Thursday, January 19, 2012

Party in a cup...Kombucha how to

I've mentioned before that I'm a kombucha drinker...but I've never ventured so far as to post a tutorial-until now.  I've finally gotten into a rhythm of making the stuff that yields a pretty mellow store boughten taste that even my kids seem to enjoy, so I've gained enough confidence to post my methods.  The other day Noah said "this is like a party in a cup...does this have alcohol in it...?"  Where he got the phrase and how he knows how to detect the taste of alcohol are largely unknown-moving on. ;)

I'll try to keep this simple-I've streamlined it down to a pretty fast set of steps.  I make up the brew about every two weeks-it's takes about 10 minutes attended 20-30 if you count tea brewing time which is unattended.  I'm not going to post all of the "supposed" benefits of this beverage-for me it's a balancer.  I drink it if I eat a heavier meal like grilled cheese or pizza and it seems to help me feel better if my tummy hurts.  It also resets your taste for sweet food.  After drinking this stuff on and off, I tend to crave a more rounded fermented flavor in food...so a flat cookie sitting out has less (I didn't say no) appeal than in the past.  Sugary drinks like fruit juice seem ridiculously sweet after drinking this vinegary flavor and are also easy to pass on.  If your curiosity is peaked, I suggest trying a good store boughten brand like GT's or Synergy if you ever see it in the refrigerator section at a store to see if you like it.  Beware trying a random homemade brew and judging whether you like it, because the longer it sits the more vinegary it gets...so you may have a negative first impression on a too far gone brew.

So on with the how to-you will need:

*A kombucha culture which is yeast and good bacteria all meshed together-it looks like a big scallop or oyster I think (do not fear the culture or you'll never get through this) =)

*A big glass jar or two that are approximately 2 L-I use pickle jars, they must be glass not plastic

*sugar-I don't use anything special or expensive, the culture just eats it anyway

*caffeinated tea-I like black and use a mango infused version right now that I'm loving (MUST be caffeinated)

*glass jars with lids to put your brew in once it's finished fermenting-ones that say "kombucha" are nice if you've saved them-it looks a little more classy. =)

So if you've got brew that is done and you're not starting out for the first time:
Put the cultures in a bowl with a little kombucha tea poured over the top, put a towel over the bowl in case there are gnats around.  You'll need to bottle the tea you've made and let it sit out at room temp for a few days with lids on tight.  This helps mellow out the flavor and makes it a bit fizzy which most people like.  Then put it in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy. Try to drink it within a week or two...it slowly gets more tangy, even in the fridge the culture keeps eating up the sugars.    Rinse out your brew jars well and put 10 tea bags and 1 cup of sugar in each jar (or just one  jar if you are brewing less at a time).  Okay jump down to the next picture.

the tea and sugar waiting for boiling water
boil water in a tea kettle or sauce pan and dump over sugar and tea just until it's covered and gently stir just to blend. Let sit for 10 plus minutes and then take the tea bags out carefully squeezing out extra tea before throwing them away.  Make sure all the sugar is dissolved (it normally is with no extra stirring).  I leave the metal spoon in the jar the whole time so it stays free of germs.
 pretty cultures aren't they...?  I've got extra- every time I make tea there's a new culture that forms on top if you should ever need one. ;)  You'll want to hide this project from your relatives most likely...heeeheee

