Tag Archives: brewing

  • Cleaning an Auto-Siphon

     

    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn

     

     

    It's good to take care of your friends. Here are some general guidelines on cleaning an auto-siphon:

     

    1. As soon as you're done using it, rinse it - pull out the inner tube, run water through it, and remove the end cap for the outer tube, and rinse water through it.

     

    2. It can be tough to get SCOBY out of your auto siphon. Let the setup soak in soapy water to break down any residual culture.

     

    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    3. Vigorously pump soapy water through it, until any residue or culture is dislodged. Don't be shy, either - shake it or strike it against the palm of your hand so you can make sure to get all of the SCOBY out of it. If you want to get really intense, use some PBW (powdered brewery wash) as a soaking agent.

     

    Cleaning an auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn This end cap is removable, helpful when cleaning an auto-siphon

    4. Importantly, the loose plastic piece that is lodged inside your outer tube (not the end cap - that is removable) is meant to stay there - don't try to remove it! You'll hear it shaking around, but it is lodged there for a reason - it restricts some flow so you can get a good amount of pressure going easily so the flow can begin.

     

    Now that you know how to use and clean one - why not pick one up and watch your free time and cleanliness increase? Pick one up here.

  • Using an Auto Siphon: A Kombucha Brewer's Best Friend

     

    Auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    The auto siphon has become my favorite brewing implement for many reasons. It's saved my time and energy for years for the simple fact that it makes small batch brewing and farming SCOBYs faster and less laborious tasks.

     

    When transferring kombucha from brew vessel into bottle, I can think of no faster or cleaner method than using an auto siphon.

     

    Using an auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Hydraulic little guy. Rinse and clean your auto siphon immediately to prevent any sticky, tenacious kombucha buildup in the tubes!

     

    You'll find many other uses for your auto siphon to seamlessly transfer liquids! So pick one up today and say goodbye to sloppy pours and time-wasting spills.

  • Kombucha Recipe: Ruby Daydream

     

    Ruby Daydream, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    One of the funnest things about summer time is the refreshments! We're always trying to think outside the box, and in this kombucha recipe there's no exception. In honor of the coming summer, here's a great brew to turn the proverbial heads of friends and family that is sure to please on those warm, sunny occasions!

     

    Ruby Daydream

    For a 1-gallon brew:

     

    1. Steep the following for at least 20 minutes in 32 oz freshly-boiled water:

     

    2. After removing the leaves and lavender from the infusion, add:

    • 1 cup sugar (stir to dissolve)
    • 64 oz (1/2 gallon) cool, filtered water
    • 1 cup already-brewed kombucha (or 3 TBSP white vinegar)
    • SCOBY

     

    3. Top the brew off with water so that the surface of the liquid is just below the neck of your vessel.

     

    4. Cover your brew jar with a cloth and rubber band. Allow the brew to ferment for 5-10 days. Be sure to taste it every day after 5 days!

     

    5. Once you have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, your brew is ready for secondary fermentation. Now, you'll need three more ingredients:

    • 5 grams dried (or fresh!) hops (pellet or whole-cone) such as Cascade
    • 1 cup boiling water
    • juice from (1) ruby red grapefruit (~ 1 cup)

     

    6. Place hops into a nylon mesh bag or tea ball and submerge into the boiling water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, remove hops, and allow to cool

     

    7. Siphon or pour off your kombucha into your filling vessel - this can be a tea pitcher, another brew jar, etc.; this is the jar from which you will fill your bottles. Be sure to retain 1 cup of brewed kombucha for your next batch.

     

    8. Once the hop-tea is cooled, you can add it to your filling vessel, along with the grapefruit juice.

     

    9. Stir the contents of your jar, fill into glass bottles and one plastic bottle (so you can tell how much pressure builds up).

     

    10. Allow to sit at room temperature until the plastic bottle has built up a good amount of pressure, indicating that your glass bottles will be carbonated (read here about secondary fermentation). Generally this will take 1-2 weeks, but this step is also totally optional - non-carbonated kombucha is delicious too! Place the bottles into the refrigerator and share once they've cooled.

    Optional: Steep a little bit of hibiscus and add it to your brew for secondary fermentation. This is a great way to add a little color to any brew!

