Kombucha

This post comes from Leslie Stokman. Leslie is QSY’s resident chalk-board artist extraordinaire, a recent graduate of our yoga teacher training program, and a SCOBY-growing Kombucha aficionado!  

What’s delicious, good for you, fun to make, and kind of like having a pet? KOMBUCHA! Read on to find out what it is, how to make it, and how you can get your hands on your very own SCOBY.

Kombucha is something of a probiotic tonic, or just a healthy replacement for pop, depending on your way of looking at it. You can buy a delicious bottle at a health food store for $4-5, or you can easily make it yourself! Made with basic ingredients like tea, sugar, and water, it can be a refreshing beverage for hot summer days and a treat you can feel good about. The other “ingredient” (though I like to think of it as a productive pet) is the SCOBY – a Symbiotic Culture/Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (and yep, it’s alive). Also called “the mother,” or a kombucha “mushroom,” SCOBYs are a firm gelatinous disc that do the hard work of fermenting the sweetened tea.

the whiter the newer, but all SCOBYs are equally effective

the whiter the newer, but all SCOBYs are equally effective

 

If you want to take a crack at making your own, here’s what I do:

  1. Supplies: glass jar or other glass vessels, tea towel or paper towels and rubber bands, plastic or wooden spoon, plastic mesh strainer
  2. Materials: sugar (white is most reliable, you can also use golden, brown, rapadura and/or turbinado, but anything but white sugar is harder for the SCOBY to digest, so use a mix, and avoid honey since it’s antibacterial), water, tea (again, black tea is most reliable, but feel free to try out green and white teas, making sure to avoid flavoured tea of any kind), a SCOBY, then later some chopped fruit, juice or other flavouring if desired
  3. First ferment: (necessary)
    1. Brew some tea using the following ratio: 1 litre of water : 2 tea bags : ¼ – ⅓ cup sugar – you can use a teapot or just a pot on the stovetop
    2. Let this sweetened tea steep until it cools down completely

      I leave mine to cool on the windowsill - no room for pie here

      I leave mine to cool on the windowsill – no room for pie here

    3. Place a SCOBY or two (depending on how thick they are) and ¼ – ½ cup of starter (freshly fermented, unflavoured kombucha from the previous batch) into a jar, and fill the rest of the jar with the freshly brewed sweet tea

      the bigger the jar, the more starter you can use, and the more SCOBY volume you can have, either with a single thick SCOBY or multiple thin SCOBYs

      the bigger the jar, the more starter you can use, and the more SCOBY volume you can have, either with a single thick SCOBY or multiple thin SCOBYs

    4. Cover your jar with a cloth or a paper towel and leave it in a dark place for anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. (I find the sweet spot to be about 10 days, but everyone’s fermenting will be different based on the temperature of the spot you place the jars to your preference for how sweet or sour it is. The warmer the spot, the faster it brews, the longer it brews, the less sweet it is.)

      some SCOBYs float at the top of the liquid, while others float sideways - both will form new SCOBY layers along the surface of the tea

      some SCOBYs float at the top of the liquid, while others float sideways – both will form new SCOBY layers along the surface of the tea

    5. After it’s fermented or enough time, you can drink it straight away, or move on for the second ferment.
  4. Second ferment: (optional, but awesome):
    1. Strain (or just pour, the little floaty bits aren’t bad for you) the freshly-fermented tea into a completely air-tight container.

      reusing flip-top beer bottles seems to work the best for me, but you can also reuse empty store-bought kombucha bottles, or even mason jars if the lids and rings can make an air-tight seal

      reusing flip-top beer bottles seems to work the best for me, but you can also reuse empty store-bought kombucha bottles, or even mason jars if the lids and rings can make an air-tight seal

    2. At this point, you can add flavouring in the form of juice (about ¼ cup), chopped or blended fruit (for some reason blended fruit seems to create a faster/more intense ferment, so be conservative with it and careful when you open it), and other yummy stuff like grated ginger.
    3. Seal the container and let it keep fermenting at room temperature for another couple of days (can be as little as 1 or as many as 3 or 4, but depends strongly on temperature, how sweet the original kombucha is, and how much more sugar [fruit] you add – I recommend the trial and error method).

      this air-tight second ferment is what carbonates the kombucha further

      this air-tight second ferment is what carbonates the kombucha further

    4. If you’re not ready to drink it right away, you can refrigerate it and save for later.
  5. Pro-tips:
    1. Before you drink it all up, make sure to set aside a little bit of the freshly fermented stuff to act as a starter for the next batch.
    2. Your SCOBYs may grow layers on them (if they float at the top), or baby SCOBYs will form all on their own (if your mother SCOBYs tend to float sideways). You can use these to brew more and more kombucha, eat them straight up, flavour and dehydrate them as ‘candy’ or ‘jerky,’ give them to pets to eat, or if you’re really out of ideas, they can simply be composted. But seriously, try eating them. They’re just as good for you as the liquid itself. 

      I either eat mine, or let them hibernate until I am ready to use them again - keeping them in the fridge with some sweet tea slows down fermentation significantly but they will still be ready to work when I take them out again

      I either eat mine, or let them hibernate until I am ready to use them again – keeping them in the fridge with some sweet tea slows down fermentation significantly but they will still be ready to work when I take them out again

    3. If you think you might have a kombucha explosion on your hands (say you let it ferment with blended fruit for 4 days… not saying I did that, at my parents’, after talking it up all weekend, but hypothetically…) then you can prevent a huge mess by doing the following: place the bottle you’re about to open in a big bowl, cover the mouth of the bottle with a big plastic zipper freezer bag, and holding the bag to the bottle with one hand, open it with the other. If there is a foamy overflow, the bag/bowl combo will catch it, so you can still enjoy the product and a clean kitchen.

You might have noticed this sign up at the studio over the past couple of months:

It’s hiding near the prop shelf and earring corkboard

It’s hiding near the prop shelf and earring corkboard

I’ve been brewing kombucha at home for the past several months, and have been able to reliably produce some really healthy and happy SCOBYs that I’d love to share with the Queen Street Yoga community. If you’re thinking about trying it out, $5 will get you two fresh SCOBYs, a splash of starter, and an abridged version of the above instructions.

There is a tonne of great information about flavouring ideas and troubleshooting online, but if you catch me at QSY, feel free to let me know how your SCOBYs are doing and ask me any questions. Before long, you might end up with a situation like this in your house, too!

Almost out of hand, but there’s a method to this thing!

Almost out of hand, but there’s a method to this thing!

 

image

By Leslie Stokman

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