• Plain Jane Kombucha: Jade Oolong, Golden Yunnan

    Going to admit this...I have been all about the simple lately. Having flown through a whirlwind past 6 months, settling down into my new routine and life has been more than welcome. Not to say the last few months were bad, at all. In fact, they were some of the happiest, richest and enlightening months I have had in...well, years! Kinda scary to say that. With my last move (which was a little bit o' a hot mess, but oddly it seemed meant to be, so I went with it...and not to mention, my parents, aunts, sister and close friends really helped me with the process in immense ways) I have found that adapting to more simple things has come naturally. As has a little less anxiety overall, but, still battling with that demon here and there. Learning about myself and what makes "me" be "me" and not a stressed out, anxiety-driven animal has been an interesting, enlightening process the last month or so...and honestly, I credit being physically removed from the places that I was in during a monumentous change in my life a large part in stepping outside of my normal "self".More than ever, I am learning that if we slow down and listen, SIMPLIFY, we can sense how everything is connected. We are all linked together, and we all have the power to transfer our energy into whatever we touch, be that another human or a physical space. This is powerful stuff...and like this, I think that admiring the art and history and culture of what we know as kombucha brewing by sharing, linking nuturing SCOBYs, is power in a certain right. It is life, and it is alive. The SCOBYs are alive! Growing, not always the same each cylce, sometimes weak, sometimes strong, but still present. Ok, so likening life to SCOBYs may be a little too weird, but, I digress...I still think it holds merit on many levels. Simplifying has felt good, and with our LAST full moon in full effect for the northern hemisphere's winter season, simplifying has allowed for a certain level of realease. So with that, simple kombucha. I have been brewing my batches with 3 TB of tea, and 3/4 cups sugar. Adding in 1 to 2 cups strong starter liquid, either from the top of the last batch, or from the hotel, or a mixture of both. It all works the same, but results in a unique brew nonetheless. My last two teas of choice were Rishi's Golden Yunnan (a robust black tea hailing from China), and Jade Oolong (a grassy, floral, yet roasty tea also from Taiwan). These teas are so tasty alone, that I really didn't want to muck around too much with infusions...so, plain jane or very simple flavors were the name of the game. I infused one liter bottle of the Jade oolong kombucha with fresh slices of organic ginger, and one with 1 tsp dried hibiscus flowers. For the golden yunan, I left that plain...but then added in the peels of organic mango (not pictured with the mango). I cant get over the rich color of the kombucha brewed with this black tea! Amazing.So with that, cheers! And I hope the last grips of winter find you as warm as you can be, and with the forward looking hope for the spring we are all craving. A new start, a new season, and new energy. Bring it on!

  • Meyer Lemon + Thyme Green Tea Kombucha

    This one is for the winter drearies, the cold mornings that need a little zip, and the afternoons that need some zing. 

    The primary fermentation was done with 4 TB Rishi Jade Cloud, steeped for 7 minutes with water that was around ~180F. My SCOBYs love, love, love green tea for some reason, so have been keeping them happy with lots of it during the colder months!

    This batch took about 10 days to ferment, after which I infused it with what I had in my fridge: meyer lemon and fresh thyme! What a combination...I loved the sweet-acidic bite of the meyer lemon. The thyme was almost savory, and a good contrast with the florar character of the meyer lemon. But of course, regular lemon will work too. Not sure if I would try this with another base-kombucha. I liked the lightness of the green tea kombucha, and feel that an oolong or black tea would cover the delicate flavors of this infusion. But, like I say, it is YOUR kombucha! You do what you like :)

    I used about 1 slice per liter, and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Good call, good call. Will certainly repeat this flavor infusion!

    Bubbly, fizzy, bright...Perfect for a cold February day!

  • Fun with Flowers + Tree Barks

    So, January has come and gone....and 2017 has entered with a little more turmoil and uncertainty that I would have liked. BUT! We are keeping strong, and we are brewing kombucha. And by "we" I mean the brewing population at large in the world. I like to think I am part of a larger community of folks that find brewing kombucha satisfying, relaxing, rewarding, gratifying, fulfilling...

    And I think a big part of being a member of this collective, widespread community is sharing. I have shared several of my SCOBYs, and have taught 4 people how to brew kombucha. And that thought makes me smile! Also, knowing two of my SCOBYs are in Brazil, being nurtured and meticulously cared for by being fed lots of sugar, green tea and yerba mate makes me so, so happy. Spreading the love of cultured tea as it has been for hundreds of years! So, so cool...right?

    Besides sharing the love, I have been brewing a lot as well. My SCOBYs have been a bit sluggish, likely due to the fact that my apartment was cooler, buuut I am moving (again!) to a warmer, brighter new place that I hope my SCOBYs will like. And I promised them we would stay for a while there, since I am sure moving is stressful for them, too. (yes, I do talk to my SCOBYs).What else? I purchased another gallon brew jar, and have recently taken up the habit of brewing one black/oolong batch, and one green batch. By doing this, I have noticed that my SCOBYs LOVE the shit out of green tea! A new layer of growth is noticeable within a day, and it is thick, resiliant and bright white after 7ish days of brewing, even despite the cooler temperatures. 

    In efforts to shake things up a bit, I decided to infuse my last two batches with various flowers and barks. The results were quite tasty...with my favorite being the green tea (brewed with Jade Cloud from Rishi) infused with jasmine flowers (picture is above). Light, floral and refreshing. Runner-up, and from the same batch of Jade Cloud kombucha: rose, juniper berry, cardamom. I love NessAlla's version, so I though, why not try it myself? It was pine-y, floral and totally sip-able. I would wager it would make a great mixer with some gin and perhaps some lime or lemon. And the experiment of the bunch: sassafras! I love a good rootbeer, and sassafras bark (a deciduous north american tree) is a big component of traditionally brewed root beers. I combined it with ginger, cardamom and just a hint of ground clove. This infusion was based on a kombucha brewed from a combination of (unkonw sources of) darjeeling tea and yerba mate from Brazil, and it was spicy, earthy and complex! It needs some tweaking, but is on the right track for a true root beer-ish kombucha.Wishing you all happy brewing! In the meantime, I'll be helping my SCOBYs adjust to a new city, a new apartment, and a new enviroment! Wish us luck.

  • Rose, Cardamom, Hibiscus + Ginger Infusion

    2017. Time to move beyond 2016 (maybe 2015, too). It is my goal to keep this space updated with my adventures in kombucha, simple or complex. Because cultured food is our culture!