    Once your bottles are ready to drink, pop one open and put your feet up! You deserve some time to sit back with this refresher. This is a good time to start daydreaming about your next brew!

  • Choosing a Brewing Vessel

     

    Ceramic kombucha crocks, Kombucha Brooklyn

    While it's easy to brew kombucha in pretty much any container, it's an important decision to choose the best vessel you can find. Choosing a brewing vessel can make a huge difference in the quality, and of course quantity, of your kombucha brew. So, in an effort to clarify a few things for brewers new or seasoned, read below to find out more about these essential instruments.

     

    In choosing your brewing vessel, look for a few key characteristics:

     

    Stainless steel pot, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    1. The vessel should be glassceramic, stainless steel (304 or brewer grade, not cooking grade) or wood. While many will say that food-grade plastic can be used, undesirable flavors often result from continued use of plastic. Glass is an inert material and will not allow the leaching of chemicals into your brew. If brewing in a ceramic vessel, be sure it is lead-free (the crocks that KBBK carries are lead-free and USA-made). Stainless steel is especially popular in commercial brewing environments and as such will work for home brewing as well. Some choose to brew in wooden barrels, which is also fine, and will contribute woody characteristics to your brew.
    2. The vessel should be wide-mouthed. The kombucha SCOBY requires that air be constantly exchanged with the outside environment, as it is constantly taking in oxygen and expelling CO2. A wide surface area ensures fast growth, as well as quick acidification of the tea. This results in a healthy culture. The wider the area for the culture to exchange gases, the more numerous are the antibacterial byproducts of SCOBY metabolism. Keep in mind that although your SCOBY will grow in tall, narrow-mouthed vessels, it will do so less vigorously.
    3. The size of the vessel is important, though not quite so much as the available surface area. Similar to the surface area, however, the more shallow the depth of liquid in the fermentation vessel, the faster the SCOBY grows and processes the tea into delicious kombucha.
    4. The shape of the vessel is a matter of personal preference, and the culture will take the shape of the container at the level of the liquid’s surface.
    5. Vessels with a spigot can be intermittently convenient but can also tend to cause headaches. While it may seem useful to use the spigot and not worry about using or cleaning an auto-siphon, or requiring precise pouring technique, brewers will find the spigot becoming periodically clogged with kombucha culture; you'll find yourself not using the spigot as frequently as you are using it.
      • Additionally, the materials from which the vessel's spigot is made could be contributing chemicals to your brew through leaching. As kombucha is very acidic, any substance that is reactive to such liquids can potentially release toxins into your brew (something interesting to consider when kombucha is a detoxifying drink). It's for precisely this reason that we advise against brewing in plastic, even BPA-free or food-grade plastic vessels.
      • An auto-siphon can be just as simple to use to extract kombucha, resists transfer of large chunks of culture, is easy to clean, and requires no relocation of the brewing vessel.

     

    Barrel, Beehive and pot, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    Additional Considerations

     

    Ventilation is very important for your brewing vessel. Without proper ventilation, your brew's bacteria will be unable to access the oxygen they need to produce a nicely acidic kombucha. So, consider using fans in bigger brewing setups as well as completely porous (but not too porous) covers for your brewing vessel! Remember that cheese cloth is too porous and can allow fruit flies entry into your brew.

     

    Remember that it's not only kombucha that you can ferment in your vessels - pretty much any vegetable ferment (kimchi, sauerkraut) and some liquid ferments will work too - think kefir, mead, kvass etc. So, open up your horizons and start scouring flea markets, pawn shops, garage sales and antique malls for some sweet fermentation vessels!

     

  • Bamboo and Ceramic-Aged Pu-Erhs

     

    Rare and Limited Offerings from KBBK's Premium Tea Collection

     

    We're pleased to now offer two new and exotic styles of pu-erh! For a limited time, rare bamboo and ceramic-aged pu-erhs will be featured on our site for your kombucha brewing delight. Both of these teas are extremely limited and won't last!

     

    Ceramic Aged Pu-Erh, Kombucha Brooklyn

    The ceramic-aged pu-erh is a ripe, or shu pu-erh, and it has been processed to accelerate fermentation, and aged a further 15 years. We're very happy to offer this tea as it's a great example of the art and care taken in preparation, storage and presentation of tea. The included ceramic pot is hand-made by the manufacturer, and is a beautiful companion to this delicious tea and will surely bring an air of authenticity to your kitchen!

