My Journey With A SCOBY from @HummKombucha

source: http://instagram.com/p/tU44AWL1He

source: http://instagram.com/p/tU44AWL1He

A few months ago I discovered kombucha for the first time in person at a local Earth Fare market.  It was on sale for $2.59 a bottle but the regular price was expensive for my taste at almost $4 a bottle.  I’d heard good things and decided to try it.  Unfortunately, for my wallet I was hooked and so were my kids.  Over the course of the next month I bought probably 10 bottles or so of this probiotic elixir.  In the meantime, I started doing research on what it was and how it was made.  My curiosity was supremely peaked when I realized I could make it at home!!!

I posted about my newly found obsession on Instagram and caught the attention of a commercial kombrewer out west – Humm Kombucha of Bend, Oregon.  I searched high and low and soon realized I would never get to try Humm Kombucha in my home since it is only distributed out west :(.  On their website and their Instagram feed they advertised kombucha brewing classes complete with all the tools and ingredients necessary including the SCOBY.  The SCOBY is where all the probiotic goodness comes.  SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture (community) of bacteria and yeast.   This works over time to ferment the tea and produce the sourness and carbonation in the kombucha.

Making Kombucha With A Humm Kombucha SCOBY by Slidely Slideshow

Humm was kind enough to send me a SCOBY so that I could brew my own kombucha at home and share my story.  You can only imagine how grateful I was to receive it.  The thought of what I had in my hands was a little intimidating.  It’s teeming with life and I wanted to make sure I provided a proper environment for it to thrive.  Since I didn’t have a friend teaching me all their skills I relied on Humm’s brewmaster, home brewers I found online and library books to help me get my set up going correctly.  My favorite reference book so far is Kombucha!: The Amazing Probiotic Tea that Cleanses, Heals, Energizes, and Detoxifies.  I renewed it until I couldn’t any more.  After having it for 6 weeks I had to have it for my library so I bought it off Amazon :).

Using all my cobbled instructions on how to make kombucha, I brewed my first batch of tea and sweetened it.  After letting it cool to room temperature I slid in the Humm Kombucha SCOBY and all the liquid that was with it.  The accompanying tea that was in the bag with the culture served to feed the community while in transit.  Although it was slimy and smelled very strongly of apple cider vinegar I knew that it would be just what this virgin batch of kombucha needed to get going.  I watched with bated breath as the SCOBY floated sideways in the brew for a few hours and then slowly righted itself to float on top.  Over the next few days the anticipation was killing me.  It didn’t look like anything was happening so I gave the brew container a little nudge and noticed that a translucent film was forming on top.  HUZZAH! It WAS working after all.  A new scoby or baby was developing.  For this first batch I followed my instructions to a tea, umm, T ;P.  After 5 days I tried it and thought it was still too sweet.  At 7 days I was unsure.  When 9 days came the brew was almost too sour.

The second fermentation was a bit more tricky that first time than I’d anticipated.  From my research I expected it to get fizzy within three or four days.  But my bottles of ‘buch did nothing.  One week in the reused commercial kombucha bottles I had and the brew was by all intents and purposes flat other than a mild vinegary bite.  I was disappointed, but my oldest daughter was thrilled we had made kombucha at home.  She lost no time finishing off all we had.

So I started again.  Same ratios of tea, sugar and water as before only now my SCOBY had a wobbly paper thin baby attached.  I also started to notice strands of yeast forming along the sides and bottom of the culture.  I’d heard of this happening and felt that this was a sign my environment was working for the brew just fine.  I just needed to fine tune my process.  This one too was a bust (only figuratively since there was little or no carbonation :D).  I thought it was just my bottles.  Then I thought maybe I was waiting too long to bottle.  It was getting a little frustrating for me, but my girls were enjoying drinking my failed non-fizzy batches anyway.

