Kombucha. Why I drink it and how to make it.

omeone recently asked me if they should drink "the silt-like sh*t" in the bottom of their kombucha.

My answer was YES.

I thought I would take a moment to talk about why that funky stuff floating in your kombucha is so great for you, and where it came from.

Let's start with fermented foods.

The human race has been eating fermented foods forever. Seriously, forever.

Unfortunately as convenience foods filled our pantries, fermented foods slowly have taken up less space on our plates. In fact, a lot of people may not consume any at all. Our ancestors would consume these foods several times a day, not just for the taste but for the health benefits. It's not like we have replaced these fermented gems with something better, most of us have replaced them with a bunch of carbohydrate rich garbage (carbage) loaded with preservatives and sugar.

What are fermented foods?

Raw sauerkraut, raw pickles, kefir, yogurt (with live cultures), miso, kimchi, lots of other vegetable ferments and kombucha. More about these later.

So why should you be eating (or drinking) at least one (or more) of these foods a day?

They contain probiotics, the good bacteria that lives in your intestinal tract. These friendly bugs have been in the spotlight of research for years. We are learning more about them then we ever imagined, there are SO many! They actually outnumber your cells 10 to 1 and weigh almost as much as your brain. Here are a few highlights...

  • They are our first line of defense. When you hear that 70% of your immune system is in your gut, its because of the probiotics there. Supporting this community of good bacteria also supports your immune system.
  • They are linked to a large number number of health issues, including weight management, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and more.  We know that having a healthy microbiome (your population of good bacteria) has a positive impact on most organ systems.
  • One of my favorite things to learn about is the impact that our gut bacteria has on our brain. Yes, your gut has a large impact on cognitive health. There is a neurologist who has an entire site about this topic, check it out HERE.

Fermented foods contain a large variety of microflora (those good guys), more than most supplements. We only know how to manufacturer or create some strains of good bacteria, the magic that happens through the natural fermentation process is going to give you a much larger variety on a regular basis.

Fermented foods also contain "predigested" nutrients that are easy for your body to use, improving digestion and nutrient absorption.

That was a quick summary of why you need ferments in your life!

Basically, supporting your digestive system through consuming fermented foods (rich in probiotics) means you're also supporting brain health, your cardiovascular system, a healthy inflammatory response and your immune system. Who doesn't want that?

Now to the fun stuff.

You can find fermented foods at a grocery store or most health food stores.

Back to the list...

RAW pickles or RAW sauerkraut- they must be refrigerated ALL the time. If you're buying them off the grocery store shelf then they have been heated (pasteurization) and have no more good bacteria for you. Unfortunately heating the probiotics kills them, so you have to be careful! Bubbies is a fantastic brand that makes raw ferments!

Kefir and/or Yogurt- must be labeled that it has "active cultures," or they may be listed. Kefir is my go to. If you don't have kefir in your life you need to get some. Yogurt typically has 2-4 strains of good bacteria, Kefir has 12. Yes 12. Make the change.

Miso is a fermented soybean product that makes some delicious soup. Boil your water and make your soup, then add the miso to the warm water (not boiling). Remember, heating up that good bacteria can kill it.

Kimchi and other raw ferments. This list could go on forever. I've seen fermented beets, carrots, ginger, etc. If you're a DIY person, start fermenting at home. Its SO cost effective and you can create some delicious things!

Kombucha- my favorite. You can buy it just about anywhere now, its in the refrigerator. If you love it and find yourself buying it on a regular basis it can get costly! Prices range $3-6 a bottle!

This is what led me to making my own, I actually enjoy the taste more than the store bought.

Here it goes. Making some bouch...Im keeping it simple.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but I have found what works for me. As always, make sure to wash your hands and prepare in a clean area.

What you need to get started-

  • 1 SCOBY (Symbiotic 'Colony' of Bacteria and Yeast) with it's "starter fluid"
    • I got mine from a friend, you can find someone who makes kombucha (walk into a health food store and ask the staff) or you can order one online. It's a one time purchase, it will keep reproducing once you get going.
  • 1 Cup Sugar (it needs to be a granulated sugar)
    • I use beet sugar from the health food store, most sugars will work. You cannot use honey, you have to have a specific SCOBY for this (Ill show you that at the end) or maple syrup. Sugar substitutes will NOT work, the fermentation process requires actual sugar.
  • ~1 Gallon of filtered/purified water (not tap water, chlorine in tap is bad news for your SCOBY)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons bulk tea or 7-10 tea bags (could be green, black, yerba mate- your choice)
  • 1 Gallon Glass container to store

What you will need 7-10 days after starting...

