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  • The First Brew

    Happy Monday! What a crazy weekend-the weather is so unruly and moody. But really, I can relate. Last week was pretty up and down.But, staying focused, positive and productive has been a priority, since I know that I am happiest when I am creating, active and well-rested. A find balance, it is true. And, isn't life always a balancing game? I think so. Sometimes, the thought of find a job, my new path, career, home...it feels very overwhelming. Maybe it started to consume me last week. But, baby steps, people. One foot in front of the other, since change is sometimes (ahem, usually!) hard. Right?Anyways, I wanted to share with you my first kombucha brew, and what I did in the process. I'll be sharing how long I fermented the 'booch, what I infused with during bottling, and how long I let the bottles go through second fermentation. I will also try to recall as many details as possible about what I did, for your sake and mine! I hope to use this as a journal of sorts, and expect what parameters/information I share to change over time as I learn. So, here we go!

    My First 'Booch Brew // Brew Date: March 15, 2016 // 

    Tea: Rishi Tea Company, the particular variety of tea was that supplied by the kombucha kit I purchased, pretty sure it was a blend of oolong and ceylon teas

    Sugar: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, the type of sugar that was supplied by the kombucha kit I purchased

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 8 days

    Temperature Notes: our heat was out for a few days, and my apartment was a bit cooler than usual. It seemed that the temperature hovered around the mid 70's, which is a bit cooler than what I have read the SCOBY likes, and needs, to make a balanced brew. This may be why I had to let my fermentation go 8 days to get down to the desired pH that the kit I used recommends the brew gets to before bottling, and if I hadn't had to leave for a weekend trip, I would have let it go a few days longer.

    Second Fermetation: after 8 days, I proceeded on to the bottling, and second fermentation from there, which simpy takes place inside the bottles. This is the stage in which carbonation builds, so if you want to trap the carbon dioxide, be sure to use a tight-sealing bottle! I used 1 liter clear glass flip-top bottles, and got 2 and 1/2 liters*. I used a plastic funnel to transfer the kombucha, and honestly, I probably would have made a giant mess without it! Since I wasn't sure if leaving a lot of headspace in the 1/2 full liter was a wise decision (mixed reviews about this is what I read online due to increased headspace resulting in more oxidation of your brew, and less carbonation, but next time, I am just going to carry on with using all liter flip top bottles and forgo the mason jar route), I simply put it into mason jars and made sure to tighten the lids with all my might (*insert flexed bicep muscle emoji here*). I put my scoby into a quart mason jar with 2 cups of the kombucha, taken from the top of the gallon fermentation jar before pouring the kombucha into the liter bottles. I have read that if you take kombucha from the bottom portion of the gallon fermentation jar for your scoby hotel, you will get more yeast which will eventually throw off the yeast/bacteria ratio in your next brew. I read that the reason for this is that when the yeast are "spent" or done doing their carbonating/fermenting processes, they fall to the bottom of the vessel (see a picture of the bottom of my liter bottles below). This is why you see a creamy beige layer on the bottom of a jar or bottle of kombucha that has sat without being disturbed or shaken. Also, important: I cleaned all of my bottling tools and equpiment with warm vinegar water, and kept a big bowl of warm vinegar water in my sink throught the process. I found that this was really convenient! And I don't need to tell you to thoroughly wash your dang hands before handling your kombucha or scoby, right? Right. Good. 

    *see some helpful notes and conversions at the end of the bottling recipes below.

    Bottling Recipes: as I noted above, I had approximately 3 liters of kombucha. I chose to leave 1 liter (well, about 1/2 of 1 liter in my case) plain, make 1 liter organic fresh ginger* infused and 1 liter organic mango* infused. The recipes below are for 1 liter bottles. To each of the liters, I chose to add 1/2 tsp organic cane sugar to see if this would up the carbontation level*. The recipes are a compilation of several resources I research online, and I think it is important to note that regardless of recipe, your kombucha may turn out differently than mine, even with following the same recipes! The temperature, culture/SCOBY, amount of sugars present, types of sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose), ratio of bacteria/yeast, your energy/vibes while making the kombucha and bottling it...so many variables can and will likely influence how your booch turns out! And, as scatter brained as I sometimes am, I really think keeping track of what you do is important...hence this little rambling page! :) 

    pH at Bottling: 3.5 

    *ok, ok...so using whole fruit or roots, or pureed/grated probably makes a difference in how carbonated your kombucha becomes during you second fermentation. I chose to grate my fresh ginger on a microplane, skins and all. For the mango, I simply pureed the flesh of 1 organic mango in my Vitamix. I washed my ginger root and mango in the warm vinegar water, just to keep everything nice and clean.