     

    The quick fermentation accentuates notes of malt and root vegetables, while the full body alludes to buttery corn cob and rich earth. It's a true treat to behold with full, dark color and loads of flavor to reveal after multiple infusions.

     

    Ceramic Pot Aged Sheng Pu-Erh, 2000, Kombucha Brooklyn Ceramic Pot Aged Sheng Pu-Erh, 2000

     


     

    And for a more rustic style, we're introducing a bamboo-aged pu-erh that's been cave-conditioned for 14 years. This is a great example of a raw, or shu pu-erh, that's been undergoing natural fermentation and maturation. At once green, then citrusy, and next smoky and mouth-filling, this tea is a true flavor chameleon.  A cooling, minty effect stimulates your palate with each sip, giving way to a pleasant, non-bitter and lingering mouthfeel that is remarkably clean for a pu-erh.

     

    Bamboo Pu-Erh, Kombucha Brooklyn

     

    A part of the preservation process involves a heating of the bamboo after it's been packed with the pu-erh maocha, or unfermented leaf, which imparts a lightly smoky taste that is as alluring as it is comforting.

     

    Both of these new pu-erh offerings produce a rapidly-growing SCOBY, a sure sign that the culture loves these teas! A truly unique kombucha awaits, and sharing this tea's taste as well as its story is the real treat of this experience.

     

    For more information on pu-erh, see this blog post about this fantastic style!

  • Fresh SCOBY vs Dehydrated SCOBY, a Brewer's Comparison


    If you're a brewer or kombucha follower, you may have heard about reanimating a dried SCOBY from dormancy to start a new brew. I've been curious, and having seen some dehydrated cultures available on the internet, I wanted to try it out. I bought a retail dehydrated SCOBY online. Thinking about woolly mammoths and Jurassic Park, I got excited to see if it would work.

     

    Dehydrated SCOBY, left; KBBK SCOBY, right

     

    The real question, I later discovered, was whether or not it would work for me - there are definitely some culture sources on the web that base their business around the sale of dehydrated SCOBYs - more power to them - but how easy or likely is it to resurrect a SCOBY from dormancy?

     

    The first KBBK Home Brew Kit, Kombucha Brooklyn The first KBBK Home Brew Kit

     

    Not being a stranger to dried SCOBY - I've made leather (edible and non-) as well as dehydrated SCOBY snacks (candies) before - I was somewhat tickled to fine a wafer-thin culture when it arrived in the mail. It was by no means substantial, but I know it doesn't take much to get a culture to take hold. Our first home brew kits came with a test-tube-sized SCOBY - granted, for a 32-oz brew - but it was fresh, not dried.

     

    Brewing from a dehydrated SCOBY - how long will it take?

     

    A week... A couple of weeks...? A month? If you're able to get a new, fresh SCOBY from this process, then you're ready to begin your actual brew. Our instructions indicated this should be ready to begin 30 days after starting, shown in the image below.

     

    Just the beginning for this desert SCOBY... Just the beginning for this desert SCOBY...
    Fresh vs. dry SCOBY, day 1 Fresh SCOBY, left; vs. dry SCOBY, right, day 1

    Nothing's... happening...

     

    I wasn't so lucky. Six weeks into the process, following instructions with the dehydrated SCOBY that I received (I'll call him Dehydro), I still saw no culture growth whatsoever. Keep in mind, this was after a one-month rehydration period and another two weeks waiting for a fresh culture to grow on top of the sweet tea.

     

    Fresh vs dehydrated SCOBY Kombucha Brooklyn Fresh culture, left, and dehydrated culture, right, after one week

     

    At the one week mark, I didn't expect to see a significant amount of growth from the dehydrated SCOBY. You can see on the left the KBBK SCOBY going strong with an inch or so of new growth after just a week. Our dehydrated friend still showed no signs of growth. Hang in there, little buddy.

     

    KBBK SCOBY, left and dehydrated SCOBY, right, after 5 weeks Kombucha Brooklyn KBBK SCOBY, left and dehydrated SCOBY, right, after 7 weeks

    After 7 weeks of "brewing" the two side-by-side, there was still no growth whatsoever from the dehydrated culture. I decided to let the fresh SCOBY continue growing.

