Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Kombucha Efforts

I know, I know...I'm late in joining the Kombucha band-wagon.  I wasn't sure what to think of this trend. The idea of fermenting a beverage with a particular bacterial sponge and then drinking it...well, I admit I wasn't convinced. At least not until I tried it.

I have been trying to improve my overall health, including exercise and better eating. And avoiding illness. With 2 small children in school all day a lot of 'illness' hits our home.  My favorite, go-to store for natural foods and great produce is Sprouts. While shopping one week I saw they had their brand of kombucha on special so I decided to try it. My first sample drinks had ginger, which do most store-offered products. I was unimpressed. The ginger didn't sit well with me; the smell alone was too much. I was about to give up and I saw a flavor without ginger. Last one. Last try. If this one didn't work, I was out.

Well, holy moly! This tastes awesome! I love the carbonation that the fermentation creates. Just enough to keep the drink light and interesting. And not an overwhelming taste of sugar like so many other juice drinks out there. I was hooked! I had to have it. And then the special ended and the prices went up. Boo! What's a girl to a friend and ask if she has an extra SCOBY bacterial sponge so I can start brewing my own? Oh yes!

At first I wasn't sure what to do or not to do for it all to work. I even wondered if I did everything right could it still go wrong?  I researched what I could and my friend walked me thru the rest. I'm happy to report that after getting lots of advice from my trusted friend, and a few months of playing with mixes and juices, I have gotten to a point where I can divide a weekly batch and start a new batch within 15 minutes.

I'm going to post descriptions and pictures here to help me remember, and maybe help someone else who's new to all of this and wants some advice. I'm going to break it down into a step-by-step description:

1. Brew your tea in a large pot on the stove. I use 3 tea bags of English Breakfast Tea so I can get some kick in my drink. Make sure to follow the teabag instructions. The tea leaves will seep out too many tannins if you don't remove the bags after about 10 minutes or so.

2. Remove the tea bags and add 3/4 - 1 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you like your tea. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, prepare your bottles. They don't need to be sterilized between uses, just a normal cleaning cycle in the dishwasher works fine. I use bottles I got when purchasing my kombucha at the store. After drinking the contents, I washed and removed their labels.  If you have other bottles, that's fine too.  Take off their caps and line them up on the counter for easy pouring. Also pull out your kombucha jar. I found mine at Walmart and it works great.

4. Place the SCOBY in a bowl and set it aside. Stir the kombucha tea to make sure the good bacteria hasn't settled to the bottom. Place a funnel on top of the first bottle and pour the kombucha in until it's 2/3 full.  Move the funnel and repeat this process for all the bottles. I usually make 6-7 bottles from one batch, but always make sure to reserve about 1 cup for the new batch. The SCOBY likes that.

5. If the tea has cooled enough, pour it into your kombucha brewing jar. Place the SCOBY back into the jar and cover with a coffee filter or cheese cloth and a rubber band. Nothing fancy here. Place it in a dark cabinet for brewing for about a week when you can repeat this process again.

6. Back to the bottles. Mix 2 cups filtered water with 2 cups of your desired juice in a measuring cup. I don't want to add unnecessary sugar to this so I use Knudsens Just Juice. My favorite is the Tart Cherry, but I've also tried Cranberry, Black Cherry, Pomegranate,  and various blends of these.

Pour your mix into the kombucha bottles to the bottom of the threads. There should be a little space, but it works best to fill it to the neck of the bottle. Of course, each bottle is different and you will have to play with this to find your sweet spot. If you need more juice, just follow a 1:1 ratio to make more.

7. Place the lids on tightly and then tip your bottles once to make sure the kombucha and juice are mixed together.

8. I am a fan of a second ferment, so I place the bottles in a dark cabinet for a few days to let them build up a little carbonation.  Sorry for the dark picture, but it is supposed to be dark. Then, their final move is to the refrigerator until I am ready to drink.

This is a nice drink on a hot day, or on a stressful afternoon when you're starting to loose energy. I have noticed that when I get sick (yes, I'm still getting the bugs that are brought home) they are not as bad as before and I can get over them more quickly. Here's to a fun new drink that has great health benefits! Great combination!

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