    Ginger Infusion // 1 liter //

    • 2 tsp grated fresh organic ginger
    • 1 TB lemon juice, from an organic lemon
    • 1/2 tsp organic cane sugar

    Mango Infusion // 1 liter //

    • 2 TB organic mango puree
    • 1 TB lemon juice, from an organic lemon
    • 1/2 tsp organic cane sugar

    Simply add the ingredients to the bottles before adding kombucha. Tightly seal or close the flip-top lids, and allow the kombucha to sit in a warm, dark place. How long to allow the second fermentation to go is up to you! I let mine sit for 4 days in my bathtub with my shower curtain closed (since I was away for the weekend, and didn't want any exploded bottles!), and "burped" them when I got home. I allowed them to sit for another 3 days at room temperature on my counter, away from direct sun, before tasting, and found the carbontation to be at a good level-very gentle bubbles, but nothing like traditional sparkling water or GT's kombucha. After this, I strained out the fruit/ginger bits using a muslin tea bag (totally optional!), re-bottled, and allowed the bottles to sit for 1 more day. After this, I started to enjoy the brew, but also allowed the liters to sit on my counter, away from direct sunlight, allowing the kombucha to continue fermenting and carbonating. For this entire process, I kept the bottles in a spot that wasn't too cold, but also wasn't too warm (right by my sink!). 

    Overall, I was really happy with how my first batch turned out! I loved the ginger flavor, and how it was slightly spicy. Next time, I am going to add a tsp or two more of ginger, since I love it (and have read that certain rhizomes, like ginger, help increase carbonation). The mango batch is also very good, but am letting it sit for a few more days since it is still a touch sweet. My second batch is brewing as I type this (on day 5 of the first fermentaion). I think having a cold apartment did influence my outcome in terms of carbontation and overall pH in my first batch. For my second batch that is currently brewing, I am taking care to keep the temperature in the 75-80F range, and hope that this helps bring out more acidic production for a less sweet brew. However, I want to note that while I was hesitant about bottling my first batch after only 8 days of the first fermentation, I was really happy with the results. In fact, I have read that some brewers like to bottle at a higher sugar (higher pH, less acidic, more sugar) or sweetness level to have more residual sugars available for fermentation into carbon dioxide. 

    In addition, I wasn't so crazy about the straining step I chose to do mid-way through the second fermetation (totally not necessary). It was a bit messy, cumbersome and I think it also took some carbonation out of the kombucha. I may try larger pieces of fruit/ginger next time, and simply remove them as I drink the kombucha. I may also try using pure fruit juice as well. Or, I may also try in a future batch to infuse the entire gallon jar with whatever I wish, but remove the SCOBY and 2 cups starter liquid before doing so. However, the downside of this is that I cannot start another batch of kombucha right away (I don't own another large gallon jar/container), which I think is the process I am going to stick with, since I enjoy drinking the 'booch every day! So really, it comes down to what works for you, and your brew. I think it will take some time for me to experiment and figure out what works, but that is half the fun, right?

    Helpful Conversions: these helped me in the bottling process

    1 gallon = 128 fl. oz. 

    1 gallon minus 2 cups (1 pint, 16 fl. oz.) kombucha for SCOBY hotel/starter for next brew = 112 fl. oz.

    112 fl. oz. = 3.3 liters = 3 liters + 10.5 fl. oz. 

    1 liter = 33.8 fl. oz. = 4 cups + 1.8 fl. oz. = 32 fl. oz. + 1.8 fl. oz. 

    Reference Material: some guidlines I read about, but by no means hard rules, that I chose to follow

    1/2 oz. citrus juice per 16 fl. oz. kombucha = 1 oz. citurs juice per liter 

    1 oz = 2 TB

    1/2 tsp sugar for 16 fl. oz. = 1 tsp sugar per liter (I only added 1/2 tsp per liter)

    Success! There is something about the flip-top bottles that I really love. They look so...official? Like I actually brewed something legit. And, they are safe, having thick glass and rounded edges, so the risk of exploding bottles during the second fermentation is lowered (that shouldn't scare you! Just please don't use thin-glass bottles...ok?).The sunlight and weather were all over the board when I took these photos (and I am still learning how to do food photography, yo!). I loved the shadows and how dynamic the pictures turned out.And the fizz, can we talk about the gently bubbling kombucha that you get to pour for yourself?? And the "pop" of the flip-top when you open your 'booch?? I don't think this will ever get old.I noticed that over time, a fine sediment from the ginger and mango (and likely spent yeast) collected at the bottom. This, I have read, is totally normal, as is the darkening of the kombucha while it ferments. And of course, depending on what you choose to infuse it with (if you choose to, that is), will alter the color. I think I am hooked. I hope I have inspired you, if not, rambled your ear off about my first experience brewing kombucha at home! Cheers!