Kombucha *Updated*

Raggedy Ann supervises the counter top Kombucha brewery.

Here's my set up. I keep the big jar covered with a dish towel. That's the "scoby" Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, in the jar. It takes a week to 10 days to convert the green tea and sugar into kombucha. This scoby was grown from a little blob found in a bottle of commercial kombucha by a friend years ago, it just keeps chugging along, and pieces of it have gone to my friends who now make it too. Frankly I used to hate kombucha but Paul loves it, so in an attempt to save money, I learned to make it. Of course now I've acquired the taste and love it too. This is my first batch flavored with juiced tumeric root. Usually I just use ginger root. After the first brew in the jar, it goes into the bottles with a little more sugar and the flavoring in order to acquire some fizz (3-6 days). Then it goes into the fridge to chill and enjoy.

 *Update* Since so many friends have asked me for not only a piece of my scoby so that they can make their own kombucha, but more detailed instructions: Here’s my current routine to make about five 32 oz. bottles a week:

Do not be afraid! This is what a normal healthy scoby looks like!

 1) Make approx. 2 gallons of organic green tea using spring or distilled water since the scoby is sensitive. I buy bulk tea at the co-op and use a reusable cloth tea bag. Dissolve 1 cup of white organic sugar into each gallon of tea while it’s still hot. Costco sells a ginormous cheap bag of white organic sugar. Let it cool to room temperature. I usually do this in the morning or the day before and set it aside in the kitchen to cool. The first time that you make kombucha, you will have your brewing container, which should be however big a size you think you’ll want. If you don’t drink as much as we do, we drink 5-6 bottles a week between the 2 of us and brew in a 2.5 gallon jug- you might want to go with a 1 gallon or 1.5 gallon and make 2 bottles a week.

 2) Always rinse your containers (for the first time) and hands (if you touch the scoby) with distilled vinegar (I read that somewhere and always do it.)  Now you are ready to pour the cooled sugar tea into the brewing container with the scoby and cover it with a breathable piece of fabric (I use an old linen dish towel and a rubber band.) Let it sit in a warmish dark corner for a week to 10 days. The scoby gets foamy, and can go through several different phases, not to worry, it is doing it's thing. And it does have a certain funky smell - this is normal!

 3) After it’s been brewing for a week or so, you can bottle it off for the “second fermentation” and that is where you can add flavors. Prepare the bottles by rinsing them out with white vinegar. I invested in some 32 oz bottles, the thick glass ones with the flip tops, from Dave’s Home Brew over in Seattle's Roosevelt District, but you can use old bottles from the store, even those big plastic pop bottles. I just wanted to get the nice ones. The main thing is that the brew should never touch metal.

 4) You will make sure to save at least a few cups of kombucha as a starter for the next batch. I just leave enough in the container to cover the scoby, that seems about right. I pour off the kombucha into a plastic pitcher before I fill the bottles using a plastic funnel and I do all this in the sink since it’s a little messy. I always add fresh ginger and sometimes another fruit, like apple slivers or cranberries, into each bottle, along with a bit more sugar depending on how fizzy it needs to get. The bottles should be ready to drink in about 3-5 days, you can test them by opening to see it they are fizzy. Don't let this second fermentation go too long or it will be SO fizzy that it'll come out all over the place when you open it, like a cartoon champagne bottle OR if it goes really too long it will turn lose the fizz and taste like vinegar. Test open your bottles after a few days to see how they're doing. You should get a little pop when you open the lid and a rush of bubbles. At the point when the second fermentation is perfect, place them all in the fridge and they will stay at that perfect level of fizz.

 It seems like every batch is a little different, and the overall character of the brew changes throughout the year, quicker and lighter in the summer and slower and heavier in the winter. Like I said, my kitchen isn’t particularly warm, so I have positioned them in the warmest corner, on the counter next to the refrigerator (the coils on the back give off some steady heat.) Sometimes I wrap extra dish towels around my brewing jar and also the bottles as they sit on the counter for the second fermentation. I may have to craft some cozies for them, since they are a permanent thing on one end of the counter, which currently looks like a pile of old linen dish towels. I guess that could be my next business! ;)

 Good Luck, home brewers! Feel free to ask any questions or share any tips!
Here is a website that I found helpful when I was starting out: https://www.kombuchakamp.com/what-is-kombucha