Brewing kombucha at home: growing my SCOBY

After years of obsession with the fermented tea drink we all know and love, Kombucha, I have started to brew my own batch at home. So far, my experience has been very positive and I decided I would share my process for those of you interested in trying it out yourself. Kombucha costs anywhere from $3.00-$6.00 in stores, so brewing at home is a fantastic money saving option, plus you control exactly what goes into it.

I will do a few separate posts as I do this process. This one will cover how to grow a SCOBY, the next will talk all about the first fermentation process and then I will talk about bottling for the second and final fermentation.

If you want more information on what Kombucha is and a little bit about it, check out my previous post.

The first step is to either grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), purchase one online or get one from someone. I am a member of a fantastic Facebook group of kombucha home brewers which is really where I learned everything I know. They are incredibly knowledgeable on brewing, what to look out for and even give some amazing flavor suggestions.

If you are wanting to get started with brewing, I highly suggest you become a member of the group. It’s also a great place to see if someone near you has a SCOBY to spare (and they grow like crazy, so there’s a good chance someone has some they want to get rid of).

I chose to grow my SCOBY at home for two reasons. A. It’s extremely easy and B. I knew exactly where it came from. I ended up growing it in an IKEA jar that my boyfriend had laying around from his cold brew coffee brewing and it worked great.

Here is how I grew my SCOBY:

Ingredients:

2 Cups of Water

4 Organic Green Tea Bags (you can use black or white tea instead)

1/2 Cup of White Sugar (some people use organic, that’s fine, I just used regular ol’ sugar)

1 Bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha

Recipe:

  1. Make sure your jar is clean, wash with warm soapy water, rinse very well. Then, do a second rinse with mostly water and about two tablespoons of vinegar to make sure it’s clean. Again, rinse well. Let dry completely.

  2. Bring two cups of filtered water to a boil, once it reaches the boil turn off the heat. Then, you will want to toss in your tea bags and let it steep for 15 minutes.

  3. When the 15 minutes is up, dissolve your sugar into the tea. If it isn’t completely dissolving, turn on the heat for just a few seconds while stirring until all the sugar is gone.

  4. Let the sweetened tea cool completely to room temperature. This will take a few hours.

  5. Once tea is cooled, pour in one bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha in your jar, followed by your room temperature sweetened tea mixture. Stir it up with a clean spoon.

  6. Cover with part of an old, clean t-shirt and secure around the top of the jar with a rubber band.

  7. Let the jar sit at room temperature, preferably in a dark spot like a pantry or closet for two weeks, undisturbed. You will start to see your SCOBY grow slowly over the two weeks.

  8. Once your SCOBY is grown, you can start your first fermentation.

 

*Note that room temperature, amounts/types of tea used, sugar content and more can mean a different brewing experience for everyone. You will learn what works well for you as you go.

Here are some pictures of the progress I had over the two weeks:

It’s very exciting to see how your SCOBY forms slowly each day! I hope you all give this a try, let me know in the comments if you have any questions or other methods that have worked for you.

-Emily


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My 24th Year

Last Wednesday I celebrated my 24th birthday which is still really crazy to me, not because I’m afraid to get older, but because I feel like I just turned 21. Either way, it’s here and honestly I’m excited for this year.

I was lucky enough to have a great dinner and celebration thanks to my amazing boyfriend Tom.

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I’m going to commit to regularly posting on my blog and taking it more seriously because it is a passion project that I really do care about. I started this blog in Spring 2015 and now I have 72 published posts, almost 400 followers and I have had the chance to connect with and get to know some of you, which has been such a great experience for me.

There are some incredibly personal moments that have happened in my life over the last few years that I hope to share with you soon, because I really believe it can help someone else out there.

I can’t say how grateful I am to have this community and outlet… so thank you. I look forward to posting every single time because of your support and kind comments.

I am pretty active on Instagram, so follow me there! I try to keep up on my Instagram Stories pretty much daily.

Please let me know what you guys would like to see more of in future posts by commenting one or a few numbers below:

  1. Travel Posts
  2. Health/Recipes
  3. DIY
  4. Mental Health/Self-Care

 

UNTIL NEXT TIME,

Emily

My Kombucha Guide

I am not afraid to try anything when it comes to food, especially when said food has some pretty great health benefits. Kombucha, for those who don’t know, is a fermented tea drink. You may have seen it while browsing the grocery store and wondered about it, like “what the hell is this shit”, which is pretty much how my first experience with kombucha went.

I first tried it a few years ago when I was shopping at Whole Foods and decided to try a GT’s Trilogy Kombucha and to be honest I absolutely hated it at first try. I thought it tasted like bitter, sweet, carbonated vinegar, but for some reason after that first experience I kept coming back to it. Something about that strange combination intrigued me so much that I fell in love with the flavor. Be ready for your friends and family to judge (make fun of) your choice of drink if you become a regular drinker of kombucha (or is that just my crowd).

