In my previous post – The Gut Microbiome and High Blood Pressure – the bacterial connection! – I talked about the importance of nurturing a healthy digestion system by taking either natural, or in supplement form, Prebiotics and Probiotics on a regular basis.
And I further touched on the research that is being conducted into the link between a healthy gut microbiome, the kidneys and the regulation of blood pressure. Research into this probiotics high blood pressure connection is very promising and offers another potential natural treatment for hypertension.
Click here for more information on this connection…
One source of very beneficial Probiotics are fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, Kimchi and yogurt, and also fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha.
Well today I am going to focus on one of the fermented drinks which has become a great favourite of mine ever since I came across it back:
It was during a visit to my cousin’s place that I first heard mention of this unusual beverage, and was able to see at first hand the 1 gallon jar my cousin’s wife kept under cover in a cooler which contained this amber coloured liquid together with its creepy sounding SCOBY (see photo opposite – click to enlarge).
This is the organic culture by which a basically black/green tea and sugar mixture, when fermented for several days, turns into a refreshing drink which is full of health benefits including, ant-oxidants and probiotics, like lactobacillus bacteria and several other strains.
SCOBY is actually an acronym for SYMBIOTIC CULTURE OF BACTERIA AND YEAST.
The Scoby, or mother culture, (similar to mother of vinegar) contains one or more strains of bacteria and yeast which when introduced to the medium of a sugary tea broth go to work to convert the sucrose present into a glucose – fructose mixture and then from this into gluconic acid and acetic acid.
The result after a period of 7-10 days of this fermentation process is a fizzy, sugary tea which is slighty sour to the taste and which is not only delicious; it is also packed with many healthy ingredients. It should be noted that a small residual amount of alcohol is also produced, about 1% – 3%.
A common alternative name for Kombucha is Mushroom tea although there is no mushroom in it. However the texture and look of the Scoby itself are reminiscent of the appearance of a mushroom, hence the nickname!!
Nick’s Recipe for Homemade Kombucha
Kombucha as a health drink has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the last number of years and is now commercially available in most health food stores, and in the health food aisles at most major grocery stores. However if you wish to be a regular imbiber of Kombucha it can start to get quite expensive – around $3 to $5 for a 16 oz bottle (500 ml).
However it is very easy and inexpensive to make. This is in fact what I do. After my visit to my cousin’s place, his wife sent me home with a Kombucha starter kit which I have been using ever since and have actually just finished completing my 107th batch of Kombucha since I started home production just under 3 years ago!!
Below is my recipe and instructions for making Kombucha…
- a 1 gallon clear glass jar
- an organic Scoby
- a blend of black/green teas – I use teabags for convenience sake
- a set of dark glass 1 litre beer bottles with EZ caps. (plain glass bottles will work at a pinch, too – but I prefer using dark bottles to limit light access to the brew)
- a temperature guage
- organic sugar
You can easily purchase these items individually, or buy kombucha scoby online as part of a Kombucha starter kit for convenience sake. With the kit you have everything else you need to start you first batch of Kombucha.
MAKING THE BREW
If the Scoby is new (like the one shown in the photo opposite) it should come with a small amount of broth in its bag. You will add this at Step 7 below.
If you are ready to decant your first (or later) batch(es) from the 1 gallon glass jar, first remove about 1- 2 cups of the brew into a 1 quart Mason Jar, then take the Scoby out of the large 1 gallon glass jar, handling it carefully, and place it into the 1 quart jar which will be its temporary home whilst the new batch of tea you are making has time to cool to a safe temperature (<80° Fahrenheit or <26° Celsius) for the Scoby to be added back into it.
- Boil 3L of filtered cold water and pour into the 1 Gallon Glass Jar
- Add 3 or 4 black tea bags
- Add 3 green tea bags
- Steep for 15 minutes
- Remove tea bags
- Add 1 cup of organic sugar and cool tea by letting it stand until the tea is less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit
(I usually leave it 3-4 hours at room temperature, or until the jar is lukewarm to touch, but you can use the temperature gauge to make sure – after a few batches you will develop a “feel” for the right temperature)
- Then add the 1-2 cups of brew plus the SCOBY from the 1 Qt jar back into the 1 gallon glass jar. (Again make sure the tea brew is cool enough before doing this – If the tea is too hot and you add the Scoby back into it too soon, the heat from the tea will destroy it!)
