Looking for a new family pet this Christmas season? Why not try a scoby (aka Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). It’s low maintenance, cost-effective and really loves you back! How you ask? By providing a bounty of healthy and delicious kombucha tea. If you are one of the remaining few who haven’t yet heard of this probiotic wonder drink, let me fill you in. It is a tart, fizzy, fermented tea which is cultured using a live scoby and is known for its numerous health benefits including detoxification, joint care, digestion and gut heath, and immune boosting properties.
While many eastern countries have indulged in kombucha for years (centuries even!), this bubbly drink has only recently made its big debut to us westerners. In some locations, such as my trendy hometown Victoria, BC, bottled kombucha has filled the grocery store shelves and is even available on tap at many café’s. While it’s great to be able to grab this healthy drink on the go, I enjoy making my own kombucha at home. Not only is it easier on the wallet, but it’s easier on the environment as well. By buying ingredients in bulk and reusing old jars and bottles, you are able to minimize waste in the long run. Plus there’s the added bonus of being a science wizard who gets to mix and match different flavours as well as experiment with the fermentation process!
Tell me more you say? Now I’ll begin to explain a little about the brewing process, so read on young padawan.
First off, you’ll require a scoby. To be honest, I have never had to grow my own scoby from scratch, due to being surrounded by other kombucha brew masters who are able to provide me with one of their scoby babies. Let me explain. As you’re scoby grows, it tends to do so layer by layer. Eventually, some of the older scoby, or the mother, will begin to sink into the mixture while the newer layer floats pleasantly on the surface. This new scoby can then be adopted out to new families who wish to join the kombucha club. If you’re unable to get your hands on one of these guys, it is possible to grow your own scoby using your tea mixture and a little bit of the store bought kombucha.
Next you’ll need your other two main ingredients, tea and sugar, which are basically food for your scoby. I have used both black and green tea as well as white and brown sugar, all with success, so it is really up to your preference. To begin, you will need to brew a strong pot of sweet tea and once cooled, pour it into a large glass container. Ensure that all hands/ materials etc. are exceptionally clean, otherwise you risk contaminating your brew with other bacteria which may lead to mould. Also, you should avoid using metal and plastic containers/spoons bowls etc. when preparing your brew due to kombucha’s ability to leach toxins from these materials. I like to use a one gallon jar I had left over from coconut oil for a container. You’ll fill your container with your cooled sweet tea and then top it up with water to a few inches from the brim. Now it’s time to introduce your scoby to its new home where it will grow and slowly turn your sweet tea tart as it converts the sugars into acetic acid (aka vinegar). Rather than a lid, you can cover the container with a clean cloth and elastic band to allow for the exchange of gases and then store it in a cool, dark place. The more tart you want your kombucha, the longer you wait to begin the flavouring and bottling process.
After about one to two weeks, your brew should be at a balanced level of tart and sweet. Ensure to taste it periodically during this time to make sure it doesn’t end up tasting too strongly of vinegar. Next, remove your scoby and half a cup of the liquid and place into a clean container. You will store it temporarily until you can replace it into the container with a new batch of sweet tea to begin the process again. Using a cheesecloth, strain the remaining mixture into bottles, such as old kombucha beverage containers. Now comes the fun part where you get to choose your flavours. You can keep things simple and just add a bit of juice, or you can get creative with different fruits, herbs and spices. One of my personal favourites is pineapple with a sprig of rosemary. Some people will flavour their brews prior to bottling, but I find this method is simple and I enjoy the bits of fruit left over. Make sure to leave an inch of headspace at the top, screw the lid on tight and store the bottles in a cool, dark place. Wait a few days to a week and voila! You’re officially a kombucha brew master. A word of experienced caution; use care when opening the containers should they be left to ferment for too long. I have seen a few kitchens covered in kombucha that had built up excessive carbonation and exploded upon opening.
For an endless supply of kombucha and to keep an active scoby, I always brew another batch of sweet tea, after I’m done bottling, in order to start stage one again. Should you need to take a break from brewing, you can simply put your scoby and a bit of the liquid into the fridge. This slows down its metabolic processes and basically puts it to sleep for a while. You can store it like this for quite some time, especially if you add a little sugar to the mixture now and then. And there you have it, easy right?
Now it’s your turn. Why not start with this apple and cinnamon recipe? Tis the season after all.
- One gallon glass jar container
- Small square piece of cloth
- 1 elastic band
- 1 scoby
- 6 green or black tea bags
- 1 cup of white or brown sugar
- 1 gallon of water
Boil two cups of water and steep the tea bags for 5-10 minutes. Pour in sugar and mix. Allow the sweet tea to cool and then pour into glass jar. Pour in the remaining water and place the scoby into the jar. Cover with the cloth and elastic band. Store jar in a cool, dark place for one to two weeks or until desired tartness is achieved.
- 6 empty kombucha beverage containers
- 1 cheesecloth
- 1 gallon of kombucha
- 1 diced apple or 1 litre of apple juice
- 1 tbsp cinnamon chips
Using cheesecloth, strain kombucha and pour into empty kombucha beverage containers. Fill to one inch before the brim if using diced apple. If using apple juice, fill to three quarters and then fill to one inch before the brim with apple juice. Add a pinch of cinnamon chips to each container and close lids tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for a few days to a week until desired carbonation is achieved. Refrigerate prior to drinking. Strain out apple and cinnamon chips, if desired.
That’s it, enjoy!
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