Is kombucha a health elixir, a probiotic powerhouse, an intestinal healer or a tasty drink? Yes! It’s all of the above!
OK. Quick story here. My hubby and I had started feeling our age. He complained he really didn’t have much energy and generally just didn’t feel great. Me I’ve always – how do I say this delicately – had intestinal difficulties. But I really didn’t think much of it.
Then out of nowhere we kept running into this reference to “leaky gut”. I checked out a leaky gut program and hubby and I thought we should try it out. In just a few months it has made quite a difference in both of our lives. Since I garden I already know a lot about eating healthy fresh organic fruits and vegetables, but this program helped me learn a few more things that I didn’t know.
See, even though I’m “a little bit older” it doesn’t mean I can’t still learn new things. (old dog, new tricks) And one of the new things I learned about is Kombucha.
Kombucha has actually been around for thousands of years. Before refrigeration people found many ways of preserving their food and kombucha is only one of many. Now we refrigerate and pasteurize the heck (not to mention the nutrition) out of everything. You see, fermenting actually increases the nutrition in many foods. Have you ever heard about how good yogurt is for you? That’s because the microbes that make milk into yogurt are actually very good for your intestinal tract. Your “gut” needs it’s microbes to be in balance. If you don’t have enough of the good kind it will become over run by the bad kind and that leads to all kinds of intestinal issues. But feeding your gut fermented foods, along with all the good – for – you veggies from your garden, will go a long way towards balancing your microbes and healing your gut. Kombucha is only one of the ways to do this, but it is one of the yummiest.
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea. But don’t worry about the sugar. That’s what the microbes and yeast feed on. Kombucha is an effervescent, refreshing drink that is tangy and oh so good. It can be flavored with fruit juices and herbs to give it unique flavors, just like soda pop. But it is soooo much better for you. Kombucha not only has these good for you microbes known as probiotics (healthy bacteria), it is also full of antioxidants and B vitamins. Kombucha contains phytochemicals and phytonutrients that have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It helps clean the body and supports a healthy immune system. Basically kombucha helps your intestinal tract do its job better and tastes good at the same time. Whew! That’s a lot for one little beverage.
Where can you get this magnificent elixir of life, you ask? Oh it’s as easy as your local grocery or health food store. But….. that comes with a price tag. Ok. Almost $4.00 a bottle is not that bad…unless you like it as much as I do, and drink it every day. Then it adds up pretty fast. Especially since you can make it yourself for less than $0.50 a bottle! Big difference! I do recommend that if you have never tried kombucha, buy some to see if you like it first. No need to get the equipment, just to find out you don’t like it. But I bet you will. It comes in many flavors. Some I like better than others. Strawberry is my favorite. When you make it yourself you can experiment with all the flavors you want.
Kombucha is very simply black or green tea, sugar, distilled water and a SCOBY. A WHAT? Yes a SCOBY. That is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. That is your ferment starter. You can buy one or get one from a friend. But just like when making yogurt, you need a starter. Then you need a glass jar to make it in and a piece of breathable cloth (woven cotton is best) to cover it. Use a rubber band to hold the cloth on. You need the cover to keep dust, debris or the occasional flying thing out, but you still want it to breathe. The SCOBY is also called the “mother”. The reason for this is that with each batch the original SCOBY makes a smaller SCOBY “the baby”. The next batch you make, the baby will become the mother….did you follow all that? Anyway that’s how you can get the starter SCOBY from a friend since each batch make a new SCOBY. Cool huh?
(OK, there’s no who – Had you going there didn’t I.)
After you have assembled all your supplies, you want to clean everything really well.
You then make a strong sweetened tea, cool it to about room temperature (at least down to 90°). Pour it into your fermenting jar and add your SCOBY. Your SCOBY should come with some of the liquid from the batch it last fermented. That is your culture. Then cover it and leave it in a “room temperature” place (70° – 80°) out of direct light. It will take 7-14 days to ferment. After 7 days, use a clean straw to capture a little to taste to check its progress. When it is done to YOUR liking, you can bottle all but a cup of the liquid and the SCOBY, then start a new batch. Your first batch of ‘buch will probably take a little longer than subsequent batches as your SCOBY gets used to it’s new home.
