Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Brew Your Own Kombucha

This post is from my previous blog, but I thought it would be a good one to kick this new one of with.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, kombucha tea is made when you submerge a kombucha spore in sweetened black tea and let it ferment for 7 days. By the end of the week, you have a strong-tasting drink. A kombucha spore (or Manchurian Mushroom) is not really a mushroom, but rather it is a gelatinous mass. It is a colony of numerous species of fungi and bacteria living together. The precise composition of any sample of Kombucha depends to a great extent on what was floating around in your kitchen when you grow it, much like cheese. Kombucha tea is said to have been used for centuries to cure a wide variety of illnesses. And I wanted to share the how-to process with you!

So, for awhile now, I've been buying commercial Kombucha from health food stores, but they cost like $4 a bottle. So when my boss said he had a connection to genuine spores, I jumped at the chance. One day when I got to work, this was waiting for me...

Now, if you want to brew your own kombucha you must remember that you are working with microorganisms, so sterile equipment is vital so that you don't kill your culture. Clean everything out with boiling water before you begin and only use food-safe glass for your brewing facility. Metal and plastic can leach unwanted things into your final product.

Gallon-size Cookie Jar, Some loose-leaf black tea

Now, you have to feed the culture to keep it alive. A kombucha's favorite food is black tea and sugar, so that's what I gave it. I brewed about a gallon of black tea (not earl grey) and mixed in about a cup of sugar and let it cool down to room temp before introducing the culture. If you put it in when its too hot, it can die.

Once the tea-solution is cool, carefully place the culture into the tea and cover with a towel and secure with a string to keep bugs out. If you can, it is best to use about 10% of the tea from the previous batch when you introduce the culture to the new tea. This ensures that the ph levels are adequate for the culture to survive. Then, let it sit in a warm and dark place for 7-ish days.

You will know when your batch is ready when you can see a second spore forming and starting to detach from the 'mother' spore. Give it a little taste test and if its like a really sugary fruit juice, let it sit a day or two more, but if you wait too long your batch will be somewhat vinegar-y. You should also know that during the fermentation process, the kombucha can give off a sort of sweet and somewhat powerful smell (not unlike bread yeast or old apples) that can be a little off putting in a one-bedroom apartment. Now my kombucha lives in our storage unit. Hubby is much happier.
See the 'mother' spore start to come away from its new spore at the top
Once its is brewed to taste, enjoy it cold! Some people filter it before they put it in bottles for storage, but I didn't bother. You will now have 2 spores. You can give one away or start up two new batches if you want. Or of course you can just toss it. I tried first batch today and during the fermenting process my kombucha took on a bit of effervescence. It was surprisingly refreshing, though a bit acidic for me. Next time I think I'll cut the final product doing 1 part juice 3 parts kombucha. But of course, Hubby wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. Oh well, more for me.

Local sources for Seattle spores: Mother Nature's Natural Health Store


john m said...

Holy smokes! That looks like an elaborate tea. How healthy is it? Will it make me run faster? Will it allow me to turn invisible?

Ms. Petey said...

Dear Handmaden,

That looks fascinating and disgusting. A colony of different fungi and bacteria sounds very democratic, though!

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing - I thought it was mighty tasty and appreciated drinking an entire glass w/o shelling out $4!