Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Michelle of SoulyRested as they discuss how to make kombucha!
What You’ll Learn
- What is kombucha?
- Why should I brew or drink kombucha?
- Water kefir vs kombucha
- How to get started brewing kombucha
- How to flavor and store kombucha
Michelle Visser lives on a 14 acre homestead in New England with her husband and children. The author of Sweet Maple: Backyard Sugarmaking From Tap to Table and owner of SoulyRested.com, Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Simple DIY Kombucha eBook
- Michelle’s Making Maple Sugar course
- Sweet Maple book
- SoulyRested Instagram
- SoulyRested Facebook
- SoulyRested YouTube
- SoulyRested Pinterest
- Email us! [email protected]
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Download the printable kombucha recipe chart to keep in your kitchen for quick & easy reference!
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Intro: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast, from heritageacresmarket.com. Where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Good morning everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today, I'm joined with Michelle, who's the owner of SoulyRested and she's here to talk to us today about kombucha, what you need to get started, how to brew it, and the basics 101 of getting started with brewing your own kombucha at home. So, Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today.
Michelle: Oh, thanks for having me, Nicole.
Nicole: So can you tell us a little bit more about who you are and your website and all the neat things that you have going on?
Michelle: Oh, sure. Well, I myself, I don't consider to be very interesting honestly, but-
Nicole: I disagree.
Michelle: Well, thank you. My website is SoulyRested.com, and it's S-O-U-L, mainly because when we started our homesteading adventure a little over four years ago now, I very quickly realized this simple life doesn't necessarily, and by the way, I mentally put quotes around that, "the simple way", it doesn't necessarily mean anything is easy and you don't really have a whole lot of time to rest. So it's very important to me that I focus on the fact that my S-O-U-L can be very souly rested even though this homesteading adventure can be draining and exhausting.
Michelle: I started writing the blog, oh, I don't know, like I said, about four years ago. Basically, we had moved from a very congested area right outside of Philadelphia, in Northern Delaware, so where my husband I had grown up, spent our whole life, raised our kids and the kids were in the teenage years and we at that point moved rurally and moved about 400 miles away up to New England. We purchased a 14 acre homestead, which we didn't even think of homesteading at the time. It's a very long story that I will not bore you with. But basically, we have lived here for, I don't know, close to a year when I realized, "Oh my goodness, this old farmhouse that we bought that's surrounded with land has been used for homesteading and farming for hundreds of years. And here we are with our tiny little vegetable garden and really not thinking much about homesteading. What's wrong with us?"
Michelle: So we started building our little family's homesteading adventure, and that's what I've been writing about over at SoulyRested.
Nicole: Awesome. How fun. And so today, you're going to talk to us about kombucha. You're the, in my own words, the kombucha expert. And you recently wrote an awesome little ebook about kombucha. You know a lot about brewing.
Michelle: Well, I learned it through trial and error, trust me. And basically, I realized all this stuff that I had been learning, there was so much great stuff that I wanted to share with my readers that at first I put together this ebook and then really it mushroomed into a mini crash course because I also have an instructional video that goes along with the ebook, some printables and some amazing coupons that I've put together from a bunch of merchants that I have really fallen in love with over this course of learning how to make kombucha because the products they offer when I discover them, I realized it made things so much more simpler for me and it led to a better kombucha product.
Michelle: So I just lumped it all together and it's just this little mini crash course that I decided I wanted to self-publish because at the same time that I was starting to make kombucha and figure out what it really meant, I was in the middle of having my book, a different book accepted by a publisher and going through the process of being published through Lion's Press with my book about maple syrup. And that I am still working on, in fact, just today before we started the podcast, I'm working on my second rounds of edits in the layout stage. So it's a huge process to get this book printed and in bookstores.
Michelle: And I realized I wanted this kombucha stuff together really quickly because there's so much my readers were asking me and I couldn't answer it in an email. When they have these detailed questions, it's just not something I can reply to emails every day and help them figure out their kombucha problems. So I threw together all this crash course and wanted to get it out there a lot faster than I could ever do with the printed books, so that's what led to it.
Nicole: Awesome. Yeah, I know that when you start brewing kombucha, it can be overwhelming because it's like a little science project in your kitchen. But once you get the hang of it, it's super easy, but those initial questions can be really overwhelming.
Michelle: Absolutely. You think it's so complicated that you really hesitate, at least I did, and you worry over every little thing when it's really just the growth of the SCOBY. But you're going, "Wait, what's that? Is that okay?"
Nicole: Right. So maybe let's start from the beginning here. So what is kombucha?
Michelle: Basically it's fermented sweet tea. It's really that simple. You make it using a culture, the culture is known as a SCOBY, S-C-O-B-Y, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, which doesn't sound so great-
Nicole: Right. Or look so great.
Michelle: Exactly. But it is the key to having some great kombucha. So you want your culture and some tea and some sugar and you're off and running.
Nicole: In addition to your ingredients, what size batch do you recommend people start out with for their first time?
Michelle: There's really not a right answer to that. Honestly, I tell people, whatever you have on hand, if it's like a neighbor or a friend that's saying, "What should I start with?" I ask them, "Do you have this or this?" And they have on hand. I try and walk them through. So I would just recommend whatever's simple for you, don't feel like you have to go out and invest a lot of money.
Nicole: So why do most people drink kombucha?