Clean Clean Clean! Clean the pan, wooden spoon, fermenting jar, counter, hands, everything. Then rinse it with vinegar to get off any soap residue and finally a rinse with clean water. Why all that? You don’t want to introduce any bad bacteria into your ferment. As my grandma always said, “When cooking, you always start with a clean bowl”.
Boil 4 cups of distilled water (bottled or well water is fine, chlorinated is NOT), then turn off the heat.
Steep 6 tea bags (for a 1 gallon jar) for 20 minutes. You may use black or green tea or a combination. Don’t use flavored teas. Stir every 5 minutes.
Remove the tea bags and stir in one cup of sugar until completely dissolved. This is needed to feed your SCOBY. Don’t skimp!
Let it cool down to at least 90°. Add a half gallon of cold (room temperature) water.
Add your SCOBY (mother) and the one cup of starter liquid saved from it’s last batch. You want the tea water and the SCOBY to be about an inch to an inch and a half from the top.
Cover your fermentation jar with the cotton cover and secure with a rubber band.
Place your ferment jar in a warm place (70° to 80°) NOT in the sunlight.
After a few days you will notice your new (baby) SCOBY starting to grow under the old one. It may look funny to you, but this is the magic happening. If there is stringy stuff in it, that is just the spent yeast. It’s not harmful at all.
Check your ‘buch after 7 days. Insert a clean straw to capture some of the liquid and taste it. It should be ready in 7-14 days depending on temperature and what you like. The first batch may take a little longer to get going. (Remember to use a clean straw each taste)
When your kombucha is ready. Take out your SCOBY with one cup of ‘buch for your next batch, and pour the rest into clean bottles with tight fitting lids. Some people like to use a strainer to get all the little yeasties out. That’s up to you if they bother you or not. Store your finished kombucha in the refrigerator and enjoy a wonderful, refreshing, good for you beverage.
Your brew is ready after this first ferment. But there is so much more it can be. Ooooh! This is the fun part. Once you bottle it you can add fruit, juice, herbs, spices or even vegetables. They can be fresh or dehydrated. The sky is the limit. Seal it and leave it at room temperature to ferment again for a few more days (3-7). This is when your ‘buch will become carbonated. The sweeter the stuff is that you add, the more bubbles it will get.
To start your next batch just put the mother and baby SCOBY with the starter liquid back in the crock and start with step one. You only need one mother but the two together will ensure a more solid ferment. The next time you can peel off the oldest one and just use the newest two SCOBY’s.
What if you don’t want to make another batch right away. Easy peasy! Just put the Mother and the starter liquid in the refrigerator, in a jar with a tight fitting lid. It will keep for a very long time (at least months) until you are ready to make a new batch.
What do you do with all the extra SCOBY’s?
There are lots of suggestions. It’s always a good idea to store one or two in a jar with extra liquid in the back of your refrigerator. Some people save several and this is referred to as a “SCOBY hotel”. You can give them to friends who what to start their own kombucha. Some people cut them up and add them to their stir fry (I haven’t tried that myself but I’m sure it would be ok since you’ve soaked it in your tea all week). You can feed it to your ducks or chickens, or you can compost it.
Where do I get the Kombucha equipment and SCOBY
I’m glad you asked.
Check out other fermented foods to enjoy for good health.
Lacto Fermented Vegetables are really healthy for your gut too. I walk you step by step through that process to more yummy goodness.
Thank you Pam, my walking buddy, for reminding me to tell you. When starting any new probiotics, take it slow. Start with 4 oz a day and work your way up. If you drink too much and your body is not used to the probiotics…. well, sometimes it can work too well… if you know what I mean.
Now Have a Healthy and Ducky Day!