Tuesday, May 26, 2009
*UPDATE* The Kombucha Experiment
Yesterday I finally got to bottle my first batch of K-tea! I decided I wanted to start with fresh new jars so I went to the store and bought a fresh 12 pack of 16oz wide mouth jars to bottle with. I washed them in some hot soapy water and let them dry and proceeded to bottle. I opted for wide mouth in case my bottled tea decided to make new SCOBYs as it sometimes tries to do, even with the commercial stuff and I thought the wide mouth would be easier to get it out of. While I was at the store the night before, I also spotted a jug of concord grape juice in the "hippy" part of the refrigerated section and grabbed it up. My favorite flavor of the commercial stuff is the grape and I was wondering how I could replicate it at home as I was pretty sure theirs was flavored with concord grapes and not red grapes which is what my supermarkets locally stock. I also bought a pint of strawberries to run through my juicer to make strawberry k-tea with.
So when I got ready to make my tea yesterday I assembled the grape juice, the strawberries, some sliced ginger from my freezer, the clean bottles, my scale, and a reusable coffee filter. When I had tasted my tea the day before a little strand of bacteria or yeast had come out the spigot too so I had decided then to strain my tea as it was coming out to try to make my finished product as refined as possible. I'm hoping to get Mr. Discontent on the Kombucha bandwagon as well but he is grossed out by the fact that the tea is living and has stuff growing in it. So if I want him to drink it, it has to look as clean and non-living as possible. Little did I know how silly my hopes were!
I let the add-ins come to room temperature ( it means more juice out of the berries when I juice them and you don't want to shock the goodies in the tea.), juiced my strawberries, and then the fun really began. According to the bottle of the commercial stuff there is 5% add-ins and 95% tea so I figured out how much 5% of 16 oz was (.8 oz which I rounded up to 1 oz for my purposes) and used my scale to make sure I put the right amount in each bottle. A couple I experimented on. I have a bottle of grape and of strawberry at the 1.5 oz and 2 oz level to just to see if I might like it better. The ginger I added .5oz to one bottle and 1 oz to another. Dave at GetKombucha.com says that it is one of his favorites and that is how he makes it but he says that he "puts a small chunk in", not an exact amount for me to replicate. We will see.
Next, I used the spigot to pour the tea through the filter into the bottle as it sat on my scale to see exactly where 160z was in the jar. It was the bottom of the threads of the jar. I proceeded to fill all of the jars to that level. Each flavor acted differently. The grape just fizzed some as I added the tea. The ginger had a delayed fizz that was more violent. The strawberry created a foamy head like a beer. The head made it the hardest to bottle. I capped everybody up and shook them to combine. That's when I realized most of my straining had been for naught.
Since I mostly use sliced ginger to make ginger tea or to make cough syrup it wasn't peeled. As soon as I shook it little crumbles of the peel flaked off and danced around like they were snow in a snow globe. Not much better with the strawberry. When I shook it, something in the strawberry juice separated into this fine silt that clouded the tea occasionally gumming up into these little masses that didn't look appealing to drink. Oh bother!
Aside from that, the tea certainly looked the part and I was pleased. The grape looked exactly like the stuff I bought in the store. So did the strawberry once the silt settled. I labeled everything and put it aside to ferment in the jar and get nice and fizzy for a few days.
After filling all 12 of my new jars I peeked into my crock to see where my tea level was at and it was still a little too high so I used one of my reclaimed pasta jars to bottle the rest. It filled up to the two pint level before the tea in crock was just above the spout level which I discovered earlier is 2 quarts and would leave me with about 25% starter for the next batch. So if I want to bottle all of it in my nifty new jars I am going to need 2 more per batch. That would be 14 pints of tea about every 10 days from my crock. Not a bad amount for one person who needs to drink enough to take pills 4 times a day plus whatever I might want to drink just for the pleasure of it, I think. When I get some time I am going to have to see what the cost break down is. It was certainly simple enough and after a learning curve could easily be done in just a few minutes every few days. I am extremely pleased with the crock and couldn't imagine trying to do all this using the jar method.
I then proceeded to refill my crock with new tea from my tea maker. I used four quarts of black tea and two quarts of white tea since I am out of green. (Ebony and Ivory tea?) I probably could have made it three of each but it wasn't worth it to me at the time. My small freezer decided to defrost or decided it didn't want to work today so when I went to get ice for my tea maker it was all melted. ( The freezer has since resumed its normal duties in case you were concerned.) So I poured the tea into a pitcher with markings on it and just added filtered water up to the 2 quart line since that's how much the tea maker makes when all the ice melts into the brewed tea. I may keep using that method as it makes it easier to stir that much dehydrated cane juice into the hot tea and since I don't have an automatic ice maker it means less work for me cracking ice cubes. I made sure everything was room temp and poured it into the crock. I decided to lift up my SCOBY and stir the tea and starter together and much to my surprise discovered that my original SCOBY had separated from the new one that covered the entire top of the crock (its about 1/4 inch thick now I think). So now I have two! For now, I left it in to help make tea but I have a recipe for it that I might try soon.
This morning I checked on my bottled teas and the caps were all swelled up and tight. A good sign! I gave the bottles a bit of a shake to try to stop SCOBYs from forming and checked the caps. After shaking them a couple of the bottles hissed at me for a second but the lids were still hard so I'm hoping that was "excess" fizziness escaping so the glass doesn't break. I was relieved the grape ones were fizzed as I was a little worried since I used store bought juice. Some of the preservatives used in the store juices can mess up your tea from what I am told since that is kind of their purpose- to prevent bacterial growth. Mine had potassium sorbate in it and some vit C but not anything else. I also kinda wondered about the ginger ones since ginger is antibacterial but they seem okay as well.
One thing is for sure, I'm going to need more bottles!