Kombucha Candy: SCOBY Rancher Snacks 3
The lore and mystique of the SCOBY has, especially in recent years, begun to eclipse its initial intended sphere of influence, that being the royalty and progenitor of our beloved kombucha tea. Perhaps not oddly, as kombucha is the friend of the strange, weird and esoteric, SCOBYs have come to be personified with names and fantasied colloquial banter as virally as cat pictures and comic memes. With benevolent intent and playful attitude have we come to accept and cherish our squishy brew pals, and assuredly any long time brewer has, in rudimentary culinary rites, christened their yeasty lord with names such as "SCOBY Doo," "Diane," or "Bon SCOBI."
Mother Knows BestIt is in this spirit of playful reverence that we've allowed our cultures to appropriate many other roles outside the realm of kombucha brewing, as if showing a new friend around town - one who you don't want to return home, and one with whom you desperately cling to at every moment's turn. As we've proselytized before, SCOBYs aren't just for making kombucha - we've been eating them for health, energy, and economy; we've been drying them to use as art, as bio-sustainable fabrics, and as decoration; we've resorted to secret, late-night conversations with the wiser, older mothers, seeking the gratification of divulgence and guarantee of secrecy. It is with this transparency and acceptance that kombucha candy, our SCOBY Rancher Snacks have poignantly fortified their place in the traditions of our end-of-year holidays - the earthy, spicy affect of clove and cinnamon on something which, when dehydrated, tastes commonly of apples, is a classic archetype of holiday consumption. And appropriately, with their enigmatic appearance and semi-mythological following and observance, SCOBYs make an excellent format for Halloween's over-the-top actualization in which the weird is allowed a little more credulity and merit.
Don't Be Scared!Even the seasoned brewer can cringe at the thought of consuming their gelatinous, chewy buddies, and most people say the reason for their reluctance is texture. However, we've converted many would-be naysayers to SCOBY-munching elite with the delicious preparation of this genre-morphing sweet and sour treat. Even for the pensive first-time consumer, these treats are insanely tasty and are always fewer in quantity than demand would prefer. So, if you're looking for a way to expand your considerations of the possibilities of the SCOBY, look no further than your new favorite treat, sure to please at all of your Halloween festivities: SCOBY Rancher Snacks.
- 4 (1 inch thick) SCOBYs
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon shredded licorice root
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon sassafras extract
- 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla extract
- 6 cups filtered water
- 4 cups organic cane sugar
- Cut your SCOBYs into small cubes and rinse them in a colander to remove tea and yeast filaments. Set aside to drain off as much as possible.
- Boil the 6 cups of water and add spices. Allow to boil for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add 3 cups of the sugar, and stir. Allow the mixture to cool.
- Strain out spices.
- Place the drained SCOBY cubes and cooled sugar water mixture in a bowl, cover, and let marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Drain and refrigerate the sugar marinade for future SCOBY snack-making.
- Pour the sugary SCOBYs onto parchment sheets in an even layer and dehydrate at 110 F for 16 to 20 hours, until the SCOBYs are the consistency of a soft, chewy gummy bear.
- Once dehydrated, prepare a tray or bowl with the remaining 1 cup of sugar inside. Remove SCOBY pieces from parchment paper, and roll each piece in the sugar.
- Store the candies in bags or airtight containers covered in more sugar to preserve them.
Fruit Flies & Kombucha 2
Making kombucha can be a beautiful endeavor. Once you get past the newness of the operation, a new SCOBY forming on the surface is a beautiful sight. There are a few things, unfortunately, that can ruin that sight. One is mold - it's something we have covered quite a bit. The other is fruit flies. The number one enemy in the world of unwanted invaders, the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is everywhere. In every brew space I’ve ever been I’ve seen these little buggers buzzing around. Even in tightly controlled environments like our SCOBY Lab we see them fly up seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it seems like they appear out of thin air (I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case). There are tricks to getting rid of them, but even more important is keeping them out of your brew jar. What should one use to cover a brew vessel during fermentation? Your kombucha wants to breathe fresh oxygen during fermentation - so sealing your jar with a hard lid is out of the question. Therefore we turn to material that is porous enough to let air in, but not porous enough to allow fruit flies inside. Our material of choice is organic cotton. It has a tight weave, that if correctly secured to the jar, will not allow fruit flies to get inside. Other materials with the same weave will also work well. A paper towel, an old t-shirt, or even a coffee filter will work great.