    So, I'll keep it short and sweet for this post: rose! cardamom! hibiscus! ginger! This infusion, made from a kombucha brewed with some unknown origins black tea (prettttty sure it was some "Black Tea" I picked up at Bushel & Pecks, to which according to the helpful people who work htere, is from Ancora Coffee & Tea in Madison). My proportions were the "usual suspects": 4 TB tea, 3/4 cup sugar, and enough water to bring the sweet tea up to about 4" below the top of my gallon brew jar. I allowed the tea to steep in water just off the boil for 5ish minutes (yep, going to track these things more diligently in 2017, promise!). The first ferment took foooorrreeeevvvveeerrrr because it was cold in my apartment. And I was basically living at my mom and dad's house for the holidays (because that is what you do when you decided to resign from your job a few days before Christmas...you know? Yep, that happened).

    Finally, after 12 days (think my SCOBY was playing a "12 days of Christmas" joke on me), my brew was ready to bottle and infuse. My stand-out infusion was a floral, herbal and spicy combination of dried organic rose petals, several smashed cardamom pods, a few large slices of organic ginger root, and two small pinches hibiscus flowers.After allowing the flavors to infuse for 4 days in my cold, cold apartment, I attempted to open the bottle to burp the beast and WOW. Kombucha....errrrrrywhere! To tame the fizzy fizzy frenzy, I placed the liter flip top in the fridge to simmah-down! After which I filtered through my Zimtal Nutmilk Bag (2 years strong this one is! Loving it for straining kombucha, nut and seed milks, and many other finely-strained items). I allowed the carbonation to build again for 1 day at room temperature, and...wow. This infusion will certainly appear again, but thinking with a green tea instead. I have a batch of Rishi Jade Oolong brewing right now, and hope to try this rose-forward infusion with this brew next. A great way to start the new year! I am 30-ish SCOBYs strong, have purchased another gallon brew jar, and am super excited to march into 2017, fermented tea in hand. Cheers (and seriously, if you are in the Madison/Beloit area, and want to brew kombucha, please reach out for a thriving SCOBY and tutorial).

  • Learning the Ropes: Pu Erh Maddness, Rooibos Blends & Green Tea

    The highs and lows of summer are setting in....the impending notion of going back to work (awww man! But paaaycheck!!)...the want to go outside and run around, but being suffocated with windy humid warm gusts makes me hug our a/c unit...and eat ice cream. So, I guess all pretty accurate for a Wisconsin summer then?

    I've had some time on my hands lately, so as such, have been feeling quite...anxious. I usually get like this during the summer months: all of this energy, extended day light hours, and ALL OF THE PRODUCE to eat and cook with (and infuse kombucha with! Melon, basil, strawberries...below is an orange + basil + ginger combo that was amazing, as well as a strawberry + hibiscus that was also choice!). It is all wonderful, beautiful, but overwhelming at the same time. Anyone else?

    Also, blueberries! Melon! Goji! The infusion of goji + musk melon + fresh lime juice below was CRAZY carbonated after allowing it to sit for 3 days at room temp. There may have been a kombucha geyser in my kitchen from this combo...heh...So what does this all have to do with kombucha? Well, lots of brewing! I have learned quite a bit in the last 2 months. What works for what I like in a final brew, how my SCOBYs behave and also what I can experiment with (and want to). I am still recording my brews and other notes in my notebook, but alas, I have veered away from recording every single batch here. I want to get back to that, but for now, this post will serve as ketchup (get it? CATCH UP?). Ok...ok ok...

    I'll try to be succient with this, even though that type of thing is not my strong suit (heh) (also, this is from a mind of an inherently long winded person, who loves science and research, so, really, you should expect some degree of rambling):

    • Pu erh tea kombucha: WOW. SO. STRONG. I experimented with Rishi pu erh, on behalf of my sister visiting in July, and her love for this tea AND kombucha. The first ferment (8 days at 76F-78F) yielded a crazy strong, acetic acid forward brew with a distinct note of (ahem) barn yard funk. Wasn't bad, and the flavors really mellowed after infusing and bottle conditioning for a few days, but my friends: USE PU ERH SPARINGLY. I used 3 TB, and let it brew for quite a long time (i.e. I totally fell asleep when it was brewing). The flavor is deeply earthy, and the color of the final brew made with 100% pu erh is darker than, say, an oolong kombucha.
    • Blending teas: a week or so ago, I brewed two batches with a two combinations of teas, namely Rishi ruby oolong, Rishi pu erh, Rishi darjeeling muscatel 2nd flush, and rooibos. This was really an effort to clean out my tea stash. The one blend that included the pu erh (only 1 TB this time!) turned out robust, with a forward tea flavor, but was much easier to enjoy :) :) :) with the tea combo being 1 TB ruby oolong, 1 TB pu erh and 1 TB rooibos, all brewed for 15 minutes in water 30 seconds off the boil. I really liked the overall lightness of this blend, and also appreciated the flavor the rooibos gave the final brew. 
    • New method of brewing tea: soooo it is summer. The sun is out. So, SUN TEA. For the 1 TB rooibos, 1 TB ruby oolong and 1 TB darjeeling, I simply placed the tea and about 4 cups of water in a large pyrex measuring cup, securely covered with a light weight cotton kitchen towel, and sat the whole works on my deck for 12 hours. It was sunny. The teas brewed. The honey bees tried to get to the tea 'cause they are thirsty creatures, too (hence the cloth covering the sun tea). Aside from being an energy saver, the tea was really mellow in flavor, but still complex. I would 100% recommend using this method of sun brewing, just be sure you do it on a sunny, hot day :) 
    • ***TRYING NEW TEAS!*** So, I have volunteered with the team at The Kombucha Shop to be a "tea tester" for some new blends they will offer in their shop! This is the same company I got my kombucha starter kit from (and I 100% recommend it!). I should be getting the teas in the mail by the end of the month, and will have finished brew reports to share by early August. Also, doing a big move and life transition at the same time...sooo...I hope my SCOBYs are feelin' hearty and ready to brew in new environments. And really, I hope the same for me as well...(HEH!!) 
    • Sugar level: I have now reduced my batches to 3/4 cup organic cane sugar. I found that the full 1 cup was just too sweet, even after letting my batches brew upwards of 10 days at 76F-78F. The batches with 3/4 cup sugar are less sweet, and thus more to my taste. The less sweet kombucha still gets carbonated when bottle conditioned with fruits, spices, etc. Hooray! AND, in the event I do want a sweeter 'booch, I simply infuse a liter bottle with a sweeter fruit or pure fruit juice (i.e. mangos, strawberries, oranges...you get the idea).
    • Tea amount and steep time: now don't quote me on this, but, I think steeping LESS tea for a LONGER amount of time vs. steeping MORE tea for a SHORTER amount of time produces a lighter, yet still tea-forward final kombucha that successfully carbonates when bottle conditioned. On the other hand, the more tea/less time batches I have brewed are less complex, but more acetic acid forward in the final bottle conditioned brew (but still very carbonated!). But, let me note, I do think that regardless of steeping time, you should be sure to use a high quality tea...but I mean...you should always try to use high quality tea because that is best for everyone...riiiight? Right. 
    • Temperature of first fermenation: back in June, I had a batch of kombucha that was just...off. The tea I used was one I had used before, so I knew that this was unlikely the culprit. I used 1 full cup of organic cane sugar. I used a hearty looking SCOBY. The only other factor with this brew was the temperature at which it was fermented, namely ~85F. Yes, it was hot in our loft and I wasn't home to keep tabs on the brew! The result was an overly acidic, yet still too sweet kombucha. I went ahead and bottled it after 8 days, and bottle conditioning helped balance it a bit, but it still maintained an overly sweet, not tea-forward or complex flavor. I am guessing either the bacteria or yeasts didn't appreciate the sauna treatment, so one took over more than the other, leading to an imbalanced brew. Oh well! I learned my lesson...and also retired that SCOBY (as in: I peacefully threw it in a thriving heap of ferns in my neighbors planting bed...shh...don't tell anyone...ha!).
    • Infusion vessel: I had a surpluss of kombucha, and no liter bottles to infuse it in. I was also out of quart sized mason jars at this time as well. But, I still wanted to infuse my brew! I simply placed a few large chunks of fresh ginger root, and about 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice into the bew jar (this is after I removed the SCOBY). I allowed the mixture to sit for 4 days, covered with the same cotton cloth and secured with a rubber band as I use in brewing. After 4 days, the ginger bits were held together by a thin SCOBY, how cool! I simply removed this, along with the attached ginger bits, and poured the kombucha through my funnel/nutmilk bag into a (now empty) liter flip top bottle. I allowed it to condition for another day before strating to drink it, and it was super tasty, and just as carbonated as a batch infused and conditioned entirely in a liter flip top. 
    • Sharing the 'booch love: I shared my first SCOBY!! Yes!! I "gifted" one to a friend (along with 2 cups strong starter brew) and former lab mate....a perfect kinda-science-y project after defending your thesis, right? Riiiight. We also brewed a batch of kombucha together, just to go through the motions. The brew turned out so well, using 3 TB Rishi Ruby Oolong brewed for 5 minutes, then adding 3/4 cup organic cane sugar and 1 cup starter liquid. 
    • *when I say "bottled conditioned" I mean second fermentation in my liter flip top bottles, carried out on my counter at room temperature (usually right around 76F to 78F). I typically allow my kombucha to infuse with fruits, spices and herbs for 3-5 days, after which I filter it to remove the infusion bits, and then allow it to re-carbonated anywhere between 1 to 5 days before enjoying it. I really like a carbonated kombucha, so this process of allowing it to infuse and sit works for my preferences. 

