My Kombucha Process, in Excessive Detail, with Too Many Pictures

Do you have a kombucha SCOBY?  If not, go buy a bottle of kombucha and grow one real quick.  I’ll wait.  Find a smallish glass / ceramic container in which to store your SCOBY between batches.  While you’re at it, get yourself some pitcher-sized black tea bags, a bottle of (non-citrus) fruit juice, and a bag of white sugar (gasp!).  And scrounge up a big, wide-mouth glass jar or bowl or… vessel of some kind, some empty bottles (flip-top bottles are ideal if you’re real fancy like I am), and something permeable to cover the top of your vessel.  Optional but helpful, depending on your containers:  funnel and/or ladle.  Wash everything really well, but don’t use antibacterial soap!

Wow, it looks like a lot of stuff all out at once!

No, I did not forget to put out my fruit juice. I did that on purpose.

Ready?  Time to create some delicious, bubbly kombucha goodness!

Step One:  Brew yo’self up some tea, dump a bunch of sugar in it, and then cool it down.

Make enough tea to mostly fill your big glass vessel, following the instructions on the package as far as tea bags/water ratio, and how long to steep it.  

Lots of water!

5:00 for mine

(Pitcher-sized tea bags are key; otherwise you have like 10 strings going)

Take the tea bags out when it’s done, and dump a bunch of sugar in it (1 to 1.5 cup per gallon-ish).

Suuuugaaaaar...

Don’t worry, the buggies eat most of it.

Stir it around to dissolve the sugar.  I use the measuring cup to stir it rather than dirtying a spoon, because I hate doing dishes that much.

I am quite the lazy girl.

Now cool the tea down, so you don’t kill your SCOBY by overheating it.  I like to just set the pot in the sink with cold water around it for an hour or so, because my fridge is usually packed to the limit.  When it’s lukewarm, you’re ready to go.

Chillin'

It takes a while, go read a book… or a blog! (*wink)

Step Two:  Put the tea in the vessel, and the SCOBY in the tea in the vessel.  Cover the vessel.

Check out my sweet pouring moves!

The SCOBY will feel really slimy and gross – but cowboy up, it’ll be over soon.

Ewwwwww...

“Yee-haw!”

Little extra boost

Make sure to dump in the kombucha that the SCOBY’s been sleeping in

Your SCOBY might float, or it might sink, or if you’re lucky it might even do some weird thing where it stands on its end vertically.

Floating!

My SCOBY didn’t feel like performing any tricks this time…

Cover it all up with a little dishtowel or cheesecloth or something that allows air to circulate, but doesn’t allow bugs to circulate (the bad insect kind, not the good microscopic kind that I usually talk about).  I use a coffee filter, mostly because I’ve got a bunch of ‘em lying around from my pre-French-press days.

Step Three:  Ignore it for like a week.

Put it in the darkest, warmest spot you can find in your kitchen and ignore it for like a week.  Some people let it go for ten days; I usually stop it at six or seven.

Look at that sweet setup.

Yup, just ignore it.

The first few times you make it, you might want to take a little taste daily starting around day 5, until you get a feel for how long it should sit in your particular climate and for your particular preferences.  As it sits longer, it will get less sweet and more sour.  If you’re going to keep following my process, you’ll take it through a secondary ferment with juice, so you’ll probably want to stop it when it’s still a little bit sweeter than you’d like.  Protip:  if it turns out tasting too sour for you, you can always dilute it with water or add a little juice to your glass!  I did one of those two things with every single batch up until recently – it takes some time to learn how you like the ‘buch.

There might be a thin film of new SCOBY growing on top of your old SCOBY, or just on the surface of the tea-bucha (it’s kind of in the middle now, so I’m not sure what to call it…) if your old SCOBY sunk to the bottom.  It might look like little spots of mold at first glance, but don’t freak out.  It’s not mold unless it’s fuzzy!  I would include a picture, but mine didn’t make any this time.  You’ll know it if you see it, trust me.  Baby SCOBY is kind of gross.

Step Four:  Switch your kombucha into bottles and put your SCOBY to sleep.

Wash your hands really good (again, no antibacterial soap!) and grab your SCOBY out of its kombucha bath (yes, it’s truly kombucha now!).  Again, it will feel gross.

The switch!

“Yee-haw!”

Place it into its glass /ceramic container with a ladleful of your kombucha to cover it, and stick it in the fridge.

Ladleful to cover...

It’ll hibernate in there until you need it again.

Bedtime for SCOBY

Now pour some juice into your bottle(s), like an inch high.  I used a half cup (I usually don’t measure but I was curious) of straight-up cranberry juice and it’s super strong, so you might need more of a less aggressive juice.

Cranbucha!

Fill ‘em the rest of the way with the kombucha from your vessel and seal ‘em up.  (Sidebar:  I usually just ladle it straight in, but this time I strained it through the coffee filter to prevent the creepy little floaties that usually sink to the bottom of my bottle.  It definitely worked, but it took forever and I wouldn’t recommend it.  Just stop drinking before you finish the bottle to avoid the floaties.)  Wash your vessel and thank it for its service.

