Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I'm Brewing Kombucha!

I have been waxing poetic about brewing kombucha forever.  This stuff is expensive as all get out, and you all know how cheap I am.  I used to brew ginger beer, but I fell out of the habit.  I felt like maybe this would be easier to maintain.  Yet, I continued to hem and haw for three reasons:

1.  Do I really want to add another thing to my already too long to-do list?
2.  It sounds like it can be labor intensive and possibly require special equipment, do I want to put that time and money into something that may not work?
3.  Will a $25 SCOBY really work better than $5 one you can buy on Craigslist?

As it turns out, my concerns were unfounded.

1.  It only adds a minimal amount of time to my to-do list.
2.  It's not any more labor intensive than to make a pot of tea.
3.  If you're going to do it, spend the extra.  The more expensive SCOBY is worth it.

Why did I decide on the more expensive SCOBY?  My husband's work friend bought a $5 Craigslist SCOBY and it was moldy within days.  So, I bit the bullet and bought the SCOBY from Kombucha Kamp which had the best reviews everywhere.  It's fresh, not dehydrated, full-sized, and raised on an organic, fair trade diet.  I thought, for the one-time investment, just buy the good one.  (FYI This is not a sponsored post, but there are affiliate links in this post.  I did my research, and it seemed the Kombucha Kamp sells the most fail-proof SCOBY you can buy.)

As you can see, it's a fairly large, thick, very healthy-looking SCOBY.

They even included a cotton muslin reusable tea bag and a small bag of Hannah's Special Premium 5 tea blend.  It is enough to start your first one gallon batch of Kombucha.  That was a nice surprise!
(Sorry for the blurry picture)

This is not a sponsored post, but I'm so happy with my SCOBY and resulting kombucha that I'm happy to post a picture of their business card and link them up.  Hannah Crum, a.k.a. Kombucha Mamma, is very well-known in the Kombucha brewing community, so I went ahead and bought her book too, The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea.  I've gone back to it over and over to make sure I was doing things right.  Yes, there's the internet, but I felt like there was more in depth information in the book.  As a novice to kombucha brewing, the pictures are very helpful to determine if your SCOBY is healthy or growing mold.  I would highly recommend this book if you're going to start brewing kombucha.

I got an amazing deal on this New Wave Enviro blue-striped porcelain 2 1/2 gallon vessel from Puritan's Pride, but it is also on Amazon.  I wasn't initially planning on doing a continuous brew, but the more I read, the more it made sense.  Plus, I didn't like the idea of trying to handle gallon or half gallon jars of kombucha.  I knew I wanted to do a second fermentation with fruit, and I felt like this would be the easiest way to fill up the bottles.

The whole process couldn't be easier.  To start your continuous brew, boil a quart of water.

Steep six bags of tea (I use Prince of Peace Organic Tea, Oolong, 100 Tea Bags.  I am impressed with this companies dedication to helping orphans and people in need.).  You can buy them online, but I found them at my local Asian store for $1.99 for a box of 20.

Add 1 cup of sugar.  I use pure evaporated cane juice sugar because it's vegan.

Add the tea to your vessel with 3 more quarts of filtered water, for a total of 1 gallon of liquid.
(I did feel like the liquid was too cool, and in later batches, boiled more water so the finished product was a little warmer than room temperature.)

Add your SCOBY.

I know, it looks bizarre.

Then I covered the top with a random piece of t-shirt square I happened to find when I did my laundry.  No clue where it came from, but obviously it was kismet.  Do not use cheesecloth unless you want to invite a party of fruit flies to your kombucha brewing.  Then I topped it with the ring that came with the vessel.  The sweater is another kismet find.  It's some sort of neck cover my mother knitted.  I randomly found it as I was cleaning, and it turned out to be the perfect size for the vessel.

My kitchen is on the colder side, so I moved the vessel to a TV table next the nightstand in my bedroom.  It's right over my heating vent.  Since I keep my house in the low 70's, it seems to be keeping my SCOBY happy and warm because it's been surviving so far (knock on wood).  If it seems extra cold, I wrap it in a blanket.  The whole thing looks a little bizarre, but whatever.  It works.

Is it weird to keep it in my bedroom?  I thought so until I read a story from Kombucha Revolution by Kombucha Wonder Drink founder Stephen Lee.  He was in St. Petersburg visiting a friend, when he discovered the magic of kombucha, "There, on the nightstand next to Mrs. Lisovski's bed, was a one-gallon jug of brownish liquid with cheesecloth stretched over the top.  I felt ridiculously guilty peering into the bedroom of an eighty-year-old woman, but I couldn't resist taking a closer look at that jar.  Straining my eyes in the dim light, I saw something really odd.  There was a pancake-sized gelatinous blob floating on top of the fluid.  When I returned to the kitchen, I admitted to Peter that I had looked into his mother's bedroom, and then rather sheepishly asked what was in the glass jar.  He laughed and then reached into the refrigerator.  He pulled out a pitcher and poured us both a glass.  'It's kombucha.  My mother calls it mushroom tea,' he told me."  Mrs. Lisovski had inherited her SCOBY from her great aunt from Serbia back in 1939.

My thought was, if this woman, who apparently survived a litany of stressful events with a never-dampening positive outlook in life, brewed her kombucha next to her on a nightstand, then why the heck shouldn't I?  So far I'm still working through the kinks of getting a fizzy second carbonation.  Once I get the hang of it, I'll post more about my adventures in brewing.

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