Michelle: I think there's a ton of answers to that question. I can tell you for myself personally, I mean, there's a few answers even just for myself, but I love the excitement of making different flavors every week. I mean, literally, this drink can be as diverse as you want to make it. You might wind up coming up with some second ferment flavors that your family loves and you're making the same thing every week, or you might be like our family and the thrill of it is just, "What can I make this week? And can I better my favorite flavor?" I also love... we use fruit often for our second ferment, which I guess I'll get into explaining what that means and a little bit. But basically, it's the time during the kombucha making process that you add flavor and we like to use frozen fruit.
Michelle: And I love the fact that I'm not wasting any overly ripe fruit or bruised fruit that typically I would be discouraged about because, ugh, this grapefruit's a little dry or this apples all bruised. Well, it's great to put in a Ziploc bag in my freezer and use it for my second ferment flavors. So that's one crazy odd thing that I love about making kombucha is that there's less waste in my kitchen, believe it or not. It's a fun project to do with my teen daughters. They love kombucha. They're actually the reason I first heard of kombucha because they were on Pinterest reading all about and like, "Mom, we got to try this." And then we went to buy some at the store and I went, "Oh my gosh, this is the first and only time I'm going to buy this for you because it's so expensive."
Michelle: But it's fun every week when it's time to bottle to call them down and we pull out our fruits and decide what we're going to try and experiment with this week. So it's like a science project every week.
Michelle: But mainly that it saves us money. I mean, if I was going to be buying it, like I said, I couldn't afford to, but I'd probably be spending 20 maybe even $30 a week buying kombucha, which is insane. That's not in my food budget. So I can make it for pennies on the dollar. And then on top of all that, it's just so good for your gut. It's amazing when you introduce these strands of yeast and bacteria to your gut flora, the things that you realize how it's impacting you, it's just crazy things that I didn't even realize until I had been drinking it for maybe six months or nine months.
Michelle: And all of a sudden I just realized, "Wait a minute." I had this crazy... this sounds gross. Can I be gross?
Nicole: Of course.
Michelle: I had this crazy nail fungus that I don't know where it came from and I couldn't get rid of it. And I had been drinking kombucha for a while and I realized, "Oh my goodness, that literally is gone." So I looked it up, like, "Can kombucha actually do that?" And sure enough, the yeast in kombucha, when you introduce it to your gut flora, even impacts your fingernails and your toenail, the cravings that I used to have, now that I'm drinking kombucha daily, I don't have those cravings for the bad for-me food. And it even helps with things like yeast infection, which just blows my mind.
Michelle: Things that doctors literally couldn't help me with, drinking a delicious glass of kombucha every day has cured these problems.
Nicole: So do you normally have like one glass a day or how often do you drink it?
Michelle: Well, that's a good question. I tell my readers, yeah, it's good to have one like eight to 12-ounce glass a day. But to be honest with you, I drink a lot more than that some days because I just love it. And if we have flavors we've made that any particular week that I'm in love with, I definitely will drink more. But I should caution, I worked my way up to that in the beginning. I highly recommend someone starts off with like literally four ounces a day and gets their stomach used to it because you really are introducing these good yeast and bacteria to your gut.
Michelle: And you're going to notice it and you might have some stomach ache or something if you drink too much too quickly.
Nicole: And I know somebody that might be looking into starting with a fermented drink. I also brew water kefir. I don't know if you have ever done that, but I personally find the kombucha is a lot easier to brew than the water kefir. I used to take to work with me because you had to change the sugar every 48 hours. And I worked for eight-hour shifts, actually, I'm sorry, every 24 hours and I worked for eight-hour shifts, so I had to take it to work so I could change it.
Michelle: Wow. Somebody just this week, a friend, local friend was asking me if they could try some kombucha. So I gave her a bottle of it, and she said, "You know, I've been hesitating trying it because there's just something about that mushroom that just kind of intimidates me, and I just don't know." And she was talking about the SCOBY. And she went on to tell me, "Oh, but I make kefir all the time and you'd all give you some of my kefir." And that's funny that you should mention that, because after talking to her I was thinking, "You know, maybe I'll look into making kefir," but now from what you said, I'm thinking, "No, I love kombucha. It's so easy."
Michelle: And it just sits there and you don't do a darn thing, the SCOBY does all the work until it's time to bottle.
Nicole: The water kefir, I've gotten it to the point that it can go for five days or so, but-
Michelle: Well, that's good. Okay.
Nicole: Yeah, that's made life a little bit easier, but the kombucha is much easier. I definitely prefer brewing that. So I think if anybody was looking to compare the two, I would start with kombucha, it's also a lot easier than starting with water kefir, just as an aside.
Michelle: Right. And I don't know with kefir, if it has all the same great stuff kombucha does, I actually have not done much reading about it. I mean, with kombucha, you're getting beneficial acids and antioxidants and enzymes and vitamins, all kinds of stuff that most of us sadly are really missing in our gut flora. I was surprised when I started first making kombucha, I started reading about the different reasons that people make it and why it's good for you. And I started researching, "Well, what's wrong with our guts? Why are we all in need of improving our gut health so much?"
Michelle: And I was really shocked at the things that I'm doing that I didn't even realize, "Oh really? That's giving me poor gut health?" Like just not getting enough exercise, losing sleep, that's my biggest problem. I have an actual problem with that. I love really late at night and I love a really early morning and that sometimes, Nicole means that I'm getting not enough sleep. But I mean, crazy enough just our body has this natural circadian rhythm that we can get out of whack and really mess up. It's the same thing with our guts. Our guts have this rhythm that we mess up when we're getting junk food late at night and getting up really early or we're working shift work like it sounds like you shift...
