mothers" or "kombcha mushrooms." If you read or hear references to these things, know that it's all the same thing." (source: The Kitchn)
  • Starter: 
    • Simply put, this is just finished kombucha.

  • 15 green or black 100% tea, bags 
    • I brew solely with green tea bags and make sure they are plain green tea. Organic is preferred, but I know that's not always doable. You can do black if you'd like as well. Just make sure your tea is unflavored- just the black or green tea leaves. I love and have used Trader Joe's Organic (and non organic) Green Tea, Sprouts Brand Organic Green Tea (your best choice!) and Trader Joe's Original Irish Breakfast Tea. 
      • AVOID: Flavored teas and herbal infusions.
  • 1 cup pure organic cane sugar
    • YES! It has to be REAL sugar. Like when baking bread with yeast, the sugar acts as food for the kombucha's yeast (which is what creates that fermentation, probiotic/living/gut health goodness!) If you are Paleo or Whole 30, you can rest assured that both are accepted on the diet as the end result of the brewed kombucha contains trace amounts of residual sugar. We're not adding any at the end and so the yeast has consumed most of it to do what it needs to do.
  • 6 cups of almost simmering filtered water
  • 8 cups of room temperature or cool filtered water
  • 1 cup of starter kombucha
  • 1 scoby
    • I've linked to what I find to be the most reputable for starter and scobys. Not all are created equal and Kombucha Kamp is well known! The good news is they sell a starter/scoby combo. So for under $30 you've got yourself both! Now I received mine from a friend (aka FREE) so if you know a friend who has been brewing for a while, I'm sure they'd be happy to give you a cup of their kombucha and some of their scoby, as the scoby does need to be peeled away from time to time. 
  • 1 cup (ish) white distilled vinegar- solely used for sanitizing purposes (see below)

Materials Needed:
  • 1 gallon sized glass jar (avoid metal)
  • 5 quart mixing bowl (for brewing tea. Also avoid using metal)
  • clean dish towel/cheesecloth
  • large rubber band
  • wooden spoon (avoid using anything metal)
  • measuring cups (avoid using metal)
  • glass plate (to hold scoby)

When Ready to do 2nd Fermentation you will additionally need:
  • glass bottles with lids (or if you already have some at home, recycle those! I love and solely use leftover GT's kombucha bottles and reused Chameleon Cold Brew Jars! Yay for recycling! Just wash well, and remove the label! If using GT's 16oz bottles, you will need 7-8!)
  • glass or plastic funnel

How to do the first fermentation:

Ok! So you've got your reputable scoby, starter, materials and you're ready to get started! Awesome! First things first:

1. Fill your clean kitchen sink with cool water half way and add a cup or two of white distilled vinegar. Rinse your hands in that sanitizing water, then your gallon sized glass jar, your 5 quart mixing bowl, wooden spoon, measuring cups and glass plate. One thing we want to avoid is soap or anything along those lines. Make sure your hands are free from oils, lotions, soaps, and make sure to sterilize everything in that vinegar water that is going to come in contact with your tea or kombucha, before you brew each time. This will inhibit the growth of mold. Allow everything to fully dry. You can see above that I am rinsing out my sterilization liquid from my glass kombucha jar and about to dry.

2. Add 15 tea bags into your 5 quart mixing bowl. Next, add 1 cup of organic cane sugar to that and set aside.

3. In a large pot (metal is ok here!), bring 6 cups of filtered water to an almost simmer. Once there,  remove from heat and carefully pour water into your mixing bowl with tea and sugar. With your WOODEN spoon (no metal here guys! Kombucha hates metal!) stir well until the sugar is completely dissolved and then allow to sit and steep for 4 minutes. 

4. Once steeped, carefully remove tea bags with wooden spoon, give a gentle squeeze to get out any extra tea, and discard those used tea bags. 

5. Next, add 8 cups more of cooled or room temperature filtered water. Give a good stir and cover with a clean tea towel. Set aside on kitchen counter and allow to cool completely. Heat is another no no for brewing kombucha. I typically make my tea first thing in the morning and then by dinner time it's room temperature and ready to go to the next step. Alternatively you can do this step the night before and then come morning you'll be ready to go. 

6. Once brewed sweet tea is cooled you're ready to really get started! In the above picture you can see the difference in color between the brewed tea and what happens after you've allowed it to ferment and turn into kombucha! Pretty neat right?

Anyway, refill your sink and add distilled white vinegar to create another sterilization station! Then to your cleaned/sterilized glass gallon-sized jar, add that brewed and cooled tea.

Next, with your clean and sterilized hands, carefully remove scoby from starter liquid and place on your sterilized dinner plate. You can see my scoby in the picture below. 

Measure and pour 1 cup of the starter to the brewed tea and give a stir with your sterilized wooden spoon.

7. Finally, carefully pick up the scoby and check. If your scoby starts to develop brown strands or gunk on it, just simply rinse under cool sink water and gently rub away.

Next, gently place your scoby into your gallon sized jar filled with sweet tea and starter. The scoby may sink, it may float, or it may turn to it's side. That's ok. As everything settles, the scoby will eventually raise to the top and start doing it's thing. Cover with your clean tea towel or cheesecloth and secure with a large rubber band.

8. Set kombucha to the side of a cool, non direct sunlit, relatively left alone place in your kitchen or pantry and leave undisturbed for 7-10 days. 