    Sooo, now what?? For my fourteenth brew, I decided to experiement with a 100% green tea kombucha. I had a vacuum packed sachet of Japanese green tea in my cupboard, and thought...why not? I have no clue what variety of green tea it was, but it smelled wonderfully sweet and grassy, and had huge leaves when steeped. I used only 2 level TB total, and brewed it in water 30 seconds off the boil for 12 hours, merely because my PUR water filter was not working soooo I chose to let the water sit out, covered with a cotton cloth, in order to allow the chlorine to escape.The result? A super light, vibrant tasting kombucha with hints of grassy notes!  However, it took 11 days to ferment to the point at which I was happy with the flavor (I started to taste at 7 days, as usual). I am not sure if this was because a) the green tea variety and amount used, or, b) the fact that I may have forgot to add the 1 cup starter liquid (oopsies!). Either way, it turned out well after the first ferment, with a healthy looking SCOBY forming on the top.After the first ferment, I allowed the kombucha to infuse for 5 days with pieces of fresh ginger root, after which I strained it with my usual funnel lined with a nutmilk bag, and then allowed the strained 'booch to sit for 2 days at room temperature on my counter to allow for re-carbonation before enyoing. The result: light, crisp, slightly fizzy and very refreshing! If you are not a fan of super tea-forward brews, or want a lighter flavored brew, with not super crazy carbonation, try using green tea.

  • The Seventh & Eighth & Ninth Brews: Rishi Black Iced Tea, Darjeeling & Matcha Madness

    So, time has gotten the better of my ability to stay up to date here! But I'll try my best to recap on my kombucha brewing adventures at home the past few weeks. The highlights...

    • I have had great success using this black iced tea blend from Rishi, and love that it is in a packet already! Easy to brew and great flavor overall, and produces a very tasty kombucha. I used this tea for my ninth batch, which is currently on the first fermenting as I type this! I used 1 packet of this tea, and just let it sit in the warm water after steeping in hot water for about 2 hours. Similarly, I used my newer growth SCOBY, Velma, to ferment the eighth batch for 8 days. I then went onto bottling and infusing for the second ferment (see below!)
    • I experimented with a Rishi Darjeeling 2nd flush tea for my seventh batch, and LOVED the results. If you are into drinking un-flavored kombucha, I would highly recoomend this variety. The taste was so interesting: notes of raisin, caramel, and a natural sweetness. I used a heaping 3 TB of tea, steeped for 12 minutes, for the batch in a gallon brewing jar.
    • Both SCOBYs are still going strong, although I do now notice a fizzier first ferment with the newer culture. I may have to retire Scooby, or just deal with the reduced fizz factor for another few batches, and separate the older growth in hopes for a more lively SCOBY.
    • I had a great deal of fun flavoring my seventh brew! I will include my infusion recipes below, along with some notes. In contrast, I was in quite a rush when I was deciding on flavorings for my eighth brew, so just threw in some peach slices to the liter flip top bottles. And honestly, the peach + darjeeling kombucha tea combination was quite tasty! I would say I added about 4 good hunks of peach to each liter flip top bottle...I know, not precise, but hey, I was in a hurry!
    • I am noticing that a longer first ferment, 7+ days, along with a 3 day infusion and another 2-3 day ferment after straining the infusion bits, all at room temperature, produces a lively, fizzy and pleasantly tart kombucha. However, this all depends on what type of tea and infusion things you add! Hibiscus, as wells fruits like pineapple, pear, melon and strawberry have been my fizziest contenders thus far. The key is to experiment, in my own opinion :) 
    • Random: my ninth brew was also a Darjeeling brew, using 2 heapted TB of the tea, and I only let this batch ferment for 6 days...this was for sure not long enough, so I ended up putting this batch into my SCOBY hotel where one of my SCOBYs is now resting (Scooby).
    • Random #2: need to get more pH test strips (litmus papers). Or, invest in another pH measuring device! If you have any suggestions, let me know :) Ooook! I hope you go all of that. I promise to be more organized for my tenth brew, and resume a more easy-to-follow format for the post :) 