Michelle: And our gut bacteria just gets out of whack from something as simple as messed up sleep or medicines if we're taking antibiotics and different things that mess up our guts. and stress, that's a huge thing. I mean, I don't know why I add stress to my days the way I do, but I do. But when you're under pressure like that and you're stressed out, you wind up messing up that balance of bacteria in your gut. We eat too much sugar, we don't get enough time outside because when you're outside, you're getting those good microbes, which actually I need to go do some gardening when we're done talking so I'm going to get some of this.
Michelle: So many things. And just eating processed food, even. Not getting enough fruits and vegetables, all those things add up and our guts are out of whack and something as simple as making kombucha does make a difference, and I love it.
Nicole: So if somebody is decided now, let's say that they want to try their hand at kombucha, what's the next step?
Michelle: Okay. The hardest thing I would say is simply getting a SCOBY. And believe me, that's not hard, but you want to get a nice organically grown, nice-sized SCOBY. Most importantly, that comes with a good amount of starter tea. And we can talk about that more a little bit too. But as far as where you're going to put the SCOBY, you can start really small. You can just, if you have a half gallon Mason jar on hand, I recommend that's a great way to start. You just put your SCOBY and a cup of the starter tea in a half gallon Mason jar, and then you want to boil a few cups of water, soak some tea in it. If you're using a half gallon, you go on a tablespoon of loose leaf tea or 4 tea bags and let that soak for maybe eight to 10 minutes.
Michelle: Compost your tea, take that out and you want to add about a half a cup of refined sugar if you're using refined sugar, to that tea that you've just sieved. And while it's still warm, of course you've got to get your sugar dissolved in it, but then it's really important to let it cool. You don't want to add that right to your SCOBY because the heat will kill the SCOBY. Once you've let it cool, you can add filtered... I should have said, it has to be filtered water because anything else could have, if just tap water in other words, it could have something in it that could be harmful to your SCOBY, so you do want to filter the water.
Michelle: But add cool filtered water to that hot tea until it's the right amount to fill up your half gallon Mason jar. So that cool water should get it to room temperature really quickly for you, which is what you want when you're adding it to your SCOBY and then you just need to cover it with a piece of fabric. And even this little detail people sometimes get really worried about like, I'll have readers send me an email, "Okay, I read your book and I have five different kinds of fabric, which one should I use?" Really, it's okay. As long as it's breathable, you're not going to mess up. The only thing that you would be messing up is if you use cheese cloth because that has way too big a holes and fruit flies can very easily get in.
Michelle: And let me tell you, fruit flies love your kombucha even more you do, so you don't want that. And then you just let it sit with the fabric covering it and it starts doing the fermenting after, as soon as two or three days you can taste it if you'd like. As far as when it's ready, that's a really hard question because everybody's taste is different and there's so many different factors of even the temperature of the room where you have your jar sitting. So it's really a matter of tasting it till it's the taste that you like. I personally like to bottle it right when it gets to the point that it just has a tinge of vinegar taste, and I'm talking just a tiny tinge because otherwise it's too sweet for me.
Michelle: So there's this spectrum of really sweet if you bottle it too quickly to really vinegary if you let it go too long. So whatever part of that range that you like the taste of is when it's ready.
Nicole: Do you ever measure the pH or anything like that?
Michelle: I do, yes. You don't have to because the reason you'd be measuring the pH would be to make sure you're not going to have any mold developing, to make sure your kombucha is acidic enough to fight the bad bacteria. So you can measure the pH and there are little strips you can use to do that. In fact, those and all the different products that I love, if anybody wants to see, there's links to everything and how to get them on soulyrested.com/kombucha. But the strips do make it easier and you can just take a little bit of your kombucha out. I like to use a straw, just stick that down in the side of the jar. So you're bypassing the SCOBY. If it's a new SCOBY and a new ferment going on, you don't want to disturb the SCOBY more than you need to, so just slide the straw down around the side of it.
Michelle: And when you cover the top of the straw with your finger, it captures the liquid inside. Take your straw out and then use that to put the pH strip and you just measure the number. In the beginning stages, it might be maybe around four and then you're going to see it fall as your kombucha becomes more acidic as it sits there and ferments more. So typically, around the range of two and a half to three and a half, 2.5 to 3.5, you know you're at a good pH, but it's not something you have to worry about if you get comfortable with the look of your SCOBY, if you know what's healthy, and if you realize, "Okay, it's always growing."
Michelle: It's a sure sign that the pH is off if your SCOBY isn't showing consistent growth, then you know, "Okay, maybe I should check my pH and make sure this kombucha is acidic enough."
Nicole: And what about like a heat pad? I've seen people use like a seed starter, a heat pad thing to keep their kombucha at a consistent temperature. Do you use anything like that?
Michelle: I don't use a heating pad. You can actually even get things that they make just for this, I forget what they're called, but they're specifically a heat pad for kombucha. If people need it, somebody will make it, right?
Nicole: Of course.
Michelle: But I actually take the really easy route and the route that make people think I'm a little crazy sometimes, but I just use Christmas lights. I'll wrap that around my brewing vessel. When I feel like the temperature of the kombucha isn't staying consistently warm enough... You can also get stick-on thermometers that you can stick onto your brewing vessel, that you can just glance at any odd time and you can know what the temperature is. It's a good idea to shoot for somewhere around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to know that your kombucha is at a good pH, a good fermenting level.
Michelle: And we live in a really old farmhouse with drafts out the wazoo, and in the winter sometimes I'll even pull up my hood on my sweatshirt and sit there because it can be really drafty and cold and I'll catch it sometimes. So I do monitor the temperature of the kombucha throughout the winter in our farmhouse. And I will often turn my Christmas lights on. I will leave the strand just wrapped around my brewing vessel and I will just unplug or plug it in whenever I feel it's getting too warm or too cold. And it's crazy, it really makes a difference. People think I'm crazy but it really works. And it's extra decoration.
