Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kombucha - 1

First...what is Kombucha? I guess I'm not too surprised why just about everyone I talk to doesn't know what it is. I was in the same boat not too long ago.

Kombucha is the Western name for a fermentation of sweetened tea using lactobacilli and yeast cultures. The tea contains a symbiosis of yeast species and acetic acid bacteria. Species of yeast found in the tea can vary, and may include: Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii. Find out more about its components, medical properties, history and preparation by visiting wikipedia.

Its distinctive and acquired taste can be summed up as acidic, sour, tart, bright. After a few experiences, I have grown love it...maybe even crave it at times. I would sum it up as a unique refreshing tart and fizzy beverage that stimulates the senses of smell and taste. Its a great aperitif as it wakes up my mouth and causes me to want to eat and drink a healthy meal. I like to compare it to one of my favorite beer styles...Gueuze. So, if I can make a steady supply, I'll get to enjoy a healthy/non-alcoholic "gueuzy" beverage and produced at a quicker rate at a much lower cost than commercial bottles.

After talking with David about getting into brewing kombucha as a daily tonic, I looked into buying a basic kit, or at least the culture itself. I'd have to order it through the mail, and its somewhat pricey. So then I fell upon a great blog where the Mad Fermentationist got a culture to grow after propagating it from a commercial bottle. I decided to give it a try to see what would happen.

In less than 2 weeks, it seems to be working. At least "whatever-it-is" is now about 4 times the size. It also smells healthy. Last night I added more ssweet tea, to keep it going. At this point I'm very optimistic. Hopefully, in about a month, I can start making some good tasting kombucha.

These pictures show the culture at about two weeks. You can see bubbles underneath a mass of culture at the top, and lots of strandy stuff in the solution. Its reminds me of a jellyfish.

After transfering it to a larger and broader glass bowl, I found out that it had a healthy thin "skin" or membrane covering the entire surface. Its very exciting to see it progressing so nicely. I will definitely add more parts/posts as it develops.


Ted Danyluk said...

The culture very much likes its new home in the wide glass bowl. It has grown beautifully, a fairly thick translucent skin on top with countless small strands hanging downward into the solution. So far so good...I think.

Brian said...

Howdy Ted, well after leaving town for a funeral I'm back and again catching up on my fermentation reading. So I see you are making Kombucha, I just tried it for the first time a few months back and really enjoyed it, and do see the similarities to Guaze (sp?). I think I'll give brewing it a shot as well, the process is pretty straight forward from what I understand and leaves a ton of room up for experimentation.

Ted Danyluk said...

Hey Brian.

As for the fermentables, there really isn't much room for experimentation. The yeast colony is very sensitive to what it consumes. You gotta stick to its basic/favorite diet of steeped black/green tea and white sugar.

I'm on its fourth generation, and expect to be making my first drinkable batch next week.

As far as experimentation with flavors, I think that will best be done at bottling. Though I love the original taste, I'm also looking forward to flavoring with fruits and herbs and stuff.

Let me know when you are ready to give it a try. I will gladly give you one of its offspring. It would save you a month or two of worries trying to build up the culture. I'd be a piece of cake. Sharing kombucha is what its all about.

Brian said...

Nice, I appreciate that. I did actually pick up a few different Kombuchas at Whole Foods at lunch today (different brands, not just flavors) and will get the wort going tonight (learned a ton from you and the Mad Fermentors post). My initial plan is to mix the strains from the samples I purchased, then after growing the mother out we can compare the different types?

On experimentation I do see that there is not much variation on the intitial wort, and even more that the actual tea flavor will be dominated down the road, but as you mentioned the bottling variations could be huge. Anyway looking forward to it, also I will be bottling my Belgium Wit this weekend, which means I should have some ready for you in a week or so.

Ted Danyluk said...

I still have to read a book my brother lent me called "Kombucha Phenomenon: The miracle Health Tea" by Betsy Pryor & Sanford Holst. But just from the sound of it, I'm not so sure blending strains is such a good idea. They are separate "colonies," and blending them, would simply cause two "mushrooms" to interfere with each other. Even though they feel like very tough membranes when handled, they are very sensitive to their growing environment.

Oh, I'm bottling my Belgian Pale Ale tonight. I'd love to trade.

Brian said...

ouch..hmm well maybe I'll shoot for one blend and one of my favorite flavor I suppose...excellent point though.

Hey speaking of interesting books I just received a few that you might find be in to:

-"Sacrad and Herbal Healing Bears"-Stephen Harrod Buhner
-"Wild Fermentation"-Sandor Ellix Katz
-"Beer a History of Brewing in Chicago"-Bob Skilnik

Working on "Wild Fermentation" now, looking forward to making my first batches of Kimchi, Kraut, and Miso this summer. My wife being Korean I have grown to love kimchi over the years and am really excited to see how some of my homemade stuff will come out. Anyhow, took your blog waaay off apologies for that. Take care!

Oh and sharing is definetely in order!

Ted Danyluk said...

As long as we're talkin about fermenting stuff...ha! And, I like documenting good conversations through comment sections. I'll definitely be posting about krauts and kimchis in the future. My brother has made a couple krauts that were soooooo gooood. We have 2 things in common...Korean wives, and a natural propensity to ferment stuff. I love most kinds of kimchi. Don't like the "fishy" kinds and please...NO MSG. I get a healthy dose just about every week from my mother-in-law, and that totally rocks!

I've read a good chunk of Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, and like it a lot. Wild fermentation is something that I'd love to read.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but how did this batch of kombucha work out?

Ted Danyluk said...

Just yesterday I was told that I wasn't adding enough sugar to allow the "mother" to grow bigger and thicker. Makes sense, cause its a culture that wants to "grow" and to feeding it generously is important.

I wasn't drinking much of the stuff I made, but it wasn't all that bad.

I'll be getting a culture from a friend soon. Can't wait to start brewing it better and more regularly.

Anonymous said...

wow ted, its pretty refreshing to see an avid beer homebrewer begin to dabble into the world of kombucha! as a seasoned kombucha brewer, i think your curiousity is quite cute, and hope that your brew turns out well! i've got close to 25 SCOBYs chillin' in the hotel; so if you ever need a few to get started, hit me up! :)

you'll have to definitely help me get started in the beer brewing field...i am thinking about trying my luck in this arena.