Monday, January 14

Homebrewed Booch

My own brew in reused bottles
I have a confession to make. It’s one that I have kept hidden for fear of being ostracized by mainstream society and accused of being a hippie or, worse, a tree hugger! But, here goes...I am completely addicted to Kombucha.

It started out innocently enough. Every couple months the display of brightly colored bottles would catch my eye on my way out of Whole Foods and I would decide that I had to try the new flavor or the one with chia seeds.  Pretty soon I was grabbing one every time I shopped and eventually I was making special trips for the sole purpose of buying Kombucha. You’ve probably seen the viral video “Whole Foods Parking Lot” where DJ Dave claims he’s “been on edge ever since they took Kombucha off the shelf.” Yikes. I can only imagine.

So what is Kombucha? Put plainly it’s a slightly carbonated, fermented tea. The idea of drinking a “fermented” beverage may not sound appealing. However, it’s the same process by which beer and wine are created. A sugar solution is created, then injected with one or more strains of yeast or bacteria which consume some of the sugar and convert it to alcohol.*

As for what’s so amazing about it, Kombucha is said to have a number of health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to reducing gray hairs! However, the only benefits I have personally experienced are improved digestion and increased energy. Kombucha is full of probiotics and other healthy amino acids, which help to detoxify the liver and eliminate waste. As for increased energy I may be experiencing a placebo effect but I have found that drinking a bottle of Kombucha in the morning is even more effective than a cup of coffee. (And if you know me you know what a bold claim this is!)

A few months ago I was thrilled to find that supermarkets such as Vons and Pavilions had begun to carry Kombucha. However this only made it more convenient, not cheaper, to purchase.  My friend Sarah suggested I start making my own which sounded crazy. I might as well brew my own beer! (Hmmmm.) But after conducting some research I found a great resource here in la (and available online for those outside the area.) I was able to get all the supplies I needed as well as tons of helpful tips and advice. 

I am proud to say that I have just completed my first successful batch of Kombucha and it’s just as delicious as the store bought. All it cost me was the tea bags and sugar, which I already had in my pantry, and the flavoring. (I got my culture from Sarah but you can also purchase online.)

Removing the culture from my first batch
Tea kettle or pot
1 gallon glass container
3 quarts of purified water
1 cup of sugar
4-5 tea bags
1 “SCOBY” and 1-2 cups of starter liquid (available online
Tightly woven cloth cover and rubber band

Brewing Recipe:
Heat 4 cups of purified water in a tea kettle. Just as the water starts to boil, turn off heat and let cool 1-2 minutes, then add to your brewing vessel. Add 4-5 tea bags (green, black or combo.) Steep 5-10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved. Add 2 quarts (8 cups) of purified water; this should bring the temp of the boiled water down to lukewarm. Add SCOBY and starter liquid (the entire contents of the plastic bag you get online.) In future batches retain a cup from the top of your brew. Cover container with a tightly woven cloth and rubber band. Place the container in a dark, warm ventilated area for 7-21 days. A new culture will form on the top.

With clean hands remove the cultures and place in a clean jar. Ladle 2 cups of liquid from the top of brew and place over cultures, then close the jar. This will serve as the culture and starter liquid for the next batch. Find clean bottles with tight fitting lids. (I reused store bought Kombucha bottles.) If flavoring the Kombucha place fruit/juice/ flowers etc. directly into the bottles. Place bottles in the sink, insert a funnel in your first bottle and ladle or pour the Kombucha into it. Screw on lids and set aside 1-3 days, burping the bottles to release carbonation. Move bottles to the fridge a they reach the desired carbonation/ flavor. This halts fermentation occurring due to flavoring.

*Many popular brands of Kombucha were pulled from the shelves of Whole Foods in June of 2010 after alcohol levels of 0.5 to 2.5% were detected in some strains. (This is the “kombucha crisis” to which DJ Dave refers in his rap.) Store bought brands now contain only “trace amounts of alcohol.” 

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