Saturday, after attending a kombucha-making class, I rushed home to try out my new skills.
Earlier that day, I was sitting in the cozy kitchen of Jason Firth, a self-declared “kombucha nerd”, as he walked us through the basics of kombucha brewing and shared the recipe for his signature second batch brew – Lemon Blueberry Ginger. We got to try about a dozen different flavors of kombucha that Jason made himself, ranging from spicy to sweet. All were delicious, and by the time the samples were over, boy was I buzzing with kombucha energy! Then, he pulled off pieces of his precious mother and sent us home with kits for making our own.
In a couple of weeks, after letting my baby incubate in my warm, dark oven, I will be drinking my own home-brewed fizzy.
Jason explained to us that the kombucha culture is basically a symbiotic relationship between several types of bacteria and yeast. Sounds delicious already, right?
Basically, the sugar added feeds the bacteria, and the bacteria then ferments the alcohol produced by the yeast. This turns the brew acidic, maintaining sterility and keeping the alcohol content low enough to avoid killing the culture. The perfect brew is about a balance between sugar and alcohol. Typical kombucha only has the same alcohol level of yogurt, but if you cap the bottles for your second brew tightly and hide them away in a cupboard for a month, they will reach the alcohol content of champagne. Cheers!
Besides the associated stimulating energy, there are many benefits linked with kombucha. Since it is basically sweetened tea that has been fermented, it can help boost beneficial bacteria, leading to improved digestion.
So, what is needed to make kombucha?
1. A large (1 gallon+) glass or pottery bottle with a tap at the bottom – this is what you brew it in. No metal (reactive) or platic (leaching).
2. A kombucha starter or SCOBY – you can purchase these online or find someone local who can give you one.
3. Sugar – to feed the bacteria.
4. Plain black, green, or white tea – you shouldn’t even use Earl Grey because it contains oil of bergamot.
And what are the steps to making kombucha? Well, following Jason’s directions, here’s what I did:
For a sterilized 1 gallon bottle:
1. Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 3.5 quarts water on the stove by heating. It doesn’t have to boil, just get hot enough to kill whatever’s living.
2. Add 5-6 tea bags (equivalent 2 Tbsp loose tea in a cloth tea bag) and steep as long as you want – overnight or just until it cools a little so you don’t kill your SCOBY. If you leave it overnight, you can reheat it a little on the stove in the morning.
3. Once the mix has cooled down so it is only warm to the touch like you would want your bath water, add your SCOBY and 2 cups of already-prepared kombucha, either home-made or store-bought. It must be PLAIN, no flavor.
4. Then you secure some cheese cloth around the top with a rubber band and put it somewhere dark and warm (90 degrees is ideal, but cooler will just make it slower).
5. After about 2 weeks (for an initial batch), it should be ready. Then you open the spigot and drain out the kombucha into jars, leaving a few inches at the bottom along with the mother for establishing your next batch.
6. These new jars are what you use to makes a “second batch” – add desired flavorings to each jar, screw on caps, and keep in the cupboard for another week. The fermentation process will continue with whatever ingredients you added, and the closed bottle will create the characteristic fizz.
I get to attend workshops like this because I’m a member of the active Las Vegas Raw Food Meetup. This meetup group hosts tons of informative classes – the last two I went to were live lectures from YouTube superstar John Kohler on juicing and making raw salad dressings. If you’re in the Vegas area, it’s worth becoming a member to attend events like this, or if you are in any other metropolitan area, check out meetup.com for similar resources.
I’m obviously new to kombucha brewing so I’ve just given you a brief overview based on my experience of one whole day. A google search can get you all the nitty-gritty details. And, Jason will be doing other classes so if you live in the area, join the Las Vegas Raw Food Meetup to keep up to date.