Brewing Kombucha

IMG_0656 The hardest thing to reconcile about the whole kombucha process is the SCOBY. For me anyway. I mean, it’s a gelatinous blob that sits on top of the tea and eats the sugar for crying out loud. I once picked up a jellyfish on accident on vacation. I didn’t hold it for very long, but I can tell you -with a large degree of certainty- that kombucha SCOBYs feel exactly like a jellyfish.

They don’t look amazing either. The picture on the left is my gallon jar SCOBY home. You can see the big fat SCOBY on the bottom and a thinner one on top. Don’t they look delicious?

I will admit that I have tried a piece of dehydrated SCOBY. I dehydrated an extra 3 SCOBYs just for kicks to see if our princess dog would eat them as treats. That was a definite no-go, and curiosity got the better of me. So I took a bite. Okay, so I took 2 (or 3) bites. It wasn’t bad. Not my favorite thing in the world, but not terrible either. The texture was very similar to fruit-by-the-foot actually. I was pleasantly surprised; there was mild sweetness and hardly any of the kombucha’s characteristic vinegary tang.

Have I lost you? Because a year ago I would have lost myself.

For those of you intrepid readers who stuck around (thank you!) let me get back on track:

The brewing process of kombucha is very simple. It’s identical to brewing sweet tea. If you’re not from the south, and you’re also not sure what sweet tea is, sweet tea is basically iced tea brewed in sugar water. The total active time I spend is probably less than an hour. I split it up, so it’s hard to keep track. What usually ends up happening is I brew the sweet tea in the morning, then sometime in the late afternoon/evening (depending on if I forgot about it) I resume the process.

Things you’ll need for brewing:

  1. IMG_0657Glass jars
  2. Glass bottles
  3. Muslin cloth
  4. Canning jar rings or rubber bands
  5. Fine mesh strainer
  6. Large soup pot
  7. 4 bags of tea per 64 oz. or 1 bag of tea formulated for brewing iced tea. You can use green, black, or rooibos tea.
  8. 1/2 cup sugar per 64 oz.
  9. Filtered water
  10. Clean hands

To brew:

  1. Measure half of the total water you’ll need into the soup pot. If you’re brewing a 64 oz. batch use 32 oz. of water. I just fill my 64 oz. jar once halfway and once full (for the gallon).
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil and turn off the heat.
  3. Add the sugar in proportion to the amount of kombucha you’re making and stir. I use 1 1/2 cups, or enough for three 64 oz. batches.
  4. Add the tea and let steep per the directions on the teabag packages. Usually no more than 5 minutes.
  5. Allow the pot of sweet tea to cool to room temperature. This is when I usually walk away and forget about it.
  6. Once the tea is cool strain your existing batch of kombucha, putting the SCOBY(s) in a glass or ceramic bowl as soon as possible. The less contact with metal the better. Save 1 cup of the kombucha per 64 oz. to give the new batch the correct acidity.
  7. Set aside the previous batch of kombucha for bottling.
  8. Fill your clean jars halfway with the sweet tea and halfway with filtered water and set a SCOBY on top. Sometimes I put two into the new batch, sometimes I discard my extras by “planting” them or just putting them down the garbage disposal.
  9. Make sure the jar lips are dry then put the muslin over the jar mouth and fasten with your canning ring or rubber band.
  10. Put the new batch of kombutcha in a moderately dark, warm place. Mine sits on top of our fridge with a wine box in front of it.
  11. Allow to ferment for 8-15 days. The longer you let it go, the more sour it will be. The amount of time you’ll need for fermentation will vary based on the climate and season.
  12. Pour the last batch of kombucha into bottles. I cut mine 50/50 with hibiscus tea at this point, but you can flavor yours however you like.
  13. Allow the bottled kombucha to brew for another 12-48 hours (optional).