**Now here's where it's up to you. After 7 days, stick a CLEAN plastic or glass straw into your kombucha, being careful not to hurt your scoby and siphon out a bit, and taste! If you're happy with how it tastes, move on to the second fermentation instructions. Or else, leave for another day or two, tasting each day until it's reached your desired tartness. We like ours at around 9 days.

It helps to write on your calendar when you've started your batch and when to check. Believe me, sometimes I forget! Or you can put a piece of painters tape with the starting date right on your jar.

How to do the second fermentation:

Once you're happy with your kombucha's flavor, you're ready to do it's second fermentation AND start brewing your next batch! This is where the continuous brewing comes along. First things first:

1. Follow steps 1-5 in the first fermentation instructions (basically how to make that sweet tea mix).

2. Once your new brewed tea is cooled and ready to go, sterilize all of your glass jars (GT's, Chameleon Cold Brew, or bought), your glass plate, wooden spoon, funnel and your measuring cups. Allow to dry completely.

3. Remove scoby with your sterilized hands and place on the plate. Set aside.

4. With cleaned wooden spoon, carefully stir kombucha making sure to get all the settled yeast that fell to the bottom. THIS is what helps your kombucha get fizzy and effervescent! Pour 1 cup of kombucha/starter into a glass or plastic measuring cup and set aside.

5. Place funnel into the top of your bottle and carefully pour kombucha into your bottle leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space on the top. Continue doing this until all your kombucha is used up and bottled!

This is also the place to play around with flavorings! If flavoring, allow space for the food or liquid and so leaving 2+ inches of space at the top. 

Combos we love:
  • Raspberry
    • We love dropping in 6 frozen organic raspberries in each 16oz bottle! Secure with lid and allow it to complete it's second fermentation! Then strain out those raspberries. Turns the best color red and so good!
  • Lemon Ginger
    • About 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (or even just the ginger) into each 16oz bottle. For some reason the ginger makes the most carbonated kombucha ever! Yum!
  • Black Cherry
    • 3-4 Organic frozen black cherries into each 16oz bottle. Secure with lid and allow it to complete it's second fermentation! Then strain out those cherries. Turns the best color purple and so good!
  • Blueberry
    • 10-12 organic frozen blueberries into each 16oz bottle. Follow same instructions as above.
  • Mint
    • Chopped fresh mint! About 2-3 fresh leaves per 16oz bottle. Follow same instructions as above.
  • Passionfruit
    • 1/2 fresh passionfruit's pulp and juice into each 16oz bottle! This is my personal favorite! Follow same instructions as above. Just make sure to strain before drinking. Makes it so tart and refreshing!

Play around and have fun!

Once bottled, secure with lid and set aside on counter (away from direct sun and heat. Keep where it's cool) for another 24 hours (or up to 48 if you like it really tart!) Some people have said their bottles have exploded from too much carbonation. I have NEVER had this happen but if it's something you're afraid of, simply undo the lid and then re-secure every 24 hours. This is called "burping" and will allow any excess carbonation to be released. I've never had to burp with my GT's bottles. 

When the second fermentation has ended and you're happy with the flavor, store in the fridge and drink away! If there are brown strands or if you've flavored with a fruit/herb, strain before drinking.

6. Finally, begin steps 6-8 once again in first fermentation instructions (basically starting your new batch of kombucha).

And so on and so forth! You'll keep going round and round with these instructions as you continuously brew! If you do this correctly, you should have 6-8 bottles of freshly brewed homemade kombucha every week and a half! As you continue to do this it will become second nature and you'll have the steps and ingredients/their amount memorized. I promise!

I hope that makes sense!

Kombucha should never:
  • Have mold. If so (dry patches/hairy patches) you have to unfortunately start completely from scratch.
  • Stink! It should smell like kombucha or with a slight vinegar smell. Anything rancid and yours has gone bad. Start again from scratch.

Always avoid:
  • Heat (when heating water to brew tea, heat is obviously fine. But otherwise, everything should be room temperature). If brewing where it gets really warm in the summertime, be aware of your indoor temp and move kombucha that is brewing to a cooler part of the house. 
  • Soaps/Oils. It's ok to wash everything with soap and water. Just make sure to sterilize well with our white vinegar/water in sink before its going to touch anything having to do with the kombucha.
  • Metal. It's ok to heat your water in metal. But once you're going to touch your kombucha with something, it needs to be glass (preferably) or plastic. Kombucha hates metal. 
  • Flavored teas and herbal infusions

And lastly, as you continue brewing your own kombucha you will notice that your scoby will grow and develop new layers/thickness. This is good news and means you're doing it right! If it gets bumps or air pockets, totally fine! Even if it grows thinner in some areas, still fine. After your scoby has grown over 3 or so inches in thickness, you might want to look for someone to give some to! Remember that the top of your scoby is always the newest/freshest/most powerful/best so you need to keep that. Give away or toss the bottom layers (take an inch or so off at a time). Then always place your scoby with the top facing up and that bottom facing down. This will eliminate you giving away your best/strongest new scoby! By shedding some of that old scoby, you're making your scoby super healthy and strong. Some people even eat the scoby!

Ya'll I had so much fun writing this pot! Phew! Did you stick around long enough to read the whole thing? If so, you friend, get all the gold stars. I hope this was thorough enough and brings you to a real understanding of how to brew your own kombucha! And again, if you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to email, or find me on social media and ask!

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1 comment:

  1. Hi can I order this wheel of fortune words edible??


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