After three failed attempts at getting decent fizz and one even bottled in airtight bottles I came to understand something.  There are 4 T’s to kombucha brewing success – Tea, Temperature, Time and Tools.  The type of tea results in different flavors and levels of fizz.  The temperature of your environment affects the time it takes to brew a batch.  How long you brew will affect if your final product is fizzy, sweet or flat and dry.  Your tools are one constant that can be indefinitely controlled.  Making sure your tools are clean and you have the proper type of bottle makes a huge difference.

My first truly successful batch of kombucha was one I made 50/50 oolong and black tea and bottled it slightly sweet.  Another key was using flip top bottles AND reused beer bottles that I recapped with a crown capper. When I popped that first bottle opened to test it after 7 days of second fermentation in my kitchen I watched as the bubbles shot up from the bottom tumbling the little SCOBY which was forming inside I knew we had a winner.  It wasn’t until after this that I discovered that green tea and oolong tend to produce more carbonation than black tea alone.

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What teas can you use? We recommend starting out using green or black tea. Green tea tends to make a fatter scoby. It also creates more carbonation due to the greater amount of beneficial acids. But Green tends to sour quicker. Black tea tends to give you a smoother taste. You can try a combination of both to get the best of both worlds. Or use Oolong tea which is somewhere in between black and green tea. White tea is younger than green and black. It will give a more delicate lightly flavored tea. You will usually get a thinner scoby. You will likely need to ferment longer as well. Recommended once established. Source: Yemoos.com http://www.yemoos.com/kombuchaFAQ.html
Image source: culturedforlife.com http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/kombucha-always-brewing-method/

Image source: culturedforlife.com http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/kombucha-always-brewing-method/

Eventually, I wanted to start doing continuous brewing instead of starting new every time.  Now every 4 days or so I bottle 2 quarts of new kombucha and add 2 quarts of fresh sweet tea back into the batch.  What is nice about this is that I don’t have 8 or more whole bottles of ‘buch fermenting at once.  I can choose to consume it straight from the fermentation container or send it to second fermentation for the next week without worrying about having enough room to refrigerate all the bottles when they are ready.  There is a three day overlap where I have 8 bottles in the kitchen, but that’s not a huge deal.  Since it’s cold outside there is a cabinet in my garage that is serving as an overflow “refrigerator” for my kombucha and kefir bottles as they need to be cooled after the second fermentation.  Refrigeration slows the fermentation process almost to a halt.  I say almost because you will notice a little SCOBY starting to form  over time as they sit in the fridge.  It’s just one way to know it’s still alive and kicking.

I learned by trial and error that I shouldn’t get too crazy with the flavorings yet.  Any batches I added juice to came out too sour for me to drink.  Mastering just basic kombucha brewing and bottling is my focus now although simple flavorings like pieces of ginger wouldn’t be out of the question now that I am more aware of how long things take in my environment to finish.

Do you make any fermented foods or drinks at home?  If not, would you like to and which ones?

 

Thanks to Humm Kombucha for sponsoring this post and my kombucha experiments.  This site is supported by advertisers; this post contains affiliate links and clicking on them may result in compensation for this blog.

Lucero De La Tierra (1062 Posts)

I'm a mom of two beautiful little girls, stay-at-home mom and blogger. I write about things that affect the everyday life of a stay-at-home parent or any parent for that matter such as parenting, relationships, discipline, the media, product reviews, giveaways, social media, food, cooking, gardening and anything else that might come my way.


23 comments for “My Journey With A SCOBY from @HummKombucha

  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy)
    December 1, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I have never tried anything fermented before, but that tea sound great.

  2. December 1, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I have never done or seen this before. Sounds like it would be awesome..

  3. December 1, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Kombucha is what many of the moms in my circles are making right now, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet! 🙂
    Megan Elford recently posted…Freshen Your Home For The Holidays!My Profile

    • December 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Give it a sip! You’ll never know if you like it unless you try!