 

It’s important to use organic ingredients whenever possible because the SCOBY is a living organism. It eats what you feed it, so using pesticide-laden tea or GMO sugar might not be the best idea. I use sucanat to brew both kombucha and water kefir and I find it works very well, but I know people who use organic cane sugar with great results. The practitioner who was helping me with my Live Blood Analysis said that she noticed more candida in people who brewed with white sugar vs. people who brewed with sucanat, so if you’re struggling with a candida albicans overgrowth I highly recommend using sucanat. It’s reasonably priced in the bulk section of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.

The reason I cut my kombucha with hibiscus is threefold. First, hibiscus tea is supposed to be great for you. Second, my kombucha was getting me tipsy every day so I needed to dilute it after troubleshooting it a little. Third, doing this cuts the caffeine content.

Using a combination of teas for the sweet tea base is helpful as well. It produces a smoother flavor in the finished batch. I tried using all black tea and I wasn’t terribly pleased with the outcome. Through experimenting with all sorts of different combinations I’ve landed on a mix of green and black, and sometimes rooibos (depending on how concerned I am with caffeine) that has a nice flavor. It’s really up to your tastes what combination of teas you use.

Bonus: since I’ve started brewing kombucha, my garbage disposal hasn’t smelled rotten. I let the extra SCOBY sit in there for a while before running it and that seems to help.

It seems complicated on paper/screen, but it’s really quite simple. If it was too complicated I don’t think I’d be keeping at it because I’m pretty lazy.

Don’t have a SCOBY? No problem! You can grow one as long as you can find a raw, ubnflavored kombucha at the store. Be careful; there was an incident in 2010 where the alcohol content in some of the kombuchas went above the allowed limit. To solve this a few brands started pasteurizing their kombucha before bottling. This pretty much takes away the benefits of drinking kombucha, unless you just drink it for flavor.
So to grow a new SCOBY follow the directions above, pouring the bottle of store-bought unflavored kombucha into the sweet tea and allowing it to ferment until a thick new SCOBY forms. Then continue as normal!

Kombucha and Water Kefir.

Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.
-John Ciardi, American Poet (1916-86)

Hibiscus kombucha and lemon water kefir.

Hibiscus kombucha and lemon water kefir.

I’ve been making water kefir, and now kombucha for a little over a year. I like to refer to my kombucha SCOBYs as my jellyfish pets, which may be something you only understand if you’ve handled a SCOBY yourself. So, what is a SCOBY?

S.C.O.B.Y. stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is what ferments the sweet tea into kombucha. It doesn’t look very appetizing, and is a big turn-off to a lot of people (including me) looking to brew their own kombucha at home. I got a SCOBY from a friend of mine. Had she not given me one, I probably wouldn’t have started brewing on my own. I knew that water kefir helped me a lot, so I thought kombucha might be equally as beneficial so I overcame my initial squeamishness and started brewing at home. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made for my health.

There are quite a lot of claimed benefits to drinking kombucha daily if you read about it on the Googles. What sold me the most was the claim that it supports your liver function, helps with candida albicans overgrowth, and aids in repairing your gut wall. When I first started brewing kombucha I had liver stress, candida albicans overgrowth, and a high probability of leaky gut – I found this out using Live Blood Analysis(LBA), which is somewhat controversial. So I figured I’d give it a shot to see what would happen. Once I started drinking it my LBAs slowly began to show more healthy blood than not. Kombucha wasn’t the only factor in this, but it was a large player.

So, what is the official analysis of what’s in kombucha? Well, this site has a pretty good rundown. The thing you must keep in mind is that every SCOBY is slightly different depending on the kind of tea and sugar it’s eating and other environmental factors like airborne yeasts and temperatures.

Kombucha is fairly hardy, only needing to be fed every 30 days, so it’s pretty low-maintenance. Part of the draw for me was the low level of care. It’s essentially an hour of active work every 8 to 15 days depending on how long you want the fermentation to last. You can also do a continuous brew where you place your sweet tea and SCOBY in a glass drink dispenser with a spout and just add more tea as needed, or on a certain schedule. I really want to start a continuous ferment, but I haven’t found a good drink dispenser yet.

