Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kombucha Making Guide

Making Kombucha - Guide


I’ve been drinking and making my own Kombucha for over a year now. My friend Karla introduced me to it, so the following instructions are borrowed from her – with some slight revision with what's worked best for myself. I normally drink one 750ml a bottle a day and it’s honestly my favourite drink ever. There’s a lot of talk about Kombucha’s health benefits, I currently lean on the unsure side but I am sure it’s a whole lot better than how much sugar I was consuming, before, in commercial drinks. I’m going to put my hand up and say I’m not the biggest fan of plain water (unless I’m dying of thirst) so kombucha has been a good compromise for me :)

Let's be honest there's definitely sugar in Kombucha and if you taste the mix, when you first brew it – it’s crazy sweet but the magic with kombucha comes down to this guy called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Yup you’re going to have a blob of bacteria and yeast in your drink as it brews but it’s responsible for converting the sugar into vinegar and somewhere in between that conversion is the magic taste! You also get to decide how sugary you want it – brew it for a short time and you’ll be getting something more like iced tea, brew it for longer and you enter more into the apple cider town. The more you sway to the vinegar side the more you supposedly reap those health benefits and happy gut bacteria!

What you need

8 LITRE GLASS DISPENSER (you can alter the measurements below if you have a smaller or larger vessel)
7 x 750ml glass bottles with air tight lids for bottling the kombucha
6 litres of filtered water
2 ¼ cups of raw organic sugar 
12 organic Ceylon tea bags 
1 scoby sitting in kombucha liquid (around 1-2 litres of liquid)
note:
if you don't know where to get your hands on a scoby a good tip is to buy a bottle of kombucha from the shops and check to see if it has a floating clear blob near the top (that’s a scoby!). I grew my scoby from a little blob, simply by sizing up the vessels and using the steps below. Mine took about 3 months (in summer) to get to a size where I can now brew 6 litres in a week.


Making Kombucha - sugar and tea
Piece of calico/chux to cover the glass dispenser +  
Elastic band to secure cloth
White vinegar for sterilising

DISCLAIMER: the most important part of process apart from using top quality ingredients is to make sure everything is sterilised from your hands, the glass jars and the bench space you’re working on. White vinegar works a charm for his, just give everything a nice rinse with it!



STEPS

1) Put 1.5 litres of the filtered water into a saucepan – heat on medium/high

2) Dissolve 2 ¼ cups of sugar into the water and keep a stir on (You want to make sure the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan)

3) Once the water gets to the boil (the sugar should be dissolved by this stage) turn the heat off and put the 12 teabags in (just twist them up and hang their tags over the side of the saucepan).

4) Leave the teabags to steep for 15 minutes (with the saucepan lid on) and then take them out and discard (I also ring the teabags out using tongs to get every last tea drop!).

5) VERY IMPORTANT – let the tea brew cool to room temp (may take a whole day) otherwise it will hurt the scoby when you pour the mixture into your vessel. I just leave the lid on the saucepan and then on the bench to cool.

6) Once the liquid has cooled transfer the 1.5 litre tea mix to your 8 litre glass dispenser and add in (roughly) 4.5 more litres of plain water. I honestly don’t measure this amount, I just keep adding in the filtered water until the dispenser is almost full (I leave a little bit of breathing room at the top) note: since I continuously brew, my scoby and the previous liquid from the last brew (I leave around 1-2 litres) is already sitting in the bottom.  If this is your first time and your scoby and it's liquid is somewhere else now is the time to add it.

7) You’re almost finished, just place your chux/calico cloth over the glass jar, secure with an elastic band and place your jar into an airy/dark-ish environment (as long as the dispenser isn’t getting direct sun you should be alright).




Now it’s time for the mix to ferment and the scoby to do it’s thing! The time the fermenting process takes will vary but it’s a good idea to visually check and taste your mix every few days when you first start out.  If you see mold this is bad and you should throw out everything and start again. Your scoby will change colour (tainted by the tea) and may look weird/strange/have dangly bits and cloudy bits which are all normal but you may freak out.  There are some good resources on the internet that helped calm my own personal freak out - this page and this one!

With time you'll freak out less and be very aware of how it should smell and taste like :)

My large scoby takes 1 week for the perfect brew but the time will depend on how big your scoby is and how vinegar vs sweet you want your mix to taste. Also temperature plays a part, the colder the air the longer it takes to ferment.

As a super rough guide you can leave your mix to ferment for a week or up to 30 days, depending on the taste you prefer! I prefer mine to have an apple cider taste and not a sweet iced tea taste.



Once you think the taste is perfect, it’s time to bottle up the Kombucha and do the 2nd ferment! 

Dispense the kombucha liquid into your glass drinking bottles. I bottle mine the same day as I make the next tea brew (steps 1-7) – so I have a continuous brew happening! I recommend buying a glass drink dispenser for that exact reason – it’s easier and you don’t have to touch the scoby and risk contamination. 

After pouring the kombucha liquid into bottles, leave the bottles in a dark space.  The second ferment stage helps gets carbonation up. I still haven’t perfected the perfect carbonation but I believe filling your bottles up 80% and leaving some air helps! 

Everyone’s process is a little different but I put my 7 bottles in a dark space, and add them to the fridge as I go (I usually drink a bottle a day). When I put the bottle into the fridge I add my flavours. I’ve been on a solid passionfruit kick of late, so I literally cut up one passionfruit and scrape it directly into the bottle that I’m placing into the fridge.

OTHER FUN FLAVOUR COMBOS (my friends and I have tried - Thanks Shane, Emaya and Karla!) 
lemon myrtle leaves 
mango/peach/apricot (dried or fresh) 
lemons 
ginger 
berries 
(or a combo of the above!) 

But really the skies the limit! 


I honestly love kombucha, not only is it delicious but the thought that it could also be doing good, gets my two thumbs up.  Also it's soooo cheap to make and since I always have lots of bottles on the go, whenever peeps come to visit I have a delicious beverage to offer (not one person hasn't loved it!).  There are some slight start up costs and the process does seem slightly daunting at the start but a few rounds under your belt you won't even need the instructions anymore and your vessel and bottles will have paid for themselves :)

HAPPY KOMBUCHA MAKING!!!

8 comments:

  1. fascinating! i totally want to try this out.a question: once you've acquired a scoby can you just keep reusing that one every time you make a new batch (kind of like a bread/yeast starter)?

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    1. yup you can totally keep re-using it :) The scoby I have now is the one I started with although it has changed since lots of my friends have stolen chunks out of it (to start there own brews!). The nice thing with the scoby is that it will continue to grow to your vessel size. So even though I'll halve it ever 3-6 months (to give away) it only takes an extra 1-2 weeks to grow back to it's normal size for my vessel. I hope that makes sense!

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  2. I wish I could drink kombucha, but it actually makes me tipsy. Stupid trash alcohol tolerance.

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    Replies
    1. oh wow that's amazing! I was under the impression it has something like 1% alcohol but since I happily give it out to kids visiting with that non-worrying disclaimer I might need to revise my warning :P Or is your alcohol tolerance off the charts?

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  3. That looks SO delicious. Will be perfect for the warmer months ahead

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  4. what? that's so amazing! although I had my first kombucha drink several years ago and when I opened the bottle it literally exploded all over my desk. I didn't shake it and had opened it like 15 minutes after buying! and the taste was a little too... hard for me and haven't had it since. but that's so amazing that you make your own!

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    Replies
    1. Ahh damn that sounds like a horrible first experience!! I hope you dare to try again :) The good thing about making it yourself is that you can get the taste exactly to your preference!

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