Wouldn't recommend the coffee filter thing.

The funnel comes in handy, here!

Step Five:  Ignore it for a couple more days.

Stick your closed bottles in the same place as before, and wait 1-3 days (again, shorter is sweeter and longer is… sour-er).  If you’re impatient like I am, sneak a glass before you put it away!

Same spot!

Patience is a virtue…

Sneaky glass!

…But I’m not all thaaaat patient.

Step Six:  Enjoy!

The best step!  Keep it in the fridge.

Pic was taken before the site redesign... Flashback!

You can figure this part out on your own!

This post is shared in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, the Little House in the Suburbs DIY Friday Linky, and the Carnival of Home Preserving at Laura Williams’ Musings!

In Which I Confess an Addiction (Ginger Bug / Apple Soda)

I’m developing a serious addiction to fermenting things.  It started as mere curiosity, piqued by my initial research into traditional foods, which grew into an innocent desire to attempt to ferment something (with every expectation that it would fail horribly).  I hung around my favorite real-foodie blogs for months on end, wistfully soaking in stories of homemade yogurt and lactofermented pickles, convinced for some reason that such things were hopelessly beyond my capabilities and/or patience.  But one fateful day, I happened to make a rare trip to Whole Foods right after reading about how to grow a SCOBY with store-bought kombucha.  I saw the kombucha in the refrigerated section, and I decided to try it, just this once.

If this little guy had a name, it would be Quasimodo.

I don’t have any brewed up, so here’s my ugly ol’ SCOBY.

Ah, kombucha… my gateway ferment.  Soon I had developed a pretty good process for brewing kombucha, but I couldn’t stop there.  Once I had experienced the tangy taste of success, more experimentation was inevitable.  I ended up with about ¾ head of red cabbage left over from some recipe right before I needed to be away from home for a couple of days.  Rather than leaving it to shrivel up in the fridge, I figured I’d at least give that poor cabbage a shot at deliciousness.  So I shredded it, threw in some salt, and set it up using this method… and to my great delight, it tasted a little sour when I got back to check on it a few days later.  I left it for a few more days, and it became my second successful ferment:  beautiful, crisp, hot-pink sauerkraut!

Seriously, If this kraut had a name, it would be Barbie.

Never have you seen a girlier batch of kraut!

I don’t think I actually believed that cabbage + salt could produce something that tasted like anything besides salty cabbage.  It fascinates me because it seems so impossible!  My fermentation habit grows stronger with every success.  I really want to try homemade yogurt next… Or pickles…  Or sourdough bread…  (It’s okay, though.  I can stop anytime I want to.)

So anyways, when I stumbled across this post a couple of weeks ago I just had to give it a go. It’s another one of those impossible recipes; ginger + sugar + water = something bubbly, somehow.  And it has the cutest name!  And it sounds really easy!  And it doesn’t have any exotic or expensive ingredients!  Also, Husby might actually be happy to drink a homemade soda (he is a very good sport about sampling stuff that I’ve left sitting on our counter for days to grow bacteria on purpose, but he generally leaves the rest for me… for some reason.  😉 )

I won’t repeat the ginger bug starter instructions here because she does a great job of explaining it (and it really is that simple).  Make sure to leave the skin on your ginger when you cut it up, because that’s where the little buggies are.  I chopped up a bunch all at once and kept it in the fridge, to make it easier to feed every day.  This is the sort of thing you’ll end up with after about 10 days:

I don't know what to name this one; it's too new.

Ginger bug! Cute, right?

It doesn’t look like much, but when you open it up, it’ll fizz to let you know that it’s ready!   The ginger bug post that I linked to has itself a link to an apple ginger soda recipe that uses the ginger bug with freshly juiced apple & ginger.  Now, that sounds delicious, and if you own a juicer you should totally try that, and report back to let me know that it is indeed delicious… but I do not own a juicer, nor do I plan to get one while I still occupy a kitchen that’s roughly the size of a walk-in closet.  So, I whipped out my Easy Button:  7 cups boring ol’ store-bought apple juice, ½ cup ginger bug (just the liquid)… then I waited for three days.

Yum!

Here are the results after three days of sittin’.

Yummy apple soda!  Well, apple drink, really… it’s not very bubbly at all.  But that’s probably because I used such a big bottle.  It’s still very tasty… Basically apple juice, but a lot less sweet and with an interesting tang to it.  Husby’s opinion:  “Yeah, it’s okay.”

Good enough for me!

Of note:  The bottle was originally filled all the way to its neck, but we drank that much of it before I got around to taking that picture.  Pretty good endorsement, I’d say!

Also of note:  It had a white skin on the surface when it was done fermenting, which kinda reminded me of a new kombucha mother.  Definitely wasn’t mold or anything, though.  So don’t freak out if you try this and get something similar.

This post is shared on The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter Thursday