Nicole: There you go. So what about other types of teas or sugars? Can you use those?
Michelle: You can. Unless you are quite a tea expert, which I'll be honest, I'm really not, I highly recommend different teas specifically that people can purchase just for kombucha brewing. And that's only because there's so many little nuances, like people will say, "Oh, you can't use herbal tea." Well, actually, you can use some types of herbal. So basically any combination of black, white, green and rooibos tea are all going to be good for brewing your first ferment of kombucha. But with herbal teas, some herbal teas have really high levels of oils and those oils can kill your bacteria.
Michelle: So there are definitely some herbal teas you absolutely should never use because that's going to kill your SCOBY. But basically, if teas have tannin in it, then you can use it in kombucha. Now, different teas have different levels of tannins, so that gets back to where I say I'm not a tea expert and I highly recommend checking out some of the teas that I love and I use and the links to those because they're going to be the perfect levels of different amounts of tannin and everything else you need for your SCOBY to be really healthy.
Michelle: But basically, tea has lots of nutrients and compounds that are feeding your kombucha culture and some of those aren't found in herbal teas depending on what ones you use. And of course all different kinds of teas have different levels of those nutrients. So it gets a little confusing. But basically it's safe to say, like I said, black, white, green, and rooibos, you're going to be safe.
Nicole: What about, you know there's so many different kinds of sugars out there. Is there any that can't be used?
Michelle: That's a great question. And a lot of people say to not use honey, I have spoken to some experts that say you absolutely can use honey. I never have and that's because I live on a sugar bush, so we are always making our own maple syrup. So my preferred sugar that I personally love using and have great success with is maple syrup. It's my go-to for all sweetener of all times whenever I can because it is 100% natural sugar and it's sourced directly from tree sap with no added anything and nothing's been refined. So it's going to make the healthiest and in my opinion, most delicious kombucha that I make.
Michelle: But like I told you, it's only a 14-acre homestead and we typically tap Oh about 110 taps every year and that leads to maybe 14 to 16 gallons of syrup. So it's a good amount but I don't only use maple syrup because I'd run out of that before the year was over. So I do definitely use sugar as well. But I have cut out all refined sugar from our kitchen. I literally don't buy it anymore because as I did research for my book Sweet Maple, I realized that refined sugar offers you zero.
Michelle: I mean, it offers you nothing. When it comes to nutrients and I've switched over to pure cane sugar. It's actually, for my family, it turns out to cost the same amount because we have a great store nearby that sells this pure cane sugar at a great price. So depending on if you can source it like we can at a good price, it's no more expensive than refined and it does still maintain some of those nutrients from the cane. Everything has not been refined out like the typical bright sugar you buy at the store.
Michelle: So that's a very long answer to that. I use maple syrup and pure cane sugar for my kombucha, but it is okay to use refined sugar, there's no problem with that. And as most people will tell you, when you're making kombucha, your SCOBY is eating almost all the sugar you're putting in there. A high percentage at least depending on how long you let it ferment on your counter; the longer it ferments, the more sugars being eaten, of course by your SCOBY. So whatever sugar you use, there isn't going to be a lot of it left in the end. It's just I personally, because there is some residual sugar in any kombucha, I personally like to make it the higher quality natural sugar when I can.
Nicole: Absolutely. And one thing that I wanted to rewind and mentioned before, I know that sometimes people say, "Hey, I got SCOBY and I don't have enough starter tea to make," however much brew that they want to start out with. And I'm sure you could give me your thoughts on this, but I've found that you can use organic distilled white vinegar to compensate for any lack of starter tea. So if you need a total of two cups of started tea and you only have one cup, then you can add a cup of the organic still white vinegar total the two cups that you would need to start your brew.
Michelle: It makes sense to me have been told that and I have definitely read that. So I would say there's probably no problem with that. I personally have never tried it so I don't get into that in the crash course and I don't mention that just because I've never needed to try it. Never even thought about trying it. But yes, I have heard that that is an okay alternative. But ideally, the most and the best starter tea that you can start off with is going to give you the quickest, most success with your kombucha. And actually, Nicole, if I can plug your SCOBY, is that okay?
Nicole: Of course.
Michelle: I highly recommend your SCOBY from day one since I've been making kombucha and telling my readers about it, I have been pointing them to your SCOBY because I have had others, I've tried others, I've seen others, and yours is such a healthy SCOBY that you send out. And the best part is that gigantic amount of starter tea and it's such a good starter to that you've... It's used only organic teas and that makes a huge difference for me. But the more and the richer starter tea that you can have, the better. So whenever possible, have that starter tea. For me, one thing that I tell people, the great way to have really good starter tea, other than buying your SCOBY-
Nicole: Well, thank you.
Michelle: ... is to take a batch gone too far because that is one complete people have is, "Oh, I let it sit too long or I didn't taste it for too many days or I went on vacation and now it tastes too vinegary. And I always tell them, "Actually, that's a gold mine that you have right there. Don't Fret, take that kombucha however much you have, it might be a gallon that just doesn't taste good to you. Don't add anything to it, which you would do typically in a second ferment, but just take that first ferment, put it in a jar and put it someplace dark and cool."