One material that is commonly used, but should not be, is cheese cloth. Although it is designed for food production, it is too porous. Even if it is layered multiple times. We get emails all the time from new brewers using cheese cloth that have a family of fruit flies hanging out on their culture. When this happens the brew must be scrapped. It only takes one
Once one fruit fly gets in, it's all over
First, it will quickly lay its eggs which then turn into maggots
After a few days, they will turn into full-grown fruit flies
The process is quick and before you know it, you have a many flies buzzing around your jarBut don’t be afraid. With a simple piece of cloth and rubber band, you will be safe from these unwanted but familiar pests!
Brew Diagnosis Checklist: What We Need to Help 6Knowing your brew is doing well is vital. That’s why we are here to diagnose any concern you might have. We see hundreds of pictures every week from home brewers all over the world. In order for us to make a sound diagnosis there is a certain set of questions and pictures that will tell us what is going on. Here is a brew diagnosis checklist for you to complete before submitting a query. Pictures In making sure there is not a problem with a brew we need to see pictures. Luckily, taking and sending pictures is an easy every day activity. The ideal set consists of three images:
1. Aerial shot of entire brew surface showing SCOBY growth, if any.
2. Close up of surface highlighting any area of concern or general SCOBY growth.
3. Profile shot of entire brewThe more pictures the merrier. Don’t feel like these are the only shots you should send if you have the will to send more. In the event that there are still questions after viewing the photos we may request a couple more shots of any area of concern. Questions With most inquiries we will ask the same set of questions. The answers will give us a reason for an issue if there is one and will help us guide you to make the necessary changes to your brew set up.
- What is the average temperature of the brew while it is fermenting?
- How long has it been fermenting?
- Where did the original SCOBY (mother, mushroom, culture) come from?
- How much starter liquid was used?
- What tea/blend and sweetener was used, and what quantity?
We can almost know everything we need to know just from these five questions. As with pictures though, if there is something specific we need more information on, we will ask. As you can see diagnosing a brew is just as easy as brewing. With only a few simple steps we will gladly tell you what’s going on. In 95% of the cases we see, when using a proper set up there is nothing actually going on, just a new brewer needing some confirmation on their brew.
Kombucha Brewing: Starting From a Commercial Bottle, pt. 1 0In making kombucha, starting from a commercial bottle of kombucha was not a bad idea 5 years ago but the industry has changed. The day of the small micro-kombucha brewery making unfiltered, raw kombucha is coming to an end. These days, many breweries are using additives and filtration processes to help control the fermentation process - a standard practice in the commercial brewing world for established industries like beer and wine. Sure, it can be a relatively inexpensive way to get going, but you may be propagating something you didn't intend. For this reason, it is best to start a batch of kombucha using a fresh, straight-from-the-fermenter SCOBY. Think about it like this. A town of 5,000 trying to build a new meeting hall will have a hard time not building more than a room with four walls. A town of 5,000,000 will be able to not just build a room with four walls but a whole structure full of rooms, passageways and fun things to do (definitely an amazing kitchen). The same can be said for a colony of kombucha microbes coming from a commercial bottle of kombucha (town of 5,000) and a fresh kombucha SCOBY and starter (town of 5,000,000). There is really no comparison. The fresh SCOBY will brew a potent delicious kombucha the first round, in the normal 10-14 days, whereas the commercial brew starter may not even form a new SCOBY let alone ferment a perfect batch in 10 days. We get photos all the time of peoples brews that have molded after trying to start a batch with a bottle of the popular brands of kombucha. Don’t waste your time or ingredients trying to build a colony from a subpar SCOBY. Start with a lab-grown, fermenter-fresh SCOBY and get perfect brews right away. Because let's get real, who wants to wait more than 10 days for their ‘buch? Stay tuned for Starting from a Commercial Bottle, pt. 2!
