Kombucha Homebrew with Sierra
Sierra Hirtzel has been the customer service manager at the co-op for the last two years. She’s also the resident expert on homemade kombucha, which she’s been making herself for the last year and a half. Sierra was kind enough to write a little about kombucha—what it is, and why it’s awesome—for the co-op blog:
“I first encountered kombucha when I was about 10. A friend of my dad's was brewing his own and let me taste it, and I loved it!! Then, a little over a year and a half ago, my mother asked me to see if I could find her a kombucha mother so she could start making her own. When I found hers, the person who gave it to me gave me one for myself as well. So I guess you could say that it was a bit of an accident that I began brewing it myself! But I have never been willing to pay the $3-$5 per bottle that it costs to buy a bottle on a regular basis, plus I love cooking and making things from scratch, so it was a perfect fit for me to learn to make my own kombucha. It is not at all difficult to learn to make kombucha yourself!
There are many easily followed recipes on the internet, but basically they all give you the same proportions: 3/4-1 gallon of tea (any caffeinated tea) and 1-1.5 cups sugar. To that you add about half a cup of live kombucha and the mother. You then let it ferment or brew for 10-30 days depending on your preference in flavor. The longer you let it ferment, the more vinegary it tastes. After the initial fermentation period, you bottle it and let it ferment again in order to carbonate. The longer you leave it out of refrigeration at this stage the more it will carbonate. The carbonation is also affected by how much air is in the bottles: the more air, the more carbonated it has the potential to become. It is really easy to learn to make. It just takes patience, consistency and a little experimentation. I think it took me about 3 or 4 batches before I was really happy with my results, however, I have never perfected flavoring with fruit juices. I always end up with something that tastes like bad wine, so I flavor with herbal teas instead. I LOVE my kombucha! I don't think any of the commercially sold brands are anywhere near as good as homemade (not just mine, but other peoples as well). I do really like GT's Mystic Mango , and all the Brew Doctor kombuchas are the closest to homemade-tasting that I've had. I brew my kombucha in glass gallon jars, most of which were originally pickle jars, and I bottle in recycled GT's bottles. During the bottling process, I use an old coffee carafe to pour into the bottles because it is the least messy method I have found. While the kombucha is brewing, I keep the jars covered with a clean washcloth secured with a rubber band, and I keep them in a dark part of the house that has the most consistent temperature.
Kombucha in my own words....deliciousness!! It is so refreshing and energizing, and it just makes you feel great! Also, I always have tons of kombucha mothers since every batch produces more, so I am always happy to give them to anyone interested in making their own, along with the links [below] and my recipe. And I am happy to put any GT's or Synergy bottle anyone has to good use, the more bottles I have the better!
Here are the links that I found useful when I first started brewing Kombucha:
- Cultures for Health - Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha Tea
- Cultures for Health - Items necessary for brewing
- How to Make Kombucha Tea at Home
- Kombucha Kamp - How to Make a Scoby Hotel
- How to Make Kombucha Tea
- 1.25 cups organic cane sugar
- 3.5 quarts water
- 6 tea bags (I use: green, white, oolong, and black in separate batches)
- 2 tea bags (any flavor that sounds good to you)
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Allow to stop boiling and add tea bags. Let the tea steep until it is room temperature. In a glass gallon jar, place your mother and the starter (remainder from previous batch after the first batch, about 1-2 cups) squeeze all tea out of tea bags and add tea to the jar. Cover with cloth or washcloth and secure with a rubber band. Place jar in a dark place at as consistent a temperature as possible for 10-15 days. Bottle in glass jars with plastic lids all but 1-2 cups of kombucha and repeat! I generally brew the tea in the morning so it is cooled enough to combine by the time I get off work in the evening. You do not want the kombucha to be in contact with metal at any time (although it is fine to boil and cool the tea in a metal pot) because it will turn the kombucha vinegary.”
We carry gallon size glass bottles in the store that you could use to make kombucha, not to mention dozens of different kinds of tea. If you’re interested in learning to make your own kombucha, and would like a little face-to-face assistance getting started, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Sierra at the store. And if you have any empty GT’s bottles, she’ll be happy to take them off your hands!