How to Make Kombucha Tea: A Fermented Probiotic Beverage

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with tea, sugar and water, using a SCOBY (Or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to start the fermentation process. It is naturally carbonated, has a sweet and sour taste, and a low alcohol content. [Read more...]

Probably originating in Manchuria, kombucha is just another way a beverage was preserved without the relatively new invention of refrigeration. Food preservation, in the past, consisted mainly of dehydration, candying, salting and fermenting.  Without the modern convenience of refrigeration it was challenging to store food and beverages, and so fermentation was often used for beverages.

SCOBY:  The SCOBY is similar in some ways to a MOTHER in apple cider vinegar.  A scoby is best acquired from another person who makes kombucha.  Once it is placed in the tea, it feeds on the sugar and ferments the tea.  The SCOBY culture produces a bacteria that ferments the yeast, also from the SCOBY.  This increases the acidity which keeps the alcohol content minimal.  It is the acid and the mild alcohol content that inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria or mold.  When brewing your kombucha, the SCOBY will make a second SCOBY.  You will have one to give away to a friend, or to start a double batch with.  You can also just throw it out (although if you are like me you will become oddly attached to the thing as if it were alive). The chickens like it too!

Where To Find A SCOBY: Your best bet is to get one from a friend or acquaintance.  You can often find them advertised on craigslist.  Some people have had success making them from a bottle of original GTs Kombucha, which is a commercially prepared kombucha purchased at many health food stores.  You can also find them on Etsy and they can be shipped by mail.

Health Claims: Kombucha contains active enzymes and amino acids.  This means it may be good for the intestines by providing it with beneficial probiotics.  Others have made more specific health claims which haven’t been scientifically proven, so you can do your own research on that matter.

Alcohol Content: Kombucha is undeniably alcoholic.  That said, the acidity keeps the alcohol content from being over 1% and in many cases in only about 0.5%. (Similar to a dealcoholized beer.)

How to make Kombucha:

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 L (Quarts) Water
  • 1 cup white sugar (I use organic white cane sugar)
  • 8 black tea bags
  • 1 SCOBY in 2 cups of kombucha

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Remove from heat.
  2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add 8 tea bags.
  4. Allow to cool until tea is room temperature (several hours)
  5. Remove tea bags.
  6. Pour tea into a large, glass (not metal!) jar.  A large pickle jar is perfect.
  7. Dump SCOBY and kombucha into the tea (only at room temperature!).
  8. Cover with cheese cloth and hold cloth tight with an elastic band.
  9. Place in a cool, dark location for 7 -10 days.
  10. After 7 days, taste the tea.  If you would like it more sour (which would mean less sugar content) let sit longer.  If you are happy with the flavour, remove SCOBY, separate the new SCOBY from the old, and store both in 2 cups each of kombucha in the fridge, covered with cheese cloth, or start a new brew.  Be sure to reserve 2 cups of kombucha with the scoby for your next brew.
  11. You can strain the kombucha if you wish to remove the strands and lumps.  I usually do.  Pour into bottles and cap tightly.  You can use mason jars.  Cap tightly.
  12. Let sit on the counter in the same cool, dark location, for 2-4 days.  This is a second fermentation, and an anaerobic one, so the alcohol content may increase during this process.  This will also increase the carbonation content.
  13. When you have finished the second fermentation, place bottles in the fridge.   This effectively stops the fermentation process and your tea is ready to drink!  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The SCOBY will store in the fridge for several weeks before it starts to break down.
  • When you choose your tea, make sure it is black tea, WITH caffeine.  It won’t work without caffeine.
  • DO NOT USE EARL GREY TEA!  The tanins in it may destroy the SCOBY.
  • You can substitute several of the bags with a flavored tea or a green tea, but make sure your main tea is black tea (for example, English Breakfast).
  • You can add fruit juice, fruit, ginger, herbs and more to your second ferment (when you bottle it).  Play around with it!
  • When choosing bottles, look for ones that can be capped tightly.  You can use mason jars if necessary.  The ideal bottles are home-brew style bottles with reusable caps that clamp down.  Find them at U-brew stores.
  • The longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more vinegary it gets, and the less sugar content it will have.  Go by taste!
  • When you place your SCOBY in the tea for the first time it may float.  It may sink.  It may line up vertically in the jar.  That’s ok!  Let it do what it wants to do.  The new SCOBY will form on the top of the jar.  You will then peel them apart if they are attached.
  • A healthy SCOBY is thick and peach colored.  An unhealthy SCOBY is thin, frayed looking, darker in color and looks…. sick.  It may still make a new SCOBY but it needs to be fed!
  • If your SCOBY or your brew ever shows mold on it discard it.  You have an imbalance of yeast and bacteria somehow.
  • Don’t mistake your newly forming SCOBY for mold on the top!  It will be whitish and thicker in some spots than others.  Over time it will get thicker and form a new SCOBY on top.  If you are uncertain, just wait a few days and you’ll know for sure.  Also, your brew should smell a bit fermented but not moldy.

This post has been shared on From The Farm Blog Hop.

 

 

 

Washing My Hair With Baking Soda

*UPDATE!  After 2.5 years of washing my hair with this method, I have since found something I like even better, and is just as easy!  Check it out here!  Homemade Shampoo With Rye Flour: All Natural Pro-V for Thick, Shiny, Healthy Hair!

I wash my hair with baking soda and I rinse it with apple cider vinegar.  I won’t call it No Poo because abbreviations have always annoyed me.  But I thought I would share my experience because every other green blogger and their dog has shared their experience.  Actually, my dog uses it too.

