Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kombucha Update #2

Over the past few months, I have learned a few things about making Kombucha that I thought I would share in case it can help anyone else - either those of you trying to make Kombucha or those of you who want to, but are a little intimidated. 

So here's a little update on my constant kombucha experiment - what I like, what I do, and what I've learned. If you want to learn or be refreshed on how to grow your own SCOBY and how to make kombucha, see my original SCOBY post here and my first Kombucha update here

What I like: 
  • I have experimented a little with adding fruit - just frozen organic raspberries so far - and I like it!  Although I love plain.  I think I like plain so much that I will drink that more often than flavored.  BUT I want to experiment with adding a cut up strawberry or mix of berries as well.  The raspberry was pretty tart!  
  • I have learned that I like my kombucha after it has sat in the fridge for at least a few days (I think the longer the better!).  The flavor is just so good!  I drink it right after bottling it, but it is soooo good after a few days.  I think it is because it continues fermenting at a slow rate in the fridge.  For whatever reason, I like it! So, if you don't like yours very much right after putting it in jars or bottles, let it sit in your fridge a while and try it then.
What I do: 
  • SCOBYs: I sometimes leave my SCOBYs sitting in 1-2 cups of the old batch for anywhere from 1 day to a week before adding new sweet tea.  This isn't by design - it's just because sometimes so much life is going on that I just never get around to making and adding the sweet tea!  Although really, it doesn't take much time at all.  I've never had a problem with just letting it sit a while. Notice how thick they are! 
  • If you add fruit, just treat it like an experiment!  Add a little but of frozen or fresh fruit to the bottle or jar, pour in your kombucha, cap it, and let it sit out on the counter again for 1-2 days for its second fermentation.  Then stick it in the fridge.  This makes it taste a little fruity and it gets very fizzy!  (those are frozen raspberry bits in those bottles)
  • Straining: I never strain mine through cheesecloth anymore.  It's another thing to deal with and prepare, and yes, it doesn't take long to boil the cheesecloth, but if I can skip a step, I do!  I just pour mine through a strainer to get rid of any strings or clumps.  The bottles I drink are always smooth and don't have any clumps in them.  
  • To process a batch, I simply take my giant gallon jar, remove the SCOBY onto a plate, and then pour the entire contents into a large glass pitcher.  Then I pour into bottles.  Easy.  Love it.  
  • Making new sweet tea: When I brew my sweet tea now, I don't seep the entire gallon like in my first update.  I use my kettle and bring 1 quart of water to a boil in it.  Then I steep 4 family size tea bags in that quart of water for 3-5 minutes.  Remove tea bags, add 1 cup sugar.  Then I add 3 more quarts of cool or room temperature water.  This quickly makes the tea ready to be be added to the jar with the SCOBY and previous batch liquid because it isn't scalding hot.  You can obviously adjust the amount - I also brew 3 tea bags in a quart and then add 3/4 cup sugar and 2 more quarts of water for a jar I have that is not quite a gallon (make 3 quarts of sweet tea).  This means less water to bring to a boil and a faster turnaround time for a new batch (even if only by a couple of hours). 
What I've learned: 
  • Fizz: If it doesn't fizz when poured, it's probably not done yet!  I had one batch I bottled too soon.  It was very flat and didn't taste as tart as normal.  When I pour my jars into my pitcher to bottle, it gets crazy foamy and bubbly when it is done...
  • Then when you bottle, it gets fizzied up all over again :-).
  • SCOBYs really are crazy and take on a life of their own.  This is an example of one I pulled out with my finger next to it so you can see how thick it is.  And this is after already peeling off 1 or 2 thick layers.  I usually discard the bottom part (the oldest SCOBY portion) every other batch - so about every 3 weeks.  You could also see how large they get in a picture earlier in this post of them just sitting in my large jars with a little kombucha.  Also, don't be worried if your SCOBY sinks.  That happens to me every now and then.  A new one will grow on top, and sometimes the SCOBY will rise to the surface again. 
  • Time: I have seen just how much temperature affects how long it takes the kombucha to get 'done'.  I am waiting longer than the first time, as the first time I did it, my house was much warmer.  So now I am going about 9-10 days before I bottle it, and I think I could even go longer.  I am sure this will change as the days get warmer and my kitchen gets as crazy warm as it does. 
  • Don't be scared! This really is like an ongoing science experiment!  That makes it fun, too.  This stuff is not expensive to make, so if one batch doesn't turn out well, don't feel bad about throwing it out and just waiting on your next batch.  Try different lengths of time, don't be scared to taste test it, and experiment with adding fruit to change flavors and provide sugars for a second fermentation in a capped bottle.  And don't be scared of the SCOBY.  I know it's creepy and slimy, but it is so cool to see it grow and make sweet tea go to an amazing fizzy tart beverage!  Let it get nice and thick and peel off the oldest layer on the bottom every now and then.  I let mine stay anywhere from 1-2 inches thick.  
I love this stuff!  I hope you try making it!  It helps digestion, cleansing of the liver, and yeast/bacteria balances in the body. 

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