Probiotics Getting More Positive Attention

I came across this article from Mother Jones this morning. I’ve been learning a lot about probiotics, prebiotics, and inflammation in a number of books I’ve been reading lately, but it’s reassuring to see an article about them in a slightly more mainstream publication.

Some of the books I’ve been reading (which have already been around for years), if you’re interested in learning more about the subject, include:

1. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz
2. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon
3. Bacteria for Breakfast: Probiotics for Good Health by Dr. Kelly Dowhower Karpa
4. The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity by Donna Gates

Like I said, it’s reassuring to start seeing this information in other sources (even Mother Jones). I only hope that scientists are not just looking for a way to sell us another “supplement,” when we should just be getting these little life-giving critters in our food, everyday. On the other hand, if enough scientific studies prove the efficacy of a healthy and balanced microbiome (gut), perhaps our doctors will finally find value in reembracing the idea of letting food be our medicine. What a shocking concept!

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Kombucha Update

Big news this week:  I drew some kombucha off of my continuous brewer on Sunday. I had started that brew on 3/27, and Sunday (4/7) marked day 11. The pH checked out at around 4, but Lauren thought it was still too sweet. I pulled about 2-3 quarts over the course of the day, and checked it again the next morning, before feeding a gallon of new sweet tea to the crock. It was noticeably less sweet on Monday morning, with less volume in the container. It’s only been 24 hours since adding the new tea, and it still tastes pretty sweet. I’ll be checking it every day or two. I’m sure that as the SCOBY gets bigger, the brewing time will go down. (*fingers crossed*)

Somehow, my week got away from me, and I didn’t get around to harvesting my B2 batch on Friday. I bottled it and started a new (B3) batch on Saturday morning. The extra day didn’t adversely affect my B2 batch, but now my schedule is slightly skewed. Meh.

C1 and A4 were both harvested on schedule (4/1 and 4/3, respectively–7 days each), but then, I discovered a new problem. When I needed to brew more tea for my continuous brewer, I discovered I was on my last Kombucha Brooklyn tea bag. So, C2, which was scheduled to be bottled on 4/8, will now be bottled today 4/9, now that I have more tea bags (but not from Kombucha Brooklyn).

I had previously decided that I would try using regular old black tea bags once the KB tea was all gone. I just figured I’d get some Lipton individual serving bags and experiment with the number I’d use in each batch (5 or 6). Today, I was at a local health food store and had trouble finding just plain ol’ black tea. The store has one of the largest tea sections I’ve ever seen, but the tea was all herbal spices and flavorings, or about 9 different green teas, some white teas, etc. I know I could use green or white tea, but I just wanted to continue using black tea. I don’t want to experiment THAT much. Yet.

I was just getting ready to leave the aisle, in disgust, when I saw on the endcap that they carry Newman’s Own Royal Tea. “Ingredients:  Organic Black Tea.” Perfect. Also, the box has 22 “Family Sized Tea Bags.” Each bag makes 1 quart of tea, so technically, I would need to use 1.5 of the Newman’s Own tea bags to equal 6 Lipton single serving tea bags. Since the Newman’s Own calls for a steeping time of 3-5 minutes, I think I’ll be OK to use 1 bag, and steep it for 10-15 minutes.

We’ll see. C3 is coming up today, and I’ll be using the Newman’s Own Royal Tea.

Note to self for a future experiment:  Oolong tea.

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UPDATE:  I just checked Kombucha Brooklyn’s website and it looks like their teabags are actually a blend of black, white and green teas. So, it looks like C3 will be an experiment, with just the black tea. Since I have really enjoyed the flavor of the KB tea, I’m going to be getting some white and green tea bags, so I can figure out a blend that works for me.

BATCH C2 UPDATE:  This was the batch in which I had used 1 1/2 cups of sugar, instead of just one. I just bottled it. When I tasted it, it was more sweet than any batch I’ve made, so far. I’m hoping that the sweetness continues to break down while it sits in the bottles.

Kombucha Update

I’ve decided to record a weekly update for my kombucha batches, because I’m now going to be harvesting one of three batches on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Not to mention, I’ve got a continuous brew going that I will harvest whenever it appears to be *ready*.

On Friday, I started batch B2, using my usual method and 1 cup Zulka sugar.

Today, I harvested batch C1, which I brewed using tea that had only steeped for about 13 minutes. It’s delicious. I think it has more to do with the fact that the brewing jar was kept at a near constant 80 degrees than anything else. It really has been making a difference to have the heating mats, especially considering the temperature in Ventura has been in the mid 60s for the past week or so.

Then, I started batch C2, steeping the tea for only 15 minutes (I got impatient), and using 1 1/2 cups of sugar (it was the end of the bag of Zulka, and I thought I’d experiment a little).

Note to self:  buy more sugar before Wednesday.

Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss

I saw this in the New York Times this morning:  Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss

It reminded me about why I’m doing all of this.

Continuous Kombucha Brew Started (B1 Mother)

Today, I received my 2 1/2 gallon water crock, so of course I had to start my continuous brew system tonight. I brewed 2 Kombucha Brooklyn tea bags in 2 quarts of boiling water (reverse osmosis water in the electric tea kettle). I did this directly in the new water crock and then realized I probably shouldn’t have put boiling water in there. Oh, well. If the system works as intended, I’ll never need to add boiling water again.