Michelle: We have a root cellar, that's one great thing about living in a really old house. There's a lot of bad things, but one great thing is we have a root cellar and that's the place where I stick mine. And again, this is one more thing that people think I'm crazy if they know, but I have two different gallon jars of overly vinegary kombucha in my root cellar. And I will go down there whenever I need to replenish what I have in my kitchen. I'll have a court jar in a cabinet in my kitchen and I just have a nice easy-pour lid on it that makes it really easy to pour from that Mason jar. I keep it filled up with my starter tea, which is what that overly vinegary kombucha essentially is, it's just really good starter tea.
Michelle: And I will take from that whenever I want a higher amount of starter tea when I'm brewing, if that makes sense.
Nicole: I know that the SCOBYs that we send out, the starter tea in there is very overly fermented. So it's super potent.
Michelle: Yes. And see, it's built up with all this great yeast in there that's going to give somebody a great start on their very first batch, which is awesome.
Nicole: Thank you for sharing that, for bringing that up.
Michelle: It's very sincere. It's not a commercial at all, it's just very sincere. I love your SCOBYs.
Nicole: Oh, well thank you. I enjoy making them and sharing them with others. It's fun. And I know when I started brewing kombucha, it was so hard to find a SCOBY, so I'm so thrilled that people let me share this with them and give them a way to get started.
Michelle: It's not something you ever thought you'll do, right?
Michelle: Now, bacteria and yeast in plastic to people in the mail.
Nicole: My husband, he goes, "What are you doing? What are you making?" It's like, "Oh, you know, just some SCOBYs."
Michelle: Well you know what, I'm going to tell you a secret that I haven't even published anywhere. Are you ready for this?
Nicole: I'm ready.
Michelle: My husband will not go closer than 10 feet to my SCOBY. He thinks it is gross, he will not even taste kombucha because he just finds it gross, and he's heard the whole spiel. I've written the book about it, I've told my husband he still is like, "No, thank you. Mm-mm (negative) I'm good.
Nicole: That's how mine is too. He's like, "I don't know what the thing on the counter is, but I don't want anything to do with it." Their loss.
Michelle: They're crazy, guys.
Nicole: I know.
Michelle: Yeah, exactly.
Nicole: We talked about our initial brew and what supplies you use and the temperature and there's really no set time to know when it's done, just kind of to taste. So when you're first-
Michelle: I feel like, I'm sorry to interrupt you. I feel for supplies, there might be a few things I haven't mentioned for supplies, if you want to backtrack a little.
Michelle: I know I mentioned you can just use a Mason jar, but I feel like I should explain, you can use anything that is glass, ceramic or stainless steel. Now, first of all, people don't know it, but you can even use a bowl. If you're really just starting off and you don't want to go out and buy something, but you have a really nice ceramic bowl, you can do that. Another thing people don't realize, and I kid you not even, like if I put something on Facebook, I will always have somebody like, "Oh, you can't do that." When I put a picture of my stainless-steel fermenting vessel, because people have had it drilled into them, no metal, and there's a really good reason for that because kombucha is very acidic.
Michelle: So if you're using a metal container to brew your kombucha, the acidic nature of the kombucha is going to corrode the metal. That's just the way metal is. I'm not very much of a science person, but that's just like a fact. The metals are going to be corroded by the acids. So basically, over time with every batch that you're pulling off, if you're using a metal brewing vessel, you're drinking metal. You don't want that metal leaching into your drink, so never use metal. That is correct. But stainless steel is a higher grade, we're talking three or four grade or higher. And if you have that higher-grade stainless steel, that is non-corrosive.
Michelle: In fact people, they use it in the professional beer brewing industry. That's how they do their beer in these giant stainless-steel vats. So it's not corrosive, and I love stainless steel because it's so lightweight. I have a four-gallon stainless steel vessel that I use because I never have enough kombucha on hand, so I upgraded to the four gallon one. I love it. And even though it's four gallons, that's a lot of liquid and giant SCOBY in there, but it's not too heavy to pick up and carry around my kitchen, when it's time to bottle, I can move it.
Michelle: So it's a nice light wave, it's really easy to keep it clean, and stainless steel is not corrosive. So you can use stainless steel, ceramic or glass, whatever you have on hand. You do need filtered water, I mentioned. I don't think I said anything about a strainer, you do want something, if you're going to do a second ferment, we can talk about the different things you can use to make your second ferment, but whatever it is, you're not going to want to drink it in your glass of kombucha, so you want some way to straighten it out. Really simple, you probably have one in your kitchen already. Any kind of strainer usually will work, but depending on what you're straightening out, you might want it to be a really fine mesh strainer.
Michelle: And one of those many I mentioned that I discovered that made this whole process so much easier for me is this really neat strainer that fits inside my half gallon Mason jar, and yeah, I love it. So I can put my fruit and my herbs and my teas or whatever I'm using to flavor that second ferment in this little insert, and then when it's time to drink, I literally just pull the insert out, out comes all the extra gunk and it's ready to drink right out of the Mason jar. So that I have found to be a huge bonus that I love. And when I called, truly to market who I get it from, I was talking to the owner and explained to him what I wanted to do and was talking about the different sizes, he's like, "Wait a minute, this is like for making cold ice coffee, you want to do with it?"
Michelle: I was, "Yeah, but I had this idea, I think it's going to be awesome." And sure enough, I absolutely love it. But any kind of strainer we'll do. And then again, any kind of fabric as long as it's breathable. Oh, and then bottles. That's the final thing that I didn't mention. For your second ferment, you want some sort of a bottle that ideally will build up carbonation, which means ideally, unless you don't care about having fizz, which I know most people love having the fizz, you want something that's going to seal to hold in that carbonation. So those swing top glass bottles that have like the little gaskets around the lid that flips on and off, they're great for it. You also can just use Mason jars though.
