I think this is one of the more surprising things I’ve gotten into over the last year that me 2 years ago would’ve laughed at. Taking Doctor Who looking monsters, keeping them in my cupboard and ‘corrupting’ my tea with them! What insanity!
Look at this fella! The Abzorbaloff is a big slimy alien from the planet Clom who grows as he eats people! Kinda like a scoby! Photo from http://infodoctorwho.wordpress.com/
The more I learn about the gut, though, the more I realise how smart home-brewing kombucha is. Kombucha is tea fermented with a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) as it eats up sugar you’ve dissolved in your tea. In eating the sugar, it creates more of itself and leaves beneficial bacteria in your tea mix. In each brew, you get a fermented tea that helps balance the bacteria in your gut in favour of the good guys. And you grow a new scoby, so you can share the gut love with a friend!
Why should you care about drinking fermented tea? Or any fermented food? In our modern world, with packaged foods, un-ideal growing conditions for crops, where we eat ‘fresh’ produce that has been preserved and stored for up to a year prior to eating, where things like gluten or dairy sensitivities aren’t routinely picked up, our guts are a bit of a mess. Your gut is also the front line in immune health – so if you get sick with something more than a cold each year, or more than 2-3 times a year, it could be a sign gut health is compromised. Also, if you drink alcohol regularly, you gut is probably under the pump. Fermented foods and drinks put the good bacteria back in our gut so that the balance between good and bad is restored. Yes, you can buy probiotics in tablet and liquid form, but after reading this I hope you see how easy it is to do yourself and tasty it can be (with a second ferment you can flavour your kombucha taking away some of the tartness!).
A worthwhile (and free!) read on this topic is from Cultures for Health. I joined their mailing list and got a free e-book on brewing kombucha, and it was really helpful in understanding how and why to brew, especially for the first time.
Let’s get stuck in!
Tools you need:
A spoon (preferably wooden)
A large pot
Various brewing containers, all glass ( I have jars and containers in 1, 1.5 & 2L capacities)
Measuring cups for measuring out the sugar
Storage bottles for your kombucha, glass ( I have 2 x 1.5L flip top bottles. If you want a fizzy brew, make sure you get something that has a tight seal).
A funnel (if you’re a bit un-co like me!)
A cloth (cheesecloth is ideal, but any medium to tight weave cloth will do)
A rubber band
2 x 500ml ish jars for scoby storage (your first scoby will come in one, so a spare for the one it grows)
Water (if its filtered, that’s great! If like me your local water is actually of good quality, that’s fine too).
Organic, unprocessed sugar
Organic tea, no oil or flavours (such as bergamot in an earl grey). Its best to start with black tea, but other tea varieties can also be used.
Scoby. You’re best to get one of these from a friend or someone in your area, but they can also be bought dehydrated online. If you’re getting it locally, it will come in a medium sized jar with some starter kombucha
Vinegar. For sterilising.
Flavour for a second ferment. There are heaps of options here – try berries, citrus or ginger.
How to brew!
Please note, as an Australian born after 1973, all I’ve known is metric measurements. The internet should be able to provide you with conversions if you’re rocking the imperial system
1. Sterilise all your equipment in hot water and vinegar.
2. Put your tea on to brew in a pot on the stove. For my first batch, I make 1.5 L so I started with 1.5L of water and 6 organic tea bags (loose leaf is also fine). Once its brewed (I left my tea bags in for about 6 minutes) remove the teabags and place the pot somewhere it won’t get disturbed for about 8 hours.
3. While the water is still piping hot, add in your sugar. For 1.5L of water, I used 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir with your sterilised spoon until dissolved.
4. Leave your tea to cool to room temperature. Its a great idea to do these first few steps early in the morning or at night so the tea can cool while you’re at work or overnight.
5. Once your tea is cool, grab your scoby and your brewing container. Clean your hands with a gentle soap. Once your hands are dry, place your scoby from its glass jar into the larger brewing container and pour in the starter kombucha. Add in your tea and sugar mix to your brewing vessel and cover the top with your cloth and rubber band. Do not seal the top with the container lid – air needs to escape during fermentation.
6. Put your container in a spot which gets suitable warmth but is out of direct sunlight to leave to ferment. You’ll need to leave your tea for at least 7 days – my ‘goldilocks zone’ is 9-10 days. How do you know if your tea is done? Take a look – you should be able to see a second scoby growing on the one you put in there. This might be underneath yours, or it could be a new layer floating on top of your tea. Also, give it a taste – sterilise a reusable straw (glass or stainless steel is great, but I’ve used a BPA free plastic one too) and take a sip. It should be a bit sour but still drinkable.
While your tea is fermenting, its a great time to source your storage jars, pick a flavour and sterilise your jars for the scobies growing in your tea.
7. When your kombucha is brewed to your taste, grab your 2 sterilised storage jars and the cup measure or ladle. With clean hands, remove and separate your scobies and place them in their homes, then add in 1/2-3/4 cup of kombucha for the scoby to live in. You can leave the mother and child scobies attached if you want, but this way you can share yours with a friend! The scoby will need to be covered by kombucha ‘starter tea’.
How to brew – the second ferment!
If you’re happy with plain kombucha feel free to bottle your tea up according to step 9 below, otherwise keep reading with how to flavour your kombucha!
8. With the scobies removed grab your flavour and add it in. Grab your container’s lid and secure it firmly. The firm close allows your tea to get fizzy! Leave your kombucha in its brewing spot for another 3-5 days, depending on how flavoured you’d like it. This is a chance for your to balance flavours. If your tea was a bit sour, adding in berries will make it a bit more palatable. Leaving the berries for a few extra days will also change the flavour profile. Again, give the tea a taste to see how its going.
9. When you’re happy with the flavour, grab a funnel and a strainer or sieve and your storage bottle for your tea (all sterilised). Put the strainer in the funnel, and the funnel in the top of the bottle, then pour your flavoured (or unflavoured) kombucha into the bottle. At this point I usually grab R to help me hold everything nice and stable so I don’t loose any of my kombucha. In the strainer you’ll see the flavour you put in and a bunch of little scoby strains. It’s perfectly fine to consume these, but you might prefer a smoother tea. They’re a bit like tiny oysters in terms of consistency.
Woohoo! You’ve brewed your first batch! I’d love to hear from you if you give this a go – leave a comment.
Also, if you’re in my home city and want a scoby, I reckon I can hook you up!