I added 2 cups of Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar. When it had dissolved, I added ice and additional RO water until there was a little more than 2 full gallons of sweet tea–a few inches from the top. I then covered the crock with cloth that I held in place with the plastic ring that came with the crock.

After dinner, Lauren and I swiped the original B1 mother from the batch I started on Friday (3/22). (Lauren had not yet had the privilege of meeting a SCOBY in person.) I dropped the SCOBY in the water crock tea mixture and it sank. I’ll check in a day or so to see if she emerges.

About 10 minutes later, I realized I hadn’t added any starter kombucha. D’oh! Since I didn’t want to disturb my existing batches (any more than I already had), and they’re not yet fully mature, I added a bottle of the kombucha I’ve been buying from Sandbox Coffee House. And now I wait. From what I understand, this batch will take about 10-14 days to finish brewing.

New Kombucha Batches (A4 and C1)

I just started 2 new batches. I was able to separate one daughter from the existing SCOBY (which is still the original, smaller, Kombucha Brooklyn SCOBY and one daughter). The new 3rd batch (C1) will use one of the daughters I removed today.

Variations for C1:  Lauren would like a batch made with weaker tea, so for this batch, I only steeped the tea for about 13 minutes. I was also out of the prepackaged sugar packets from Kombucha Brooklyn, so I used some of Lauren’s sugar from the cupboard, Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar, 1 cup.

Vacation (Weekend) Update

Lauren and I went to San Diego this weekend, and I found myself worrying more about my ferments than I was about our cats. (That’s probably only because we have a webcam to check in on the cats. And did, a few times over the weekend.)

Saturday morning, I replaced the goat milk in my kefir grains and left the lid loosely placed over the jar, so it wouldn’t explode while we were away. When I checked them this morning, the milk had been fermenting for about 48 hours. The flavor is not really any more sour than my first batch (after 24 hours), but it is definitely richer and thicker. I can also detect some fizziness, which is not as bizarre as I had feared. I could easily get hooked on this stuff. Oh, and no bad side effects, so far, either.

Because we were going to be away for a couple of days, and because the weather has been warmer, I unplugged the heating mats on Saturday morning. When I got home, the temperature of the kombucha batches (A3 and B1) was around 70 degrees. They were unplugged for a total of about 36 hours. After plugging them in again last night, they were back up around 78 degrees this morning.

My A3 batch has only been brewing since the 19th (6 days), but I’m going to go ahead and bottle it, harvest a daughter SCOBY, and begin batches A4 and C1 (with the daughter) today. I’m only harvesting it today, because I used heating mats, and the temperature of both batches was consistently above 78 degrees.

New Kombucha Batch (B1)!

When I finished my first batch of kombucha, and found out how delicious it would be, I immediately ordered 2 more SCOBYs and 2 more brewing jars, so I could have 3 batches brewing at any one time, staggering them, providing me with a near constant supply of kombucha. That was the plan, anyway.

My ambitions were thwarted when the weather turned colder, and I had to wait for my heating mats to arrive. At any rate, it’s now been 3 days since batch A3 was started, so I decided today would be a perfect day to start a 2nd simultaneous batch. I’ll start a 3rd batch when A3 gets bottled, as I plan to separate a daughter from my first (A) SCOBY.

My 3rd SCOBY will now serve a different purpose. A friend of ours tasted my A1 ginger kombucha and was inspired to start brewing her own. The original plan was that I would give her a daughter from my A1 batch, but 7 days is a really long time to wait, when you’re really excited to get started. I remember all too well how anxious I was.

So, I’ll give her my 3rd SCOBY (from kombuchabrooklyn.com) on Saturday morning, and I can harvest daughter SCOBYs for any of my future needs.

I think it might be time to consider a Continuous Brewing Method, don’t you?

[Don’t worry: the ceramic crock is already on its way.]

: )

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Starting New Kombucha Batch (A3)

I’m starting one new batch today, using the same SCOBY team, again (not separating the Mother and Daughter).

There will be two differences in this batch:

1. Using reverse osmosis water, instead of spring water.
2. Will be utilizing a heating mat to try and stabilize the temperature of this batch.

Other than that, things are being done exactly the same way as before, with a heaping dose of love thrown in, for good measure.

UPDATE: I have plans this evening, so I didn’t want to wait for the sugar/tea to cool to room temperature. I iced the water as I added it to the jar. The tea was around 72 degrees, when I added the SCOBY and kombucha starter.

Kombucha (A2) Bottling

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the temperature in Ventura has been on the cooler side since starting my second batch of kombucha, but I’m going to go ahead and bottle that batch today. It’s day 11, and I’m hoping the slightly longer brewing time will have made up for the cooler weather.

I’m going to try and create a separate page that will track the conditions and outcome of each batch as a reference and/or guide. That could prove to be useful.

In other news, my heating mats arrived today, so I should (*fingers crossed*) have better luck with future batches–until it gets too hot, that is.

Update: This batch produced nearly three quarts. I’m leaving one plain, flavoring one with fresh ginger (grated, instead of sliced), and the third with dried mango.

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