As I am sure you have noted, I do my best to shy away from tutorials and how-to’s. The internet is full of these, most of them of a higher caliber than I care to dedicate myself to. This is especially true for Kombucha brewing. So, instead of walking you through the entire process, I’m going to allow you a gander at my set-up and throw in a sprinkling of information regarding the brewing process.
I fell in love with Kombucha when it was introduced to me a few years ago. A friend and I hit up a health food store in midtown Kansas City. She says to me: “Hey, try this tea, it’s filled with good stuff”. I trust her. I tried it, and oh my. The tart. The bite. The fizz. The flavorful fruity pairings. Hooked. Pricey, this stuff is. But so refreshing. After dabbling in a bottle here and there, I decided this year to take the plunge into home brewing my own Kombucha.
Agreeing with my intentions, the universe delivered a free scoby into my hands. After purchasing my brew jar, cheese cloth, and collecting bottles for storage, a trip to a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas yielded me my very first scoby. I intended to purchase a scoby (we’ll get to terms, fret not) the following day from a reputable seller online. However, the woman running this farm (with 6 children, no less) happened to brew Kombucha. Michael and I left the farm that day with five pounds of pastured beef, two pounds of raw butter, and one lively and lovely scoby.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage. Under the utmost sterile conditions, one brews tea, sweetens it, brings it to room temperature, and drops in one scoby, adding a cup of already fermented tea (called “starter tea”) per gallon of tea being brewed. Ratios are important. You can learn about the entire process, beginning to end, at this website. Sometimes referred to as a mushroom, a scoby is not a fungus at all. The scoby is the vehicle for fermentation in this beverage. SCOBY is actually an acronym for symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. The yeast turns the sugar into alcohol, the bacteria ferments the alcohol. The bacteria is also responsible for increasing the acidity of the brew, inhibiting any harmful bacteria from growing in the batch. Sterility is important in the brewing process due to the delicate bacterial balance of the scoby.
We brew in two gallon batches. We usually allow the tea to ferment for about two weeks, where upon we undertake bottling and a second fermentation at room temperature. Leaving the tea at room temperature after it has been bottled increases the effervescence of the beverage. We are big fans of the fizz around here. We also flavor our teas with dried herbs, fresh fruits, juices, and ginger. This batch we tried some new fruit flavorings. Mango, strawberry, blueberry, strawberry lemon, and strawberry mango. I am way excited to taste the mango.
This is our two gallon vat of tea that has been sitting at room temperature for two weeks. The scummy top floater is a new scoby. Each batch yields the production of a new scoby. Which makes it necessary to keep on hand a “scoby hotel”, or a place to store scobies when not in use. We find it useful to keep the extras. We like to give them away to share the brewing love. We’ve also discovered that it is vital to have a few healthy extras on hand should a batch go bad. A tip: don’t store your brewing tea in the kitchen. We lost a batch to mold this way.
This is our scoby hotel. There are currently three scobies floating about this mason jar. The bubbles are part of the process. They are a sure sign that good things are happening. We’ve kept an eye out for bubbles in the making of our Kimchi and sauerkraut. It is a reassuring tipping point when the bubbles come out in your fermented goods. Here is a shot of the bubbles trapped under the scoby in the large vat we just bottled:
It reminds me of bubbles trapped under ice. I am also very fond of the murky honey-colored quality the tea takes on as it brews.
Here are a few shots from our bottling today:
Michael undertakes all of the sterilizing involved. We use boiling water and vinegar for the bottles and tools. Then work surfaces get scrubbed. I generally do flavoring prep, scoby handling, and bottling. We will start a new batch of tea today, which will take another two weeks. Coincidentally it takes us about two weeks to go through two gallons of tea, so it works out perfectly.
Writing today from a very soggy Kansas,