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Tips on improving your Kombucha brew
By Noel Eastwood
I have been brewing kombucha for about 8 years and over that time I have found some good recipes to improve its flavour and healing qualities. But before we go any further it must be remembered that contrary to some very strange mystical articles kombucha is not a magical being, it is a simple culture of yeasts and bacteria much like yoghurt is.
Good sanitary practices and cleanliness will help it maintain its health and quality. If you allow other bacteria or yeasts to infect your kombucha culture then you are asking for a poor result in your brew.
For example I once attempted to make kombucha in a container previously used for brewing beer. The few remaining brewers yeast cells left in the barrel were enough to overwhelm the subtle kombucha culture producing a tasteless, though alcoholic brew, unfit for drinking. So the lesson is to make sure all utensils are clean and free of contaminants.
Introducing raw ripe fruits will make your brew more flavoursome but can also destroy the quality of the final product.
Fruit breaks down due to the enzymes present in its cells, this is natures way of recycling waste fruit. As well as enzymes there are, on the surface of most fruits, wild yeast cells, you can see them as a creamy film, like that on fresh grapes. When the fruit begins to break down this wild yeast ferments the sugars in the fruit to produce alcohol and gas. If we introduce fresh raw fruits to our kombucha we soon find that the enzymes in the fruit and the natural wild yeasts on its skin will begin to ferment and spoil our final product. This can end up as another rather tasteless brew.
There are two ways to overcome this:
The first is to wash and boil the fruit before adding to your brew. This kills the wild yeasts and destroys the natural enzymes in the fruit. This way you get your taste and also the benefits of the kombucha culture without the enzymes and yeasts destroying it.
Another, perhaps healthier and therefore better way, is to brew your kombucha first, and at the bottling stage add the fresh juiced or blended fruit as a raw-fruit-liquid to each bottle then refrigerate immediately. This way the kombucha brewing process is allowed to continue uninterrupted and the kombucha culture is left uninfected. The flavour, enzymes and health properties of the fruit are retained because the wild yeasts and enzymes are left in the fruit. You still get the healing benefits of a healthy kombucha culture. The wild yeast and enzymes are prevented from fermenting the kombucha brew because it is too cold for them to be activated when sitting in the fridge. One important thing to remember is not to mix the fruit with your brew before bottling, otherwise your kombucha culture will be infected and the next batch brewed will contain these contaminants and therefore spoil.
Tips on brewing
* Use 80 grams of raw sugar to each litre of water. I brew up 20 liters at a time (4.5 gallons) in a beer brewing container.
* I also use a heating pad in cold weather, it completes the brew in about 5 days and keeps it at a moderately high temperature, about 29 degrees C. Buy a strip thermometer from the pet shop. This higher temperature prevents mould forming on the mushroom at the top.
* Allow your brew to cool down one day prior to bottling. This allows the tiny sediment particles to settle to the bottom of the container so that your drink will be clearer.
* Brew your kombucha in a new, clean beer brewing container, 20 litres at a time. Bottle into cleaned 2 litre soft-drink bottles and you will have enough home brew kombucha on tap for a month. Be very careful that NO brewers yeast remains in the kit, otherwise it will turn out tasting like YUK! I know, I did it.
* Honey is a natural bacterialcide, it will inhibit your culture’s brewing ability and slows the brew. So add it at as a flavouring or sweetening agent to each bottle after brewing, not directly into your brewing container. About 1 desert spoon per liter, or to taste.
* Ginger is best juiced before adding - raw fresh ginger, not the dried herb. Juice it first and add this to each bottle. It provides the right enzymes to aid digestion, and it tastes absolutely fantastic. Add about a desert-spoon per litre and your kombucha will be world class.
* Another thing to add is Apple Cider Vinegar which is a natural healer, add to taste, about the same as for your ginger. It gives a ‘bite’ to your brew.
* Try adding a juiced or blended pawpaw or papaya. Juice the (washed) skin and raw seeds, providing all of its healing qualities and terrific flavour. Add the raw juice at the bottling stage, about a quarter of a cup per litre of kombucha. Leave in the fridge for a week or two to mature, shake and drink chilled. Try fresh, raw, juiced mangoes, peaches, apples, oranges, the list of flavours is endless....
* Don’t wash your mushroom, the live culture is in the liquid, so always add at least one cup of liquid kombucha to start each new brew. For 20 litres use about 2 litres of uninfected kombucha (saved prior to adding honey or fruit) to start the brew.
* Don’t boil your kombucha, it kills the enzymes and naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts.
* Use herbs instead of tea. I use a combination of Stinging Nettle and Elder Flower, or Blackcurrant herbal tea. Use two tea bags per litre of water and it will taste supperb.
* Brew to a slightly acid / sweet taste and bottle. It is best to taste it every few days until it is to your liking. Always keep your brew in the fridge so that it doesn’t turn to vinegar.
Good luck and enjoy your kombucha brewing.
© Noel Eastwood 2000
Noel is a psychologist and astrologer with a private practice on the south coast of NSW. You can contact him at PO Box 62, St. Georges Basin, NSW 2540, on the net: www.shoal.net.au/~astralc, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of Maximise Your Mind, The Self Hypnosis Hand Book, published by Harald Tietze. Noel is also a regular contributor to Health For All.
You can purchase your own kombucha culture and book from Harald Tietze. He also has Kefir, a culture for milk, like yoghurt, but oh so much nicer. It can be a little alcoholic if not shaken while fermenting. Email me if you want recipes for kefir.
Copyright © 2003 Astral Connections