- Put a paper towel over neck of fermenting jar, or cheese cloth if you prefer, rather than a lid to allow SCOBY to “breathe”
Keep in a dark, warm place* with a constant temperature of 72-80 F. This is where the temperature gauge comes in so you can monitor the
*I like to keep my Kombucha brew in a cooler and partially cover it over with the cooler lid, so that it does not get exposure to too much direct light.
AFTER FERMENTATION – IN 7-10 DAYS
- Check the brew after 7 days by passing straw down the side of the SCOBY into the jar and taste test – if still sweet it is not ready: it should taste slightly sour, like very weak vinegar. Usually takes 7-10 days, sometimes up to 14 days in winter when the ambient temperature is usually colder.
- When ready remove 2-3 cups of liquid together with SCOBY and place carefully in the 1 Quart Mason Jar. As described above, the Scoby rests in this mixture whilst the new batch of tea is being made and cooling.
- Prior to decanting the brew, put dried lemon peel** in dark bottle, or small pieces of fresh ginger, and decant rest of liquid into bottles¹.
- Let bottles stand on counter for three days to allow it to go fizzy then put in fridge.
- ¹Use wine bottles, or beer bottles with the anchored Swing/EZ top and release pressure twice a day. The Kombucha will likely fizz over when you release the pressure, so be prepared for this.
- Once it is in the fridge the liquid becomes less fizzy but it makes for a very refreshing drink – on hot days especially.
** Can also use orange peel or blackberries or blackcurrants, instead of lemon or ginger, or in addition thereto.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF:
- VERY IMPORTANT: Don’t handle SCOBY directly, rather use plastic/latex gloves.
- AND NEVER LET METAL UTENSILS COME INTO CONTACT WITH THE SCOBY.
Contact with a metal utensil will destroy the culture.
- Over time the SCOBY will grow in size and will need to be trimmed. When it comes time to trimming the SCOBY use a plastic salad knife to do the job.
WHEN IT COMES TO KOMBUCHA NOT ALL TEAS ARE MADE ALIKE
Some teas will not work when making Kombucha, for example…
- Flavored teas like Red Zinger or Chai – these are often flavoured using essential oils which can damage the culture.
- There are differing opinions about Earl Gray as it contains oil of Bergamot. Some people have had success brewing Kombucha using Earl Gray. Personally I haven’t risked experimenting with it yet for fear of damaging the Scoby.
- Herbal infusions – Some herbal infusions contain high levels of volatile oils which will retard the Scoby’s growth. Their bacteriacidal effect is not good for the culture either.
- Strong smokey teas such as Lapsang Souchong. While they won’t technically damage the Kombucha, the flavour is not considered a good match by most brewers.
The best teas to use are organic – White, Black and Green teas. I have also successfully added one tea bag of Rooibos (Red Tea) in some of my brews.
Actually, it is fun to experiment with the ratio of teas, as this will definitely affect the final flavour of the Kombucha.
Enjoy the Fizz…
Once you have nailed down the steps in producing your home-brewed Kombucha, you will be able to enjoy all the benefits of this fermented tea brew daily. I always have a glass of Kombucha with my main meal of the day.
Kombucha should be consumed within a reasonable period of time, since its shelf-life is limited. My wife and I usually manage to finish off all three 1-litre bottles right around the time a new batch is ready to be decanted.
Some people like to drink it a room temperature, but personally I find that a slight chill from drinking it straight out of the fridge makes for a very refreshing drink, especially on hot days!
And it’s worth noting that not only does drinking Kombucha support the healthy gut microbiome, it also provides other benefits such as:
- being beneficial for the cardiovascular system,
- protecting the lungs
- helping to manage blood sugar
- supporting a healthy liver
By the way if you choose to purchase Kombucha at the store be careful to avoid pasteurized Kombucha. This really is nothing more than kombucha- flavoured tea, since the pasteurization process effectively destroys all the beneficial bacteria.
So home-brewed Kombucha is not only cheaper but will deliver the desired health benefits! One final note: drinking too much Kombucha in one sitting may cause gastric upset for some people, so be sure not to overdo a good thing!!
Does anyone else out there brew their own Kombucha? If so feel free to join the discussion about its health benefits by leaving a comment below.