Posts Tagged ‘Do it yourself’

Make Your Own Kombucha

September 11th, 2012

Kombucha has been the rage for the last couple of years and I never really took much notice. Each time I decided to try a bottle of the fermented tea I recoiled as it was so acidic. I may as well buy a bottle of vinegar to drink. Of course, some people like this and I know it’s an acquired taste so I set out to find a sweeter variety, though, I never found one that I really liked. That’s when I found out I could make it at home and control the flavor. After doing a bit of research I thought easy enough.

The hardest part would be coming across a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). If you don’t have a friend who is brewing their own kombucha and can in turn give you a SCOBY then growing your own is the way to go. It will take a bit of time but in the end it will add to the do-it-yourself feel of the project.

Growing Your Own SCOBY

To grow you own SCOBY you’ll need the same equipment to make your own kombucha. This isn’t a big investment and most people have the required items around the house.

1. A gallon glass jar. Do not use plastic as bacteria can take up in the surface and glass is much easier to clean.

2. Teabags. I use black tea. In fact, I used Lipton. You can use just about any teabags you want. This can be the same teabags you will make your end kombucha with later. Don’t use Earl Grey as it contains bergamot oil that will spoil your brew. Also, no herbals. Green or white will work fine, as well.

3. Clean water. This, as you would guess, is the most important step. Do not use chlorinated water straight from the tap. If you must use tap water be certain you filter it with a high quality filter. If at all possible get spring water or go to the store and buy a gallon.

4. One bottle of raw unflavored kombucha. There are many brands to choose from. Just make sure it’s free of fruit or fruit juice.

5. Sugar. I used vegan cane sugar or evaporated cane juice. This is the food that the yeast will feed on. Feed them something good. You could use regular refined white sugar but why would you want to?

6. A paper towel and a rubberband. This will keep the nasty out of your brew. Flies and dust aren’t good for your drink.

 

Wash the gallon jar very well in very hot soapy water. Sterilization isn’t necessary but you do want to get that jar sparkling clean. Boil 4 cups of water. After the water comes to a boil remove it from the heat and add 5 teabags. I like my tea strong so if you like it a little weaker drop it to 4. Let the tea steep for about 30 minutes and remove the bags. Again, if you want a weaker brew feel free to remove the bags before 30 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar to the tea and stir to dissolve. Your tea will still be very warm at this point so let it rest for an hour or so until it cools to room temperature. Hot tea will kill your initial yeast and bacteria giving you nothing to grow. After the tea cools pour it into the gallon jar. Fill the jar with the rest of your spring water to about 2/3 the way up. Pour in the bottle of raw kombucha. Cover with the paper towl and secure it over the top with the rubber band.

Put the jar in a place where it can sit undisturbed for about 3 weeks. Depending on the temperature in your home it may take more time it may take less. I’ve been growing this summer and we keep our home at about 76 degrees. In 3 weeks I had a SCOBY ready to go. You may take more time or less. In a week or so you’ll notice a white film on the top of the tea. This is your SCOBY beginning to grow. Keep an eye on it and be sure it’s free of mold. You may notice brown spots but those are normal. Anything hairy or fuzzy is bad. It will go slowly but once it gets about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick it’s ready. Once you’re at that point you’re ready to brew some kombucha to drink. Remove the SCOBY and set it aside in a large bowl with just enough tea from the jar to cover it. Pour the kombucha out of your jar. You’ll likely not want to drink this as it will be very acidic from the longer brew time. Clean your jar and get ready to brew a batch to drink. Don’t refrigerate your SCOBY. At this point you want to be ready to go with a new batch.

 

Kombucha brewing. Grown your own SCOBY

The SCOBY beginning to grow on top of the tea.

 

Brewing Kombucha

You’ll need the same equipment as above in the growing of a SCOBY except you’ll need a SCOBY and you won’t need an entire bottle of kombucha. The entire process is nearly the same as growing your own SCOBY with a couple minor differences. I’ll list it all for you again:

1. A gallon glass jar. Do not use plastic as bacteria can take up in the surface and glass is much easier to clean.

2. Teabags. I use black tea. In fact, I used Lipton. You can use just about any teabags you want. This can be the same teabags you will make your end kombucha with later. Don’t use Earl Grey as it contains bergamot oil that will spoil your brew. Also, no herbals. Green or white will work fine, as well.

3. Clean water. This, as you would guess, is the most important step. Do not use chlorinated water straight from the tap. If you must use tap water be certain you filter it with a high quality filter. If at all possible get spring water or go to the store and buy a gallon.

