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WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?

It’s a fermented tea traditionally made of black tea and sugar (The sugar is not for you but rather for the SCOBY to live on and can be reduced to trace amounts during a full fermentation cycle). During the fermentation process the SCOBY converts the sugar into healthy polyphenols and other beneficial acids, the caffeine molecules are altered so that it’s not as potent as freshly brewed tea. The Kombucha Culture is used to make the Kombucha tea and  is referred to as the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria & Yeast). Some people call the SCOBYs Kombucha- mushroom,-mother, culture. Kombucha brewing isn’t a new thing and people have made it for more than 2000 years! It’s suggestive that this beverage originated from China and spread from there to Russia and then the rest of Europe.  Many South Africans aren’t new to Kombucha, they may have called it something else along the lines of “tea plant” or “tee diertjie”.

WHAT TEA SHOULD I USE TO MAKE KOMBUCHA?

Different teas brings different health benefits to the brew. You are basically looking for any tea that is made from the camellia sinensis plant, this is the scientific name for normal tea from China, you don’t want to feed flavored teas to your SCOBY because the flavoring or oils added will damage your SCOBY. Black or Green tea will work well as the caffeine is needed for the SCOBY to form. Some brewers have converted SCOBYs to grow on Rooibos alone but if you experiment with different teas it’s advised that you use backup SCOBYs just for incase something goes wrong.  Green tea makes a fizzier tea and sours quicker than Black tea, it also contains more beneficial acids than Black tea. The different teas indicate when the leaves were harvested to make the tea. Black tea is made form the mature leaves, Green tea from the younger leaves, Oolong is harvested between the Green tea and Black tea phase and White tea is youngest leaves and that’s why the color also lightens from dark to light the younger the leaves were for making teas. Black is the stronger, bolder tea and tends to have a smoother taste, green tea fizzier and Oolong has both qualities of Black and Green tea combined where White tea is more delicate and light in flavor and produces a thinner SCOBY.

CAN I USE HERBAL TEA?

To thrive your SCOBY will need the tannins, minerals and polyphenols available in the camellia sinensis tea leaves (tea from China). If you have to brew with herbal tea make sure that the herbal tea is oil free because some herbal teas are flavored with oils. Then make every other batch (or every 3-4 batch) with regular tea or  add one black or green tea bag to every brew to help keep your SCOBY in good condition otherwise your SCOBY will deteriorate over time.

WHAT SUGAR DO I USE?

White Cane sugar makes the best kombucha mostly because it’s easy for your SCOBY to convert. You can experiment with brown sugar, honey or coconut sugar, you can add a bit of molasses or rock salt / Himalayan sea salt to increase the mineral content. Please remember to experiment with your extra SCOBYS. Sugars that will not work is Xylitol and Stevia because they are plant based sugars that does not ferment.

CAN I USE LESS SUGAR?

It is not advised to use less sugar because the SCOBY need the sugar to convert the sweet tea into a probiotic beverage. Adding too much or too little sugar may cause a bacteria and yeast imbalance make the brew taste off.

WHAT WATER TO USE?

You want to use water that doesn’t contain any chlorine or fluoride. Dechlorinated tap water works well for this. Pour tap water in a pot or jar and leave it open for the chlorine to evaporate. OR you can use all the extra boiled water from the kettle and pour it into a jar or pot to cool down and use that water. Always make sure that the water is chlorine and fluoride free when using bottled water.

THE JAR?

Clear see through glass is best. Metal should be avoided because the acidic nature of kombucha can cause the metal to leach into the brew. You don’t want to use crystal glass because it contains lead (toxic) and can leach into your brew.

COVERING MY KOMBUCHA BREW, LID OR NO LID?

Use a tightly woven breathable cloth because kombucha need oxygen to be happy. Tightly woven is important because you want to keep small insects out of your brew. It’s a good idea to iron your cloth to sterilize it before using it. Paper towels or tea towels makes great covers. Use a rubber band or two (for incase one snaps) to secure the cover

WHERE MUST I PUT MY KOMBUCHA TO FERMENT?

