The Kombucha experiment – Part II

I’m tying up the loose ends of 2013 by writing Part II of the Kombucha experiment (see Part I here).

Since I the experiment started, I received a very kind offer of a SCOBY from the good people at l’Heure Bleue in Belgium. Unfortunately, security at Brussels Airport had other ideas about international trafficking of SCOBYs in containers that are larger than 100ml and sadly is was consigned to the bin.

In the mean-time, my own SCOBY seems to be doing pretty well. Three weeks after it started to grow, the SCOBY was thin looking but there was no mould and it had patches that were thick and white so I deemed it safe and went ahead a brewed my first batch of Kombucha.

SCOBY

I don’t know how important the rules of SCOBY-handling are but one of the most common rules is no metal touching the SCOBY so no spoons, jewellery, metal containers etc. Before handling the SCOBY hands should be clean but not with antibacterial soup. Cider vinegar seems to be the best way to clean your hands before handling.

Once you have successfully grown the SCOBY, here’s what is needed to prepare the first brew of Kombucha:

  • 200-300ml of the liquid that the SCOBY formed in
  • 2 litres of tea
  • 175g of sugar
  • A large, clean glass container
  • A tea towel and elastic band

Brew the tea by steeping the tea leaves in 2 litres of boiling water. Add the sugar and allow it to brew for at least 30 minutes. At this stage it is ok to use metal to stir because the SCOBY has not been introduced. Strain the leaves and pour into the clean glass container then leave to cool. It took around four hours for mine to cool to room temperature. Any hotter than this will harm the SCOBY but too cold is not good either (temperamental, these SCOBYs!!).

SCOBY in new homeOnce it is cool enough, slide the SCOBY into the large glass container and add approx. 300ml of the liquid that it grew in. The rest of the liquid that the SCOBY formed in can be discarded. Apparently it is safe to drink but is just very weak kombucha and not very tasty.

When the SCOBY is added it might float or sink or it might try some acrobatics with a half-floating manoeuvre, like mine did. It doesn’t really matter. Cover the glass container with a tea towel and elastic band and put it in a warm dry place.

 

Kombucha takes about 2 weeks to brew but the brew time can be adjusted to personal taste. It becomes less sweet with time but factors like temperature and surface area will also affect the speed of the process. Ideally, brewing should take place between 22 and 29°C. Mine is at 18°C so brewing time will definitely be longer.

Rehoming SCOBY

Once the first batch is ready you can bottle the kombucha and transfer the SCOBY (with 200ml of the brewed kombucha) to a new preparation of sweetened tea and the process starts all over again.

Kombucha naturally has very gentle carbonation that gives a tingling sensation but to get more fizz, let it sit in an airtight bottles at room temperature for a day or two. I’ve read about adding blueberries or ginger to boost carbonation but haven’t tried this yet.

Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha, a new SCOBY will grow adjacent to the original SCOBY. You can leave them together or separate to share with friends or start making jewellery!