     

    Had I harvested the KBBK SCOBY's kombucha and reset the brew after each week, I'd have had well over two gallons of kombucha. Still no dice from our little desert friend - though, there was another step to take before I could actually start brewing with Dehydro.

     

    Actually starting the brew, 5 weeks after receiving Dehydro, Kombucha Brooklyn Starting the brew, 7 weeks after receiving Dehydro

     

    The instructions indicated for me to check the pH after 30 days. I did (albeit far after 30 days - though I don't see why a new culture wouldn't start growing in the sweet tea), and it was at about 3.2. However, I did add 1/2 cup (!) of vinegar, as per the instructions at the start. In 2-3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar is going to drop the pH drastically. So, I surmise the pH was that low from the start since I already added so much white vinegar.

     

    Moving on, I then brewed more tea and sugar, added another 1/2 cup of vinegar, threw in the semi-rehydrated Dehydro, covered the jar, and prepared to wait again for a new culture to form atop the sweet tea (though very sour as well, with so much vinegar). I crossed my fingers for another few days, weeks, also months...

     

    Flash forward... to 12 weeks

     

    Fresh KBBK SCOBY, left, dehydrated SCOBY results, right, Kombucha Brooklyn Fresh KBBK SCOBY, left, dehydrated SCOBY, right (12 weeks)

     

    SCOBY Rancher snacks, Kombucha Brooklyn SCOBY Rancher snacks

    The KBBK SCOBY has pretty much overgrown itself in the brew jar (this is what it looks like when you don't harvest your kombucha - the SCOBY keeps growing and fills up the jar). That's a good way to make a ton of culture relatively easily - think SCOBY snacks and other kombucha foods.

     

     

    Hoping for a Halloween miracle

     

    Here I am, on All Hallows' Eve, twelve weeks from when I started to try to resurrect Dehydro on the 4th of August. In a mix of surprise and disappointment, I'm hoping the next full moon might reanimate Dehydro. I seem to have failed at playing Dr. Herbert West, at least for this go around...

     

    Stick with fresh cultures. Especially if you're new to brewing, and even moreso if you want to start a brew and drink 'buch before a few months have passed.

  • Steeping for Kombucha Brewing

     
    I've utilized many different methods of steeping for kombucha brewing, both at home and at Kombucha Brooklyn. Today I'm going to analyze the effectiveness of a few of those methods. I'll also suggest one that for the average home brewer may be the simplest, fastest and most efficient of those.

     

    Tea bags

     

    ... Tea bag of Earl Gray! Kombucha Brooklyn Steeping a tea bag of Earl Gray

    If there's one ubiquitous Western archetype of tea consumption, it involves the tea bag. Initially meant in the early 20th century to offer samples of loose leaf teas, the tea bag caught on and became very popular in use for making iced tea. My earliest memories of tea were of my dad using a dedicated coffee-maker to steep Lipton bags. He'd put the tea bags into the coffee carafe, pour water into the machine, and allow the hot water to flow down and immerse the bags for 3-5 minutes. After that, the tea was poured over lots of ice in a pitcher and thrown into the refrigerator.

     

    Fast and easy

     

    Some major advantages to the tea bag are simplicity and cost-effectiveness. It's very simple to toss some hot water on a tea bag, let it sit, remove, and enjoy. I can throw a bag of Earl Grey in my back pocket for consumption later in the day (which I've just done). Since tea bags usually have a string attached, it's very easy to control the steep time. For the producer, the bag is easily marketable as a simple way to drink tea, and it offers a way to utilize broken pieces of leaves like dust and fannings that are the by-product of loose leaf tea manufacture, thus reducing waste and making more tea available. Think "seconds" of apples or tomatoes at the farmer's market.

     

    Loose leaf?

     

    That's not to say there aren't loose leaf teas packaged in bags. My consideration for this lies in the effect this has on the tea, and how it's used by the consumer. On the whole, loose leaf teas are less dense than teas usually packed in bags. That means they will expand to a much greater size than will fine, broken pieces of tea leaf. As a result of the unbroken nature of the leaves, they will take up more space once steeping than will the tea generally packed in a tea bag. The more the leaves are allowed to unfurl and "give up" their flavor to the water in which they are steeped, the more flavorful will be your infusion. While this can be done with a large, reusable mesh bag, don't skimp on space - there's not much that's more depressing in the tea world than seeing a tea bag bulging with whole, unbroken leaves.
     

