Second Brew Blues

I’ve been having a hard time throwing out my Kombucha after I discovered mold on it almost two weeks ago. It was just sitting there because I couldn’t bear to look at it or touch it. It’s like I had a body in the closet that’s been dead for days and I didn’t have the heart to throw it in the trash. To me, my SCOBYs weren’t just things or food, they were creations. They were alive. Well, they still are alive, only contaminated.

At first I felt irresponsible and pretty sad but then I started thinking that this can be looked at as a learning experience. Next time I could put extra vinegar in my starter fluid if it’s not strong enough and make sure it’s not brewing on the floor in the closet so my cat’s hair won’t get into it, and also to use a coffee filter as a lid rather than a hand towel, even if it’s thin.

I am grieving for my Kombucha, thinking about what it means to throw out something that I cultivated for months. Every source says it: when you grow mold, your brew has been contaminated and you have to throw it out.
Reading that again and again made my heart drop with this fluttering tingle in my stomach and chest that has only recently started to dissipate.
Today I threw the SCOBYs out. I really didn’t want to but I had to because they were contaminated. I never thought I would love my SCOBYs as much as I do or feel this immense loss. Sometimes we just have to start completely over and throw things out when they become rotten and contaminated, even if we love them. I had a writing teacher who used to say, “don’t be afraid to kill your babies,” in regards to certain elements that weren’t working in a story. I guess we really can’t get that attached to anything, even our own creations.

I’ve heard it said that everything can be looked at as both a success and failure. Choosing to look at this experience as a success instantly has made me feel a little better.
This experience was successful in that I learned to fall in love with a new hobby that makes me feel alive, hopeful, and excited. I learned that I had to do more research beyond the initial instructions that came with my Mother culture. I was unsure of how to take care of my Mother SCOBY after I brewed my first batch.

Next time, I gotta be cleaner, and make sure I have a strong starter liquid so the mold doesn’t form.

This was my first time doing this and I just have to look at it positively for the next time because there definitely will be a next time. Education is empowerment. There is something valuable to just going at it, jumping in without needing to know everything but I learned there has to be a balance of fearlessness mixed with educating oneself before jumping in so you make less mistakes. Hell, mistakes are all a part of learning. Hopefully someone can learn from my mistakes other than me.

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Kombucha family growth and 2nd brew

I don’t have kids yet (other than my five-year-old cat), but brewing Kombucha feels like being a mother because I have been keeping a sensitive life form alive and as a result, I have become very protective of my SCOBYs. I don’t think I’ve cared about many things more than I care about the health and well being of my SCOBYs. I just think creation is key to life, whether you are having children, painting pictures, writing computer code or brewing Kombucha. Creation changes everything and can really make you feel alive and full of purpose. Well, ever since the first Scoby grew, I’ve just become so proud and excited to have them in my life, growing safely.

Last night my mom tried the Kombucha and loved it. We went out to buy another glass jar and I brewed some more tea last night for my second batch. I’ve learned some things along the way after brewing the first batch.

One of the biggest thing I learned was patience. The instructions my SCOBY came with said to keep your jar in a dark, quiet place where it won’t be disturbed. That really helped because since it was in my closet, I didn’t get tempted to look at it all the time. I mean, I thought about it every day but I didn’t obsess over it. I always knew it was there and I made a very conscious effort not to touch it. Another thing that helped was setting ticking clock goals or things to look forward to so as not to only think of the Kombucha.

One of my ticking clock goals was learning the “Thriller” dance and keeping busy with my writing. I thought to myself, by the time I participate in “Thrill the World,” my Kombucha will be done. So I just practiced dancing and looked forward to my event but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, my Kombucha will be done on “Thrill Day” weekend. This time around for the second batch, I’m looking to be ready to drink around Thanksgiving time, so that’s my ticking clock.

Now for some more technical tips.  For the tasting element, my instructions said to use a glass straw to taste the Kombucha daily after day 7. I didn’t have a glass straw so I just dipped a wooden ladle into the jar and tasted a little bit of the brew that way. I would like to get a glass straw but I would need to order one online because I couldn’t find one in any store around here.

As for the tasting itself, I tasted my brew on day 10 and it was still too sweet so I didn’t even bother tasting it until day 14. Even by then, it wasn’t as tart as I would have liked so I left it alone until day 21 and I bottled it. After I bottled the brew, I let it sit for about six days before I tasted it. I thought it was decent but not nearly as carbonated so I only refrigerated two bottles. I left my remaining three bottles out for another two days and they were a little more carbonated. The suggestion is, to leave the bottles out for at least seven days before refrigerating and consuming, that way the carbonation will be stronger. My first brew tastes great but it’s really not as carbonated as I would have liked. The carbonation is what I really missed.

Lastly, in regard to the carbonation, I think I might not have gotten as much of a carbonated brew because when decanting and bottling, I ladled the brew into my bottles rather than pouring the whole thing into the bottles. The instructions said to remove the SCOBY and put it in a glass bowl with some of the kombucha liquid, but I didn’t do that because I was nervous about touching the SCOBY. Instead, I ladled the kombucha into the bottles. As a result, they didn’t have as much sediment to react with, which is why I think they weren’t as carbonated.