    The Seventh Brew Infusions, all for a 1 liter flip-top bottle, and all were allowed to infuse for a total of 3 days, after which they were strained using my Zimtal nutmilk bag in a funnel for easy transferring (see this post for a visual of this!):

    Matcha Melon

    • 1/4 tsp Rishi teahouse matcha
    • 4 TB finely chopped canteloupe melon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly squeezed organic lemon juice

    Notes: be sure to SIFT the matcha! I did not, and it clumped. I did manage to de-clump by using a small spoon, pressing the clumps out in the bottle from the top, but this was a pain. The flavor of this was super interesting: green/grassy from the matcha, and musky/sweet from the melon. 

    Pineapple Hibiscus:

    • 1/4 cup freshly diced pineapple
    • 2 TB pineapple juice, from chopping the pineapple
    • 2 tsp hibiscus flowers

    Notes: this flavor was super fizzy, and overally very balanced! Sweet, tart and the color was pretty amazing as well.

    Strawberry Rhubarb

    • 4 TB chopped strawberries, using frozen berries I picked last summer, slightly thawed at room temp
    • 2 TB rhubarb compote, made using 2 cups organic rhubarb and 2 TB maple syrup, cooking until rhubarb was tender

    Notes: I really loved the tartness of this flavor, and the fizz factor was good too. Was really tasty mixed wtih iced tea!

    Pear + Lemon

    • 4 TB organic chopped pear
    • 2 tsp organic lemon juice
    • 1/2 tsp organic lemon zest

    Notes: a slightly sweet, floral and lemony flavor...with a good amount of fizz. Was great to drink over ice!

    Vanilla-Coffee-Cacao (this was for a small 12oz liter flip top bottle, as an experiment!)

    Notes: do not repeat this flavor! Was not good....a very funky, musky, bad coffee flavor...but good try! :) 

  • The Sixth Brew: Summery Infusions - Strawberry Lemonade + Spicy Ginger Brew

    Ok, so yeah, it is still spring. Still May. We still have a solid month and half for summer to arrive. But I might as well start practicing my summery 'booch infusions now, don't ya think?

    This batch was made from my newer scoby (affectionately referred to as Velma, as I am keeping a Scooby Doo-themed naming process for my SCOBY progeny). The batch brewed for 8 solid days in warm (likely 76-78F) cozy temperatures in our loft. I brewed this this batch with slightly less tea, although it still had great flavor and fizz factor right out of the gallon jar. 

    I think you know my process by now...if not, read any of the previous 5 posts I have done! The only different aspect of this brew was that I did not check pH with the litmus strips, but rather relied on my taste buds to declare the batch ready. I do need to pick up some more strips, but haven't gotten around to it...yet. 

    But at any rate, happy brewin' and boochin'!

    SCOBY: Newer Growth ("Velma")// Brew Date: April 25, 2016 // 

    Tea: a combination of Rishi Tea CompanyRuby Oolong a total of 3 level TB tea, brewed for 8 minutes, and also decided to steep room temperature filtered water with the tea leaves and use this for the fill water

    Sugar: 1 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased from Trader Joe's

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 8 days

    Temperature Notes: The average temperature, I would guess, for both gallon brewing jars would have been near to 78F. 

    Starter Tea Notes: I used 2 cups of starter liquid from the previous batches, using the top-most kombucha from the gallon batches (used 1 cup from each gallon batch previously brewed)

    Second Fermentation: I bottled into the same liter flip-top bottles, using a funnel, with all the tools I used cleaned in warm vinegar water. I got about 2 and 1/2 liters total, filling the bottles almost up to the top of the bottles, leaving very little headspace. I reserved 2 cups of the top-most kombucha with the SCOBY for the SCOBY hotel, and placed Velma in the hotel jar along with Scooby, as I decided to take a break from brewing since I was completely out of tea at this point. Both SCOBYs were in the hotel for about 1 week total before I strated to brew again (the seventh batches...more on those next week!). I let the bottles sit and infuse for 5 days before straining them as I did my two last infusions (with my funnel and nutmilk bag). This longer infusion process really got more flavors out, and produced a more acidic flavor, but I didn't really notice a higher fizz factor (but it was there and pleasantly gentle, nonetheless).

    pH at Bottling: Not 100% sure, but I'd guess probably 3.0

    Bottling Recipes: for this batch, I wanted to get summery! I used some inpsiration from the Big Book of Kombucha, and then also mish-mashed my love of ginger with spicy to make a spicy ginger infusion. Both flavors were spot-on, and in my opinion, are perfect for some fun mock/cocktails that I will share below. 

    Strawberry Lemonade // 1 liter // 

    • 4 TB strawberries, cut into small pieces (I used frozen berries)
    • 3 tsp lemon juice
    • 1/4 tsp lemon zest

    Lemonade season=Arnold Palmer season. I mixed equal parts lemonade with iced tea (got some of this black iced tea from Rishi, and brewed it up in the sun! Very tasty!), and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Super refreshing. This type of drink will for sure be on regular rotation in the hotter months for us!

    Spicy Ginger-Cayenne // 1 liter //

    • 3 tsp finely grated (used my microplane) organic ginger, skin and all
    • 1/8 tsp or small pinch powdered cayenne 

    As I enjoyed this brew, I thought it would make an AWESOME stand-in for a spicy ginger beer in the classic dark and stormy cocktail. I hope to try this out with my next batch...so stay tuned for this!

    Something about watching the color get sucked out of the strawberries was really satisfying....Aaaaand this Arnold Palmer-like number....was so, so good. I urge you to try it! You'll thank me in the dog days of summer!!

  • The Fifth Brew: Splitting the SCOBY + Fun Infusions

    So, two gallons of kombucha is a LOT of kombucha for one person! I mean, I am not complaining at all, but merely saying this: if you love kombucha, you should seriously consider brewing your own. It is so fulfilling, and how cool is watching your SCOBYs regenerate? Mind. Blown.

