Monthly Archives: September 2015
In making kombucha, starting from a commercial bottle of kombucha was not a bad idea 5 years ago but the industry has changed. The day of the small micro-kombucha brewery making unfiltered, raw kombucha is coming to an end.
These days, many breweries are using additives and filtration processes to help control the fermentation process - a standard practice in the commercial brewing world for established industries like beer and wine. Sure, it can be a relatively inexpensive way to get going, but you may be propagating something you didn't intend. For this reason, it is best to start a batch of kombucha using a fresh, straight-from-the-fermenter SCOBY.
Think about it like this. A town of 5,000 trying to build a new meeting hall will have a hard time not building more than a room with four walls.
A town of 5,000,000 will be able to not just build a room with four walls but a whole structure full of rooms, passageways and fun things to do (definitely an amazing kitchen).
The same can be said for a colony of kombucha microbes coming from a commercial bottle of kombucha (town of 5,000) and a fresh kombucha SCOBY and starter (town of 5,000,000). There is really no comparison. The fresh SCOBY will brew a potent delicious kombucha the first round, in the normal 10-14 days, where as the commercial brew starter may not even form a new SCOBY let alone ferment a perfect batch in 10 days.
We get photos all the time of peoples brews that have molded after trying to start a batch with a bottle of the popular brands of kombucha.
Don’t waste your time or ingredients trying to build a colony from a subpar SCOBY. Start with a lab-grown, fermenter-fresh SCOBY and get perfect brews right away. Because let's get real, who wants to wait more than 10 days for their ‘buch?
Stay tuned for Starting from a Commercial Bottle, pt. 2!
We get quite a few photos sent to us from brewers across the globe, inquiring about kombucha SCOBYs - "Is this mold?" It's usually pretty simple to tell mold from healthy, or just bizarre, brews. Bizarre brews can result from extreme temperature fluctuation, the use of highly unrefined sugars, oily or flavored teas, or too much or too little of any ingredient; however, they won't usually create dry, fuzzy formations on the surface of the brew. Mold will always be dry and fuzzy, and form on top of the liquid in your brew jar. Read this blog post for more thoughts on kombucha and mold.
The photos below indicate healthy brews in various stages of growth - some may be 3 days of growth, indicated usually by thin, papery culture growing on the surface, to thick cultures with lots of yeast involved. You'll see strands of yeast growing below the surface of the tea, like tendrils, reaching down into the brew - this is completely normal. The opaque, greenish/brownish blobs are yeast too. Often, yeast will collect on one side of your brew jar, just under the SCOBY.
As always, please keep sending photographs of your home brews! We're always happy to receive and assess the brews for you. Happy brewing!
There are a few tantalizing aspects of home brewing kombucha that keep us coming back for more, aside from (obviously) drinking kombucha on the regular. Sure, it's the way it makes us feel - cleanly energized, refreshed, and awakened. It's economical - anyone who began their kombucha regimen with store-bought bottles knows that it's an expensive thing to love ready-to-drink kombucha. It's a healthy beverage, an easy way to dose oneself with probiotics, b-vitamins, amino acids and enzymes - and it can be very low in sugar.
But one of the major facets of home-brewing crusades is simply that it's fun! Brewing kombucha is intellectually stimulating. Just as any scientist hones his work through trial and error and learns as much from failure as from success, we as home brewers are taunted by that 'buch event horizon, the unknown territory beyond the edge of the abyss.
Not to discount the would-be brewers of the classics - but there's always space for that new brew that leaves our taste buds whirling in an ecstasy of confusion, surprise and delight.
Just as any brewer knows, there will always be home runs and strike outs. In kombucha brewing, a failure could potentially lead to the loss of your beloved mother (SCOBY, kombucha culture, mushroom etc.). If you have only maintained one culture throughout your brewing escapades, you're walking on thin ice!
Enter the SCOBY hotel. A comfortable, safe home for the SCOBY on the down-and-out. A cage for potential future meals. A reservoir of dreams for the adventurous brewer. Really, all it has to be is a lidded jar in your refrigerator.