This time I’m going to follow the instructions to a T. 1) I’m going to use a glass straw to taste the Kombucha, given that I can find one within 2 weeks. 2) I’m going to bottle on day 21 at least and 3) refrigerate and consume after at least 7 days after bottling.

I want a carbonated brew. I want to show my mom that kombucha carbonation kicks the ass of diet soda any day and it’s so much healthier for you. She still likes buying diet soda and I just think….you haven’t tried a good Kombucha yet. Patience is key.

First Batch of Kombucha

SDC11713Over the past three weeks I’ve been brewing my own Kombucha. I tried to grow my own SCOBY from a GT’s bottle of original Kombucha about a month ago, but it didn’t work. I told myself that I would try to brew it that way and if it didn’t work then I would buy a SCOBY. So I bought this medium sized SCOBY  on Amazon for around $10. It came in a little package with some starter liquid and detailed directions. I was so grateful to have directions because it really helped to ease my mind and keep me focused so I didn’t feel so out in the dark. One thing the directions said was that once you have the mixture in the jar, you have to put it in a dark place where it won’t be disturbed. I heard different things about where you are to put your Kombucha while it was cultivating, but these directions that I essentially paid to get, said to put it in the dark, undisturbed.

So that’s what I did and it had just been sitting in my closet for three weeks until a few days ago, when I removed the cloth and rubber band to have a taste of it. To my surprise I found a freshly grown SCOBY at the top. It was beautiful, thick, and white. I was so happy, like a proud mother. It was so strong and clean, just the way I’d seen so many successful SCOBY offspring look in pictures and in video.

I think its an awesome thing to make your own Kombucha because it’s expensive per bottle. I used to think it was worth the price because of the health benefits and it is, but isn’t it so much more gratifying to make something all on your own? It feels good to create something from nothing essentially and keep it alive, like a baby.

There’s just something about making Kombucha that fills me with life and wonder. I think it’s amazing that a new baby SCOBY grows every time you brew a new batch of Kombucha. That’s beautiful. You feed the Kombucha to keep it alive and it keeps you alive.

So I bottled my first batch of Kombucha last night. My instructions say to let the Kombucha go through a second fermentation process which involves leaving the bottled Kombucha out at room temperature for 5-7 days before refrigerating and consuming. It is said during this time that the sharp acidity mellows and the liquid becomes naturally carbonated. Can’t wait. We’ll see how the first brew tastes in a few days.

 

Kombucha love story

I went to UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate study and if you know Santa Cruz, California, you know that this is a hub of hippies, greenery, and organic health foods. I was in my early twenties, on my own, exploring all sorts of new things, but just by being in Santa Cruz, exploring health foods was the easiest thing next to breathing.

It was in the New Leaf Community market that I bought my first GT’s Raw Kombucha. I was in the market to try new things and since I was looking for foods and drinks to boost my immune system, I stumbled upon this really expensive drink that I figured had to be good since it was nearly $4 a bottle. I walked home, sat down at my desk, and popped open the drink. I had no expectations whatsoever, but I didn’t expect that what I put down my throat would taste rotten to me! I tried really hard to take a few more sips but the vinegary consistency was just too strong. It felt like I was drinking a shot of alcohol because the drink immediately burned my stomach. Something HAD to be wrong with this drink. For an hour, I glanced at the bottle on my desk in between internet surfing. I decided to take one more sip. Nope. Disgusted, I threw it away.

It would be a few years later that I would fall madly in love with Kombucha, but not until I was surrounded by it at my Bikram Yoga studio where I worked as a “Karma Yogi.” Karma Yogis work at yoga studios in order to take free classes so I worked behind the desk, and at our studio we sold Kombucha and Coconut water. At first I would cringe when I would look at the Kombucha and I was so puzzled why so many people bought this drink and gulped it down like water. I didn’t get it. It was one day after I came out of class and was really thirsty that a friend recommended I try the Kombucha. There were no more coconut waters so I thought I would just try a flavored Kombucha. Honestly, I can’t remember which flavored Kombucha I tried but that initial vinegar taste wasn’t so overwhelming. I actually really enjoyed it this time. Maybe it was because I was thirsty or maybe my taste buds had evolved, but here I was, six years later, loving Kombucha.

Which brings me to the next level of Kombucha adoration. Yes, it’s time for me to make a baby, a SCOBY that is. For the past few days, I’ve been scouring the internet watching video after video on how to grow a SCOBY. It just seems so easy to do. And I drink so much of it nowadays that it seems like the next step to take. I mean, you love something so much, you just have to create it yourself. That’s why people make babies, right?

So today I bought a bottle of GT’s Original flavored Kombucha and I’m going through the motions of making my very first Kombucha SCOBY. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll just buy my own SCOBY starter. I thought I would try to make my own first and see how it comes out. There’s something about creating from scratch that is way more gratifying than buying it.
Wish me luck.