  4. December 1, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about kombucha! How neat that you are able to make it at home. I’ll have to find some kombucha around here and give it a try!
    Jennifer Corter recently posted…World AIDS Day 2014My Profile

  5. Edna Myers
    December 1, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    That looks like a science experiment I could handle trying out! Interesting read!

    • December 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      It definitely is a science experiment! You can get really technical with it using pH strips and a hydrometer to test it or you could fly by the seat of your pants and use your tongue as the ultimate measure of readiness. It’s fun and I’ve got my dad hooked on it now too. He and my mom are hoping it will break him of his pop drinking habit with something a little more healthy.

  6. December 1, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    i have heard a lot about kombucha but I’ve never tried it. It sounds like a highly complex process!
    Maggie recently posted…New Makeup Kits by One Direction~Holiday Gift Guide 2014My Profile

    • December 2, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Once you get started it’s not too bad. At first it’s a little intimidating because you worry you won’t provide the proper environment or not let it ferment long enough or too long, but once you establish your routine it’s actually quite easy. My kids love watching the SCOBYs grow and enjoying the fruits of our labor. This is especially true now that I’ve been able to successfully produce naturally super-fizzy kombucha.

  7. December 1, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I have never in my life actually tried something fermented it sounds interesting!
    mykidsguide recently posted…Precious & Yummy Edible Christmas Crafts For KidsMy Profile

  8. December 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Having never tried it, it’s a little intimidating, but I know I’d get into a rhythm of doing it if I started. I like the idea of a continuation brew.
    Liz Mays recently posted…3 Great Cameras with Built-in WiFi available at Best BuyMy Profile

    • December 2, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      I’m doing two containers as continuous brews right now. It takes a bit more maintenance week to week, but it allows the nutrients from the culture to mature for a longer period of time – at least half of it does :).

  9. December 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    OMG This is so funny I am doing the same thing! I have been drinking Kombucha for about 3 years and I kept putting off making it. I have my scoby forming right now it should be ready by Christmas. *crossing my fingers* I plan on blogging about it as well. I hope it all turns out because it will save me a ton of money! It is $3.99 a bottle here in Chicago.
    Jillian Fisher recently posted…FoodWorks – Set of 6 Silicone Ice Pops – Review + GiveawayMy Profile

    • December 2, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      It adds up fast – especially when you find a variety you like. It’s been fun trying out different tea varieties to see what works.

  10. Rachelle J
    December 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I have never heard of anything like this, but now I’m thinking that I should! I’m going to have to see if this is something I can get in my area, thanks!

    • December 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I’ve been able to find it at Kroger, Earth Fare, Fresh Thyme and Fresh Market. If you have a farmer’s market or natural foods market in your area they may carry it too.

  11. December 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I have never heard of this and had no idea! It sounds very interesting and I will do some research.
    Ann BAcciaglia recently posted…KickAss Giveaways Linky December 1stMy Profile

  12. December 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    This sounds like an interesting process. It’s good to know that with a little trial and error, you learn how to make the right brew that is good for you. I’m all for learning how to do something yourself in order to save a lil’ money.
    Yona Williams recently posted…Create a PickUrGift Wishlist and We Will PAY for a Gift of Choice up to $200 (Giveaway) – ends Dec 18My Profile

  13. katrina g
    December 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I have never seen this before but it looks so interesting. I’m sure it’s amazing!

  14. December 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    This is my first time hearing about this. Seems like a very interesting process!
    Carly Anderson recently posted…Food Pantry Holiday MakeoverMy Profile

  15. Eliz Frank
    December 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I’m impressed that you actually decided to make your own Kombucha. I buy it at my local Whole Foods or other markets that sell it and love the taste of it… It is an acquired taste. I agree.
    Elizabeth

    • December 4, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth! If I had a whole foods locally I would totally try out what they have. It’s like beer, wine or bread – just because you enjoy making your own doesn’t mean you won’t try someone else’s :). The experiment continues!

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