4. 1 cup of kombucha. This can be store bought kombucha or kombucha out of your last batch. Don’t use the kombucha from growing your own SCOBY. Chances are it will be very acidic from the time it took to grow the SCOBY. If this is your first batch after growing your own SCOBY use a cup of raw kombucha you purchased at the store. After your first brew, however, you’ll have fresh kombucha to start each batch with.

5. Sugar. I used vegan cane sugar or evaporated cane juice. This is the food that the yeast will feed on. Feed them something good. You could use regular refined white sugar but why would you want to?

6. A paper towel and a rubberband. This will keep the nasty out of your brew. Flies and dust aren’t good for your drink.

7. A SCOBY. This can be one you grew yourself using the instructions above or one you acquired from another kombucha brewer. In the end you’ll have another SCOBY to share or make 2 batches as a new SCOBY grows with each batch you brew. Don’t reuse a SCOBY more than once.

Wash your jar very well in very hot soapy water. As before in the SCOBY growing, sterilization isn’t necessary but get the jar sparkling clean. Boil 4 cups of water. After the water comes to a boil remove it from the heat and add 5 teabags adjusting for stronger or weaker tea. Let the tea steep for about 30 minutes and remove the bags. Again, if you want a weaker brew feel free to remove the bags before 30 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar to the tea and stir to dissolve. Your tea will still be very warm at this point so let it rest for an hour or so until it cools to room temperature. Hot tea will kill your initial yeast and bacteria giving you nothing to grow. After the tea cools pour it into the gallon jar. Fill the jar with the rest of your spring water to about 2/3 the way up. Pour in the cup of kombucha and place your SCOBY into the jar. The SCOBY may float or it may sink, it doesn’t matter. Cover with the paper towel and secure it over the top with the rubber band.

Place the jar where it can sit undisturbed for about 7 days. After 7 days you will want to taste your kombucha to see if the flavor is at the point you like. You’ll have a SCOBY growing on top of the tea at this point as well as the one you started the brew with. Remove the paper towel and rubberband from the jar. Do not dip a glass or spoon into the brew. The best method for tasting is using a straw remove a small amount to tea from the jar by dipping the straw into the tea and placing you finger over the end of the straw. You’ll want to push the edge of the SCOBY growing on top of the tea just a little to the side to get your straw in. If the SCOBY drops under the tea that’s OK. Release the tea into a glass to taste. DO NOT drink from the straw and put the straw back into your brew. This will introduce all kinds of nasties to the brew and ruin it. You’re growing bacteria in the jar and you want to be certain to not introduce bad bacteria as those will grow just as well. I like my brew with a little bite so I go 10 days on average. The longer you brew the more acidic it will get. Once you get to the flavor desired you’re ready to bottle your brew.

Brewing Kombucha. Make your own kombucha

Kombucha in the jar. This was a small batch. A typical brew is about twice this amount.

Bottling Kombucha

If you drink your kombucha straight form the brewing jar you may notice it missing that fizz the store bought kombucha has. To get that fizz you need a secondary fermentation. That’s where bottling comes in. I reused beer bottles and a caped them with a capper. You can also use flip top sealing bottles. I don’t recommend canning jars if you want a good fizz as they won’t seal and aren’t airtight enough in this process.

Bottled kombucha. Make your own kombucha

Bottled kombucha ready for secondary fermentation. The brown bottles have bits of apple and the larger bottle has mango. All of the fruit is freeze dried as I find it flavors much better.

 

You want to be certain the bottles are as clean as possible. Hot soapy water is the key. Rinse and dry the well and fill each bottle leaving enough room at the top for air to assit in the fermentation. I filled my reused beer bottles about 3 inches from the top. If you want to flavor your brew now is the time to do so. You can use fresh or frozen fruit but I’ve found for the absolute best flavor freeze dried fruit works best. My favorites are apple and mango. Drop just a few small chunks into the bottle before sealing. Also, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle for a little “food” for fermentation. This is completely optional but you may find you’ll get a better fizz. Seal the bottles and store them undisturbed at room temperature for about 5 days. I know,you want to drink but patience is needed. After 5 days you can put the bottles into the refrigerator to chill and drink when ready.

 

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Building a Rain Barrel

July 15th, 2008

If you have a garden or alot of plants then you know that you can use quite a bit of water keeping everything green, especially when there are days or weeks between rain showers. I have noticed rain barrels being sold at Whole Foods for $99 and thought the construction looked simple enough to do on my own and possibly at far less a price. So I undertook the task of doing just that. I picked up an empty barrel at a local farm store that once contained olives. It even had one olive left inside when I got it, I didn’t eat it as tempting as it was. Make sure you find a food grade barrel for this project, you don’t want unknown chemicals spread onto your garden or plants. All of the parts needed I either had lying around or picked up at the local Home Depot.