    Speaking of, my SCOBY was to the point where it was large enough to split. Generally, I have read that when a SCOBY reaches 1" thickness (for the gallon brewing method), it is time to split it. For me, this took 4 batches kombucha, but may be different for you and your SCOBY. To separate, I simply peeled apart the layers, which gave me two SCOBYs: one with more older growth (from my original SCOBY), and the newer growth. Immediately after separating, I brewed with both my older and new SCOBYs to produce 2 separate gallons of kombucha (I had to buy a new gallon brewing jar, and did so at the Wine and Hop Shop for about $6). While both batches were successful in reaching a pH of 3.0 after an 8 day brewing period, I did notice a few differences with the batches, but also note that I used two different teas to brew the batches. 

    The older SCOBY seemed to get carbonated at a slower rate, and I had to let the bottles that I infused with flavors for the second fermentation, sit on the counter at room temperature for two days longer to get the fizz levels to where I like them, as well as the acidic bite that I like. So overall, I let all the bottles infuse with flavors for 2 whole days before straining out the bits and pieces of fruits and spices. Then, I let the strained kombucha brewed with the newer SCOBY ferment in the bottles at room temperature for and additional 3 days, and the kobucha brewed with the older SCOBY sit for an additional 5 days in order to get the carbonation and flavor I like. I put the liters of kombucha in the fridge once the flavor and carbonation levels I was looking for were reached, and enjoyed them from there. 

    After brewing these batches, I decided to create a SCOBY "hotel" with 2 cups of freshly brewed kombucha from the top of the gallon brewing jar, and the older SCOBY used to brew the batch, and only brew with the newer SCOBY for the next gallon batch. I did this mostly because I only had enough tea and sugar to brew one gallon, and want to see if allowing the older SCOBY to "rest" for a week or two will allow it to come back to full force. We will see what happens with the 6th batches! 

    But to the fun stuff: I had a great time picking out the infusion flavors from around my spice rack and pantry for the two gallons that I brewed. I used the Big Book of Kombucha for inspiration, and also took a nod of inspiration from my favorite flavor from NessAlla (hisbiscus, ginger, cardamom).Infusions for the batch brewed with the older SCOBY (Scooby):

    • Ginger (chopped into small pieces)
    • Blueberry-Lavender-Lemon

    Infusions for the batch brewed with the newer SCOBY (Velma):

    • Tangerine-Cayenne
    • Hibiscus-Ginger-Cardamom

    All of these flavors were wonderful...but a word of caution about powdered herbs and spices: a small amount goes a LONG way! At first sip of my hibiscus-ginger-cardamom infusion, I thought I had gone overboard with a mere 1/8 tsp of powdered cardamom for a liter of kombucha, but the flavor seemed to calm down as the brew aged. Ditto with the tangerine cayenne: it was spicy...but I loved the spice with the carbonation. Additionally, the hibiscus-cardamom-ginger batch was super fizzy, relative to all the other batches. Maybe it is something with the hibiscus flowers? Either way, it was super tasty and pretty.And finally, a note about the teas used: the older SCOBY (Scooby) was used in a sweet tea made from Rishi's Ruby Oolong, and the nutty flavors were sublime. The newer SCOBY (Velma) was used in a sweet tea made from Rishi's Golden Yunan, as used previously in batches #3 and #4. I didn't choose these combinations for any particular reason, but can assume that both the age of the SCOBY and type of tea used to brew the kombucha likely had an influence on the course of the fermenation.

    At any rate, here are the recipes for the second ferment infusions! Cheers!

    My Fifth 'Booch Brews // Brew Date: April 18, 2016 // 

    SCOBY: Newer Growth ("Velma")

    Tea: Rishi Tea CompanyGolden Yunnan a total of 3 TB tea, brewed for 8 minutes

    Sugar: 1 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased from Trader Joe's

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    SCOBY: Older Growth ("Scooby")

    Tea: Rishi Tea CompanyRuby Oolong a total of 3 TB tea, brewed for 8 minutes

    Sugar: 1 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased from Trader Joe's

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 8 days

    Temperature Notes: The average temperature, I would guess, for both gallon brewing jars would have been near to 80F. 

    Second Fermentation: I bottled into the same liter flip-top bottles, using a funnel, with all the tools I used cleaned in warm vinegar water. I got about 4 and 1/2 liters total, filling the bottles almost up to the top of the bottles, leaving very little headspace. I reserved 2 cups of the top-most kombucha with the scoby for the next batch, and then 2 cups for the SCOBY hotel in which I placed the older SCOBY, Scooby.

    pH at Bottling: 3.0 for both gallons

    Bottling Recipes: for this batch, I chose to get inspiration from recipes out of The Big Book of Kombucha, modifying them for my 1 liter bottles, and also trying my hand at creating a flavor that I love from NessAlla Kombucha here in Madison. 

    Hibiscus-Ginger-Cardamom // 1 liter // 

    • 1/8 tsp powdered cardamom
    • 1 tsp diced organic ginger root
    • 2 tsp hibiscus petals (got mine from the bulk tea/herb section at the Willy Street Coop)

    Tangerine-Cayenne // 1 liter //

    • 4 TB freshly squeezed tangerine juice
    • 1/8 tsp or small pinch powdered cayenne 

    Note: this flavor paired really well with Corona and Lime! I snuck in some of this into a wedding we went to last weekend...smart move on my part! 

    Blueberry-Lavender-Lemon // 1 liter //

    • 1/4 cup frozen wild blueberries
    • 1/2 tsp dried lavender, food-grade (also go mine from the bulk tea/herb section at the Willy Street Coop)
    • 1 TB freshly squeezed organic lemon juice

    Ginger // 1 liter //

    • 2 heaped tsp chopped organic ginger

    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 the bottles sit for 2 days to infuse with the flavorings, and then decided to strain out the infusion bits. For this process, I used my funnel, and line it with my Zimtal numilk/sprouting bag. After straining, I allowed the filtered liters of kombucha ferment at room temperature for the amount of time described above to attain the carbonation and acidic-flavors that I like, after which point I placed the liters in the fridge to slow fermentation.

    After a long run, an ice cold glass of kombucha! So darn refreshing.

  • The Fourth Brew: Hibiscus+ Grapefruit & Chamomile + Turmeric

    Moving onto the fourth batch! The gallon brewing process has been working really well for me, and the SCOBYs are multiplying (insert 1950s horror movie music). The warming temperatures are making it easier to keep temperatures regular without using our electric heat, and...I have a new source of knowledge and inspiration! I was gifted a (signed!!!!) copy of The Big Book of Kombucha, written by the founders of Kombucha Kamp, Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, and WOW! What an awesome compilation of everything a homebrewer would need to know about getting started, brewing, maintenance, and what to do with all those extra SCOBYs as your brewing process continues. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious or already a homebrewer of kombucha. I had the pleasure of seeing Hannah and Alex, along with the talented founders and brewers of Karma Kombucha and NessAlla Kombucha, teach a kombucha homebrewing class at the Good Food Festival (the one I went to back in March in Chicago). And yeah, saying that Hannah (and the rest of the bunch!) is passionate about brewing and kombucha as a whole is a complete understatement. What a fantastic community!