Michelle: I often just use Mason jars, but you do want to make sure you're using a nice canning lid that has that nice rubber seal that's getting a really tight fit and you want to screw your lid on tight so that the carbonation can't be leaking out as it's sitting there and fermenting.
Nicole: I should have asked you this before, but do you do, and maybe you could explain the difference between a continuous brew or do you do a batch?
Michelle: Great question. I do both. The answer is yes. I like to have the batch. So a batch brew is something that's usually a smaller amount and it's something that you're doing the whole thing at once. You're letting it sit there and get to full from it, taking it off, and then starting from fresh again. A continuous brew is something where, like I mentioned my four-gallon brew vessel, that you can just take a glass off at a time and you're not going to impact the overall fermentation going on there. I even sometimes will take off a half gallon jar at a time and flavor it, believe all the rest, just sit, take another half-gallon off a few days later.
Michelle: And once you've gotten down maybe half or two thirds, even of the way down out of that four gallons, then it's time to replenish it, but you don't have to do the whole thing all at once. You can if you want, but you can just let it sit there and draw off a glass at a time. So that's the difference. And I do both because I like to continually experiment and try different first ferment teas, and you can't do that with your batch brew very easily because you have it all going on continually. Did I say batch brew? You can't do it with continuous brew, but with a batch brew, it's simple, every single time you can try a different kind of tea.
Michelle: And I found this great source that makes these wonderful kombucha teas and I like trying anything new she comes out with. So I always like to have that batch brew going to try different first ferment teas. I also use it for different SCOBYs because I actually have at least two SCOBYs going at all times. One that's been fed with the pure cane sugar, and one that's being fed with maple syrup. You can't mix those two, and you can't all of a sudden take your refined sugar kombucha and say, "Oh, this week I'm going to feed it with maple syrup," because that will kill your SCOBY. It's used to the ingredients that it's getting, the nutrients it's getting from whatever source you started it with.
Michelle: So you can't just one week decide to give it something else. So that's why I always have batch brews going on so I can change the SCOBYs in and out, and I can change my first ferment teas for whatever I feel like that week, if that makes sense.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So let's say somebody picked up a SCOBY, like for example, the SCOBYs that we provide are fed organic sugars, so if they wanted to brew maple or use maple syrup is their sugar source, how would they switch that over?
Michelle: It's a really gradual process and it requires a lot of patience. But basically, I break it down really clearly in simple DIY kombucha, and I have a nice chart that explains it. But basically, the short answer is you do a gradually, very gradually, you slowly decrease the organic sugar and slowly at the same time increase the amount of maple syrup you're giving it. So you're very slowly introducing it to the other source of food, so by the time you've completely replaced it, hopefully you've done it gradually enough that your SCOBY is ready for that other source of food souly.
Nicole: Okay. That makes sense. I know I've been wanting to try to make a Jun kombucha, which is green tea and honey, but I just haven't invested the time to try to switch a SCOBY over to honey.
Michelle: Right. I was just going to say we have beehives here as well as our maple trees, so we actually make honey on our homestead too. So I have it readily available, I've just never dug into that. I guess I can only have so many jars of kombucha on my counter. I haven't started one that's using honey.
Nicole: So we have our first batch done and then we've decided that we've hit the taste level that we want to go ahead and take the next step from here. So I usually, personally, I don't usually do second ferments, and I just drink it as it is, but I would like to do more second ferments, it's just a more of an issue of time for me with my work schedule. So what's the next step after somebody's gotten to the flavor of their first ferment?
Michelle: And that's a great point, I don't know if I even said that. I do also drink just straight out of the first ferment, especially with the continuous brew that I have always going on the kitchen counter. I have been known to often just go by and take off a little glass worth because, "Oh, let me tell me how some kombucha." And it's very good depending on what teas you used that first ferment, it can be very tasty and have even a fruity flavor to it, if for instance, I like to use rooibos in my continuous brew and that is a more fruity flavored tea.
Michelle: So definitely, you don't have to add flavor to it. It can be very good without the extra second ferment. But, once you get the hang of it, just like you said about kombucha in general, once you get the hang of a second ferment, it can be surprisingly easy and take very little time. I find that the easiest, fastest way therefore, tends to be one of my favorite ways to do my second ferment is with flavored teas, like I'd said earlier, with the second ferment, it's also good to go to an expert who knows what they're doing, that they're giving you a really good source and the right kind of teas because there are some that you'll want to avoid, but again, you can check that out on soulyrested.com/kombucha and I've links to different things that I love that are very trusted sources.
Michelle: But I find that teas are such a simple way because you literally put a tablespoon or two of whatever the flavor tea is that you're trying right into your jar that has gone through the first ferment, close it up and let it sit for a day or two. You can let it go longer if you want, but typically, it's going to be ready to drink in just a day or two. It's going to have all that flavor infused through it. And all you need is some a good strainer to get the loose-leaf teas out of it. And it's good to go. But also like I said, I love using fruit, especially if it's bruised or damaged fruit that I'm not really wanting to eat. It's great to just toss it in the freezer, and when it's time to make a second ferment, I pull out my grab bag, you never know what's going to be in there.
Michelle: I go, "Hmm, let's see what we have and what we're going to make today." And that makes for an easy way to do it too, especially if I have that strainer that you can put right in the Mason jar because I just cut up the fruit, put it right in that little strainer, and then after it's sat for a few days, take the strainer out, it's good to go. But you can also even experiment with just herbs. You just want to add a little bit of sugar because that second ferment, whatever you're putting in there to flavor it, it is good to have a little added sugar. And often with the flavored teas, there is some sugar source in there. And then with herbs, if you add a little bit of sugar, maybe like, I don't know, half a teaspoon to 33-ounce bottle, something like that, that's going to reactivate the probiotic bacteria in that second ferment bottle. If you just use the herbs without that, you're not going to have that probiotic stuff going on as much.