Kombucha SCOBYs and Mold: A Visual Comparison 5
We get quite a few photos sent to us from brewers across the globe, inquiring about kombucha SCOBYs - "Is this mold?" It's usually pretty simple to tell mold from healthy, or just bizarre, brews. Bizarre brews can result from extreme temperature fluctuation, the use of highly unrefined sugars, oily or flavored teas, or too much or too little of any ingredient; however, they won't usually create dry, fuzzy formations on the surface of the brew. Mold will always be dry and fuzzy, and form on top of the liquid in your brew jar. Read this blog post for more thoughts on kombucha and mold.
The photos below indicate healthy brews in various stages of growth - some may be 3 days of growth, indicated usually by thin, papery culture growing on the surface, to thick cultures with lots of yeast involved. You'll see strands of yeast growing below the surface of the tea, like tendrils, reaching down into the brew - this is completely normal. The opaque, greenish/brownish blobs are yeast too. Often, yeast will collect on one side of your brew jar, just under the SCOBY.
As always, please keep sending photographs of your home brews! We're always happy to receive and assess the brews for you. Happy brewing!
Save your Mothers: Why You Need a SCOBY Hotel 13
There are a few tantalizing aspects of home brewing kombucha that keep us coming back for more, aside from (obviously) drinking kombucha on the regular. Sure, it's the way it makes us feel - cleanly energized, refreshed, and awakened. It's economical - anyone who began their kombucha regimen with store-bought bottles knows that it's an expensive thing to love ready-to-drink kombucha. It's a healthy beverage, an easy way to dose oneself with probiotics, b-vitamins, amino acids and enzymes - and it can be very low in sugar.
But one of the major facets of home-brewing crusades is simply that it's fun! Brewing kombucha is intellectually stimulating. Just as any scientist hones his work through trial and error and learns as much from failure as from success, we as home brewers are taunted by that 'buch event horizon, the unknown territory beyond the edge of the abyss.
Not to discount the would-be brewers of the classics - but there's always space for that new brew that leaves our taste buds whirling in an ecstasy of confusion, surprise and delight.
Just as any brewer knows, there will always be home runs and strike outs. In kombucha brewing, a failure could potentially lead to the loss of your beloved mother (SCOBY, kombucha culture, mushroom etc.). If you have only maintained one culture throughout your brewing escapades, you're walking on thin ice!
Enter the SCOBY hotel. A comfortable, safe home for the SCOBY on the down-and-out. A cage for potential future meals. A reservoir of dreams for the adventurous brewer. Really, all it has to be is a lidded jar in your refrigerator.
Consider this - each time you harvest your 'buch, you will have grown another SCOBY in your brew jar. As always, you'll use the newest culture for your next brew, and either discard or save the original mother. But what do you do with the mothers you've saved?
Eat them, share them with friends, sure. But you've got an additional use for those mothers. They are your brewer's insurance. Every brewer remembers their first failed batch, causing you to source another SCOBY. But if you've been brewing for any amount of time, you could already have 5 mothers saved up in your hotel, keeping you from having to source another culture.
Another great thing about saving your SCOBYs in a hotel is the experimentation it allows. Have you ever wondered what will happen to a SCOBY in grape juice? Coffee? Beer?
Or what if you want to try out some tantalizing new herb blends that you're not sure will ferment properly. It's always rewarding, even if you fail, to try out something new. Even a few of the blends we've put up on our website, like Buffalo Soldier or Red Chai we were unsure about, at the start. But they turned out to be some of our favorite, out-of-the-box flavors, and both are completely unconventional, as far as 'buch brewing is concerned.
So - are you sitting on a load of thyme, or wild-harvested lilac? Have a bunch of old Earl Grey tea bags you want to get rid of? Or did you devise that ideal, mouth-watering kombucha that you think only has a slight chance of being successful? With the security of a load of backup SCOBYs, comfortable in your refrigerator, a moldy brew or SCOBY that doesn't make a baby will be no matter to you. Dream on, 'buchies! Let's do some exploring.