Kombucha, round one

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Finally it’s time to start a milkwood kombucha brew, following the donation of a mother mushroom from a friend.

We started simple, but we have vast dreams of many flavoured brews, which will adorn our every shelf and fill our tummies with fizzy fermented goodness. But first, the basics… 

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Kombucha scobys

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Since the strawberry experiment I have been trying very hard to keep in mind that recipes can be a Good Thing, at least sometimes.

Starting a ferment topped with a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast (ie a SCOBY) that will be left sit for 7 days seems like a good time to stick to the recipe, to me.

However, after consulting The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, it seems that it’s more a rule of thumb situation than a hard and fast recipe…

“Kombucha is usually just sugar-sweetened tea, fermented by a specific community of bacteria and yeasts.

By tea, I mean an infusion made from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), not the infusions of other plants (such as chamomile or mint) that in the English language we also describe as teas.

You may use black tea, green tea, white tea, kukicha, pu-er, or other styles of tea, but in general stay away from Earl Grey or other heavily flavored or scented teas, as the added essential oils may inhibit fermentation.

You may use tea bags or loose tea, and brew the tea strong or weak, as you like. I typically brew a very strong concentrate, then dilute and cool it by adding water, so I can add the SCOBY without having to wait for the tea to cool.” – Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation

Or, if you really need a recipe, Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions is an excellent and stalwart guide. And she recommends that you make kombucha thus:

  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 1 cup organic white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of black tea
  • 1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture
  • 1 kombucha mushroom (scoby) or starter culture

After boiling up the water, tea and sugar, you let the mix cool then sieve into jar/s, adding a scoby and a half cup of kombucha tea (from a  previous round) to each jar.

Adding some kombucha tea from a previous culture is important, as it both contributes essential organisms and also acidifies your new brew, creating a selective environment that will benefit the kombucha ferment.

It’s also an aerobic process, so keeping dust out while letting air in is important. Once all that’s sorted, it’s a matter of letting things be.

7-10 days later, your kombucha tea should be in business. That all seems reasonably simple. Let’s go.

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Drinking the leftover sweet black tea while waiting for the jars to cool to body temperature

As usual, the only empty jars we had about the house were Vacola preserving jars, which get used for just about everything at our place.

It turns out that my favourites ,the size 36 Vacola jars, hold 1200ml.

So with a 3 quart batch, we ended up with 2 jars of tea, with 1/3 a jar left over for drinking while we waited for the tea to cool, and while we discussed the joys and effectiveness of doing quart-to-litre conversions in our heads.

I snuck in a good pinch of green tea to the brew as well, just because. The leftover mix tasted darn fine, so here’s hoping the final product is a first-run winner.

Once the jars of tea were cool, we added a scoby to each, along with the half cup of kombucha brew.

And then it was time to stick them on the shelf, and leave them alone to do their thing.

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As a nerdy child, I do recall trying to chronicle a range of things (usually sea life) that I’d found along the beach in jars of sea water on my bedroom shelves.

I also recall my mum not being very into this cataloging system.

Anyway, finally I’ve got funky things floating in jars. In my kitchen, even. Except these things are very much alive, and brewing up goodness for my family. This is great.

I’ll report back in 10 days and let you know how we went with this new brew.

Because then it will be time for the secondary ferment, which is the bit that makes for a fizzy kombucha tea, and that you can add the funky flavours to.

I’m thinking strawberry and fresh tumeric (separately) will be our first two… and then on to the moon! In a flavour way, you know.

Here’s an extract of the kombucha section of Sandor Katz’s very excellent book The Art of Fermentation.

Or listen to an interview with Sandor on kombucha making below:

Go kombucha, go!

Go kombucha, go!

Or you could join Sandor in person when he comes to Australia next February! For a raft of fermentation how-to adventures…

Are you brewing kombucha? How is it going? What’s your favourite flavour?

>> More posts about cooking, preserving and brewing goodness here

9 Comments

  1. Posted November 5, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on transitionyarra.

  2. Posted November 5, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    My partner has been using roibos tea in our kombucha, I love it! it hardly gets to secondary ferment before I’ve drank it all. We’re making a green tea one now. Apparently just trace amounts of caffiene are nescessary and that comes from the primer.

  3. Posted November 5, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great minds think alike. I JUST started a culture for my scoby today!

  4. Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink | Reply

    We have been keeping a constant rotation of kombucha brewing since June. I have loved the process. I recommend covering the tops with a clean dishcloth and a rubber band to keep out any fruit flies (do you have those in Australia? We certainly have them here in the Pacific Northwest of America). Here is my ratio and it turns out great: 7 cups water, half-cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon loose black or oolong tea (I usually double this recipe as I have a good-sized earthenware pot with a spigot in which to brew my kombucha.)

  5. Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink | Reply

    I love kombucha and experimenting with different flavours. Orange blossom in the second ferment is my favorite. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a Scoby passed on to you, you can buy them here. Also kombucha kits and many other starter cultures. http://Www.naturaltherapyshop.com.au

  6. Posted November 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My local health food shop guy swapped me a booch scoby for some kefir grains (also scoby’s but in a different form) and now I have 2 different ferments on the go. I love tea and love the taste of Kombucha. I have only made 3 batches so far but am using it (along with my non dairy kefir) in my breakfast smoothies now that the weather has started to heat up so I am using it all. I have seen some amazing recipes for second ferment booch so it will be interesting to see what you guys come up with. I have used juice up till now but will probably go the ginger beer route next batch and maybe a batch with rosewater (cheers for the idea Elaine :) ) and date syrup might be nice. Welcome to the scoby slave club ;)

  7. Harriette
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    My favorite flavors for the second ferment are, so far, raspberry, blackberry/bay, lemon/ginger. I’m brewing a new one right now, cranberry/candied ginger. I’ve also heard that you can make the original kombucha with weak coffee, so I’m going to try that. I’ve been taking a mushroom cultivation course here in Oakland CA and my teacher brought in some candy cap mushroom kombucha. For anyone not familiar with candy cap mushrooms, when dried and added to any recipe, they add a maple flavor. Love that candy cap cheesecake!

    • Posted November 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow. Candy cap Sounds fantastic and probably even really good for you . Thanks for sharing, I wonder if they or their relatives grow in Australia. My friend Sally Gray teaches fermentation classes and makes great cheese and drinks. She turned up with a lavender and lemon kombuture the other day which was lovely

  8. ErinElizabeth
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve read the advice to avoid EarlGrey and the like as well but there’s a brewer near me that uses a custom blended Earl Grey (just tea and bergamot essential oil) to make their kombucha and its AMAZING. It ends up having a peachy kinda flavor that its just incredible. I usually make my own but every time i go by i can’t help but buy a bottle its just so good.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] More details on making kombucha here… […]

  2. […] here on in, these slivers will be added to everything from water kefir brews to summer kombucha blends, and also, of course, to pickles and […]

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