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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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Day 134 Status Citra Saisons and Diet Root Beer

Switched back from blow-offs to airlocks

Switched back from blow-offs to airlocks

A quick update on my current projects: 1) Diet Root Beer. I prepared a replacement cap for my test bottle, I opened the tester and heard a slight CO2 escape. I poured a very small amount in a glass. There were very few bubbles. The soda was obviously undercarbed, but had some…hopefully, that will continue to increase! The flavor was strong on the root beer and not overly sweet, but it does have a little “diet” aftertaste. It’s okay, though, for the trade-off on sugar. I’m just hoping it carbs enough! Next time, maybe a little sweeter. I may have to find a way for a little more sweetness and a little less aftertaste without upping the sugar too much.

2) I switched back to regular airlocks for the Citra Saisons this afternoon. The action seemed to have relaxed sufficiently. Still on the heating pad on “low”  and wrapped in the Space Blanket. The main batch is bubbling about every 8-10 seconds and the little bonus gallon, that I’m going to rack onto vodka soaked cherries, is at about 18-20 second intervals. Looking good! A lot of trub…I’ll probably get 4-1/2 to 5 gallons out of the big carboy and 2/3 gallon on the small one, but they should be good!

3) Moving the Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus to storage. They were bottled on July 27th. Should be a couple of weeks before I open one and a month before I expect them to really be ready.

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Day 132 Bottling Hi-Nelson Saison, Diet Root Beer, Boosting Starter

Bottled Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus, Bottled Diet Root Beer, Harvested Belle Saison yeast starter, bag of grain for Citra Saison.

Bottled Hi-Nelson Saison w/Hibiscus, Bottled Diet Root Beer, Harvested Belle Saison yeast starter, bag of grain for Citra Saison.

Busy day today! Began by pulling the harvested Belle Saison starter from the refrigerator and made it better. Yeast class I attended showed me a couple of things I should fix. I made a new starter wort with DME, chilled down to mid 80’sF, added to my new flask, and oxygenated. Then I decanted the old wort and pitched the yeast slurry into the new wort. I also decanted another harvest jar and added it as well. Put a little sanitized foil over the flask and wrapped a heating pad around it, set on the lowest setting. The yeast really seemed to take off! I hope to cold crash it tonight and pitch it into a Citra Saison tomorrow! Brewing!

Keeping the yeast starter warm.

Keeping the yeast starter warm.

Moving along. Set everything up for bottling…sanitized everything. I”ve done enough photos on bottling before. Suffice it to say, I followed procedure and all went well. The biggest question was about how much corn sugar to add for priming. I wound up with about 5.25 gallons to bottle and used the 5.75oz recommended by Northern Brewer’s calculator. The hydrometer sample was a little foamy, but it looks like the FG is 1.004, after temperature correction. The OG was 1.068, so we wind up with the expected 8.40% ABV. (Woo!) I bottled 31 regular 12 oz bottles and a dozen 22 oz bombers.

This is the Hi-Nelson Saison hydrometer sample after I cold crashed it.

This is the Hi-Nelson Saison hydrometer sample after I cold crashed it.

Since I had everything out for bottling, I went ahead and tried my hand at root beer! I bought extract yesterday. I made a half gallon batch and it was pretty simple, so I did a second 1/2 gallon. Those yielded eleven 12 oz bottles. The last one was a little short, so I added a little water and marked the bottle. I’ll use it as the tester for carbonation. It took 1/2 tablespoon of extract, 2 tablespoons of white sugar, 10 packets of Truvia, and 1/8 teaspoon of  Champagne yeast, rehydrated. Then, warm water to fill the half gallon carboy. Shake to blend well. I used my siphon and bottling cane to fill the bottles. Now we wait and see how it turns out!

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