    Respect the leaf!

     

    So, tea bag or no, loose leaf teas have a lot to say and a ton of flavor to give up. Steeping them in the largest environment possible, unhindered by bag or walls will elicit the most flavor from the leaves. That is, to an extent - I wouldn't boil 10 gallons of water to make 10 gallons of kombucha, ever. Keep in mind also that loose-leaf teas should always be infused multiple times, with the longevity of flavor and color decided by the amount as well as the variety of tea.

     

    The multi-steep

     

    For a kombucha brewer this would take the form of adding boiling water to your tea and allowing it to steep for 20 minutes or so; then, pouring off that first infusion and adding more boiling water, and allowing another 20 minute steep. This can be done as many times as possible until it seems there is no more nutrient left in the tea, as can be told by the flavor or color. Be vigilant that you aren't creating more tea than your fermentation vessel will be able to hold.

     

    Respect and reciprocation

     

    This attention alludes to a respect for the earth in not wasting its products, but also in reverence for the producers of the tea. Plucking tea is no simple task, and often takes place in locations that require climbing and balancing, as well as a trained attention to detail. Where the biological makeup of kombucha is the result of the symbiotic pairing of bacteria and yeast, so intertwined also is the relationship of man with the tea plant in the cultivation and preparation of tea leaves for consumption. Since in this day and age it can be nearly impossible to give back directly to the producer, at least get as much out of the leaf as is possible, and send out some aloha for all of the labor that went into getting it to you. Your 'buch will be that much tastier because of the good intentions that were incorporated during the brewing process. (Such observance with your standard tea bag might be steeping it twice, or maybe three times, and giving it a hearty squeeze after the last steep).

     

    The big steep

     

    You can always just dump your loose tea into a pot of boiling water, stir it around, and worry about straining later. Really this is the ideal, as far as the leaves are concerned, but really it makes more work than is necessary. You can use a strainer, but a strainer that will pull out all particulate will likely be difficult to clean - especially if it's made of metal (I have spent a lot of time cleaning metal strainers in my 'buch brewing days). So, you may choose to use a mesh filter bag to achieve the same end. The same issue arises, though, in that you're going to have to clean the filter bag, that while small can provide a bit of a challenge, if only by being slightly time consuming.

     

    Steeping black tea, rooibos and clove in my French press Kombucha Brooklyn Steeping black tea, rooibos and clove in my French press

     

    That's why my favorite way to steep tea for smaller home brews involves a French press. It's very easy to clean, efficient at keeping the steeping water hot, and easy to quickly empty and refill. Also, it allows me to get the most out of my tea leaves. For a one gallon brew, I'll add 12 grams of a nice loose leaf tea, and fill the 34 oz. French press 1/3 of the way with boiling water. I'll let that sit for 20 minutes, pour off the hot liquid, add the same amount of boiling water, and allow another 20 minutes.

     

    Repeat one more time, and you've got 34 ounces of steeped tea ready and hot enough to dissolve your sweetener. This is a simple model for a triple steep, but you could easily draw it out over 10 steeps - you'll just want to make sure you aren't steeping too much tea so you've overfilled your brew jar. After stirring in the sweetener, add cool water to bring the temperature down, add your starter and SCOBY, and you're ready to let your 'buch fly. Always keep in mind your final volume - if you've steeped so much tea there isn't room for the starter and SCOBY, you'll have to pour some out - but keep that in mind for your next brew.

    Steeping loose leaf tea with my French press - Kombucha Brooklyn Steeping loose leaf tea with my French press

    So, if you're brewing a lot of 'buch, using tasty loose leaf teas and herbal blends, invest in a French press. Your 'buch will be tastier and more robust, and that can't be a bad thing!

     

    Happy brewing!

  • Has my SCOBY gone bad? Correct Kombucha Brewing Temperatures and more

     

    For many first time brewers, receiving a warm SCOBY culture in the mail on a hot summers day can be disconcerting. “Shouldn’t live kombucha cultures be kept cold? How long has this been in the mail for? Is this SCOBY safe to brew with?”