  • (1) 3/4″ Male Hose Bibb (I used a no kink bibb)
  • (2) 3/4″ PVC Female Adapter
  • (1) 3/4″ tapped Male Hose to Male adapter
  • (2) 1″ Galvanized or Brass Washers
  • (4) #18 O-rings (1″)
  • Teflon Tape
  • 1″ Hole Drill Bit
  • (1) Brass Hose Cap
  • 18″x18″ Square Metal Screen
  • (8) Aluminum Self-starting Screws

Hose Bibb

3/4″ Male No-Kink Hose Bibb

Male Hose Adapter

  3/4″ Tapped Male Hose to Male Adapter

O-Ring

#18 O-Ring (1″)

Teflon Tape

Teflon Tape

3/4″ PVC Female Adapter

3/4″ PVC Female Adapter

1″ Hole Drill Bit

 1″ Hole Drill Bit

First, clean the barrel inside and out. I did not use any detergent, only a few heavy rinses of water for the inside.  Next, drill two holes using the 1″ hole drill bit.  The first of the two should be about 3-4 inches from the bottom of the barrel on a flat surface above the curve of the barrel.  The second will be near the top of the barrel and will be used as an overflow valve.  After drilling both holes wrap the end of the 3/4″ hose bibb in teflon tape, a strip about 4 inches long should suffice, then place, in order, a 1″ washer and one of the o-rings onto the bibb and thread it into the bottom hole on your barrel.  Now, you may need a second person to help.  You will need to reach into the barrel and place a second o-ring onto the bibb and screw the 3/4″ inch PVC female adapter onto the bibb.  You will need someone to hold the bibb from the outside while you tighten the PVC adapter from the inside.   Once the bibb has been installed move to the top of the barrel.  Take the 3/4″ male hose adapter and place a strip of teflon tape around the threads not used for the hose, the ones closer together.  Next, place a 1″ washer and a o-ring onto the adapter and thread it into the top hole.  Place an o-ring and the second 3/4″ PVC female adapter on the hose adapter inside the barrel and tighten.

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Bottom bibb assembly attached

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Bottom bibb assembly showing o-ring behind washer

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Female PVC adapter attached to bottom bibb assembly inside barrel

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Male Hose to Male adapter assembly at top of barrel (overflow)

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 View of overflow assembly showing o ring

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 Female PVC adapter attached to male adapter assembly (overflow)

The lid of your barrel my be different from the one I have. The barrel I used had a two-piece lid with a cover and a ring to tighten the lid on, similar to a canning jar. In order to keep debris and mosquitoes out of the barrel you will need to attach a screen to the lid.  I did this by cutting a 8″ diameter hole in the lid and attaching a piece of metal screen underneath.  I used the plastic circle I cut from the lid and cut that into four 1″ wide strips.   Using a square piece of screen wrap each of the corners around a strip and attach to the lid using aluminum screws.

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Screen attached to lid – bottom view

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Screen attached to lid- Top view

Your rain barrel is now complete.  You will need a place to put your barrel so it can catch run-off from your gutter downspout.   A platform which is level is very important as a full barrel weighs about 400 pounds and would be very dangerous to people or animals who may be around if it were to topple over.   Also, you will need to place the barrel at a height which is higher than to place you want to water using a hose to create sufficient waterflow.

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Platform built using concrete blocks

Once you are ready to setup the rain barrel cut the gutter downspout at a place higher than the top of the barrel and use a plastic downspout hose to redirect the water to the top of your rain barrel.  You may want to cut a section of the downspout out and leave the bottom portion of the downspout in place.  Doing so allows you to fill the gap in the downspout wiht a piece of tubing so when your rain barrel is not being used, such as during the winter, you can once again have use of the downspout.

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Downspout Tubing

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Your rain barrel will fill quickly during a downpour and the top overflow spout will be handy if connected to a hose into a spare bucket or another rain barrel.

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Completed Rain Barrel

The total cost of this project was just under $25,  a considerable savings from the $99.99 Whole Foods charges for a rain barrel which does not include your platform or downspout tubing.   You can decorate the outside however you see fit.  Paint it to match your home exterior or let the kids have fun with the paint, you can even drape plants over the top and sides as I will be doing soon.  Also, this is a very simple project that only takes an hour at most to complete and will save you money.

 

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