Bacteria….never really thought it would be my bag until I started investigating ways to improve my ways to improve my health, post Hashi’s diagnosis. Then I started coming across lots of info about fermenting drinks and food and how it can be hugely beneficial to our health (Chris Kresser is very informative on this subject). And my mind started opening up to the possibilities….
I believe there is still a lot of scientific research to do when it comes to the inner world of the intestine and the affect of gut flora on our health, but there is also a lot of scientific research out there that points to benefits of adding fermented foods to our diet – I found this review published by The Lancet very interesting.
When I put this together with the research that has linked auto immune disease to the breakdown of the intestinal barrier (also known as “leaky gut” – check out this review for more info) I became even more convinced that growing and eating bacteria was the way to go!
To put it in very simple terms (so even I can understand!), our gut flora does many things, including taking care of the integrity of our gut walls. If we diminish the numbers of bacteria we have looking after us, through stress, use of antibiotics, consumption of refined and processed foods, then the bacteria we have remaining aren’t going to do that great a job. Imagine, the poor things running themselves ragged trying to look after us while their friends and family are being picked off one by one – or destroyed in huge swathes at a time if there are antibiotics involved!
So we develop a leaky gut, and large proteins that would normally never be able to pass through the intestinal walls are suddenly able to roam around the body in our blood stream. The body is sooo not cool with this – and it launches an immune attack on these protein invaders. It’s attacks such as this that can provoke autoimmune diseases like as Hashimoto’s (you can read about what the combination of wheat and a leaky gut can do here).
After I got rid of wheat, sugar and processed foods from my diet I decided I wanted to learn how to make fermented stuff. And as serendipity would have it the lovely Shakti Grace – The Holistic Chef – appeared on the horizon! It was at a class run by Shakti that I learned the basics of fermenting and how to make kombucha, kefir, betroot kvaas and many other amazing things! I thoroughly recommend attending one of Shakti’s classes if you are interested in fermenting, she’s a super busy lady so she probably has one coming up near you soon! My steps here are derived from what I learnt from Shakti at that class – but you get a whole lot more from one of Shakti’s workshops than learning how to add a scoby to sweet tea, so if you get a chance, check it out 😉
How to Make Kombucha
Get your stuff together:
- 1 SCOBY (stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast)
- 2 litres filtered or mineral water
- 2 litre glass jar
- 3/4 – 1 cup of refined white sugar
- 5 organic green or black tea bags (I’m loving green at the moment, results in a prettier looking scoby and a lighter ‘bucha)
- 1 bowl
- 1 wooden spoon
- Muslin or other cloth with a loose enough weave to be able to breathe through to cover the top of the jar
- 1 elastic band
And a note on cleanliness – we are growing bacteria, but we need to make sure it is good bacteria! Everything you use, including your hands, must be super clean.
Using the wooden spoon, take the scoby out of the kombucha it is in and place in the bowl. Put enough kombucha to cover the scoby into the bowl. Cover with muslin.
Boil approx. 1/2 – 1 litre of your water, pour it into the glass jar (make sure you aren’t pouring it into a cold jar or it may shatter, I warm it up by running the outside of the jar under the hot tap first). Pour the hot water into the jar, add the sugar and stir till it’s melted into the water.
Add the teabags. You can either leave the strings on and drape them over the top of the jar secured with a knife, or take the tags and strings off and just chuck them in the water. To my knowledge, you can only make kombucha with actual tea made from tea leaves, not herbal tea. However, I haven’t actually tried, so I may be wrong. Black tea produces a darker kombucha and green tea makes a slightly more bitter tasting but lighter coloured kombucha. Brew the tea for 15-30 mins (sometimes I forget and it stays there for a couple of hours :/ doesn’t seem to make much difference). Take the tea bags out being careful not to rip the bags. Leave tea to cool.
Once the tea has cooled add the rest of the water. Depending on the ratio of hot to cold water you might not need to wait long for the tea to cool, but the important thing is that you don’t want to be adding your scoby to hot tea!
Add the little cutie (ahem, scoby) to the tea, including the kombucha it was originally in. Put the muslin cloth on top, secured with an elastic band. The idea here is that you want the scoby to breath but you don’t want flies to get in. Believe me, if you ferment they will come…but we can keep them to a minimum!
Leave your brew in a dark, quiet corner for 5-10 days, it really depends how hot the weather is so keep an eye on it. The hotter it is the quicker it will ferment. Taste it at 5 days, if it’s still very sweet then let it go for another day or so and keep tasting til it gets to the right point. What you want to achieve is for the majority of the sugar to have been eaten by the scoby, this process of fermentation is what produces the beneficial bacteria. If it has gone too far and you’ve made vinegar – cool! You can either use it for salad dressings, take it in “shots” or try to sweeten it up by adding fruit at the second ferment stage (don’t worry, we’re getting to that!)
So now you’ve decided your kombucha is ready. Go back to step 1 (adding a glass jug and 2 flip top bottles to your equipment list) and step 2. Now the scoby is safe in it’s bowl (don’t forget to cover it with some of the kombucha you’ve made) you pour the kombucha from the jar into a jug! Don’t worry it’s meant to be fizzy. That’s a good thing! Rinse out the glass jar (with hot water, no soap as that inhibits bacteria growth and that’s what we want to encourage). Then repeat step 3, 4, 5 and 6 to start making your next batch of kombucha!
Pour your beautiful kombucha into 2, clean (washed with hot water and soap) flip top bottles!
At this stage (called the second fermentation) you can add flavourings! I like to add slices of ginger and turmeric, or goji berries and slices of lemon peel. If you’ve left your kombucha too long and made vinegar, it’s at this stage that you can add some fruit, berries or pieces of peach or mango, to sweeten it up. Then leave the bottles on the side to continue fermenting for a couple more days, making sure to “burp” the bottles a couple of times a day. Be warned! The more sugar you introduce (in the form of sweet fruits) the more gas will be created in the bottle and the more diligent you need to be about burping your bottles! If you think you might have a gusher, but the bottle in the sink before opening, much easier to clean up that way!
And that’s it! You’re done! Drink up!
Now you have a very cheap and easy source of good bacteria to add to your intestine – that looks like wine (it’s not wine..honest..). If this is your first time introducing fermented foods into your diet, then take it easy, we don’t want any “nasty accidents”. I started with maybe 1/2 a cup a day for a couple of months and worked my way up to a cup or 2 per day….so take it easy! Once you get into the routine of making kombucha on a weekly (or so) basis it’s as easy as making a cup of tea.
I hope you found this quide useful 😉 xx