     

    Propagating Kombucha Cultures KBBK's tried and true propagation system. No mold, no flies; no fuss, no muss!

    These understandable concerns can cause undue worry and frustration. You’ve patiently waited for your package to arrive, and are eager to start brewing – or you just got back from vacation to find out your kit has been sitting on the porch for days! What a shame it would be if your baby SCOBY had frittered away in your absence.

     

    Except in rare case of extreme weather conditions, SCOBYs will be totally OK to brew with if they have been out for a bit.

    The combination of the acidic nature of the nutritional liquid the SCOBY sits in and the bag’s airtight seal keeps mold and other ‘buch invaders at bay. The bigger issue at hand, as foreshadowed above, is extremely high or low temperatures that will either cook the culture (85º through 90ºF) or start to destroy its complex cell structure if it starts to freeze.

    SCOBY TEMPURA! Although Extremely hot temperatures are detrimental to your culture's health, they are also really tasty. Above is our SCOBY TEMPURA!!

     

    Remember! This is a living culture, and is not unlike humans in this way. Too hot and we sizzle up, too cold and the damage can be irreversible.

    KBBK propagation tent. KBBK's Propagation tent - kept warm with a mini-heater, and clear of dust or flies with a carbon air filter.

    Mid-70º’s to 80º's though, is the ticket. Give us a warm day and a nice breeze (SCOBYs love breezes, it keeps the flies away) and next thing you know we are all getting stuff done during the day and staying up all night. Just like the SCOBY.

     

    BETTER WARMER THAN COOLER:

    Kombucha is a stable beverage due to it's acidic nature, and its acidity is dependent on the plethora of pro-biotic bacteria having a warm environment to create acids like Glucaric and Gluconic acid, Acetic acid, Caprylic and Butyric acid.

    If your brew is below 70ºF, you run the risk of not maintaining a stable pH environment and expose your brew to mold!

     

    What the fridge is great for:

    Keeping your culture cold (~40ºF) when you are taking a brewers break.

    • Simply set your culture in a cup (depending on how big it is, you may want to add more or trim your SCOBY) of kombucha in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover it, and set it to the back of your fridge.
    • There it will hibernate, as its metabolic rate slows into a state of low activity.
    • You can keep it there for a couple months at a time, but it's best to give it a quick refresher every couple of weeks with a little jolt of fresh tea and sugar.

    Bottle Conditioning!

    You can also vintage your kombucha in the fridge for great lengths of time - the flavor can be as complex and delicious as great wine. Just remember:

    •  Use a bottle / cap with a good seal
    •  Label what your brew is, and what ingredients you used
    • Date it
    • Resist temptation! if you open it early on, you will loose some excellent fizz. Save it until you are ready to drink most of it.
    • Enjoy!

     

  • How to Brew Kombucha : A day by day Analysis

    Day 1:How to Brew Kombucha

    To the right is my fresh brew! The tea and sugar has steeped and dissolved, and we have added the culture (floating in the background). We will be following it over the next couple days to see how a typical kombucha brew progresses.

     

    As your brew ferments, you will notice changes in the nute (nutritional starter). Most notably will be the formation of the new "baby SCOBY on the surface. This process begins in most brews between twenty-four and seventy-two hours.

     

    Small white patches will begin to form on the surface of the liquid, independent of the SCOBY you put in there. The first few days are an uneasy time for new brewers, and the new growth of SCOBY is often misconstrued as mold. For more info about mold, check here at our Brew FAQ.

     

    Day 2:

    We are still at the dawn of our ferment and must be patient. My starter SCOBY has floated back up which is totally OK ( so is a sunken SCOBY). It is very important during these early stages not to disturb or otherwise agitate the kombucha; one small wave can sink new formations, which slows the primary acidification process and increases the risk of mold.

     

    At this point you may have some questions or just want to know more on how to brew kombucha. What better way to learn-and-brew than dive into a good read? See our selection of brewing books here.

     

    I highly suggest for beginners our company's co-founder written book Kombucha! It's where a good chunk of this blog's body comes from. And for people who would like to expand their know-how on all other things fermented, I suggest The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz; a Michael Pollan / Harold McGee scientific break-down on all that bubbles. True Brews by Emma Christensen, on the other hand, is a beautifully laid out guide on how to make and tastily enhance all that bubbles: cider, soda pop, beer, wine, sake, soda, mead, kefir, kombucha, and fruit wines.

