* Please note that this blog remains up as a resource. However, this blog is currently on hiatus until further notice. For more information, please read this blog post. Thank you and happy kombucha brewing, drinking, and SCOBY trading! Lots of love. ~Annabelle *

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Koffeebucha, Part 1

Having been a barista for several years, coffee has gone from being a beverage that I enjoy on occasion after a good meal (or a long night), to a necessity. While I understand the potential health drawbacks of my daily habit, I have come to accept the fact that coffee will always be part of my morning routine. I’ve tried to make up for my habit in other ways: getting enough sleep (when possible), fitting exercise into my daily schedule (I commute either by bike or walking on a regular basis), and drinking kombucha.

I’ve been drinking and brewing kombucha for about as long as I have been drinking coffee, so when I recently learned that it is possible to brew kombucha with coffee I had to give it a try!

Following a recipe suggested by a thread on www.kombuchatea.tribe.net, I brewed a full pot (my coffee pot makes 10 cups) of the Organic Coffee Co. Zen Blend coffee. I used 1 tblsp of coffee per 2 cups of water. While the coffee was brewing I poured 1 ½ cups of organic turbinado sugar into my brewing vessel, after sanitizing the vessel with warm water and vinegar. Once the coffee was ready I poured it into the vessel and added two extra cups of warm water, stiring to dissolve the sugar into coffee. After all of the sugar appeared to be dissolved I let the mixture cool overnight to room temperature before adding my scoby. Cooling overnight also allowed my scoby to warm up to room temperature (I normally store my scoby in the fridge when I’m not brewing), so that it did not got into shock when I added it to the brew. In the morning I added my scoby to the koffeebucha mixture, and covered the brewing vessel with an extra coffee filter that I had lying around (consequently, this is also what is recommended by Kombucha Fuel).

The directions I was following suggested that koffeebucha takes longer to ferment than the usual 8 to 10 days, so I plan on leaving my brew fermenting for about 14 days before sampling. I am curious to see what it tastes like!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 3, Part 2 of Experiment 2: Cutting the Kombucha Mother

This is what my kombucha looked like after 3 days of brewing 6 cups of kombucha tea with a cut kombucha mother. The tea is brewing comfortably at around 73.4 - 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Day 3

I have to admit that when I first saw the funny looking conglomeration forming at the surface, I was a little concerned that contamination may have occurred. But, these should just be the culture strands gathering to form a new mushroom at the surface, and the other fermentation vessel (below) that I brewed at the same time looks completely normal, so I don't think that the brew should have gotten contaminated.

To be continued!

Day 3 of brewing with a Whole SCOBY

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Workshop, Potluck, and Tasting: Featuring Kombucha, Beer, and Wine!

Thanks to everyone who came to my last workshop in October, we had a great turnout! And a big thank you to Abram, who brought several kombucha mushrooms that I was able to distribute!

My next workshop will be with The Urban Homesteaders' League.

UHL Holiday Potluck + Kombucha and Winemaking Workshop + Local Brew Tasting
When: Saturday, December 12, 6-9 pm
Where: Allston/Brighton/Brookline-ish area, location will be e-mailed to those who RSVP
Cost: $10 (to cover the costs of supplies and drinks)
at the UHL's website
(note: you need to join the UHL to RSVP, but you can always leave the group after the event if you want to)

Learn how to make fruit wine and how to brew kombucha tea, taste several local beers, and share delicious food, all amongst good company and just in time for the holidays!

I will cover the basics of brewing and bottling kombucha, the traditional and continuous brewing methods, how to grow your own kombucha mushroom, and more. Samples of home-brewed kombucha tea will be provided, and SCOBYs will also be available for individuals to take home. RSVP information and the full event description can be found here. It's going to be fun!! Please join us and hope to see you there!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Experiment 2, Continued: Cutting the Kombucha Mother

I am happy to say that I was successful in growing a full SCOBY from a cut kombucha mother! However, this is only the beginning.

The cut kombucha mother (on the right) and newborn SCOBY (on the left) after 9 days of fermentation and around 1.5 cups of kombucha brew.

