Wide World of 'Buch
Sinking, Floating, and Fusing
To the un-initiated, the orientation of the kombucha SCOBY can be a mystifying ponderance. Shouldn't it float at the top? If it sinks, will the brew fail? The answers really are much more of an indifference to chaos than a culture control regimen.
The mother SCOBY you used to start your new brew should be considered different from the resulting, new SCOBY that grows on the surface of your new brew. Let's call that original the mother, and the new one (that will begin to form on the surface) the baby. When you start your brew, adding the mother to the sweet tea, that original culture may float, at the surface, it may sink, or it may just hover in the middle. Any of these orientations is 100% okay and should not be considered indicative of viability. The mother will potentially fuse together with the baby, too, and that's fine. The SCOBY doesn't have a mind of its own, it's not drowning if it sinks and it's not dangerous if it floats before the baby has a chance to start growing. Much more indicative of brew health is the level of sweetness, which should decrease with time, and acidity, which should increase.
Most of the time, when I hear that someone's SCOBY has disappeared, the issue is very simple. Just bumping your fermentation vessel while it is brewing is enough to cause the SCOBY to sink below the surface of the tea. So, whereas previously there was a thin baby growing on the surface, it will now have "disappeared." It's very often likely that a little disturbance caused the culture to sink, potentially not being visible in the tea below. But remember, taste your brew throughout the fermentation process so you can tell if it is progressing or not. Nearly 100% of the time it is, and any speculation or fear of failure is unfounded.
Your SCOBY after the First Brew
After your first brew, you'll likely have 2 types of culture you will deal with. One will be the original, or mother, culture - this will obviously not always be a single, coherent piece - maybe you picked up 2 pieces of culture from a friend, or got one of our 3-gallon ceramic deluxe kits with 3 SCOBYs, or just used shards of SCOBY from another brew - this culture can all be considered the mother.
So, you will have the mother and the baby, which will be the new culture that will have formed. Please note as well - new culture will always grow on the surface, and you can't grow kombucha SCOBY underneath the surface of the tea. Yeast tendrils may form in the liquid, but you won't see new SCOBY forming in the liquid.
Tendrils, Dark Spots, Bubbles, Oh My!
These are all things that cause trepidation on the part of new brewers, but once you get used to the strange things you'll see, that initial skepticism will turn to awe every time you brew!
And below, the classic and spine-tingling Brown Visitor. Be careful when peeking at your brew before bedtime.
Below, also, are some common brown visitors. The specks on the surface (left) are often yeast granules that are at times tough and grainy, but are totally normal. On the right are just bits of tea that didn't get strained out during steeping.
And finally, the giant SCOBY. Simply the result of a long fermentation time, there's nothing to fear here. The kombucha below this one will likely be pretty sour, but both parts can be used as normal. The kombucha as vinegar or starter, and the culture as a mother, backup or foodstuff.
Don't Freak Out!
So, next time your brew is weirding you out, remember that SCOBY lead lives of their own and don't bow to our expectations of understanding. If any of the above troubles you, let it be laid to rest. Remember that the ultimate test of a successful brew is good fun and great taste. Happy brewing!
Check out this blog post if you think your kombucha SCOBY may be performing in less savory fashions, i.e. growing mold
Getting nervous about how late you can order from KBBK and still have it under the tree for Christmas morning? Our carriers have declared that if you order by the dates on this map, they will be able to get your package to these locations before Dec 25th. If you're looking for last minute gifts after these dates, we have expedited shipping options.
We will be shipping orders until Dec 23rd. Give us a call if you need help getting an order together.
Happy holiday brewing!
We're always trying to see just how far we can go in playing with our primary ferments. This recipe is a great example of treading in unknown territory and coming out with a positive result.
Generally we don't advise using non-tea or whole spices in primary fermentation, as this can interfere with the metabolism of the culture and won't guarantee a successful brew. But with plenty of culture to go around, and some ambitious spirit, we've found we can take our brews to places unfathomed. Enter Melange, the ultimate holiday kombucha.
Some of our favorite spices are prevalent around the holiday season, so we decided to take two of the tastiest - clove and cinnamon - for a ride in this brew. This recipe gets bonus points for its simplicity!
Makes 1 gallon
- 4 grams each black, green, and white tea (or 1 bag KBBK Signature Tea Blend)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brewed kombucha (for starter)
Boil water as you would normally, and steep the tea blend along with the cloves and cinnamon. Once you've allowed this mix to steep for at least 20 minutes, just remove the tea bag (leave the clove and cinnamon in!), add sugar, top off with cool water, and add your SCOBY and starter. Unique to this brew, we're leaving the cloves and cinnamon in with the culture for the primary fermentation process - we didn't notice any adverse effects to the SCOBY at all!
As with any brew, allow to ferment until a balance of sweetness and acidity is achieved. Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 weeks to allow carbonation to develop, if you want effervescence. Serve this on cold winter mornings with breakfast for a warming pick-me-up!
We are not responsible for any inadvertent prescience or trance-like states imparted by the consumption of Melange.
