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Kombucha – What Is That Stuff?

4872290943_b9bdea095e_oKombucha is a wonderful probiotic drink with incredible nutritional value. And it’s amazingly easy to make at home!

While it’s been around for centuries, it’s relatively new to most of the modern, Western world. (No surprise there, huh?) The Chinese developed this drink, which is essentially a sweet tea!, and later it became popular in Russia…then Germany…then all of Europe…and finally we are starting to experience the benefits of kombucha here in the US!

I started brewing it about six months ago and have had great success with it. I’ve tried several different recipes, gathered tons of info from various resources and am so excited to share with you how to brew with happy, cute, healthy SCOBY babies. =)

Wait…So What Is Kombucha?

Are you ready for this? A mushroom ferments the tea during the brewing process, leaving a yummy drink with all the health benefits below. The mushroom is typically called a SCOBY – a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Sounds weird, I know. But it’s actually super fascinating. Plus, I’m guaranteed at least one science project off of it with the kiddos in the coming years. =)

Aside from the weird and cool factors, there are health benefits to drinking kombucha. There are constantly good and bad bacteria (flora) in your digestive system. But often the good bacteria is killed off (by prescription medications, for instance) or must work over-time (because of our processed, commercially produced diets).

And it’s a fermented drink, so it tastes something like a sour-y beer. (Don’t worry, though, the alcohol content is next to nothing – like less than 0.5%.) During the brewing process, it ferments and creates naturally-occuring probiotics which are more easily adapted into the body than supplements (even the health food store’s best products!). Kombucha helps to balance the flora and allows the digestive juices to work properly, detoxing the body of the bad bacteria and flushing out estrogens your body picks up from various foods, contact with artificial materials, etc.

There are also fun ways to flavor it in a second fermentation process, but only if you choose. I personally enjoy the flavor of ginger, but often just bottle and drink it after the first fermentation.

The Cost

It is very cost-effective to brew kombucha at home vs. buying it in the stores. One 16 oz. bottle can cost $3.50. An equal amount of home-brewed ‘bucha can cost only pennies.

(Initially you may need to purchase a SCOBY (find one here), and the costs for these can vary. But once you have a SCOBY, you should never need to invest in this again. So for our long-term figuring, we’ll leave that initial potential cost out. Plus, if you know someone who brews ‘bucha, I’ll betcha they’re up to their ears in SCOBY babies and would love to give you one! Local peeps – hint, hint!)

So. I paid $16 for 1 pound of tea which should last me at least a year of steady brewing. This ends up being $0.31 per brewing. The cost of the sugar per brew comes to about $0.93 – for a total of $1.24 per brewing. Now, one brewing yields about three quarts (or 96 oz.). So a 16 oz. glass of our home-brewed version costs approximately $0.21. Quite a difference from the $3.50 store-bought version, right?

The Supplies

There are lots of opinions out there on the supplies and the ingredients which should and should not be used in brewing kombucha. Essentially, you want to use a stainless steel pot to boil the water in, a glass brewing container, and wooden spoons and utensils. Using other types of materials (ceramic, aluminum, plastic, rubber, etc.) will cause the kombucha to leech acids or other foreign substances from the utensils or containers and into the kombucha. Metals can also reduce the strength of your culture (SCOBY). And since the whole point is to create a toxin-free drink to help balance your intestinal flora…the correct equipment is pretty important.

You’ll also want to wipe down your equipment with white distilled vinegar prior to using them since soaps are often antibacterial, which may neutralize the SCOBY. If you do a continuous brew, though, you really don’t need to wipe anything down except the containers you use to transfer the starter tea because there’s no need to wash or clean the brewing container since you’re pouring more tea right back in! Easy-peasy!

4872937456_67ef6f3ee8_oThe Ingredients

I would strongly encourage the use of organic, caffeinated tea. You can do a combination green and black tea but at least part of the combination needs to be black because the tannins in the black tea are crucial for proper brewing. I purchase organic loose-leaf Oolong from Mountain Rose Herbs and as I said earlier, it will last a long.long.long time – I’ve barely put a dent into it! Oh, and don’t worry – the caffeine is pretty much all eaten up by your big ol’ SCOBY!

You will need some white sugar. I know. Sugar. It’s normally a no-no here at Growing Up Triplets. Especially the white and refined kind! However, this is the only thing I buy it for. You can definitely use natural sugars (honey, succanat, etc.) but they can produce an iffy batch and aren’t dependable. Plus, the sugar is also used up by the SCOBY so you’re not actually going to be consuming this white stuff. Whew! Thought I’d gone crazy, right?

Finally, you’ll need some starter tea and a SCOBY. For your first brew, you will need to either purchase some or get these from a friend who has extras. After your first brew, your SCOBY will have grown a baby SCOBY and you’ll use some of that tea as starter tea for your next batch.

And that’s it. Were you expecting something more involved? =)

Next week I’ll share the recipe for brewing your own kombucha. It’s so super easy! In the meantime, gather your ingredients and we’ll get going on a brew next week – same time, same place!

Do you brew ‘bucha?Free How to Make Kombucha eBook

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Comments

  1. I haven’t brewed kombucha yet, but I’ve been wanting to for a long time! I love the taste of it, and I’m pretty impressed by the health benefits.

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  4. […] Fermented foods are incredibly beneficial to our bodies. Foods that undergo a fermentation process have allowed the natural bacteria to feed on the sugars and starches and create lactic acid. This acts as a natural preservative and creates healthy enzymes and probiotics which aid in digestion. Did I mention it also tastes delish? Seriously. I’d dip my McDonald’s french fries in a bucket of this anytime…oh, wait. […]

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