A cool dark place between the regions of 20°C​-30°C. SCOBYs like dark well ventilated places away from smoke, dust, odors and the dustbin where they can be left undisturbed for at least 7 days. On top of the fridge or on your kitchen counter.

WHEN WILL MY KOMBUCHA BE READY?

The usual fermentation cycle is 7-14 days but it is best that you taste test your brew from day 5 onwards. When your brew reaches the balance between sweet and tangy then it’s right and ready! You can taste test by dipping a straw into your brew pressing the back close with your thumb and sampling a bit of kombucha. The kombucha will flow out of the straw when you lift your thumb. Remember not double dip.

MY SCOBY IS SINKING?

There’s no need to worry if your SCOBY is floating, sinking or hanging out sideways, these are all normal variations.

MY SCOBY HAS HOLES?

When you have a very fizzy brew going then you can expect some wholes in your SCOBY. It is also an indication of overactive yeast and your brew will sour quicker too.

WHY IS MY SCOBY IS DARKER THAN IT WAS?

SCOBYs will become darker the older they get and Rooibos SCOBYs are more red in color, where green tea SCOBYs are whiter in color.

IS THAT MOLD?

Many times the new SCOBY is mistaken for mold. If it’s mold it will be fuzzy like bread mold, it may be green, black or colorful. If mold takes hold you have to toss your SCOBY and start fresh with one of your back up SCOBYs.

DO I HAVE TO BUY A SCOBY FOR EVERY BREW?

No, because with every brew a new SCOBY forms on top, these SCOBYs can be placed in a jar as back up SCOBYs or shared with family and friends.

HOW MANY TIMES CAN A SCOBY BE USED FOR BREWING?

SCOBYs can be used many times as they age they get darker but will still work well. When they get very dark you may want to change the SCOBY for one of the BACK UP SCOBYs that have formed with the previous brew.

IS THE SCOBY A MUSHROOM?

No, Kombucha isn’t part of the mushroom family and is made up of a symbiotic colony of beneficial bacteria and yeast that forms the pancake like structure mostly referred to as SCOBY.

WHY AREN’T ALL THE KOMBUCHA SCOBYs THE SAME SIZE?

The new Kombucha SCOBY forms to keep the tea from evaporating and to keep the food source safe. The new SCOBY takes on the shape of the jar that it’s in and that’s why you get different shapes and sizes. The longer your ferment the thicker the SCOBY.

HOW DO I STORE EXTRA SCOBYs?

The Back Up Hub method.

Get a large jar, add your SCOBYs and some finished kombucha tea to keep the pH low add some sweet tea to feed your SCOBYs. Then you feed your SCOBYs every week or two. You will use the same sugar tea solution that you will when making kombucha.

WHY IS THE BACTERIA PART OF THE SCOBY IMPORTANT?

The Bacteria use the alcohol and the available glucose as a source of energy and they produce acetic acid and gluconic acid as well as the SCOBY itself.

WHY IS THE YEAST PART OF THE SCOBY IMPORTANT?

The yeast converts the minerals in the tea to produce enzymes that separate the sugar into glucose and fructose. Yeast creates the alcohol and small amounts of C02.

WHY IS MY KOMBUCHA FLAT?

Too much sugar, weak tea or not enough tea, cold temperatures are all factors that will have a direct effect the Fizz!

Everyone want fizzy kombucha, it makes it fun! Sometimes especially for beginners it happens that the fizz is missing in action and this problem relates to the strength of your yeast.

Yeast normally increase as the brewing batches come and pass and later on you may have too much yeast!

WHY DOES MY KOMBUCHA SOUR SO QUICKLY?

This problem usually indicates too much yeast and goes with a bumpy and holy SCOBY, lots of fizz. The yeast produces alcohol and C02 and with high temperatures the more active the yeast are and it increases the C02 production thereby increasing the fizziness and decreases the alcohol. This causes that the bacteria has less alcohol to live on and it makes it harder for the Bacteria because they have to compete for food being glucose and oxygen. This can cause the SCOBY to significantly to slow down in growth.

