I have been making Kombucha.
So this is kombucha, and I have been letting this stuff grow on purpose, with the aim of drinking the liquid underneath that pink rubbery layer on the top. Kombucha is a “Scoby” which means “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”, and its the only scoby that I have ever heard of, yet kombucha is so special it’s gets its own description in the form of an acronym. So what’s the point you ask? Since i’m sure you think it looks kinda rank, funky, wrong, disgusting, alien, gone off, well it’s none of them things. If you think about alcohol, here we let a sweet liquid get infected with a fungus then we drink the waste that this fungus left behind after it snacked on all the tasty sugar.Well kombucha goes one step further, the yeast in the culture (which can be seen as brown dangly bits underneath the pinkish thick rubbery layer) eats the sugar and turns it into alcohol and the bacteria eats the alcohol and turns it into a few different types of acid, namely acetic acid,butyric acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid and a touch of usnic acid. Why drink all them acids you ask? Because like sour candy is nice, this drink is sour and quite delicious and is reputed to be rather healthy for you. I started making this stuff in Australia in 2008 with my friends Jonathan and April, they ordered a mother culture, and once you have one of them if you take care of it you can make as much kombucha as you like. To make Kombucha you first have to make a big cup of tea, very sweet tea at that, and very strong also.
This Kombucha is made with around 12 teabags worth of black tea, and a handful of Yerba Mate, which is a different type of tea from South America. You can make Kombucha with many different things, however as I have found out some things will slow down the brewing process, and sometimes you can even kill your culture.
You always need to add lots of sugar, this feeds the yeast, which ultimately feeds the bacteria. So at the end there is only a little bit of sugar left, the longer you leave it the more acidic it gets and the less sweet it gets, some people like it quite sour, some like it sweet. I like it quite sour. Also the scoby imparts a kind of fruity flavour into the drink, some people say it tastes like apples, some like pears. It’s always quite different!
So you boil up a huge pan of water and tea and sugar, about 100 grams of sugar per litre, and i think around 2 teaspoons of tea per litre of water. Last month I tried to make some with mint tea, but it killed the Kombucha, luckily I have a mother culture that I just keep adding small amount of sweet tea to.
So after boiling it all for about 15 minutes you let it cool right down, if you put your culture in when its too warm you will kill it. When its cool you have to add some of your last batch of kombucha plus a piece of the pink rubbery stuff. You have to add some of your last batch because the acids that kombucha makes stop anything else from growing in there, if you don’t make it a bit acidic to start with you risk getting an infection in it.
When it’s all set up after a day you should see a thin layer on the surface, then you know its started. It takes up to about 2 weeks to brew, sometimes longer sometimes shorter depending on your recipe. The one im making now is taking a bit longer than usual I think because of the Yerba mate tea I used.
The scoby also eats some of the things that occur naturally in tea, namely some minerals, I watched my last kombucha batch get progressively clearer as the scoby ate what I guess to be some of the tannins from the tea.
You can taste your brew as its doing its thing, so you get the desired acidity just right. When it’s just as you like it then you filter it through a pasta sieve or something like this, make sure you keep about 10% of the liquid for a starter for your next batch. Then you can drink it as it is, or if you like you can bottle it in plastic coke bottles and leave it with the lid on tight for some days, and it will get progressively fizzier as the yeast produces carbon dioxide, which, since the bottle is sealed gets dissolved in the drink. You can make it super fizzy if you like, which I do! Then when its fizzy enough put it in the fridge and drink when desired. Since the caffeine still remains I mainly drink it in the morning, on an empty stomach as soon as I wake up. The taste is a fruity acidic taste, and always different each batch!
Kombucha is enjoyed in many countries, if you have never heard of it then I think you are in a minority. In China, Russia, Japan and lots of Eastern European countries you can buy ready made kombucha in the super markets.
The history behind kombucha stretches back far, which should put to rest anyone’s fears that it might not be healthy, it is drank traditionally for health reasons. And another traditions for kombucha says that you should share your mother cultures for free, so if anyone wants a mother culture I will happily provide, you have to pay for postage though! I will post to anywhere in the world as I want to spread this delicious drink far and wide!
Some important things:-
If your brew gets fury mould on it, then throw it all away, don’t risk drinking it.
Don’t make kombucha in metal containers, the acid reacts with the metal and all sorts of alchemy can happen.
If you use plastic make sure you use food grade plastic, the type that other fizzy drinks come in.
Your best bet is to use glass to brew your kombucha.
After bottling, during the carbonation process be sure to check the pressure in the bottles everyday, some people have reported that their bottles blew up because they got too keen making it fizzy.
And don’t forget, if you want a mother culture just leave a message and i’ll get back to you and we will arrange it.