Monday, May 21, 2012

Time to Try Your Hand at Home-Brewed Kombucha?... Kom-Betcha!

I have a slight obsession. 
One of the kitchen cabinets

A few of the pantry shelves

One that Jon has teased me about for years. 

The top shelf of the kitchen refrigerator
The bottom shelf of the kitchen refrigerator

But now he's finding out just how awesome this obsession is. 

One shelf of the garage refrigerator

The door of the garage refrigerator

"Hi, I'm Hethyr and I'm a JAR-oholic."

The lazy Susan

A living room table
I also love bottles. 

The kitchen ledge

The bathroom medicine cabinet

And now that I'm brewing a gallon of kombucha about once every 10 days or so, a lot of those jars and bottles are getting used... not that they weren't being used before I started brewing!  I've got a feeling Jon will have plenty to say about the jars, so I'll fill you in on why you might want to brew your own kombucha and how to go about it if you choose to do so (which you should!).

Batch No. 2 of home-brewed kombucha

First, what the hell is kombucha?  Unless you shop at a natural grocer, you may have never even heard of this stuff.  It's a fermented tea that's been around for centuries and is known for it's health-boosting benefits.  Per, it's not a cure-all, but it helps to "bring the body back into balance so that it may heal itself naturally."  I was introduced to it about five years ago when my dad first found out he had cancer.  He was in the process of changing his diet and took me to a little raw food restaurant down the street from his house for lunch.  He pointed out a bottle of GT's Kombucha and told me I should try it.  I loved it and have been hooked ever since.

Though I love the stuff and the idea of the health benefits, buying it by the bottle at Whole Foods (or another health food store) is way too expensive to do on a regular basis... at least on our meager income!
  ;)  So I've been chatting with my sister-in-law about it for the last year or two.  She brews her own and has told me how easy it is, but I sort-of didn't believe her for some weird reason.  I had all of the necessary equipment the entire time and was just too nervous to try it, but my fear was entirely unfounded.  It's so incredibly easy to make this stuff!
If you need a kombucha starter - also referred to as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)   - here's an excellent video on how to grow one...

Or you can order a starter from here...  I haven't tried it this way, but I've ordered yogurt cultures from this site and I recommend them.  They also have a ton of useful info, videos and recipes.

Once you've got your SCOBY(s)...

That white layer is the SCOBY's what you'll need to brew one quart (you can adjust accordingly if you want to brew more at once):

  • 2 1/2 cups distilled water
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2 black or green tea bags
  • 1/2 cup starter batch of kombucha - use some of the batch from growing your SCOBY or some store-bought unflavored kombucha
  • Clean and sterilized glass jar(s)

Here's what to do:

1.  Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.  Add tea bags and steep for 15 minutes and then let cool or, if you prefer, you can leave the bags in until the tea has cooled completely.

2.  Once the tea has cooled, remove tea bags if you haven't already and pour the tea into the jar(s).  Add the starter kombucha and your SCOBY, cover the jar(s) with a tightly woven cloth, paper towel or coffee filter and secure with a lid band or rubber band (it needs to breathe, so don't use an airtight lid).

3.  Place in a warm, dark place for about a week.  At that point, taste the kombucha and, if it tastes ready, remove the mother SCOBY and the newly formed baby SCOBY with clean hands and transfer the kombucha to bottles (straining through a fine plastic mesh strainer if desired) or just put a lid on the jar in which you brewed.  You can now use both SCOBYs to culture new batches of kombucha.  If they've fused, you can tear them apart.

- You can flavor kombucha using fresh, frozen or dried fruit, fruit juice, herbs, etc.  I used ginger in my last batch.
- You may notice a brown stringy substance in the jar.  This is the yeast culturing the tea and is a completely normal byproduct of the fermentation process.

That brown blob is yeast.  Wonder who
first decided this stuff was okay to drink?
- The SCOBY may float horizontally or vertically or may sink and it's fine.
- For more information, I would suggest trolling around the Cultures for Health website and, in particular, their kombucha section.  There are FAQs, recipes, videos, troubleshooting, etc.
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Jon:  "Obsession: An almost insane desire, longing, or burning lust for someone or something.  You feel like without that thing or person, you are not complete and can't cope, or - in extreme circumstances - live, unless you have the object you desire."

I remember when Hethyr's obsession used to be me.  Now it is jars.  I simply can't compete with functional storage canisters and screw-top lids.  Sigh.

It all started out harmlessly enough.  A few years ago, Hethyr started using jars for homemade holiday gifts.  Over time, the jars worked their way into our fridge and cabinets.  I would get reprimanded for pitching empty jars from the store into the recycle bin instead of cleaning them, removing the labels, and adding them to our collection.  Hethyr progressively made more frequent trips to Ace Hardware to buy various-sized jars in bulk.  Then came the day that she spent her birthday gift certificate to Uncommon Goods on five fancy multi-colored jars because she couldn't stand that such things could exist in this world without her.  I think that was when I finally accepted that Hethyr had found the new love of her life.

Handsome Lars and his fabulous jars
Now we live in the heart of Jarville, and clearly there is no escape.  There are jars in the kitchen, the closets, the bathrooms, the bedroom, the garage... where it will all end?  Is there any small object in our home which won't eventually end up in a jar?  You've seen the pictures.  You tell me.

I personally suspect that the kombucha, like many other things Hethyr makes, is just an excuse to use a glass container.  Regardless, the kombucha is definitely top-quality, and as a bonus it is awesomely disgusting to watch ferment.  It looks like some sort of mysterious alien lifeform.  However, now that it has finished fermenting and has migrated into the fridge, I have absolutely no idea what it looks like... because I can't find it.  It has entered the Jarmuda Triangle.  There must be thirty jars in that fridge, most of which contain something confusing and unexplainable.  It's hard enough for me just to locate my milk.  I'll take Hethyr's word for it that the kombucha is in there somewhere.

Hethyr in 5 years


  1. :) You two make me laugh. Nancy

  2. I LOVE your blog, I also love jars, and I love the way you too make me laugh. But I do not love kombucha. I was taught at a very young age to pour out the ice tea if it had stuff growing in it. Old habits are very hard to break. :-)