Like a cool glass of kombucha after a big Thanksgiving meal, #GivingTuesday is a great way to cleanse the palette of consumerism after the big shop-off that happens every year on Black Friday - Cyber Monday weekend. As a kombucha brewer, you have special fermentation skills that can bring health and vitality to so many people in your community. Today, on this Giving Tuesday, put your skills to work for the people and spread the kombucha health.
Kombuchmaster's Guide To Giving Tuesday
Donate ‘buch Your favorite local charity, club, civic group, NGO, spiritual center, not-for-profit, school group, and many others, would love to have fresh and healthy ‘buch to serve to those in need as well as to help fuel their own work in their quest to do good. As a kombucha brewer, you know that making a straight up batch of ‘buch is as easy as brewing a cup of tea. So next time you brew up a batch, reach into that SCOBY HOTEL and put on a second or even a third batch to donate to a local organization.
Throw a ‘buch party Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll live forever. Same goes with the ‘buch! As a kombrewer, the most valuable thing you have is knowledge. So spread it! Invite members of your community to your home to learn the skill of kombucha brewing or perhaps your local community center, school, library, or YMCA will host your event. And we want to help out! Get in touch with us for group discounts on KBBK brewing supplies to help your neighbors get started.
Secret Santa some SCOBY Rancher's Snacks! Guerilla ‘buching has never been as fun as it is in the holidays. It’s a great time to use up some of those SCOBYs you’ve been stashing in your SCOBY hotel. Make up a big batch of SCOBY Rancher's Snacks, package them in small, sneakable packages, and leave them on your co-workers’ desk, drop them into the holiday stockings of friends that you visit, or drop them in a bowl and take them to your holiday potluck!
From us here at KBBK, thank you for joining us in giving on #GivingTuesday and every day of the year! Continue reading
It can be tough to know just what to get for your BFF (best fermenting friend). Let us help you with some tried-and-true gifts that are sure to add some joy to this holiday season. Selected based on ordering history, here is our Kombucha Holiday Gift Guide 2015:
For the Kombrewster just starting out:
This combo will gift the new brewer with everything they need to brew, bottle and start experimenting with flavors. A 1 gallon ceramic crock with its organic cloth cover will not only look great, but it will fit in a kitchen of any size. Enough ingredients for 4 rounds of ‘buch will get them through until Valentine’s Day. Share the wealth of kombucha with your loved ones.
For the Kombrewmaster already established in their practice:
Kombucha is wonderful. Did you know it is also the base for a sophisticated, sulfite-free wine? This season, give your favorite kombuchasseur the gift of a Kombucha Wine Kit and bring in the new year with added style! Comes with everything some one who is already brewing ‘buch will need to complete the wine ferment.
For the Fermentation Enthusiast:
This is the ultimate setup for the home fermenter. Use it with the organic cotton cover to brew fabulous ‘buch. In between batches of kombucha, fill it with cabbage and salt or ingredients for your favorite kimchi recipe, weigh them down with the weights, cover it with the lid and put your crock to work overtime!
It's the best time of the year...
Now through Monday at midnight take advantage of our Kombucha Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sale and give the gift of fermentation.
15% off everything in the entire store 20% off if you spend $150 or more 25% off if you spend $250 or more
Discount applied at checkout.
Heat mats are back, and better than ever!
As many of our customers know, heat mats have been out of stock for a while. Our original 1-gallon heat mats were made in China, one of the last of our items made outside the US. As practical and affordable as they were, they very often did not last long. In our search for quality American-made heat mats, we found a small company in West Wareham, MA. They not only produce exactly what we are looking for, but do so at a very reasonable price.
Let us introduce you to the new mats:
Kombucha Heat Mat, Small - This 12 by 4 inch mat is designed for a 1/2- or 1-gallon glass jar. With the option to add another foot of length to the mat, you can heat an additional vessel when you place the jars on top. Pictured above.
Kombucha Heat Mat, Large - This 12 by 6 inch mat is designed for a larger brewing vessel, perfect for a 1-gallon crock. With the option to add 1 foot of length, it is perfect for a 2-gallon or 3-gallon crock; with 2 extra feet, it is perfect for a 5-gallon crock.
Each mat can effectively raise the temperature of your brew by 10°F. By insulating the outside of the mat with a towel, you can increase the temperature by 5-10°F.
Heating will be essential to your brews this winter, so make sure you've got a heat mat to keep your brew warm!
SCOBY. Culture. Mother. Mushroom. Many are the names we call our beloved masses of chewy, rubbery kombucha colonies.
We get asked frequently, though: How do you say kombucha? It's an appropriated term that would actually classically refer to seaweed (kombu) tea (cha), so we can get pretty close to an agreeable method of pronouncing the name of our beloved beverage.
kom (like dot-com, compare)
BOO (what a ghost says, or your significant other)
cha (like the cha-cha dance, "ch" as in chai, ch-ch-ch-CHIA!, choo-choo, "a" as in "ahh," or "cole-slaw")
Seems simple enough, yes? We've heard tons of different pronunciations for kombucha. Here are some of our favorites:
You get the picture. For all of you who were wondering, now you know! Here's your next chance to be hip around the water cooler!