Nicole: One of the challenges I've always had is getting my second ferment to be carbonated. How do you go about that?
Michelle: Ah, that is a subject that I covered in great detail and simple DIY kombucha. That was one thing that I really worked at and talked to a lot of folks and came to some great ideas and conclusions of how to pretty much always be guaranteed you are going to have a nice carbonation. So definitely if that's something that anyone is really fascinated with, checkout simple DIY kombucha. In fact, you don't even have to purchase the whole mini course, if you want to go to that landing page and scroll down a little way, you'll see that there is a free eBook there as well that covers a lot of these topics, just not as in depth. And that can give you don't have information to get started and to decide if you do want to dive into simple DIY kombucha too.
Michelle: But basically, if you want to get your carbonation built up, you want to do things that are going to be feeding the yeast in your kombucha. So whatever you can do to do that is going to build up the carbon dioxide because the yeast as it's eating is producing the byproduct of carbon dioxide. And that's the secret to all those wonderful bubbles. So anything that is feeding the yeast is going to build up the carbon dioxide. So my book and my instructional video go into lots of tips and tricks about that.
Nicole: And I don't think I mentioned this before, but we'll put a link to your site in the description so that nobody has to actually manually type it in, they could just click it and go right there.
Michelle: Awesome. All right.
Nicole: So when you do your second fermentation, can you explain how you actually do the fermentation? Like you put it in one of those swing top jars, or the bottles?
Michelle: Right. Or I put it in a Mason jar as long as it has the ceiling canning lid and it's on there nice and tight. Literally that's it. I didn't say anything more because there's like nothing more to tell you, Nicole.
Michelle: But you leave it on the counter, right?
Michelle: Yes. True. You let it sit on the counter, I do monitor, I guess, if you want to say monitor, to make sure that the carbonation doesn't build up to greatly. Some people are really into burping their jars. You can just loosen the lid slightly once a day, but honestly, anything that's like required once a day, I tend to fail at, so I've never been one that like burps my jars, I've just not bothered. But what I do recommend actually for like a troubleshooting thing, because people do worry sometimes, "Well, what about it blowing up?" And it can happen, your carbonation can definitely get so great, especially if you're doing all the tips and simple DIY kombucha, that you're going to have an exploding jar, that is definitely possible.
Michelle: So the tip that I give for that, whenever I am making my second ferments and it's the summertime and it's warmer, that's typically, by the way, when you're going to have the yeast building up faster because the temperatures in the room are higher, I will always do part of my second ferment in a Mason jar with that canning lid on it, and then I'll put the rest in the swing top bottles that I love to use, and I will watch the Mason jar. That much, I can handle. I'm not going to be one to remember to burp them all, but I can glance at that jar as I'm in the kitchen doing something, and you'll notice, you literally see that canning lid puffing up.
Michelle: You see it swelling and the pressure building because you can tell, you know the lid isn't flat, you can see it's rounding up and that's a sure sign that the carbonation is building up and at that point I will take the bottles and put them in a cooler if I'm not going to be drinking them in the next day or two. I literally have a giant cooler down in my basement that is simply to contain the jars if indeed something explodes, and that keeps any mess from getting in my kitchen. It keeps anybody from getting hurt by an exploding jar. So that I use as my gauge, and when I see that little lid building up pressure, I know, "Okay this batch is ready to drink or it has to go somewhere safe." So that I've never had the problem of the danger of the explosions by doing that.
Nicole: So you've never had a bottle explode?
Michelle: No. Did you notice how you worded that?
Nicole: I did.
Michelle: I never had it dangerously because yes, twice when I was on this beginning ride of kombucha, twice it happened in my kitchen and yeah, they were both overnight, thankfully, so nobody got hurt. But man, I'm talking a lot of shards of glass, I can imagine, it could really hurt somebody. So yes, I am very careful now to watch that lid on the Mason jar and if it's starting to build up, they go in the cooler, and that way, I don't have any problem. And I have had, two, I think to explode in the cooler too over the last year. So I guess it's probably about four explosions I've had over the year.
Nicole: Sure. So if somebody was to say, "Oh my gosh, this sounds like a lot of work, to pick the right tea, to get the right sugar, worry about explosions in my kitchen, what would you tell somebody?
Michelle: Honestly, I have a tagline on SoulyRested, my tagline and it's my life mantra is, "Simple joys require hard work." So unfortunately, I'm not going to sugar coat it too much, I am going to say, yeah. You know what? Sometimes there's a little bit of work, but honestly, the joys, and it might sound hokey, but the joys I have gotten from making kombucha, it's unbelievable. Some mornings I get up and while I come out of my bedroom, I have a full view of the area and the kitchen that I sit my kombucha, and the sunlight streaming in in the morning, and the kombucha is all lit up in all the different colors lined up, in all the second ferment jars. And I kid you not, Nicole, it makes me so freaking happy, and we made this and it's right there and it's still delicious. And my daughters and I love it.
Michelle: So on one hand, yeah, there is a little bit of effort, but I'd also tell you that learn from people who have done the hard work, seriously, I spent a year reading things, talking to experts, trying and failing, and jars exploding. I went through all that and I figured out, "Oh, this is the way to do the easy way. And oh, these are the products that really make for the best kombucha. An oh, this is the best kind of tea." All of that, I went through and I put it all together. So go to somebody who knows, who's been down the road, who's done it, who knows what they're talking about, and get the advice from them that makes it so much easier. And if you want to look into simple DIY kombucha, it's extremely reasonably priced.