 
Here’s what you can do to bring back balance:
  1. Increase the sugar or glucose available
  2. Use less tea or steep for shorter period of time*
  3. Reduce the temperature
  4. Reduce the amount of yeast.
  5. Adding glucose instead of sugar will give the bacteria a head start.

*Using less tea means less nutrients for the yeast to live on and slows down the respiration rate of the yeast, this resulting into alcohol conversion instead of C02 conversion. This process can produce less available glucose because the nutrients in the tea are needed to convert the sugar into glucose and fructose.

WHAT IS THIS BROWN STRINGS?

That is yeast and dead yeast and should be cleaned out with every brew otherwise your bacteria and yeast balance will tip causing your brew to sour too quickly.

KOMBUCHA COMPOSITION

Not all kombucha cultures will contain the exact same strains, but generally this is what you may expect:

Various Vitamins & Enzymes:

Bacterium gluconicum

bacterium xylinum

Acetobacter xylinum

Acetobacter xliondes

Acetobacter Ketogenum

Saccharomyces cervisiae

Saccharmycodes apiculatus

Sccharmocydoes ludwigii

Schizosaccharomyes

Acetic acid

Acetoacetic acid

Benzoic acid

propenyl ester

Benzonitrile

Butanoic acid

Citric acid

Cyanocobalamin

Decanoic acid

Ethyl Acetate

Fructose

d-Gluconic acid

Glucose

Hexanoic acid

Itaconic acid

2-keto-gluconic acid

5-keto-gluconic acid

2-keto-3-deoxy-gluconic Lactic acid

Niacinamide

Nicotinic acid

Patothenic acid

Phenethyl Alchohol

Phenol, 4-ethyl

6-Phosho gluconate

Propionic acid

Octanoic acid

Oxalic acid

Riboflavin

d-Saccharic acid

(Glucaric acid)

Succinic acid

Thiamin

Plus 40 other acid esters in trace amounts

Vitamin C Detoxifier & immunity booster

Acetic AcidAntiseptic- inhibits / kills bacteria and pathogens

Lactic AcidNormal digestive action, prevent constipation and protects walls of bowels – L- lactic (+) believed to aid in prevention of cancer by regulating blood pH levels

Gluconic AcidEffective against many yeast infections Amino acids building blocks of life – crucial in body’s chemistry

Malic acid Detoxification

Oxalic acid preservative that actions cells

Usnic acid containing selective antibiotic qualities

Nucleic acids cell functioning properly and rebuild

Carbonic acid regulator of blood PH levels,

Folic Acid may help heart disease, aging, cancer, Crhohn’s, Alzheimer’s and Osteoperosis.

Thiamin (B1) stimulates the immune system, may aid in prevention of skin, joint & bone aging, cancer and stroke.

Riboflavin (B2) Suppresses allergies

Niacin (B3) Promotes healing skin tissue

Pyridoxine (B6) helps battle obesity, rheumatism and stroke.

Cobalamin (B12) Improves memory and learning.

Bacteria:

Acetobacter – This is an aerobic (needs oxygen) bacteria strain that produces acetic acid and gluconic acid, it is always found in kombucha and is responsible for the build of the SCOBY.

Acetobacter Xylinoides

Acetobacter Ketogenum

Lactobacillus a type of aerobic bacteria that produce lactic acid.

PediococcusProduce lactic acid

Gluconacetobacter Kombuchae – Converts nitrogen to acetic acid and gluconic acid and is unique to kombucha. Anearobic bacteria that helps build the SCOBY.

Yeast:

Brettanomyces

Zygosaccharmocyes Kombuchaesis – unique to kombucha.

Saccharomycods Ludwigii

Saccharomycodes apiculatus

Schizosaccharomyces pombe

Zygosaccharomyces

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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