Fill the jar 2/3 full of filtered water added to your sugary tea.  The tea will be room temp from the water you added, put in your culture and the little bit of tea that covered it in the bowl. Now that you know how much room the culture displaced, add more water until it's close to the top but not in the narrowing neck area or it's easy to slosh on the cloth you'll put on top.  Cover with a tea towel, cheese cloth, or coffee filter and secure with string or rubber band.  Rinse the sides of your jar if any tea got on it and hide away in a cabinet or out of the way location.  It's important to secure the towel well and to rinse the sides because gnats love fermenting anything and this stuff lets of a siren signal for them.  I put an alert on my phone for a week out to check it.  It's normally done in a week or two with a good sized culture.  Don't keep adding all the cultures you can produce to the tea in hopes it will brew faster though...it's like putting a bunch of starving animals in a cage with a little bit of food.  It's not going to be a good result, it will go vinegary too fast and not have a chance to produce the good amino acids etc that make this drink special.  Also, in the past, I've left tea in the jar at the bottom to make sure my tea didn't get contaminated (called continuous brew method)....I never do that now.  It's got tons of culture in the tea at the bottom of the jar and it's the same as adding two or three cultures at once, rinse the jar well and start fresh each time for a lighter more mellow tasting tea.  
This is what it looks like while brewing, I put mine in the cabinet above the refrigerator because it's a mostly consistent temp up there even in the winter.  Some people use a heating pad...I've never been quite so industrious.  After a week, you can check your brew by tasting how tangy it is with a spoon or by sticking a straw in it and putting your finger over the top to hold the liquid in it.  Once it's the amount of tang you like bottle as described above.  You can add crazy stuff to your second bottles that go in the refrigerator for a secondary brew like fruit, ginger and even things like lavender.  Let it sit out at room temp a few days as stated before then put in the refrigerator and enjoy a new taste sensation.  I love mango added, which is why I tried black mango tea.  Have fun with it!
I have to add here that it's possible to get sick from drinking kombucha that is brewed incorrectly.  But it's really hard to brew it wrong and not know it.  If your tea isn't tangy, if it doesn't smell like vinegar at all, it's not done brewing or something is wrong with your culture.  Don't drink it-wait another week and check again, if it's still not any tangier, start over.  I save a culture in the refrigerator in case a batch would go bad and I would need to dump and start again.

6 comments:

amy gerber said...

ok, i'm intrigued...and your kids actually drink this stuff of their own free will????

Dmasy said...

I agree that it is an acquired taste. Your mom gave me my first batch with culture. I have tried to interest 3-4 other friends, but made the mistake of allowing them to see the brewing batch. No-No. Tucker was at the house one day I was arranging my set up for a new batch, he bluntly asked (with 12-year-old emphasis), "You REALLY drink THAT??" Several visits later I still offer him a swig just for his reaction! I keep mine in the Synergy store bought bottles. Thanks for the suggestion for mango flavor. Denny takes a gulp every morning. Even with all our travels and several sick friends, we have managed not to catch a single germ this season. I think Kumbucha has something to do with that health record! My advice to your post followers -- Go forth and try.

L, An and boys said...

Amy-They didn't used to like it...but now that I make it with mango tea and don't let it brew past it's prime they get it out of the refrigerator and help themselves. =) I do think once the taste is acquired it becomes something you crave...if a batch is too strong I add club soda to cut down on the tang a bit too.

Mary A-I can totally picture Tucker saying that! =) I would keep offering him a drink too just to see that face off his make a funny expression. ;)

Luke's excited about seeing you. =)

An

Dmasy said...

Oh, Andrea -- by now you know we were not here. In Vegas. Denny at NRA Gun show. We are home now and Kurt is still here. I made a batch just before I left. Next batch, I will have mango tea for the starter. After travel, I came home and took a big healthy swig!

J and A said...

So I made it a couple of days ago... thanks again for the starter (and the jar) and these instructions! I have a couple of questions though...
1. When you said to rinse it really well, do you just mean with hot water? Or do you usually use soap and scrub it down?
2. When I was pouring the kombucha in the bottles, there was about a 1/4 c or so of powdery stuff at the bottom of the jar... is that supposed to go in the bottles too (that's probably the healthy stuff, right :)
3. When you said you add mango to the TJ mango black tea... how do you do that?

Not that it matters too much anyhow. I may have killed my kombucha, as it wasn't until I was getting my tea bags out and straining the residual tea out of them that I noticed that one bag had burst open... and of course I didn't think about starting over until after I had placed the kombucha inside. Sigh. Least I kept the old mother just in case!

J and A said...

Sorry if you get this twice... my first comment disappeared after I hit publish.

So I made it a couple of days ago... thanks again for the starter (and the jar) and these instructions! I have a couple of questions though...
1. When you said to rinse it really well, do you just mean with hot water? Or do you usually use soap and scrub it down?
2. When I was pouring the kombucha in the bottles, there was about a 1/4 c or so of powdery stuff at the bottom of the jar... is that supposed to go in the bottles too (that's probably the healthy stuff, right :)
3. When you said you add mango to the TJ mango black tea... how do you do that?

Not that it matters too much anyhow. I may have killed my kombucha, as it wasn't until I was getting my tea bags out and straining the residual tea out of them that I noticed that one bag had burst open... and of course I didn't think about starting over until after I had placed the kombucha inside. Sigh. Least I kept the old mother just in case!