    So, obviously, I had to use some recipes from the book as inspiration for bottling my fourth batch. And, another exciting factor: I decided to split my SCOBY. It was getting to the 1" thickness mark, and I decided it was time to start another gallon brewing vessel. As noted, my thrid batch fermented quickly, and no doubt the larger SCOBY culture with the warmer temperatures fueled the brew to ferment quickly. Eventually, I would like to keep a SCOBY hotel for back-up cultures, but for now I think managing 2 one-gallon brewing vessels is perfectly acceptable for our needs. I will report back with how these batches turn out next week, as well with what I decide to flavor them with! 

    My Fourth 'Booch Brew // Brew Date: April 11, 2016 // 

    Tea: Rishi Tea CompanyGolden Yunnan a total of 4 TB tea, brewed for 6 minutes

    Sugar: 1 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased from Trader Joe's

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 8 days

    Temperature Notes: The average temperature, I would guess, would have been near to 80F. Our heat wasn't on nearly as much as the previous batches, but it is starting to be consistently warmer during the days here. 

    Second Fermentation: as with my first brew, I bottled into the same liter flip-top bottles, using a funnel, with all the tools I used cleaned in warm vinegar water. I got about 2 and 1/2 liters total, filling the bottles almost up to the top of the bottles, leaving very little headspace. Like the last batch, I reserved 2 cups of the top-most kombucha with the scoby for the next batch. Since my last batch was a touch sweet, I decided to let this batch brew for 8 days. The end result, likely due to the larger SCOBY and warming temperatures, was a bit sour but still absolutely drinkable. 

    pH at Bottling: 3.0

    Bottling Recipes: for this batch, I chose to follow two recipes out of The Big Book of Kombucha, modifying them for my 1 liter bottles. Overall, I was very happy with the results of these recipes. 

    Hibiscus-Grapefruit-Ginger Infusion // 1 liter // 

    • 4 TB 100% grapefruit juice (I used my reemer, and juiced an organic red grapefruit)
    • 2 tsp diced ginger root
    • 1/2 tsp hibiscus petals (got mine from the bulk tea/herb section at the Willy Street Coop)

    Chamomile-Turmeric Infusion // 1 liter //

    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 the bottles sit for 2 days to infuse with the flavorings, and then decided to strain out the infusion bits. Especially with the chamomile-turmeric flavor, the particulates were quite small and I didn't think picking those out as we drank the kombucha would be enjoyable. For this process, I used my funnel, and line it with my Zimtal numilk/sprouting bag (see picture below). This worked like a charm for filtering! But note: I probably removed some of the yeastie beasties in this process, but the bottles had no problem re-carbonating after straining. After this, we started to enjoy them, since they were already on the sour side during bottling. I allowed the bottles to sit on the counter for 1 whole day (warmer temperatures, noted!), and then moved them to the fridge since the kombucha was getting very fizzy (yes!). I suspect this was due to the high acid levels, as these can serve as food/substrate for the cultures in the brew. Since the bottles were moved to the fridge to "halt" futher carbonation and fermentation, I did not make a point to burp the bottles each day. Even with this step, the carbonation held very well while the bottles were stored in the fridge. Overall, these were my fizziest batches so far!

    We loved the hibiscus-grapefruit infusion: the color (I mean, come on! Pink!!!!), the floral notes and the slightly sour flavor of the hibiscus and citrus really played well with the sourness of this batch. Perfect by itself, over ice!The chamomile-turmeric blend was also very refreshing and summery. Something about German chamomile really takes me back to summers growing up (and it also reminds me of my grandma's dill pickles...weird, I know...), as it used to (well, it still does) grow wild around where we grew up. Also, that yellow color cannot be beat! Makes you happy just looking at it-am I right? 

    Filtering apparatus, with nutmilk bag (I still giggle when I say and/or read that...) (also note the mess I made on my counter on opening this bottle for straining...it was very, very fizzy)Ok, seriously...the colors of these batches were unreal. I think they seriously helped my mood this week.So fun!

  • The Third Brew: Ginger Juice!

    The Third Brew! Ok, so I am little late on this-life has been a bit busy lately, which is cool-so I am due for an update here. I am still loving the homebrewing gig...it is so fulfilling, fun, and gratifying! After a long day, pouring myself a big glass of homemade kombucha and sitting on our deck has been really great this past week, now that the weather is starting to be more spirng-like here in Madison.

    For this third batch, I experimented with a thrid form of ginger: freshly juiced! In our juicer, I put in a large hunk of organic ginger that was washed briefly in a warm vinegar/water solution. I then thought it'd be a great idea to put a small organic lemon through the juicer, making a strong lemon-ginger juice to add to my bottles for the second fermentation of this batch. In addition, I added 1/2 tsp organic evaporated cane juice (aka: sugar) to see if that would help with the fizz levels. 

    Overall: the batch was very refreshing and had some great ginger-lemon flavors going on, but fizz-factor wasn't the best. The batch was a *touch* sweet, so perhaps the addition of the 1/2 tsp sugar was not needed, but hey...experimenting! In the end, the fizziest of the ginger infusions with how I brewed my 'booch was the grated ginger on a microplane. However, all three were extremely tasty, regardless of form of ginger!

    My Third 'Booch Brew // Brew Date: April 4, 2016 // 

    Tea: Rishi Tea CompanyGolden Yunnan using 3 TB tea, brewed for 6-7 minutes

    Sugar: 3/4 Cup Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased from Trader Joe's

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 7 days

    Temperature Notes: As with the second batch, I would guess that the average temperature was around 78F for this thrid batch. The temperatures are getting warmer here, so I hope to use more natural heat rather than having our electric heaters running! I tasted at day 7, the brew was very flavorful, but a bit more sweet tasting (as reflected by the higher pH at bottling!), and just slightly carbonated. I could have let this batch go another day or two, but we were leaving for a few days so I wanted to bottle this stuff up!

    Second Fermentation: as with me previous brews, I bottled into the same liter flip-top bottles, using a funnel, with all the tools I used cleaned in warm vinegar water. I got about 2 and 1/2 liters total, filling the bottles almost up to the top of those that were full, leaving very little headspace. Like the last batch, I reserved 2 cups of the top-most kombucha with the SCOBY for the next batch. 

    pH at Bottling: 3.5

    Bottling Recipes: for this batch, I chose to juice ginger and lemon as described above. I added 2 TB total in EACH liter bottle, along with 1/2 tsp organic evaporated cane juice, which as mentioned above was added to see if this would amp-up the fizz factor (and I can't say with certainty that it did-but was still tasty).