     

     

    Days 3-4:

    SCOBY formation: As the culture matures, these spots of new growth will become thicker and wider, eventually joining together and becoming one whole party. Wheee! SCOBY Party! Give your brew a sniff - it is important to know the smells as well as the sights of your brew as it transforms.

     

     

    Day 5:

    Kombucha yeast Only Yeast! Nothing to worry about.

    See KBBK SCOBY-power in action! that's a lot of growth in just five days. Your brew may not be here just yet, so you may need to give it an extra day or two. So, it has formed it's signature celluloid patty, the SCOBY. If you do not see anything resembling the SCOBY in these pictures, you may be in trouble - ambient temperature could be too low and is slowing the culture's metabolism, or other brewing issues may have arisen. If you see dark patches or strange tentacle looking formations such as in the inset picture above, no need for alarm. This is just spent yeast, a natural bi-product of the fermentation process.  See our Brew FAQ for more info. Again, keep your brew covered! From the pictures it may seem that this is an open-air ferment, but it is just for visual reference.

     

     

     

    Day 6:

    Taste your Brew: When the new baby SCOBY has spread across the entire surface of your brew and started to thicken, you should give your 'buch a taste. This will usually be in the three- to six-day range but can take longer depending on the strength of your culture, how long you have been brewing in that location, the type of tea and sugar used, and the temperature. Lots of changes have already occurred in your brew at this point and the flavor will give you an idea of how much longer you will want to brew your ferment. Just make sure that if you dip something into your 'buch, it is clean.

    As long as your brew is healthy and progressing normally, it's always safe to drink from the nute stage all the way through to vinegar.

    Some ideas on how to get a sip:

    • Stick a straw under the surface of the SCOBY
    • Use a clean shot glass to gently push the SCOBY down and scoop a little from the surface
    • Use a Thief! These are the professional brewers sampler. (Available here)

    A pH indicator measures the activity of hydrogen ions in a solution. The more free-floating hydrogen ions there are, the lower pH will be, indicating a higher acid profile. For the kombrewer with pH indicator strips, your buch will be ready on the sweet side at a pH of 3.1 and on the sour side at a pH of 2.7.

     

     

    Days 7-9:

    Behold, the magic of fermentation! You have just learned how to make kombucha. Millions of microorganisms in the SCOBY are happily feeding off of sugars and tea nutrients, breaking down alcohols, and multiplying. This pro-biotic adventure has come full circle.

    Unfortunately due to an accident, the jar broke before I could take a side shot. The second photo above is from a different brew, but is a similar and healthy SCOBY.

    When to bottle: Your brew, although young, is complete. Most one-gallon brews kept around 78ºF will have a nice balance of sweet and sour flavors at nine days. I like to bottle at about seven days in my kitchen when there is a little more sweetness than I would want to drink. This ensures that there will be enough sugar to produce effervescence in secondary fermentation after bottling. If you haven't yet picked up bottling equipment, I highly suggest our Pro-Bottler Package, it's six 32oz Amber Growlers, a brewers must-have Auto-siphon, and a mixed flavor pack with enough goodies to flavor all six of those Growlers.

    DSC_5824

    Whether you bottle your 'buch for some extra bubble or just pour out a cup straight-up, it's time to enjoy the pro-biotic and fizzy goodness that is home-brew kombucha. Feel it's not complete without a snazzy Kombucha Brooklyn Highball glass? Go ahead and deck out your glassware collection.

    Happy Brewing!

    Will

  • Re-Thinking Kombucha Flavoring, pt. 2: Pu-erh, Caviar of Teas

     

    In Part 1, I discussed the use of teas alone as a basic and powerful method of kombucha flavoring. Now, I'd like to take a look at one variety of tea that often gets overlooked in the West...

     

    Among the most alluring aspects of tea is its ability to elicit the sensation of feeling like you are somewhere else, in time or space. It can, beyond words, call forth a sort of sensory tableau, akin to déjà vu.