The lore and mystique of the SCOBY has, especially in recent years, begun to eclipse its initial intended sphere of influence, that being the royalty and progenitor of our beloved kombucha tea. Perhaps not oddly, as kombucha is the friend of the strange, weird and esoteric, SCOBYs have come to be personified with names and fantasied colloquial banter as virally as cat pictures and comic memes.
With benevolent intent and playful attitude have we come to accept and cherish our squishy brew pals, and assuredly any long time brewer has, in rudimentary culinary rites, christened their yeasty lord with names such as "SCOBY Doo," "Diane," or "Bon SCOBI."
Mother Knows Best
It is in this spirit of playful reverence that we've allowed our cultures to appropriate many other roles outside the realm of kombucha brewing, as if showing a new friend around town - one who you don't want to return home, and one with whom you desperately cling to at every moment's turn. As we've proselytized before, SCOBYs aren't just for making kombucha - we've been eating them for health, energy, and economy; we've been drying them to use as art, as bio-sustainable fabrics, and as decoration; we've resorted to secret, late-night conversations with the wiser, older mothers, seeking the gratification of divulgence and guarantee of secrecy.
It is with this transparency and acceptance that kombucha candy, our SCOBY Rancher Snacks have poignantly fortified their place in the traditions of our end-of-year holidays - the earthy, spicy affect of clove and cinnamon on something which, when dehydrated, tastes commonly of apples, is a classic archetype of holiday consumption. And appropriately, with their enigmatic appearance and semi-mythological following and observance, SCOBYs make an excellent format for Halloween's over-the-top actualization in which the weird is allowed a little more credulity and merit.
Don't Be Scared!
Even the seasoned brewer can cringe at the thought of consuming their gelatinous, chewy buddies, and most people say the reason for their reluctance is texture. However, we've converted many would-be naysayers to SCOBY-munching elite with the delicious preparation of this genre-morphing sweet and sour treat. Even for the pensive first-time consumer, these treats are insanely tasty and are always fewer in quantity than demand would prefer.
So, if you're looking for a way to expand your considerations of the possibilities of the SCOBY, look no further than your new favorite treat, sure to please at all of your Halloween festivities: SCOBY Rancher Snacks.
- 4 (1 inch thick) SCOBYs
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon shredded licorice root
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon sassafras extract
- 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla extract
- 6 cups filtered water
- 4 cups organic cane sugar
- Cut your SCOBYs into small cubes and rinse them in a colander to remove tea and yeast filaments. Set aside to drain off as much as possible.
- Boil the 6 cups of water and add spices. Allow to boil for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add 3 cups of the sugar, and stir. Allow the mixture to cool.
- Strain out spices.
- Place the drained SCOBY cubes and cooled sugar water mixture in a bowl, cover, and let marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Drain and refrigerate the sugar marinade for future SCOBY snack-making.
- Pour the sugary SCOBYs onto parchment sheets in an even layer and dehydrate at 110 F for 16 to 20 hours, until the SCOBYs are the consistency of a soft, chewy gummy bear.
- Once dehydrated, prepare a tray or bowl with the remaining 1 cup of sugar inside. Remove SCOBY pieces from parchment paper, and roll each piece in the sugar.
- Store the candies in bags or airtight containers covered in more sugar to preserve them.
Enjoy, but be careful with whom you share these delicious morsels. You'll continue to receive requests for them long after the final SCOBY Rancher Snack is gone. Not a bad reason to stock up on SCOBYs!
Making kombucha can be a beautiful endeavor. Once you get past the newness of the operation, a new SCOBY forming on the surface is a beautiful sight. There are a few things, unfortunately, that can ruin that sight. One is mold - it's something we have covered quite a bit. The other is fruit flies.
The number one enemy in the world of unwanted invaders, the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is everywhere. In every brew space I’ve ever been I’ve seen these little buggers buzzing around. Even in tightly controlled environments like our SCOBY Lab we see them fly up seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it seems like they appear out of thin air (I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case). There are tricks to getting rid of them, but even more important is keeping them out of your brew jar.
What should one use to cover a brew vessel during fermentation? Your kombucha wants to breathe fresh oxygen during fermentation - so sealing your jar with a hard lid is out of the question. Therefore we turn to material that is porous enough to let air in, but not porous enough to allow fruit flies inside. Our material of choice is organic cotton. It has a tight weave, that if correctly secured to the jar, will not allow fruit flies to get inside. Other materials with the same weave will also work well. A paper towel, an old t-shirt, or even a coffee filter will work great.
One material that is commonly used, but should not be, is cheese cloth. Although it is designed for food production, it is too porous. Even if it is layered multiple times. We get emails all the time from new brewers using cheese cloth that have a family of fruit flies hanging out on their culture. When this happens the brew must be scrapped.
It only takes one
Once one fruit fly gets in, it's all over
First, it will quickly lay its eggs which then turn in to maggots
After a few days, they will turn into full-grown fruit flies
The process is quick and before you know it, you have a many flies buzzing around your jar
But don’t be afraid. With a simple piece of cloth and rubber band, you will be safe from these unwanted but familiar pests!