    Ginger-Lemon Juice Infusion // 1 liter // 

    • 2 TB of the lemon/ginger juice
    • 1/2 tsp organic evaporated cane juice (optional)

    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 the bottles sit for 2 days total until I taste them again, and started to enjoy them. As with my first and second batches, I allowed the liters to sit at room temperature on my counter (out of direct sun light and drastic temperture changes) over the entire duraion of drinking them, and this was about 1 week total. I really enjoyed tasting them throughout the process to experience how the flavors changed. Since I was drinking the kombucha every day (about 8 to 12 oz per day), the bottles were burped (released of excess carbonation) in this process each day. I would say that burping your bottles once a day is a good idea to prevent explosions, as is not storing the bottles in a really warm location!Since this particular batch was a *touch* sweet, I found that the following mixers were a fun way to enjoy this batch!

    • 8oz ginger-lemon kombucha + 8oz Miller High Life (don't judge!) OR Heinekin Lite (also, don't judge-the flavors worked surprisingly well with BOTH of these affordable beers! But, I may do some more high-quality booch-and-beer pairings in the near future)
    • 8oz ginger-lemon kombucha + 8oz pure sparkling water + a few berries for fun garnish (picture below, on my ugly-yet-I-love-it-so-much retro chair)
    • 8oz ginger-lemon kombucha + 8oz pure sparkling water + 1/2 to 1 shot of Grey Goose Vodka/high quality vodka (unlike beer, I recommend using a high quality vodka...I rarely drink hard booze and mixed drinks, so when I do, it better be good. I am glad I *forced* myself to try it, and am happy to report it was an easy, tasty and fun drink for the warmer weather!)

  • The Second Brew: Ginger and Goji Berry!

    So, I am really, really loving the whole kombucha-brewing-at-home thing. I can't describe it, but it is really putting joy into my days. Waking up, seeing the bottles of booch on my counter. Checking on my brew and scoby a few times throughout the day, just because I can. Smelling the complex aromas rising from my gallon brewing jar...it makes me happy. 

    Isn't it amazing how something so seemingly simple, is really so complex? I do want to learn more about the science and microbiology of kombucha...the inner scientist and food nerd in me is calling...but for right now, I want to enjoy the simplicy of it. Go by the tastes, the colors, the smells, the sounds. Be present, and enjoy the process. Becuase isn't that the whole point?

    So here is what I did for my second batch of home brewed kombucha! LIke last time, I am going to recall with some level of certainty parameters for the brew, and also share what I did at bottling time (i.e. for the second fermentation). I'll also share some notes about the taste, fizzy factor, and other qualitative observations as I see fit/can remember.

    My Second 'Booch Brew // Brew Date: March 29, 2016 // 

    Tea: Rishi Tea Company, Golden Yunnan and Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong, using 1.5 TB of each for a total of 3 TB tea, brewed for 6-7 minutes

    Sugar: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purchased in bulk from the Regent Street Coop

    Water: PUR filtered water from our faucet

    Days Brewed: 7 days

    Temperature Notes: I made sure our heat was ON for the entire brewing process this time, and I really did notice a difference in aroma and flavor. I would guess that the average temperature was around 78F for this batch. When I taste tested at day 7, the brew was so flavorful, more acidic tasting (but still sweet), and more carbonated than my first batch. The tea combination I used really shined through as well. 

    Second Fermentation: as with my first brew, I bottled into the same liter flip-top bottles, using a funnel, with all the tools I used cleaned in warm vinegar water. I got about 2 and 1/2 liters total, filling the bottles almost up to the top of the bottles, leaving very little headspace. Like the last batch, I reserved 2 cups of the top-most kombucha with the scoby for the next batch (this is called the "starter tea"). As an fun experiment, I combined the 1/2 liter of this second brew with about 1/3 of a liter of my previous mango-infused kombucha. I tasted some after a day of being in the bottle, and it was very tasty, but a bit sweet. After letting it sit for 4 days, it was more yeasty (cream layer at the bottom of the bottle was prominent, and the kombucha was slightly cloudy), and much more carbonated! The taste grew less sweet, and more complex as well during this time. 

    pH at Bottling: 3.0

    Bottling Recipes: for this batch, I chose to use larger pieces of ginger and whole goji berries, allowing for them to be easily removed when drinking the kombucha, as opposed to straining to get smaller pieces of grated ginger and pureed fruit out. I also did not use any lemon juice, or additional sugar at bottling this time. Random Fact: read about how too much sugar can actually inhibit yeast, and reduce carbonation in kombucha. 

    Goji-Ginger Infusion // 1 liter // 

    • 2 tsp chopped organic ginger root, chopping to the size similar to goji berries
    • 2 tsp dried organic goji berries

    Ginger Infusion // 1 liter //

    • 2 TB 1/3" to 1/2" chopped organic ginger root

    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 the bottles sit for 3 days total until I taste them again, and started to enjoy them. For my first and second batches, I allowed the liters to sit at room temperature on my counter (out of direct sun light and drastic temperture changes) over the entire duraion of drinking them, and this was about 1 week total. I really enjoyed tasting them throughout the process to experience how the flavors changed. Since I was drinking the kombucha every day (about 8 to 12 oz per day), the bottles were burped (released of excess carbonation) in this process each day. I would say that burping your bottles once a day is a good idea to prevent explosions, as is not storing the bottles in a really warm location!

    As for that, I am still learning what the ideal conditions are in the second fermentation, but not stressing too much about it. As I said before, I have let the bottles during the second fermentation sit in the same spot for both batches, so in doing this, I think it is safe to say that the bottles have been exposed to similar temperatures. The fizz-factor in this second batch was about the same with my first batch, but the flavors of the infusions were notably weaker owing to the fact that I used large chunks and not fruit puree/grated ginger. The goji-ginger infusion was *slightly* more carbonated than the liter with only ginger pieces, I am guessing due to the presence of addtional sugars in the dried goji berries. The goji berries imparted a very light tart-berry flavor, very subtle, and the berries themselves were kombucha-flavored berry bombs!! Very fun to eat (could also be put into a smoothie, if you wish). 

    In the qualitative comparison of my first two batches (i.e. I added 1/2 tsp sugar to my liters in my first batch), I do NOT think adding additional sugar to the liters for the second fermentation significantly influenced my carbonation levels, so for now, I am going to omit addition of sugar during bottling. 