What about water kefir? Water kefir has a higher probiotic count than kombucha but this is, again, subject to some variation depending on what you feed it. Water kefir is similar to kombucha in that what ferments the sugars to create the drink is a culture of bacteria and yeast. Kefir grains are basically the SCOBY in the kefir world. The name is a little misleading because there are no grains in water kefir. You can eat the grains for a good probiotic boost (I’ve never tried that with kombucha SCOBYs, because…well…ew) in addition to drinking the water kefir.

Since I’ve started drinking kombucha and water kefir my overall health has improved. I can tell when I haven’t been drinking water kefir or, to a lesser extent, kombucha. I start getting brain fog and a little grumpy. This is probably a sign that my digestion still isn’t up to snuff, but it’s a work in progress.

Overall, these two drinks are something that I will continue doing for the health of my family. Both of them are easily flavored during a second ferment, so the possibilities are pretty much endless. This is a plus because you’ll never have to get bored of drinking the same old thing all the time.

Cultures for Health has a great rundown on the differences of water kefir and kombucha that is really interesting to read.

Next week I will post about how to brew kombucha and the following week will be water kefir. See you then!

All About that Paste

I recently made some sprouted hummus. I was inspired to tweak my usual recipe in an attempt to mimic the hummus that is served at Yaffa’s Savory Mediterranean culinaria. It is the most creamy, amazing hummus I have ever had in my life. Because I’ve been exploring the world of sprouting I thought I’d give it a go. My results were pretty good, but I still need to tweak a few things to get it to taste exactly like Yaffa’s. Nevertheless, this hummus is bangin’ so I’m sharing the recipe with you!

The first step is to sprout the beans. This took me a couple days, but I think it could have been finished in just one if I had been more sure of myself. Anyway, the way I sprouted the beans was I soaked them overnight and drained them in the morning. I just left them in the colander and rinsed them every couple of hours. Then I cooked them until they were tender, which was about 3 hours on the stove top.

I also soaked the sesame seeds for the tahini. They may have sprouted, but I’ll need to do this again to be 100% sure about that. I used brown sesame seeds because they’re cheaper than white sesame seeds at Vitamin Cottage. I dried and toasted them before grinding them up with some olive oil.

This hummus is best eaten the day you make it, but it’s pretty delicious after a day or so in the fridge. It just gets really thick once it has been refrigerated.

Sprouted HummusIMG_0637

1.5 cups dry garbanzo beens
Water to cover

1/2 cup brown sesame seeds
Water to cover

3 cups sprouted, cooked garbanzo beans
1/3 cup bean water
1 cup olive oil, divided2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper

  1. Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. Strain in the morning. Leave in the colander, rinsing every few hours until you see sprouts start to form.
  2. In a large soup pot cover the beans with water. There should be 2 inches of water over the top of the beans. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 hours or until the beans are tender.
  3. Drain the beans, saving the water, and set aside.
  4. Soak the sesame seeds overnight. Drain and rinse.
  5. Place seeds in the oven on low to dry. Once dry, heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Allow the seeds to cool slightly before putting them into a food processor, processing them into a rough paste.
  7. Pour 1/4 cup of the oil over the seed paste and process until smooth.
  8. Once the tahini is smooth add one cup of the beans, spices and garlic and process a little.
  9. Add the bean water and another cup of the beans, processing again until smooth.
  10. Add the oil and the last cup of beans and process until it reaches the desired consistency. This took me about 2 minutes.
  11. Enjoy.

 

I can’t make hummus without singing “All About that Paste” so here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, nerd style!

Happy Easter, nerd style!

Happy Easter everyone! I hope it is a wonderful day for you and your family and friends.

