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