Kombucha

Maybe you’ve seen several friends carrying around expensive bottles of commercial Kombucha, and you want to know what all the fuss is about. Perhaps, after researching on the internet, you realized that Kombucha kept being listed as a possible solution to your sinus infection or your digestive problems – and a host of other ailments. Maybe your kooky roommate keeps brewing something she calls “booch,” and you want to make sure that what she is doing is not illegal.

Whatever your reason, I hope that what you read here will answer some of your questions or pique your curiosity enough to actually dive in and begin making your own.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented beverage, brewed using sweetened tea and a s.c.o.b.y. (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). S.c.o.b.y.s can also be called “mothers,” among other names. In layman’s terms, fermentation occurs when carbs are added with yeast and/or bacteria and turned into alcohol, acids, or CO2. In the case of Kombucha, the sugars in the sweet tea are the carbs and act as food for the culture. During the feeding process, healthy acids are produced. Gluconic acid, glucuronic acid, and lactic acid are a few of the organic acids produced, along with some amino acids.

Kombucha brewing

Does it contain alcohol?

Yes, however it is a miniscule amount, usually around .5% (most beers have an alcohol content of 5%). It is quite unlikely that you would become inebriated while drinking Kombucha (especially four to eight ounces at a time), although we may be correcting that rumor for a while thanks to Miss Lindsey Lohan.

The summer recall of commercial Kombucha (and its probable heavier regulation soon to follow) has made Kombucha brewers a little nervous about the level of alcohol in their own batches. But alas, this situation simply shows the failings involved in taking what is meant to be a small-scale, local production and making it commercial.

The commercial brew’s risen alcohol content is likely due to the booch bottled and then stored on a shelf while waiting to be shipped or purchased. This unaccounted for, extra fermenting time allows for more alcohol to be produced, boosting levels.

If you don’t allow your brew to over-ferment, and brew and bottle only enough needed for your family to drink until your next batch is finished (usually 8 days for me), you should not have to worry about alcohol levels rising much higher than .5%.

However, if you are still wary of a batch’s buzz-ability, there are kits that you can purchase to assess the alcohol level.

But shouldn’t it be pasteurized?

No. The point of drinking Kombucha is to put healthy bacteria and acids in your body. The pasteurization process would kill most of the bacteria and greatly diminish its health benefits.

Drinking pasteurized Kombucha for health benefits is like drinking O’Douls to become inebriated, or drinking decaf coffee to pull an all-nighter.

What are the health benefits of Kombucha?

As with many fermented foods (think kimchi), Kombucha places healthy acids and good bacteria in your body, making the beverage probiotic. It is also believed to help detox your body of pollutants.  It is important to realize that Kombucha will  not “cure” anything. Instead, its detoxifying and probiotic properties help your body to help itself. Since drinking Kombucha, I have experienced improved digestion, better skin, more energy, and feel overall healthier. If my husband and I are not able to drink it for a few days due to travel or getting a batch started late, we both feel tired, and notice unpleasant differences in digestion.

The biggest benefit of Kombucha I have experienced is in warding off debilitating migraines. For over two years, I have gotten at least one migraine each month. Once I started brewing and consuming Kombucha each day, I went three months without a migraine. I have had two migraines since then, both occurring during a very stressful month, with one occurring on a day that I did not drink my morning Kombucha.

A host of other health benefits have surrounded Kombucha, but I will only speak of the ones I have experienced. A quick internet search should satisfy your curiosity of reports from other happy Kombucha drinkers.

How often should I drink Kombucha?

This really depends on you. However, I recommend starting slow, as little as four ounces a day until your body adjusts. Remember, you are putting new bacteria and healthy acids into your body, both of which will change your body, particularly in the digestion department. You can increase the amount you drink once you feel your body has adjusted.

My husband and I drink about six ounces a day, and consume it first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Some drink Kombucha before breakfast and after their last meal of the day. Some, every other day. Still, others drink Kombucha like water, several times a day.

My husband and I choose a small amount to drink, as it is quite acidic. I can tell when I need to skip a day if I become a little sneezy or feel slightly stiff from the extra lactic acid (this usually is prompted by me skipping a couple of days of exercise, too). Pay attention to your body and find the balance that works for you.

Where can I get a mother (s.c.o.b.y.)?

Although there are a few reputable sites that sell mothers (around $20-$30+), I recommend getting one from a friend who likes sharing.  If purchasing online, I would advise you not to purchase from eBay, as you do not know how many batches a person has done, how clean they are, if they have stored it properly, etc.  I do recommend purchasing from the Kombucha Mama, as she is well-known for her booch talents.

A couple of tips on acquiring your mother from a friend:

  • If you get one from a friend, make sure he/she has a number of batches under their belt. They should be able to teach you about the process (possibly do a demo with you), give troubleshooting tips, and explain it in such a way that you can explain it back to them at the end of the lesson.
  • Get a good, full-size portion of the mother. Although s.c.o.b.y.s have antimicrobial properties, one thin layer of mother may not have the strength to ferment a whole batch and ward off contaminates (particularly if the mother is very old or very young).

Many layers of mother

There you have it. If you are interested in learning how to make your own Kombucha, visit the brewing and bottling posts below:

My Booch: Steps for Brewing your own Kombucha

Bottling Your Booch: How to Bottle your Kombucha like a Pro

If not, at least you learned something new.

Have more questions about Kombucha but can’t find the answers here? Feel free to leave a question in a comment below. I will try to answer to the best of my ability. I also suggest visiting the mother of all mothers (see what I did there?) the Kombucha Mama.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Tera,

    Such a wonderful article really and so I thank you. I enjoy the way you express yourself both eloquently and humorously!

    I appreciate the insight on Kombucha and the mothers.

    Savourly,
    Dan

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