Beginner Brewing Guide: All Aboard the Kombuchoo-choo-Train
Everything you need to know about brewing your own kombucha! A complete beginners guide to 'booch brewing.
Scoby's. Fermentation. Raw Sugar. OH MY! Brewing your own Kombucha is both entirely healthy and extremely addicting. I've come a long way in my Kombucha brewing journey and feel I've learned enough to pass on some helpful tips for those of you that are like me and just want to raise cute little scoby fungus' in jars and drink bubbly tea water.
Scoby's. Fermentation. Raw Sugar. OH MY!
For a little backstory on how I got into brewing my own kombucha, I got my first ever scoby from a good friend of mine that already knew a thing or two about brewin' a batch here and there. She hooked me up with a lil' scoby and some mother liquid and I happily took my fungus home. To be clear here, scoby's are not actually a fungus. They are commonly referred to as 'Tea Fungus' but they are in fact, just a symbiotic relationship between the yeast and the bacteria in the scoby that come together in a beautiful gelatinous disc. The layers of the disc multiply over several batches and can eventually be split and given to friends to start their own Kombucha brewing stations. So, I had gotten my gelatinous disc baby home and set it gently into the wide jar I had thrifted, and thoroughly cleaned, poured in the mother liquid and secured a ripped piece of old, white, cotton tee-shirt to the top of the jar with a rubber band. While my scoby, who I had promptly named Scoby Coby; This is to say the same logic of talking nicely to your houseplants to help them grow also applies in growing happy, healthy scoby's, got acquainted with its new home, I began my first batch of tea that would feed my scoby and ferment into delicious Kombucha.
The recipes and ratios for brewing Kombucha varies by style and taste. Find what works for you and perfect it. I like to use a mix of green and black tea for my blends but will occasionally switch it up and go all green or all black; now that I have four or five jars brewing at a time, I can play around with tea blends and flavors and not be too disappointed if it turns out yucky. I still have other batches. Scoby Coby split off several happy, healthy goo discs that I used to start new batches. Scoby Coby Jr. Scoby Toby and Scoby Jacobi are thriving. I started out with a large pot of water and brought it to a boil. Bringing the water up to a boiling temperature will allow the tea to better steep into the water. Keep in mind it will have to cool back down to room temperature so leave yourself enough time to dedicate three or four hours to this project. After carefully picking out the green and black tea I wanted to use, I steeped it in the large pot of water, and once it was sufficiently steeped, I added a heaping cup of raw organic cane sugar. Only the best for my little scoby's! Once the sugar was stirred in and dissolved I removed it from the heat and began to let it start its several hour long cooling process.
Once it had cooled down to room temperature I carefully removed my scoby from the jar and placed it on a clean plate. In removing the scoby from the jar, prior to pouring in the new batch of tea, I am protecting the scoby from being pushed to the bottom of the jar and potentially damaging it with the sudden on-pour of liquid. After filling the jar with the new batch of tea, I set the scoby back in the jar to float happily atop the brewing 'booch liquid. It will stay like this for approximately three weeks; eating the sugar in the tea and allowing the fermentation process to take place. After three weeks time has passed, I can now move on to the second fermentation process. This is where it gets fun!
It's important to know that kombucha goes through two key fermentation processes. The first one I like to refer to as the 'Brew Fermentation' and the second I refer to as the 'Bottling Fermentation'. The Brew Fermentation is what I mentioned above. This is where it will set for about three weeks. The Bottling Fermentation is significantly less time; about four or five days. This is the fermentation process in which you get to experiment with additional flavors for your kombucha. I've tried out an extensive array of various tea/juice/fruit combinations, so I'll let you in on my little secrets and tell you which ones will make your taste buds dance. In a happy way!
Before you can bottle anything, you've got to make sure you have the right kind of bottles. Glass pop-top bottles with a secure seal will be crucial for this step in the process. This is because you must have an airtight seal to allow the carbonation to happen within the bottle. As the bubbles move up in the bottle they must hit that air tight seal and be forced back down into the liquid. Thus, allowing for a sparkling, bubbly 'booch when you get ready to drink it. If the carbonation is allowed to exit out the top of the bottle, you will be left with an unsatisfying, flat tea beverage that does not hit the spot. At all.
Now that you've got the right bottles you'll need to pick out your flavors. I use various juices, fresh and frozen fruit and dried herbs and flowers to add flavor to my drinks. Let me tell you what! There is nothing prettier then a vibrant pink colored tea drink in a crystal clear glass bottle with dried hibiscus flowers floating in it. By adding juice and frozen fruit to your drink you will add color as well as flavor. Some of my favorite juices to use are cranberry, orange, mango, white grape, apricot nectar and guava. Most of these add a wonderful citrus note to the drink while the white grape brings on a faint wine-esque feel to it.
***Disclaimer: Kombucha does have an incredibly small amount of alcohol in it due to the fermentation process and should not be consumed by children, women that are pregnant or people with alcohol abuse problems. Consult your Doctor if you have concerns about the amount of alcohol***
***Side note: If you're wanting to add more alcohol to your kombucha, you can do this by adding champagne yeast to a second fermentation process; Brewing it twice in the big jars for a total of four-five weeks before transferring it to the bottling process.
You can really have fun and get creative with flavors in the second fermentation process. Lemon-Ginger, Raspberry Rose, Vanilla Chai Hibiscus and Mango Pineapple have been some of my favorite flavors so far. Don't be afraid to play around here! Some will be hits and some will be misses but hey, if you absolutely hate what came out of the bottle, you can always try again in three weeks. Happy Brewin'!