In the meantime, enjoy this chocolate recipe from WellnessMama. I know we are 😉

Book Review: Cure Tooth Decay – Ramiel Nagel

I recently finished reading Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. It was an amazingly interesting read to say the least.

I purchased the book after playing an upside-down game with our toddler and realizing that one of his molars has a sizable brown spot on it. I had seen the book a lot around the web and decided it would be worth reading to help me decide what to do about the cavity. I’m a minimalist when it comes to any sort of intervention but I don’t always know what to do myself. This book is a good guide for helping teeth.

The first chapter covers modern dentistry and how it has failed. I tend to agree with the author on many of his points regarding the failure of modern dentistry, and the points he makes in the section about orthodontists (I had braces). The section on orthodontics – which is later in the book – really resonated with me because my orthodontist fixed my bite alignment and then promptly undid any progress by giving me invisalign braces for a “retainer”. So my bite is still messed up and I now feel obligated to fix it because there is mention of a misaligned jaw being a factor in several health issues in the same chapter about orthodontists.

I digress.

Back to dentistry: the author puts forward a new theory about what causes tooth decay. He states that poor nutrition, specifically a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, is the root (pun intended) cause of tooth decay. Modern dentistry is “waging a war on bacteria” and failing miserably, because any war on bacteria is pretty much doomed to fail at the outset. To illustrate his points he uses the research of Dr. Weston Price among other dentists. The thing that surprised me about modern dentistry’s push against bacteria, sugar and starch is that Dr. Weston Price was a well respected dentist. He published an article reviewing his extensive research and the conclusion that strong teeth are a direct result of a strong diet. Modern dentistry pretty much ignored his and other dentists research stating similar things.

This book is full of intriguing facts. Like the fact that feeding rats a diet of un-fermented oats causes rickets. There are lots of little trivia facts like that throughout that I found to be really interesting.

The book seems very well researched. There’s a good balance between scientific studies and personal experience the author uses to bring home his points. He offers feasible solutions for fixing the nutritional holes in your diet. There’s a plan for vegetarians –  if you’re vegan you are missing essential nutrients for healing your teeth by the nature of your diet alone and so you’re stuck with dentistry – that relies heavily on fish and fish products, which was nice of him to include. He does mention that he suspects the cause of his daughters severe tooth decay (which is what started his journey and writing this book) was his and his wife’s vegetarian diet during conception and pregnancy.

The author includes resources for finding good dentists, orthodontists, and (I think) orthopedists for fixing jaw problems. He also includes links to videos about specific teeth cleaning methods. Of course there is also the section citing all of the research studies he mentions in the book, and I think there’s a recommended reading section at the end (I lent my book to a friend and I don’t remember for sure, I’ll update when I have it back).

I disliked two things about this book. The first being that the author sneaks his personal opinions in. It’s not like he beats you over the head with them; he just adds them at the end of sentences sometimes. His opinions are stated as if everyone else feels the same and even though I agree with them, I found it a little off-putting. Doing that is sure to alienate a good portion of potential readers (like people who sympathize with industry, and there’s a little bit about vaccinations which is a good way to have a pitch-fork bearing mob show up at your door these days). The second thing I disliked is he made me a little uncomfortable when he started talking about having conversations with your tooth in order to see what was the best next step in terms of getting a filling or taking some other course of action. There’s also a section where he talks about healing dental trauma in a similar way. He talks about owning the feelings of the trauma and then realizing that it wasn’t the dentist doing it on purpose. It was a little bit shrink-y.

Otherwise this was a very pleasant read, which is saying a lot coming from me, because I usually have a really hard time reading non-fiction. The author presents the scientific findings and historical evidence in a way that is easy to understand and interesting to read. I hesitate to call it a page-turner, but I was really eager to finish it so that I might learn something new.

My verdict:
I very highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not struggling with tooth decay the information in here is very interesting and useful. Even though the author got a little weird at times it never lasted more than a few paragraphs before returning to scientific studies and general nutrition information. It’s totally worth spending money on.