Why, why oh WHY would I do such a crazy thing?  Good question.  And I have good answers.  Do you know what is in your shampoo?  I mean, REALLY know?  Years ago I used Pantene Pro V.  Here is the ingredient list.

Water, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Cetyl Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, Disodium EDTA, PEG-7M, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Whoa whoa whoa!  What?  I am good with water.  Everything else is a chemical.  I am putting THAT on my hair and expecting it to look natural and healthy?   Look ANY of those ingredients up on the safer cosmetics database  and see which ones ARE NOT carcinogenic or at best, an irritant.  Seriously.

OK, so you can use an all natural shampoo.  They are great.  And you know what?  Once I started using a TRULY all natural shampoo my dry, itchy psoriasis on my scalp that I have been plagued with most of my life, disappeared, never to return again.  But those natural shampoos are PRICEY.  And I still am not entirely sure about all those ingredients.

What if you could wash your hair using 1 ingredient?  And actually get better results than these shampoos?  Frizzies disappear.  Dry ends go away.  All are replaced with healthy, shiny, NATURAL hair.  I mean it because I have experienced it.   Now back to where I left off.

I have been tempted to try this method of cleaning my hair for years but was scared off by the horror stories of gross, greasy, smelly hair.  Of course there were lots of success stories too.  But scalp smell is one smell I really dislike.  I also shied away from it because, well, it screams of “hippie” and I have always been concerned about what others think of me.  Funny thing is, I am a self-proclaimed “green” blogger, and all my friends see me as being “crunchy” so I don’t know what the problem is.  Washing my hair with baking soda is certainly a conversation stopper.  But I am good at those.   You should see the effect I have on potty training conversations when I talk about elimination communication ;).

So one day I ran out of shampoo.  I was using Green Beaver shampoo and conditioner, an all-natural brand made from organic, Canadian ingredients.  It worked well but was $10 a bottle.  And you know me… I like to know ALL the ingredients in my products.  This time when I ran out I took the plunge and brought out the baking soda.

1 Tbsp. baking soda dissolved into 1 cup of water.  I scrubbed it into my hair.  I rinsed it well.
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic) into 1 cup water.  I rinsed my hair with this as I would a conditioner and then I rinsed it well.

I smelled like apple cider vinegar.  I towel-dried and brushed my hair, shook out as much water as I could, and let it air dry.  It dried quickly (no oil from a conditioner) and felt smooth, shiny and CLEAN.  Like, really clean.  No greasy hair, no smell, no nothing.  The ACV smell disappeared after my hair dried.  My hair smelled like nothing.  Seriously.  I was thrilled!  I don’t know why I was surprised because I use baking soda to clean everything else, so why wouldn’t it clean my hair?

Things you need to know:

  • It doesn’t feel like shampoo.  It feels like water being poured onto your head.  And there is absolutely no lather because there is no soap.  Nevertheless, rub it  WELL into your scalp, for a few minutes, then let it sit a few minutes before fully and carefully rinsing.
  • ACV rinse does not feel like conditioner.  It feels like water.  So it isn’t thick and creamy, and is more challenging to spread into your hair.  Nevertheless it works well without adding oil to your hair.  Put it on, let it sit a few minutes, then rinse it off.
  • After your hair has been washed and rinsed it doesn’t feel like it does when it has been washed with shampoo and conditioned.  Wait until it is dry to give it a judgement.  My hair feels clean, smooth, shiny and healthy after it dries.
  • Many people take the plunge and decide that, after washing their hair with regular shampoo and stripping the natural oils out of their hair for their whole life, they will go one WEEK without washing.  Don’t do this.  Not only is it gross, but it is setting yourself up for failure.  Your oil glands are so used to producing excess amounts of oil to keep up with all the washing that your hair will get greasy quickly.  Rather than an all out attempt to force your scalp to immediately adjust, wash your hair again when you would normally do it, with baking soda.  Do this for a week or more until you are used to washing your hair with baking soda.  Then, once adjusted, stretch it by a day.  Do that until your hair has adjusted, and then repeat.  Or, just use baking soda to wash your hair whenever you want.  It is cheap, it is healthy, and you know all the ingredients in it, unlike your regular shampoo.
  • Every person is different and so oil production will be different.  Play with the amounts until you find what works for you.  If you find your hair is too oily increase the baking soda a bit.  If it is leaving your hair too dry decrease the baking soda.
  • Some people prefer to use the same amounts of lemon juice and water for a rinse, instead of ACV and water.  Your choice.  I find lemon drying.
  • Hair type will affect how this works too.  MANY people with very curly hair seem to love this method.  My hair isn’t curly.  It is long and straight but it works well for me.
  • I use this method to clean my children’s hair, and my dog’s hair.  My husband uses it too.  If it gets in children’s eyes it doesn’t hurt.  That alone beats regular shampoo!
  • Last of all, again, everyone is different.  This method may not work for you and that is fine.  There are lots of natural alternatives to regular shampoo for cleaning your hair.

My hair is healthier than it has ever been.  I grow my hair for a year and a half and then chop off 8 inches to be donated through my hair dresser for wigs for children living with cancer.  Waiting a year and a half without a hair trim is asking a lot of my hair, but I am closing in on a year now, and my hair is healthier than it has ever been.  I praise the baking soda/ACV washing, the lack of harsh chemicals and the fact that I am now only washing my hair every 4 days (instead of every day).  The natural oil in my hair is keeping it shiny and healthy instead of being dry and brittle as it used to be without trimming it.

I would love to hear your experience!  Are you a believer?  Are you sceptical?  Are you on the fence like I was?  Or do you think I am stark raving mad?  That’s OK!  Let me know how it works for you.

This post has been linked up to The Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival #4, Natural Parenting Group’s Monday Blog Hop, Homestead Helps Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #23.