Things I like Thursday: homebrewed kombucha

So I started drinking Kombucha a few months ago.  I’d always been scared to try it.  Started with one bottle of GTs and then I was hooked.  Seriously, I have to have it everyday.  Usually as my afternoon treat.

It’s an expensive dang habit, I may as well be drinking booze!  $3.30 a bottle of GT’s from HEB, less than $3 at Natural Grocers.  Still.  Even if I only drink half a bottle a day, which is what I usually have, it’s still annoying to be that it’s pricey for a drink.  It’s even more if I were to buy local.

So I started researching making my own.  I know several bloggers I read, make their own.  How hard could it be, right?  I read up, pinned some blogs on Pinterest and tried to decide where to get my “mother scoby” (which is how you grow the tea).  Many sources recommended Craigslist.  BINGO.  $5 scoby and she lived at the same place my friend Jenn lived.  Not only did I get the scoby, but she gave me a starter booklet too.  AWESOME.

Friends, if you are reading this, I don’t mind emailing you the little booklet.kombucha brew

For recipe I followed the booklet plus this blog from Balanced Bites.

Tips I learned from reading ALOT about this.  Not all sources tell you some of these important tidbits!

  • You need glass jar with a non metal lid, in fact, I bought 2 glass jars from Walmart.  I don’t use the lid anyhow.
  • I saved old GTs bottles for the final product, because you want glass with non-metal lids.
  • You cannot use antibacterial soap on any of it, or you may kill your scoby.  Wash stuff with vinegar.
  •  You must use sugar and you must use caffeinated tea.  The caffeine and the sugar are how this works.  And almost all of it gets used up in the process of the fermentation.  So if you try to limit sugar and caffeine like I do, have no fear.
  • Your tea can’t have added oils.  So watch out for many flavored teas.  Black and green with caffiene work well.
  • Your first couple of batches may suck.
  • It may take a couple of tries to get your method down and decide what you like as far as flavor.
  • If your batch gets too sour, you can add more sugar to try to refresh the tea and just watch it closely for correct flavor.
  • Don’t be afraid to toss a batch if it goes too far, doesn’t look right.
  • If you see any signs of mold, toss everything.  (look closely, sometimes it can foam and look like mold).  I had Dan toss a whole batch that foamed which is ok, because I thought it was mold.
  • It can be good for your tummy.  I have tummy issues, so I appreciate it’s probiotic qualities.
  • Pregnant and nursing women shouldn’t drink it.
  • It grows slower when its cold, faster when it’s warm.  Your brew times may not stay the same from batch to batch.
  • Try to avoid metal utensils.  Some sources suggest wood.
  • Try to let the tea cool for 4 or more hours before adding to scoby in your brewing vessel
  • Cover your brewing vessel with a napkin, papertowel, etc and a rubber band.  You don’t want dust, flies, etc.  You are fermenting, flies will want in, unless you keep them out!
  • Don’t drink all of the tea!  You have to keep at least a little to keep your scoby living and to start your next batch.
  • You flavor the tea in a secondary fermentation.
  • I do my secondary in the bottom of my pantry, bottles inside the plastic container, dark and semi-warm.
  • Your scoby will multiply and produce a baby each time.
  • You can take a break from brewing but you need to make sure your scoby keeps getting fed sugar.
  • Use filtered water.  Dad got me a pitcher at Christmas that removes flouride and other things.  I am sure it works with regular water too.

For my latest batch:  TJ’s peach juice in recycled GT’s bottles (too hard to get the labels off).  I used about 2 oz juice per bottle for secondary fermentation

peach kombucha

Lessons learned:

  • Much of the process is trial and error.
  • I didn’t read the caffeine part at first and brewed a ton of decaf sweet tea because that’s what we had on hand.  I let Dan drink all of that himself.
  • Whole fruit doesn’t do much for flavor
  • I like fizz.  For fizz, don’t “burp” your bottles during secondary fermentation.
  • I burped my bottles on the strawberry batch, because I was scared of them exploding.  I didn’t do it on the following batches and they were fine.  You  just need to make sure you are careful when opening and try to wait until they are refrigerated.
  • You move them to the fridge at the end of secondary fermentation.
  • Citrus isn’t great flavor.  I know there are commercial citrus flavors, but I wasn’t a fan of citrus.
  • I tried strawberry puree, whole blackberries, orange slices, and peach juice.   Puree or juice is the way to go.  Remember, most of the sugar gets used.
  • I didn’t consume any for the first 2 weeks after my surgery.  But because I knew the antibiotics likely killed all my good gut bacteria, I started drinking it again last week.  I couldn’t find much research on drinking it after surgery, so I kept away for the 2 weeks, because that’s the timeframe I had to avoid vitamin E, fish oil, and other things that could hinder healing.
  • Winter time it brews slower.  You many have to put it in a weird location or wrap the outside of the jar with a blanket (my first batch was when it was really cold here and my house apparently was chilly to the jar, not to me).
  • That little spigot is great for bottling after primary fermentation.  Just be mindful to move the scoby, so it doesn’t clog the spigot.
  • I put all of my bottles inside a big plastic container during secondary fermentation, just in case one should bubble over or even explode.
  • I set alarms on my phone to check the brew.  If you set it and forget it, not good.
  • I bought a $10 sun tea glass jar and a $20 fancier glass drink dispenser, both from Walmart.  I prefer the sun tea jar.  It took me a while to find a glass one!
  • I put my bottles through the dishwasher and then rinse with vinegar.
  • Batches brewed with my new baby scobies weren’t as good to me.  I think i may try to work on growing them a bit more before brewing with them.

I think I am getting it down 🙂  I have a batch right now that I am going to likely bottle tonight for secondary fermentation.

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