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Kombucha


Commercially available Kombucha


The "mushroom" (source)


Chemical structure of L--theanine

Kombucha is a low calorie naturally carbonated beverage that has been fermented using microorganisms. The "culture" looks somewhat like a mushroom top, and as such is often called a mushroom. It is also sometimes called SCOBY, for "Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast", and is clinically known as a fungus.

Kombucha contains many different cultures along with several organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. Depending on the source of the culture the following components may also be present : Acetic acid, which provides much anti-microbial activity; butyric acid, gluconic acid, glucuronic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, usnic acid, as well as some B-vitamins. If your a home brewer there is no way to know the amounts of the components unless a sample is sent to a lab.

These microorganisms feed on a mixture of sugar and tea. Because tea is used, Kombucha is a popular drink because of its health benefits. During the Qin Dynasty (250 BC), the Chinese called it the "Immortal Health Elixir," partially because they felt Kombucha aided in digestion, allowing the body to focus on healing.

In addition to the health benefits, drinking Kombucha can be surprisingly invigorating and intoxicating. Alcohol amounts vary from 0.5% to 1.5%, depending on anaerobic brewing time and proportions of microbe. This low level of alcohol and caffeine does not explain the feeling of well being, relaxation, and euphoria that some people experience. One possible cause of these effects is the psychoactive amino acid L-theanine, which is naturally present in tea. Stimulation of the circulatory and immune systems, and associated glandular releases, may also account for some of these effects. It is common to drink three glasses a day for maximized effects. One glass on an empty stomach in the morning, the second glass after a meal in the course of the day, and the last glass before bed.

Whats Needed


  • A starter Kombucha Colony (we are working on providing these to our customers)
  • Unflavored Kombucha tea. Your starter colony should come with this.
  • Pure water
  • Sugar
  • Tea
  • 1 gallon glass fermentation container, with a wide opening.
  • Funnel
  • Strainer (cheesecloth, plastic, or glass)
  • Measuring cup
  • Glass storage bottles for storing the finished Kombucha tea

Making the Tea Base


  • Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Steep 1oz of tea (3-4 tablespoons) for 10 to 15 minutes. Usually a pure black or green tea is used, but keep in mind any type of tea or other ingredients can be used. Fruity teas will impart their flavor to the final drink, and herbal tisanes will give you a caffeine free beverage.
  • Strain out the tea leaves and add in 1.5 cups of sugar before it has cooled. Stir the tea so that the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Let the tea cool down to room temperature and pour into your glass fermenting jar.

Fermenting


  • Add the liquid that you got with the culture. In later batches you will want to use 10% of the Kombucha from the previous batch.
  • Place the live Kombucha culture in the liquid.
  • Cover the top of the fermentation container with a tightly woven fabric, or paper towel. This covering needs to let air circulate into the container, but keep out fruit flies, and dust. Secure the towel with a large rubber band.
  • The fermentation should take 8 - 12 days, depending on the temperature. The higher the room temperature, the faster the fermentation. The Kombucha culture needs to remain warm and unmoved. The ideal temperature is between 74°F - 85°F. Light is not necessary, and in fact will be hurt by bright sunlight. Half shade is best.

How to tell when its ready


  • During the process of fermentation the sugar is broken down by the yeast and converted into CO2 gas and other elements. It is the combination of these processes which gives the Kombucha beverage its characteristic flavor and carbonation. If a sweeter drink is desired then the fermentation should be stopped earlier. For a dry or slightly acid flavor let the Kombucha sit longer.
  • When the tea has attained the right acid degree (pH 2,7 - 3,2), depending on individual taste, remove the culture with clean hands and set aside in a glass pan submerged in the Kombucha.

Bottling


  • Fill each of your bottles to the brim, and cap tightly. Some people may wish to strain the Kombucha through a cheese cloth to get rid of any sediment that has developed. This sediment is harmless, and may hold the key to many of the observed health benefits, so it is recommended not to strain before bottling.
  • For best results the drink should be allowed to mature for 5 days after having been bottled before serving. The activity of the bacterium is stopped because of the lack of oxygen, however, the yeast continues to work for a while.

Harvest the Culture


  • Rinse the culture under cold water.
  • Fill new room temperature tea into the jar and add the culture immediately. This will begin the process all over again.
  • You don't have to remove the culture after two weeks from the Kombucha if you wish to simply maintain a healthy culture, but not harvest the Kombucha. You must cycle through tea solution, and "trim" the culture every month or so.
  • Trimming the culture involves peeling off layers and either giving them away to friends or composting them.

Safety Tips


Reports of negative reactions related to Kombucha are most likely related to unsanitary fermentation conditions, or "sickly" Kombucha cultures that cannot acidify the brew. Always use sanitized glass for the fermentation container, and WASH YOUR HANDS. If a culture becomes contaminated, it will most likely be seen as common mold, green or brown in color.
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