Consider this - each time you harvest your 'buch, you will have grown another SCOBY in your brew jar. As always, you'll use the newest culture for your next brew, and either discard or save the original mother. But what do you do with the mothers you've saved?
Eat them, share them with friends, sure. But you've got an additional use for those mothers. They are your brewer's insurance. Every brewer remembers their first failed batch, causing you to source another SCOBY. But if you've been brewing for any amount of time, you could already have 5 mothers saved up in your hotel, keeping you from having to source another culture.
Another great thing about saving your SCOBYs in a hotel is the experimentation it allows. Have you ever wondered what will happen to a SCOBY in grape juice? Coffee? Beer?
Or what if you want to try out some tantalizing new herb blends that you're not sure will ferment properly. It's always rewarding, even if you fail, to try out something new. Even a few of the blends we've put up on our website, like Buffalo Soldier or Red Chai we were unsure about, at the start. But they turned out to be some of our favorite, out-of-the-box flavors, and both are completely unconventional, as far as 'buch brewing is concerned.
So - are you sitting on a load of thyme, or wild-harvested lilac? Have a bunch of old Earl Grey tea bags you want to get rid of? Or did you devise that ideal, mouth-watering kombucha that you think only has a slight chance of being successful? With the security of a load of backup SCOBYs, comfortable in your refrigerator, a moldy brew or SCOBY that doesn't make a baby will be no matter to you. Dream on, 'buchies! Let's do some exploring.
If you're brewing 'buch these days, you might notice that higher summer temperatures can lead to proliferation of yeast in your brew. These useful microorganisms, if overactive, can result in some unwanted consequences.
The consumption of sugar by yeast leads to the creation of alcohol as well as CO2. These can be friends and foes in kombucha brewing for a few reasons. Read this blog for more information on sugar, alcohol and kombucha.
Alcohol is an absolutely necessary facet of brewing kombucha. But much like the initial sugar you put in your brew, alcohol serves the SCOBY, not you, the end consumer. When yeast creates alcohol, bacteria consume it and create the various acids that make up the classic kombucha profile - acetic, glucoronic, hyaluronic, butyric, succinic, usnic etc. Excess alcohol that is not consumed by the bacteria does end up in your belly, but not to any great extent.
Overactive yeast can increase alcohol production and CO2, especially in secondary fermentation. So, it can be good to get rid of as much yeast as possible if you want to try to bottle up your kombucha.
But, alcohol isn't the only reason one would want to mitigate the passage of yeast into your bottle for secondary fermentation. Lots of people are averse to what many call the "stringy," or "floaty things" in kombucha - brown strands of yeast are very common in 'buch, however. Just the sight of them, can elicit cringes from the most discerning would-be 'buch drinkers. And if you're trying to get skeptics to drink your home brew, the aesthetic can be a making or breaking factor.
And while most of us enjoy the simple, wholesome flavor of yeast (this can be biscuity, bready etc.), it's not necessarily everyone's favorite aspect.
Highly yeasty 'buch in secondary fermentation can also make for faster production of CO2, which, while producing the lovable effervescence home brewers strive for, can make for higher volatility - most seasoned home brewers have experienced at least a bottle explosion or two as a result of this effect.
It is for these reasons that we choose to strain our 'buch before we bottle it up. Greater consistency comes in secondary fermentation when you strain your 'buch the same way every time, all while keeps skeptics relatively appeased.
We love to use a simple, sturdy strainer - the yeast / tea strainer. Not only does it get the yeasties out of our brew, but it also catches any leftover tea particulate that may have made it in from your steep.
Here's a look at what is left in the strainer:
You can use the strainer in combination with a nylon mesh filter bag to maximize your filtration:
So, if your 'buch has been overactive in carbonation, aesthetically coarse, or a little too boozy for your liking, consider simply straining it! It's the combination of these small steps that will turn you into a master 'buch brewer. Happy brewing!