Day 9

The kombucha segment was a quarter of a SCOBY that had a radius of around 6 cm. So, the area of the cut kombucha mother was around 28 cm^2. Meanwhile, the new SCOBY that it grew had a radius of around 4 cm, with an area of around 50 cm^2 (the area of a circle = pi*radius*radius). The thicknesses of the cut kombucha mother and the new kombucha mushroom were both around 1/8-1/4 in (.32 - .64 cm), and the final brew had a pH of around 2.5-3.5.

Day 8

In his book, I found that Gunther Frank advises to cut kombucha mothers into pieces of around 6 cm in diameter (p. 86). And one experiment performed by the two Russian scientists Sakaryan and Danielova (1948) in Frank's book touches on the subject of the quantity of kombucha culture in relation to the volume of kombucha brew (p. 89-90):
  • Five glass containers of the same size were filled with 100, 250, 500, 750, and 1000 mL of nutrient solution, and equal pieces of kombucha culture were put in each of the containers
  • On the 5th, 8th, and 18th day, all of the containers had equal pH values
  • On the 8th day, the container with 100 mL of nutrient solution had the most activity against disease bacteria, while the other samples with varying amounts of kombucha brew were equally effective against disease bacteria
  • Conclusions from the study: the activity against disease bacteria is almost independent to the volume of kombucha brew. While different strengths of antimicrobial activity may be more apparent during the first couple of days of fermentation among kombucha brews of varying volumes, these differences in antimicrobial activity may be evened out over longer periods of time of 8-18 days.
  • Frank's conclusions: Because there doesn't seem to be an advantage in putting large amounts of kombucha culture in one container, it is advised to part with older cultures over time, "always to use one of the youngest," and there's no advantage to being excessive.
What do I do?
  • I typically brew with 1-3 mushrooms in a container, depending on the size of the container, the volume of brew, and the thickness of my mushrooms. I have found that my kombucha mushrooms don't appreciate being very crowded, and you will learn to make your own adjustments with experience!

Day 5

Nevertheless, I realized that the kombucha baby that I grew wasn't that much bigger than it's kombucha mother. In addition, the cut kombucha mother was only fermenting a small volume of brew, around 1.5 cups. So, I decided to take on Part 2 of Cutting the Kombucha Mother! This week, I will be brewing 6 cups of kombucha tea with the same kombucha fragment that I used last week (area: 28 cm^2), and in a bigger container with a diameter of 12.5 cm. (So, the new kombucha mushroom that grows should have an area of around 122.7 cm^2). Stay tuned!

Frank, Gunther W. Kombucha - Healthy beverage and natur
al remedy from the Far East. 4th ed. Austria: Wilhelm Ennsthaler, 1994.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Exp. 2: Cutting the Kombucha Mother - Day 2

Into Day 2 of Experiment 2, Cutting the Kombucha Mother, and the new mushroom that's forming seems to be looking good! I am currently brewing in my kitchen cupboard, which is a warmer area in my apartment because of my increased tendency to cook during the cooler months. That, in addition to the fact that my roommate does not like the cold so most of our windows are closed, contribute to the kombucha brewing comfortably at super toasty temperatures of around 76-85°F (Which SCOBYs like!).

"Ideally," you brew at around 75-85°F at a constant temperature. Increased temperatures speed up the brewing process, while colder temperatures mean that your brew will take longer to ferment.

Despite the unevenness of the new SCOBY that is forming on the surface, that is not uncommon for the fluctuating temperatures and fluctuating conditions that accompany home brewing, and I don't think it will be a reason for concern. But we will see how the new mushroom develops further over the next few days.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Experiment 2: Cutting the Kombucha Mother

The question is: Can you cut your SCOBY?

Due to increased demands for Kombucha mushrooms and also because of personal interest, I've begun to research if you can brew with a segment of a kombucha mother. This site and this discussion thread indicate that it's ok, and that Kombucha mushrooms are made of many microorganisms that replicate when cut. In fact, this thread even recommends cutting kombucha mushrooms rather than peeling off layers, because each layer contains different organisms!

So, I took the task of cutting a kombucha mother into four quarters. I brewed the batch as normal, putting in just a SCOBY segment rather than a whole mushroom, and we'll see what happens! Look forward to upcoming posts on the development of this brew.