So it arrived my lump of thick slime otherwise known as a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast or more commonly referred to as a SCOBY.
I’ve got kefir under control, it’s so easy to do, as simple as making a cup of tea without using any electricity. My raspberry kefir this morning was delicious and my kefir SCOBY is thriving. I mixed some of my plain kefir with some fromage frais and plonked it on top of my fruity lunch.
So I figured I have space in my life to make a Kombucha brew once a week to go with it. All of my ingredients arrived today:
- a Kombucha SCOBY
- organic apple cider vinegar
- organic loose leaf green tea
Everything else I already had (white refined sugar, filtered or spring water). I’ve ordered some other teas, a couple of blacks and a white. Evidently you get a stronger flavour using a black tea but green is good and it is recommended that white is used alongside a green or black to get a good tasty brew.
I have read that if you start off a Kombucha without adding a cup of already fermented tea (which is the usual way to do it) you need to add vinegar to increase the acidity of the brew and I read that organic apple cider vinegar is best. I also read that doing it this way makes a less pleasant tasting brew so I took advice and made a smaller quantity for my first attempt so that I could make the next larger batch using a cup of my first batch to make a more pleasant second brew. I chose to make a 2 litre jar full and if this goes well I’ll move up to a 5 litre a week brew which should keep us all going until the next one is ready. Making a smaller batch initially gives me a chance to perfect my technique also of course.
I prepared all of my utensils by sterilising them in boiled filtered water and then rinsing them in apple cider vinegar which acts as a further sanitiser. My equipment consisted of:
- a pan big enough for 2 litres of fluid
- a tablespoon
- a teaspoon
- a large fine metal sieve
- a 2 litre jar
I checked the SCOBY as recommended (even though I bought from a reputable source it had been in transit for around 24 hours but was well packaged in a little tea and in a plastic sealed container and smelled fresh, kind of vinegary) it had no dark patches and no blackness to either side and it felt like a chicken breast kind of consistency but flatter and more pancake like in floppiness. They grow layer on layer and it’s recommended you start to separate when it starts to approach an inch in thickness. Mine is about a quarter of an inch at the moment.
It’s very large though so I worried about fitting it into the small jar, it will be fine when I do a bigger batch in a huge jar but I read that it’s OK to just drop it in, it doesn’t matter if it’s not floating on the top. So I’m hoping that’s the case and that it doesn’t damage the SCOBY, ruin it’s potential or cause deformities when it sprouts its baby.
Next thing I boiled some filtered water (1 litre) and then dropped in my loose leaf tea and sugar, stirred it around and then added a litre of cold filtered water mixed it up then strained it all through a sieve into the jar, dropped in the SCOBY and poured on top the apple cider vinegar.
After that I took a photo and then I removed the flip top lid and replaced it as instructed with a dense weaved cloth (not muslin) and secured with an elastic band.
Evidently fruit flies can lay eggs through muslin and that’s not good and fruit flies like to lay eggs in Kombucha evidently so a more close weave clean cotton like a tea towel or an old clean tee shirt is ideal.
I was careful not to let any metal touch the SCOBY as it doesn’t like that but I used metal utensils for heating, stiring and straining the liquid without the SCOBY. Also I read that it doesn’t like leaded glass so no crystal or painted ceramics, I used a regular glass jar.
Then I just left it in the kitchen and it will stay there for a week. Then I get to bottle it and flavour it if I wish and shortly thereafter I get to drink it. As I’m bottling it I have to remember to save a cup of the brew to make my next batch.
So it’s going to be a around 9-10 days before I can taste the finished product and show you it but be sure that I will. Once we get a cycle going it should be free flowing. I’ve already purchased a funnel with a filter in the bottom and some swing top bottles ready for the next stage and during the week I’m going to make some fruit purees to use as flavourings.
There are Kombucha horror stories out there although I’ve yet to find one in the first person they are all ‘reported’ but can’t find or link to the reports. From my extensive reading on the topic I’ve come to the conclusion that like anything it doesn’t agree with some people, if it’s evident you are one of those people don’t drink it.
For some people they may have some mild adverse reactions initially just as part of the detoxification process, if these persist beyond a couple of days assume you are one of the people who this just doesn’t agree with. Whilst it is important to pay heed to general hygiene and sanitary rules around food prep and it is advisable to sterilise your jar and utensils, Kombucha absorbs bad bacteria and builds good bacteria and so it is not as much of a necessity as some scare mongers would have you think, it doesn’t need to be prepared in operating theatre sterility conditions. That said your SCOBY is living and breathing and is susceptible to attack and disease just like any organic matter is so take care of it if you decide to join me and become a home fermenter.
There are tons of websites detailing the effects of Kombucha and showing/telling how to make it and lots of claims on its properties as a healthy addition to your diet just Google away and make your own mind up.
I’ll be sure to post updates on my life as a brewer.