  • Flavors of your choice (juice, juice concentrate, frozen or fresh fruit)
  • Small jars to disperse your kombucha for flavoring and storage

Please read through ALL the steps before getting started!

STEP 1.

Bring 4-6 cups water almost to a boil in a large pot (if it boils thats okay, but technically it works best if the water hasn't been boiled to death). Remove from heat and add tea. I use bulk green tea because its super cost effective, I place in a muslin tea bag and reuse the bag when Im finished brewing.

Let steep for ~ 10 minutes.

STEP 2.

Add the sugar, stir and dissolve. Then add the remaining water. I usually end up using a little less than a gallon. This should make the sugary tea room temperature. You never want to add hot water to the SCOBY and its original fluid.

STEP 3. 

Place your SCOBY and its starter fluid (usually about 2 cups) in your fermenting vessel (your 1 gallon glass container). Then add your sweet tea. Cover with a towel and rubber band, you don't want to use a totally air tight cover. I use a coffee filter...

Step 4. 

Place in a cool, dark spot. Wait 7-10 days and "taste" to see if its ready. I place a clean spoon in and get a sample, some people use a straw. You just want to be very careful not to contaminate your booch.

When it's ready you want to get your smaller bottles ready and your flavor out! You should have them ready by the time the 7-10 day period is up.

I save some store bought kombucha bottles and also have some that I have purchased separately. The tighter the lid, the more fizz in your end product.

This is my stash of empty boocha bottles...

My favorite flavor is this grape concentrate, but I also use frozen berries a lot. You don't have to flavor, but the sugar from the flavors can create additional fermentation, creating a more "fizzy" drink. Ginger is also a great option!

STEP 5. AFTER your first fermentation process of 7-10 days. This is considered your "second ferment."

Wash your hands well and remove your SCOBY from your gallon vessel. Place it in a clean bowl. Take ~2 cups of the tea from the gallon vessel and add that to your SCOBY. This is your next starting batch! You will notice that your SCOBY will get bigger and eventfully create more baby SCOBYs. Cover the bowel with a towel and set aside.

After flavoring and dispersing my kombucha (NEXT STEP) I usually start my next batch with this SCOBY and starter liquid. If you want to wait you can cover and keep aside in a cool, dark place until you were ready to use it. Do not refrigerate it. If you were going to "share" your SCOBY because it had "babies" then you would want to separate out more starter fluid for that person to get started. This is your viscous kombucha cycle.

STEP 6. 

Place your smaller bottles on counter or in sink, a funnel works well for this part. Add your flavors, I typically use 1-3teaspoons in the smaller bottles or 1-2Tablespoons in the larger ones. If I'm using fresh/frozen fruit I just throw enough in to cover the bottom of the bottle. Add your flavor, then add your kombucha. I usually leave ~1-2 inches on the top.

STEP 7. 

Seal them all tightly and place back in your dark, cool spot for another 1-3 days. I usually leave mine for 3, I like the fizz! If you use the flip top bottles you will need to "burp" them once day. They just weren't meant to handle pressure the way the store bought kombucha bottles were. Just quickly open them and close them again to relieve a little pressure. I keep mine in a box with a towel on top just incase one were to explode.

STEP 8. 

After 1-3 days...

Taste and put in the fridge! This stops the fermentation process and makes them cold and delicious. The odd floaty things (or as my friend called it- "the silt like sh*t") are little pieces and scrapes of the original SCOBY. They are loaded with good bacteria for your gut!

Let me know how it goes! I LOVE experimenting with different flavors and combinations. Sharing your kombucha with family and friends is a great way to introduce people to fermented foods (eventually they may even want a SCOBY to make their own)!

On a different note...Ive also starting making JUN kombucha, which uses a SCOBY that prefers raw honey. It tastes a little different, not necessarily better, just different. It will only ferment with raw honey, no granulated sugar. I like the concept, raw honey has some beneficial properties, but it is more costly in the long run.

Here's a pic of my JUN supplies....

Honey + JUN SCOBY + tea

Either way I've got a crazy circle of kombucha brewing all the time and my gut LOVES it! Thanks for reading!