    As for the chunks of ginger and berries, they WERE easier to pick out when pouring a glass of kombucha to drink, and the flavor was very mild. And, the bottling process was very simple: no grating, no puree-ing, no additional mess. However, for a stronger infusion flavor, I would recommend grating the fresh ginger and using fruit puree. For my next batch, I plan on juicing fresh ginger, and whatever fruit I decide to use. I'll decide that when I get to that point, and share my results here! 

    Love the color of the goji berries!Fun and fizzy stuff!!

  • 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!

  • This and That: April 2016 Update + Kombucha Brewing At Home (PLUS: The Kombucha Shop Kit Review!)

    It has been a while since I have visited this page, so it is time for some spring cleaning and updating! I had intentions of updating sooner, but typing "I still really, really want to keep bees but I don't have the resources at hand right now" seemed a little...boring? Right? 

    But that is what it boils down to. I am still very much interested in keeping bees, but have decided to hold off on taking the plunge until I have better resources (i.e. a better location that isn't an apartment with no green space!). But until then, I hope to use this space to share my current project and kitchen experiment: brewing my own kombucha!

    I was really inspired with a tour I took with a friend. We had an informal tour of the NessAlla brewing facilities, tasted lots of 'booch (my favorite: Juniper Rose), and enjoyed the company of others that think this ancient tea-based elixir is amazing. Really, though, it is and ANYONE can do it! Kombucha is full of probiotics, beneficial yeasts and acids, and happens to taste great as well. Oh, and it is SUPER easy to make! The basic ingredients are water, black tea, sugar, time/patience, as well as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). And once you make the initial investment, you can literally make kombucha for pennies....kind on your wallet AND the earth!

    To get started, I did a cost anaylsis of a) purchasing the components indiviudally or b) getting this kit + buying several liter flip-top bottles at the Wine and Hop Shop on Monroe Street. Turns out, going with option b was the best bet. (ps: the Wine and Hop Shop carry this kit, as do both Williamson Street Cooperatives in Madison, which is where I purchased mine).So, let's dive right in: THE KIT! Overall, I was really happy with it, and would 100% recommend it to anyone who wants to take the plunge into home brewed kombucha. However, below are some of my thoughts, and aspects that I think are notable (but are no means an extensive overview of the brewing process, or factors that are beneficial or harmful to home brewing kombucha!). 

    What I Liked:

    I loved the easy instructions, the straight-forward language and the extensive information on the website. Brewing my first batch was a low-stress, enjoyable produciton. It was refreshing to have a kitchen experiment of sorts that was so straight forward, a polar opposite of conducting food research (HEH!). The hardest part for me was to enter in the promo code to get a fresh and alive SCOBY delivered to my door. For me, this only took 2 days, so I was brewing in no time. I also really love the temperature reading strip that you stick to the brewing jar (it is accurate-I kept a thermometer beside the jar for several days to verify), and the fact that the tea is from the renowned Rishi tea company in Milwaukee. Along those lines, the website states that the kit uses locally-sourced, USA made materials, which I think is also pretty darn rad! And perhaps the best part: the SCOBY provided with the kit is made with love and good juju from the NessAlla team here in Madison! How awesome is that? 

    What I Didn't Dig:

    Double-edged sword here: I also didn't love the simplicity of the instructions. Now, I know, it cannot be overly complicated or else it will completely scare people off from brewing. But there were two important factors that I had to research on my own before getting started that I felt needed to be addressed a bit more: 

    • Cleanliness and Sanitaiton: now, call me a quality nerd (I did work in quality for 3 years, ya know), but starting with clean hands and equipment is important, regardless of what type of food product you are going to be making. For kombucha, avoid using anti-bacterial soap. This makes sense, though: you're dealing with a culture of bacteria and yeast-those little critters that antibiotics are meant to destroy. Start with clean hands whenever your are working with your SCOBY or your booch. Clean your brewing tools using warm water and vinegar. I prepared a big bowl of warm vinegar water, and kept it in my sink throughout the primary brewing, and during any other time I was working with my 'booch (i.e. bottling and preparing for the second fermentation). And on that note, I think it is important to realize that like antibacterial soaps, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides applied to fruits and/or herbs you may use for your second fermentation should be addressed. Either use locally produced, organic items or clean your ingredients in a solution vinegar water. 
    • Water Quality: here in Madison, we have really hard water due to the plethora of limestone. We get lots of calcium deposits or "scale". I didn't think using regular tap water would be good for brewing the 'booch. Like many other food products, mineral deposits can lead to off-flavors, inhibition of bacteria and/or yeasts, yucky films forming on the surface of liquids, and in certain cases, can actually harbor bad/pathogentic bacteria in the (very rare) event a build-up occurs. So, start with filtered water (I use a faucet-mounted PUR filter), or purchase spring water from your grocery. In addition to minerals, it is important to use filtered water to remove chlorine-another chemical used to kill (oxidize) organic matter and bacteria. 

    Now, call me nit-picky, but I really also did not dig the plastic straw that was included in the kit. I guess for me, the whole point of brewing my own kombucha is to save some money, and to reduce waste by continually purchasing glass bottles. So why not procure a glass straw for the kit, such as Glass Dharma straws? I used my own glass straw to test my brew after 7 days, and it worked like a charm. But, perhaps most annoyingly, the straw is 100% not necessary. You can simply dip in a clean spoon to taste your brew. So really, the plastic straw needs to go!

    As previously mentioned, siphoning off a sample to taste test after 7 days of brew time is performed in conjuction with using pH strips, or litmus papers. Which brings me to aspect #2 that I didn't like: the pH strips. They are fussy, moisture-sensitive, and extremely time dependent. You must read your strip immediately after dipping it in your sample, and the color will continue to change-so have your color reference chart at the ready (this is not indicated in the instructions). It is sometimes really difficult to discern what color is on your strip... for example, there are several shades of green and they all start to look similar if you look at them long enough (HEH!)!! Now, I know this isn't critical, as you would likely know if your brew was outside the target pH values by a blatant color discrepancy, but for a science nerd, this test is a touch irksome. And really, who is going to be crazy and purchase a pH meter just to home brew? My whole point here is to mindful of the litmus/pH paper test, and know the factors that may inhibit the accuracy of it. Knowledge=power, yo!

    Lastly, the instructions indicate to throw away the tea after brewing your sweet tea for the SCOBY. ONE TIME? The tea blend is of a traditional nature, a mix of ceylon and oolong, both of which benefit from more than one brew. I recommend brewing the tea for the kombucha, and then saving the tea after the first steeping for another cup or two for yourself! 

    So, I guess that is it for now! I will be back soon to share the parameters for my first brew, as well as the "recipes" I followed for my second fermentation/bottling. Cheers!