Michelle: Honestly, it's the cost of like four bottles of kombucha, four small bottles of kombucha. And it makes it so simple, it breaks it all down for you. And trust me, I would never say, "Oh, it's a piece of cake." But it really is not complicated. And once you get into a groove, just like anything with like heritage, cooking of any sort, once you get into a group and you've done it a few times, you realize, "Oh, I thought this was so hard, but this is totally not hard. I just was being intimidated and thought it was daunting, but it isn't. Look, I've done it. And hey, it's working. " So another thing I would tell people if they think that kombucha is complicated is to consider once you've figured out the main details and done a few batch brews, to consider continuous brew, because continuous brew kombucha, first of all, it's definitely the healthier option.
Michelle: You're leaving a nice portion of your starter tea in your fermenting vessel and your SCOBY culture is continually fermenting, so you're not going to have any delays in that fermenting cycle. And it's going to give you a look at this broad array of beneficial bacteria and beneficial compounds in every single glass of kombucha anytime you're pulling it off. And I know people tend to stop their brew a little early because they like their kombucha sweet and they don't want it to be vinegary tasting, but with continuous brew it, you always have that long brewed kombucha in there, no matter how sweet you're pulling it off, it still has that really long brew kombucha mixed in. And in simple DIY kombucha, I include like this really handy printable and a great recipe to make a concentrate for your continuous brew. And that allows you to literally draw off whatever amount you want and replace it any time that you want with this concentrate that you can make and have ready all the time right there in your fridge.
Michelle: So you don't have to boil, you don't have to measure your tea every time that it's time to re-bottle or do another batch, you just go to this concentrate, use the recipe in Simple DIY Kombucha, and add that whenever you need to. But honestly, Simple DIY Kombucha really makes it easy, and it's seriously worth that small investment. And like I said, in like a week's time, you'll save the cost of it. But either way, regardless, please, anybody who's listening go to the link that Nicole is going to leave for you and print out the free book at least, I think it's like 33 pages worth of information, it's called Kombucha Made Simple. And I basically wrote that and put it on there to help people right from the start to know if this is something they want to invest time in.
Michelle: So print that out and it's going to give you the information you need and you're going to realize, "Oh, it's really not that complicated."
Nicole: Like you said, it really is simple, and I always point people to you when they contact me with questions just because we don't have the resources on our website as far as brewing. I know we provide the SCOBY, but I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. You have so much great information. I say, "Go check out Michelle." And your ebook-Book, it's very affordable. Like you said, it pays for itself pretty much right away, but then it also comes with tons of coupons and goodies with it, which then help offset the cost even more.
Michelle: Definitely. In fact, the coupons are like way more valuable than the cost of the mini crash course, so you can't beat it.
Nicole: Right. Yeah, I definitely recommend checking out the book, especially when you're getting started, learn from other people's mistakes and expertise, and there's so much information out there and not all of it is accurate. And so I would definitely recommend getting the DIY guide and it will answer all of your questions and it is a good reputable source that you have right there, and definitely, definitely great for learning how to brew.
Michelle: Well, thank you. It includes some printables and half hour instructional video, and there's a lot of recipes in there and not only for second ferment, so you get an idea of what fruits to put with what herbs and how to flavor your second ferment, but there's also some cool recipes for that over vinegary kombucha that I mentioned. And people get upset, "Oh, I wasted it." No, it's not wasted, here's some recipes, even like meatloaf and shrimp and salad dressing and the recipes are right there to use that over... That's hard to say, over vinegary kombucha. There's even some recipes, I don't know if recipe's the right word, but to make some DIY facial toner using that kombucha that otherwise you might've thought you should throw away, but no, you can use it.
Michelle: And it includes like I said, the recipe for that continuous brew concentrate, which is a really useful thing to have and allows you to just draw off and replace your kombucha anytime that you want. So there's a lot of good stuff there, and I had a lot of fun putting it together, so hopefully... A lot of people tell me they find it very useful.
Nicole: Perfect. There's lots of questions to be had when you first get started and I know that all of them would be answered in your guides.
Michelle: I don't know about everything, I can't answer every question, but I tried, so thank you.
Nicole: Sure. All the questions I had anyways, when I got started. So for people that want to get the ebook-Book and everything, like you said, we'll put the link in the description, but how else can people find you and get more information about not only brewing kombucha but SoulyRested?
Michelle: Well, they can find me on Facebook and Instagram. I have a YouTube channel that I put lots of tips on there about kombucha as well as making maple syrup and just other homesteading great stuff. So you can find me in any of those places or just go to soulyrested.com.
Nicole: Perfect. And we'll put the links to all those as well in the description.
Nicole: Well, Michelle, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time and I feel that people that have listened to this can have a better understanding of how to get started in brewing kombucha and gain some confidence and take this as their little push to hopefully get started because I really think that everybody should have kombucha in their life, it's wonderful.
Michelle: I totally agree. Honestly, if I can inspire people to do that, then I honestly feel like I have accomplished what I wanted to because it honestly has given us such joy and has added so many health benefits for our family, and it's just freaking delicious.
Nicole: Yes, and it's cheap to brew too, much cheaper than buying it at the store.
Michelle: It really is, very cheap.
Nicole: Well, Michelle, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate your time today.
Michelle: It's been great, Nicole, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Nicole: Of course. And thank you again for listening to another episode of Backyard Bounty, and we'll see you again next week.
Outro: Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at [email protected] Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.
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