     

    The sensory details of each day's occurrences are connected by our experience, and accrue as a sort of personal encyclopedia. These details inform and even alter the manner with which we perceive our world and recall our personal history. And in the same way our minds build perceptions and experiences into memory, so can our minds retrieve memory (or illusion) from similar sensations and events. These can include cues such as sights, smells, sounds, feelings etc.

     

    Chinese pu-erh - kombucha flavoring Chinese pu-erh

    Not only is the flavor, body and aroma of a tea an immediate sensory experience, but it also can call forth recollection and imagination. Consider this as I talk about one of the most alluring, evocative and enigmatic of them all - pu-erh.

     

    Pu-Erh, Caviar of Teas

     

    When you drink a pu-erh, a (dry) fermented, aged, tea, a whole host of impressions can be stimulated in striking fashion. You might re-experience acute sensations you’ve had in the forest -  the smell of sweet notes of earth, tree bark and mushrooms - along with a little stimulation, possibly from the surprise nature of revelatory sensation, like a rush of adrenaline. These flavors sound strange to find in a tea - but pu-erhs are as complex and nuanced as a fine scotch whiskey - as a memory itself. And like caviar, pu-erhs are highly revered - but can also be polarizing.

     

    What’s this have to do with kombucha?

     

    In fermenting a fine tea, you’re supercharging its nutritive potential, contributing to its flavor, and of course making it additionally refreshing (with refrigeration and carbonation from a nice bottle conditioning). Pu-erhs are considered highly medicinal - supposedly helpful in weight loss, cholesterol reduction and cleansing the blood. At KBBK, we love to drink pu-erh kombucha to give us a great boost of energy, detoxify our bodies, and provide a very unique and conversational experience.

     

     Types of Pu-erh

     

    Imperial Pu-erh Imperial Pu-erh

    Pu-Er was the name of a Chinese town of antiquity which was known for being a center of commerce from which this type of tea was regularly exported. Of pu-erhs there are two distinct categories - the one photographed above is a "shu," or ripe pu-erh. Specially conditioned to recreate long-aged teas, it is "cooked" - tea handlers essentially compost the leaves in a very controlled environment. Tea producers began to utilize this process to attempt to satisfy the high demand for aged pu-erhs - the original, singular style of pu-erh - until the "cooking" process was developed in the late 20th century. While in cooking the result isn't exactly the same as you would achieve through aging, it creates, no less, a very distinct and unique product that isn't really so far off from "sheng" pu-erhs.

     

    Sheng pu-erh from 1992, kombucha flavoring Sheng pu-erh from 1992

    Sheng pu-erhs are considered raw - the tea is not composted or fermented quickly, but over time and through closely-guarded methods. This is a style of the old days, long pre-dating the Mongol invasion of China, and it is still considered an integral part of the culture. It is well known among enthusiasts that the best pu-erhs are consumed after decades of aging. The one pictured above has seen nearly a quarter of a century pass.

     

    In our experience, longer-aged sheng pu-erhs are much mellower and less astringent than are younger examples of the style (though still remaining enigmatic, startling, and delicious).

     

    Bamboo-aged pu-erh, pu-erh knife, and a pu-erh cake Bamboo-aged pu-erh, pu-erh knife, and a pu-erh cake

     

    Pu-erh Kombucha

     

    However, when we are brewing our pu-erh teas into kombucha, we need not worry about bitterness. This is due to the unique ability of the culture to eliminate the tannic bitterness you might notice in a tea before fermentation. So, out of a pu-erh kombucha you are left with a complex, highly medicinal and refreshing beverage, a giant and healthy SCOBY; not to mention a chance to step into a distant memory or illusion elicited by the tea's terroir, processing, and especially in the case of pu-erhs, age.

     

    Silver Bud Pu-Erh Silver Bud White Pu-Erh

    If this sounds enticing, you simply must taste for yourself. A great place to start exploring pu-erh kombucha is with our office favorite, the sheng Silver Bud White Pu-erh. While usually made from older leaves, this unique variety has been made with the buds of the tea tree. And while only aged for 11 years, you'll notice a distinct fruitiness in this tea that is strongly reminiscent of sweet prunes, tobacco and honeydew. For a convincing pu-erh brew, look no further, and remember - this is kombucha flavoring at its simplest and most effective. So, brew up some pu-erh kombucha, sip with your eyes closed, and see where the tea and your imagination can take you!

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