Fermentation is Fun – Fermented Breakfast & How to Start Your Own Kombucha

A person once told me that only hippies wore Birkinstocks, brewed kombucha, and were vegan. This same person also generalized that everyone in Missoula was a vegan which is entirely untrue – in fact I currently only know one vegan in Missoula and she drinks beer (fermented goodness!) like it’s her job. That being said, Birkinstocks are really good for your feet and kombucha is even better for your gut and liver.  This leads me to the point of this post:

Fermentation! If a list of food and drink isn’t filling your head right now, I’ll go ahead and help you out.

My favorites: Sourdough, miso, kimchi, BEER, wine, and most importantly… Kefir and Kombucha.

I eat kefir basically every day for breakfast. I have a milk allergy and finding ways to get enough calcium can e a challenge. Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that has the consistency of a smoothie and is typically 99% or 100% lactose-free. It is found is nearly every grocery store and has a range of flavors. I have also used kefir in smoothies in lieu of yogurt/juice.

Kefir Parfait
Old fashioned oats
Kefir – any flavor
Coconut flakes (unsweetened)
Berries or bananas**
Chia seeds (optional)

If at home, use a bowl.
On the run, grab a mason jar.

-Oats (1/4-1/2 cup)
-Pour Kefir on oats – you don’t want the oats too dry or soupy. It’s trial and error as to how much you like so test it out and soon you’ll be able to eyeball it.
-Stir a few times
-Add toppings

If you like the oats to be on the raw side, eat immediately. If you’re like me and like things a little thicker, I find it best to make my parfait before I leave for work in a jar and by the time I get to work it has had enough time to soften the oats and is perfect.

**I use berries or bananas typically because they are my favorites. However, in the past I have used peanut butter, dried fruit, honey, almonds, etc. If the mix in’s I’m adding are on the sweeter side, I’ll opt for using plain kefir to cut down on the sugar. If I’m just using a banana or almonds, I’ll use a raspberry or mango flavored kefir.

My next mission is to make my own kefir milk and water – stay tuned.

For all of you out there who know me, you can probably remember when I first started making kombucha. I bought a scoby from the Good Food Store in Missoula and many batches of “booch” for about two years. That scoby even made it with me to SLC and I made a batch right after I got here. Then I killed it. I learned hard and fast what assuming a bacteria pancake could handle a few days with minimal liquid outside of the refrigerator.

I gave brewing a rest for a few months and am now back at it. This time I decided to give making my own scoby a shot. This is a work in progress in which I will give updates along the way. For all of you out there that want to try to start a kombucha culture and don’t have a friend with a scoby already, this is a great and inexpensive way to begin!

How to make your own Kombucha
What you will need:
Black tea (loose leaf (preferred) or tea bags)
1/2 granulated white sugar
One bottle of plain kombucha (I would go with G.T.’s which is pictured)
7 cups of water
Large glass container (larger than 1 gallon)
cheesecloth or thin, tightly woven dish towel
Rubber band or another securing band
Glass mason jars for storing (anywhere from 4-10 depending on the size)

**Notes: Black tea is the best tea to use in kombucha when it comes to the fermentation process. I use oolong tea but in the past have used green tea. I would say once you get the hang of things, feel free to start experimenting with different teas. As much as we like to think that replacing granulated white sugar with something more natural such as honey or sugar in the raw, granulated just works best so use it. Get a glass container, no exceptions. Make sure the container is something that can be stored for a few weeks without risk of spilling, perhaps with a narrow opening at the top. A mesh tea ball is really useful as you won’t have to strain the loose tea.

Bring water to a bowl. Remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add tea to the sugar water mixture. Allow the tea to steep until it cools to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.

Once the tea has cooled, remove loose tea or tea bags from the liquid. Pour tea into your glass container.

Sugared black tea and plain kombucha.

Sugared black tea and plain kombucha.

Next, pour the bottle of plain kombucha into the sugared tea mixture. Cover the opening of your glass container with the cheesecloth/tightly woven towel and secure with a band. You’re done! The kombucha needs to be stored around 75 degrees in a dry dark place that doesn’t get direct sunlight. If you live in a warm climate, closets are a great storage space or under a counter in a cupboard. If you live in a more mild climate or it is winter, I cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, place the sheet in the oven with my container on top and leave the oven light on to generate heat.

Kombucha mixture covered and secured

Kombucha mixture covered and secured

The scoby generally takes about 21 days to form. Signs of a healthy scoby are a grayish flat pancake looking mass on the top of the liquid. Some bubbles may form. The scoby will start to thicken to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Signs of an unhealthy scoby are black, green, or fuzzy mold. For more information on healthy and unhealthy scoby’s look here

Around 21 days, start testing the liquid in your scoby. If there is effervescence, the kombucha is properly fermenting. Depending on how you like your kombucha and the temperature, it could be up to 30+ days before it is complete. Now this is important: kombucha stops the fermentation process when it is chilled. When your kombucha reaches your desired effervescence, divvy the liquid into mason jars, tighten the lid, and place in your refrigerator.** Always leave 1/2-1 cup of the original kombucha in the glass container with the scoby as you will need it to start your next batch.

You can start the process over right away, or store your scoby in the fridge covered with a toweel until you’re ready to brew again. Don’t make my mistake and leave it out to dry!

**When adding flavor, I take the kombucha out about 2 days before it reaches my desired taste and add ginger, raspberries, the options are endless- to jars filled with kombucha and leave them out to continue fermenting for 2 days. BE AWARE: If your kombucha is already very carbonated and you leave it out additional days, you run the risk of the jars exploding from CO2. This really happens, so save yourself from the mess and waste.

For tips on flavoring and brewing kombucha look here

I really love brewing kombucha. For those of us who drink it often, it is extremely cost effective (and fun!) to brew it yourself. I’m really hoping that making my scoby from scratch pans out. My suggestion: after you get started, start talking to your friends who may brew as well to share tips, flavor ideas, and share your horror stories.

June has been a wild month of weather already here in SLC but that hasn’t kept me from hiking too much – aka the hail/rain/feet of snow surprise hike I had last weekend with my friend Erin.

Rain aside – I’ve been able to get 25.5 miles in this month. If the weather is anywhere like it is here now: sunny, overly hot, but clear. Apply that SPF and get hiking! Remember to utilize the public lands around you.

I think I’ll go enjoy a patio beer now. Happy fermenting!


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