After being curious about Kombucha for a very long time, I finally decided to give it a try. I ordered a Kombucha scoby online – I also found a Jun SCOBY which I’ll write about in a future article. They are quite different in flavor, but similarly interesting and disturbing to look at.
First you start off with a s.c.o.b.y. that looks very much like a hunk of raw chicken. A s.c.o.b.y. being a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, once it’s brewing, you also end up with some rather unsettling looking strands of yeast hanging off the bottom of the raw chicken looking thing and long story short, you may have trouble convincing your husband to try it.:\
I find it is best to just say – “here try this” and tell him about things afterwards – but at this point he is onto me and won’t taste test anything without a full story.:|
However; for those of us who love trying new things and interested in the health benefits of a “mushroom” tea that has been around for over 2000 years – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Kombucha is known by over 80 names worldwide including KT, booch, mushroom tea (a misnomer – it is not a mushroom), and the “elixir of life”.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
There is some controversy over whether or not Kombucha actually contains probiotics. Kombucha is full of beneficial organic acids, active enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants; however, depending on the source of the scoby it may or may not contain probiotics.
In store bought kombucha, the health benefits are partially lost to the pasteurization process, and a probiotic supplement is added to the ‘tea’. Because a supplement is added in commercial KT, most store bought kombucha labels state that they are in fact probiotic.
Some research shows there is a small amount of lactobacillus (a probiotic) but this is dependant on the source of the scoby, and presumably the continual [bacterial] environment in which its’ kept.
People claim health benefits that run the gamut, the most common and acceptable to common sense being mental clarity, increased energy and digestive regularity.
There is no reason to believe or disbelieve the wide range of health claims necessarily, but based on what is known for certain about the drink it should in fact be capable of these claims scientifically.
At any rate, it does indeed have health benefits and – it’s another tasty alternative to the usual carbonated beverages one might reach for.
All of that aside, it’s a very unique flavor. If you leave it too long it is much like a carbonated vinegar. It can be used in place of vinegar in foods (not for canning or preserving).
But when you get the swing of how long to ferment it to your tastes, the kombucha tea has a wonderful flavor that is so unique it is difficult to describe. I like it after a 7 day ferment – about the shortest it can be fermented to achieve the correct PH (2.5 – 3.0) in my temperate climate.
As with all ferments, there is a small percentage of alcohol produced, generally under 1% ABV. If you are avoiding alcohol, a shorter ferment (7 days) produces less ABV (alcohol by volume) than a longer ferment.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, kombucha made with caffeinated tea may not agree with you (there are caffeine free options [which I will cover in a future post], the ferment requires tannins, but not caffeine). As for sugar content, much of the sugars will be converted to beneficial acids during the ferment.
Kombucha Secondary Ferment
I am enjoying the flavor of plain kombucha so far, but some people drink it only for the health benefits and don’t care for the taste. A second ferment after removing the s.c.o.b.y. can be made using fruit or juice at about a 10% ratio, or try adding a small amount of vanilla or other extracts (a tsp. or 2 per gallon is plenty – start small and adjust).
Add any flavorings and divide into several grolsch or pop bottles (something designed to withstand the pressure produced from carbonation). Leave at room temperature for 1 – 3 days before refrigerating. I always recommend burping any glass containers daily when fermenting just to stay on the safe side. **see notes after recipe
Kombucha Tea Recipe
Makes 1 Gallon. Scale recipe to suit the amount of starter tea available to you. If you have less than what is called for, make a smaller batch.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea.
Let steep at least 8 minutes, remove tea bags or strain out loose tea. I remove the tea after 10 minutes or so, but many people wait until it cools.
Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add remaining water to cool tea.
When tea is room temperature, add starter liquid and pour into sanitized 1 gallon glass fermentation vessel. The liquid should fill the container to just below the ‘shoulders’ of the jar rather than the neck, for a larger surface area.
Add scoby to jar. Scoby may float or sink or dance around – no matter.;)
Cover jar with several layers of cheesecloth, a tea towel or a coffee filter held on with an elastic.
Leave at room temperature for 7 – 30 days without disturbing the jar. In a very warm environment, a batch may been finished even sooner. Each brew will generate a new scoby on the surface of the tea.
For your first brew, I recommend letting it ferment a full 30 days, this will give you a very strong starter liquid for your next batch as well as for your “hotel”.
On the subsequent batch start taste tasting within a few days and continue daily to discover how it evolves and how fermented you prefer it to be.
**Keep kombucha brew at least 4 feet from other ferments including vinegars to prevent cross contamination of cultures.**
**Around day 7, you can use a straw to remove some liquid from under the scoby for a taste test. Just dip the straw in around the edge of the scoby and put your finger over the straw before withdrawing it from the jar.**
When kombucha is fermented to your tastes, remove the scoby to a plate or other container and measure off enough KT as a starter for your next batch.
Use a funnel to add kombucha to grolsch bottles and add any secondary flavorings. Leave at room temperature for another 1 – 3 days to carbonate and to second ferment additional flavors. Refrigerate and strain before drinking if desired.
**Alternatively your second ferment can be done in one large batch. Add your fruits/flavorings and leave at room temperature for 1 – 2 days, then strain into pressure safe drinking containers. Leave at room temperature for 1 – 2 days longer to allow carbonation to build up (if desired) before refrigerating.
Your flavored kombucha may grow another scoby before you drink it. You can drink it or strain it out, but it isn’t recommended for use in future batches.
There are many topics surrounding this odd (to most) ferment that haven’t been covered in this single article. Comment with any questions you have and I will do my best to include answers in future articles!