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Update Kombucha and Fruit Cider/Wine

Kombucha getting started.

Kombucha getting started.

Following up on the two little side fermentation projects that I have going on: kombucha and a mixed fruit cider/wine thing….

First, on the kombucha, I have reached out to some folks online regarding my progress, because I don’t really know how this is supposed to look. I’m using 1 gallon of green tea, a cup of sugar, and the dregs from a bottle of kombucha soda. After a couple of days, I have some bubbles around the perimeter of the carboy, a small “island” in the middle, and a few floaters that appear to be dark green and hang down like a “beard”.

perimeter bubbles and "beard" floater.

perimeter bubbles and “beard” floater.

There’s a little more sediment at the bottom than I started with, too. The little floaters are my biggest concern…all the pictures that I’ve seen online show the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) are off-white to tan in color. A little further research shows the floaters to be common…need to watch out for mold growing on top. That would be mean throwing out the batch. Also, it sounds like I may need to make a “baby” SCOBY and start another batch to grow a “mother” SCOBY? It’s a learning experience, that’s for sure!

Moving on to my mixed fruit little experiment: I racked the juice and it was still pretty thick on the bottom. After racking, I have just a little under a gallon.

Ready for first racking.

Ready for first racking.

I may only get a half gallon by the time this batch is racked and aged enough. So, I took some juice from the dregs and strained it to use for a hydrometer sample…I hope any “body” in the juice isn’t affecting the hydrometer’s measurement.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

The hydrometer reading is 0.998 at 70F, so that is 0.999 corrected. With the OG of 1.073, that puts it at 9.71% ABV. It’s still on the border between cider and wine…not sure what will end up being. (Other than delicious, I hope!)

Update 1/19/15:

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racked the mixed fruit cider to a 1 gallon glass carboy. I strained the dregs and took a hydrometer reading of 0.996@69F.

Transferring

Transferring

I’m thinking I may top off with Culligan bottled water next time I rack, so I have a gallon. Currently, it’s a little under a gallon…maybe 10% short? Looks good though and over 9% ABV, so a top-off won’t hurt it.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

The Kombucha is coming along…looks like a pretty decent skin is forming…almost covering the surface. Now.let’s see if it thickens. The jug has a small neck, so I’ll need to figure out removing the SCOBY and find a new, more appropriate container.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Probably one of those 1 gallonlemonade/iced tea dispensers with the spigot. The smell is a little tangy…haven’t attempted a taste yet. I’m not sure whether this first batch is supposed to be drinkable or not. We’ll see when I remove the SCOBY…somehow.

Update 2/24/15:  Okay, so, I’ve been been saving some of a hydrometer sample of the mixed fruit cider, in the refrigerator. I’ve been taking a little sip every couple of days. It has settled nicely and the flavor is not agressive, but it IS distinct from straight apple cider. The jug is looking good…still needs more clearing. I’ll let it go another week and rack it onto just enough clean water to top it off…should only take about 2-3 cups.

Now for the kombucha: pretty much “Wow”. I sanitized a turkey baster to retrieve a sample. (I need a new wine thief!) I had  to nudge the SCOBY aside…it is definitely holding together as a solid raft. I may go ahead and go to the next batch soon! The sample that I removed was tart and tasted “lemony”. I’m not a huge tea fan, but this stuff is really good! Not much tea flavor…just a little. I’m glad I used green tea. So, thumbs up! Let’s see if it will continue with the next round.

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Kombucha Experiment

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda...but the root beer is interesting!

This is what I am experimenting with to see if I can grow a SCOBY. I am in no way affiliated with this brand of soda…but the root beer is interesting!

Kombucha…odd sounding. And when you hear the description, it’s gets kind of weird. So, you brew up some sweet tea, right? Okay, any good Southerner would be good with that. Then, you take something called a “SCOBY” (or affectionately referred to as the “mother”) and you chuck some of that in the tea. It looks like a slimey, spongy, white mass floating on the top of a previous batch of kombucha. SCOBY stands for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria/Yeast”. Mmm MMM!!! So, then you cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band, let that ferment for a while, eating the sugar in the tea, and BOOM! You have a tangy, fermented tea drink with lots of healthy probiotics, like yogurt does, but even better! Are you still with me? Okay, then you start a new batch, throw your SCOBY in and put your Kombucha in clean jars in the fridge…or you can add a little more sugar and seal and let ferment at room temperature and you get kombucha soda! Here’s a Wikipedia link, if you want more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha

Disclaimer! There are some risks with fermented products. Please read the Wikipedia article and, especially if you have any ongoing health issues or possible medication interactions, please, please consult your doctor before making and consuming any fermented products! And always sanitize the crap out of EVERYTHING! Constantly!!! Okay, moving along….

I have to admit, I’m not a big tea drinker. Never really cared for iced tea. But green tea is pretty mild and I like experimenting with fermented things, so here we go! I found a “LIVE Soda” at a store today. This brand is a “raw, organic, kombucha soda and comes in a few flavors. I decided to try a root beer flavor. The bottle instructs you to not shake…besides spewing all over you…it would disturb the dregs that have settled on the bottom of the bottle. That’s what I’m going to use to attempt to generate my own SCOBY. I have read that using a bottled product is not usually successful because of some change that was made in much of the industry a few years ago; however, this brand doesn’t seem to have any additives and its raw/organic status gives me hope. If it doesn’t work, I can go to my local home brew shop and pick up a starter for $8 and salvage my experiment.

What I did was, I brewed 8 teabags of green tea in 3 cups of Culligan bottled water from the “hot” side of my dispenser. (You could bring water to a boil for 10 minutes to sanitize, if you don’t have a hot water spigot/bottled water dispenser and then add your teabags). Next, I added a cup of sugar to a sanitized 1 gallon carboy. A wide mouth gallon jar would be better for removing the SCOBY, but I didn’t have one. Anyway, I poured the hot tea onto the sugar in the carboy and then topped up to a little under a gallon, leaving room for the mother to grow. The cold water brought the temperature down to about 90F (checked with a sanitized pocket thermometer). I put some ice in a mixing bowl and added some cold tap water and put the carboy in the bring the temperature down, so I wouldn’t kill off the SCOBY critters.

Green tea, sugar...bring the temperature down.

Green tea, sugar…bring the temperature down.

Then, I poured off about 2/3 of the LIVE Soda into a glass to drink…the rest was then swirled to suspend the dregs in the remaining soda, and poured into the tea. I topped the jar with a piece of sanitized cheesecloth and a rubber band and now we wait to see if it works.

Let's see what happens!

Let’s see what happens!

It will probably be a month, give or take a week, to know if a SCOBY is going to form. If it does, the next batch should go faster.

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