Be skeptical as you may, but kombucha does have quite a few positive health claims surrounding it. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or just looking to cut out dairy for a while, ‘bucha comes complete with probiotics which save you from a scoop of yogurt. There are plenty of other claims about it being heart healthy, having antioxidant properties, etc.

Kombucha is made during a fairly drawn out fermentation process, but it’s totally possible to make it at home. I haven’t yet tried, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done my research. The first step is finding yourself a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria), sounds delicious, right? They aren’t all that hard to find. I am on a member of a Facebook group with over 21,000 members who are all brewers or enjoyers of kombucha. If you can befriend a few people on this site, there is a good chance someone who lives near you may have an extra SCOBY to share. For the rest of the fermentation process, Wellness Mama did a great job breaking it all down for you if you’re interested in making your own. Just be sure to be safe, clean and smart while attempting home brewing.

But, if you just want to stick to the store-bought variety, which is totally A-OK, there are some fantastic options. Something to note is that not all kombucha’s are the same, you may hate one and absolutely love another (been there). Also, beware of sugar… some of them pack A LOT in that bottle.

Below are some short reviews of the kombucha’s I have gotten to know over the last few years. Prices will not be included since they vary depending on store and location, but generally they are between $3.50-$5.00. They are a bit pricey, but hey, so are all of your Starbucks drinks and I don’t see you stopping that habit anytime soon.

*I put the flavor that I have specifically tried or been a fan of in parenthesis*

GT’s Kombucha (Trilogy)

This is basically THE kombucha. You will find this brand probably the most widely available in stores. For a while, I only drank GT’s and I have nothing against it other than the fact that it is certainly one of the more “vinegary” tasting varieties. You can’t go wrong with it, but in my opinion there are better ones out there.

Flavor Profile: Raspberry, lemon and ginger.

Health-Ade Kombucha (Pink Lady Apple)

This brand is widely available, much like GT’s. I have seen this brand pop up at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Based on my experience, this is my least favorite brand of kombucha. It has an incredibly vinegary/bitter taste that I just could not get past. It is the only one I have ever purchased that I disliked so much I could not finish it. However, I have friends who really, really enjoy this one and continually repurchase.

Flavor Profile: Apple

Brew Dr. Kombucha (Love)

Alright, get ready for me to fangirl over this one. This is my favorite brand of kombucha EVER, and I think for good reason. This brand is out of Portland, OR and I think what makes them so special is their lack of bitterness and that vinegary taste. They brew (at least the Love flavor) with green tea instead of the traditional black tea used in brewing and I think this really helps with that harsh taste. This is about a dollar cheaper than GT’s and completely worth every penny.

Flavor Profile: Lavender, chamomile and rose.

Kombucha Town (Blueberry White)

I found this brand while in Bellingham, WA and honestly I loved it. I had the chance to go to their Culture Cafe where their kombucha’s were fresh on tap. It’s a great kombucha with a lot of carbonation which is great when you’re wanting something like a pop. I do not think this is available nationally (I could be wrong), but it was in grocery stores throughout the Seattle area. If you have the opportunity, give this one a try… it was so good.

Flavor Profile: Blueberry


 

I hope you get the chance to try some kombucha, it really is such a special, bubbly drink that always lifts my mood. If you become a super fan like me, follow my twitter account @kombuchafanclub 

Did your favorite not make my list? Let me know which ones you are in love with in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading,

Emily

Super easy + healthy breakfast recipes

I will firmly admit that I don’t eat breakfast every single day, but when I do, I really enjoy it. I find that breakfast is the perfect opportunity to eat both dairy-free and vegan, which I do not follow throughout the rest of the day (I’ve tried, it’s not for me, I’M SORRY VEGANS… I RESPECT YOU).

I had my fair share of yogurt parfaits and avocado toast with egg over the past few years, and while those foods are delicious and filling, I find that I tend to enjoy lighter, easier meals in the morning.

These two (super easy, I’m not claiming to be an innovator here) recipes are what I’ve been mainly eating over the past few months.

  1. Berry Banana Smoothie

This could not be simpler. All you need:

  • Frozen berry medley (I get mine from Whole Foods frozen fruit section)
  • 1 or 1 1/2 bananas (depending on your preference)
  • Coconut water
  • Optional additions: baby spinach, chia seeds

Blend all of these wonderful ingredients together and you have an easy, amazing smoothie. I’m seriously obsessed with this and I drink it in the dead of winter in Chicago, I don’t care! I sometimes sprinkle it with some granola, but that’s just if I’m feeling like I need a little more to fill me up.

2. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dream

What you’ll need:

  • Whole grain oats, make sure the only ingredient listed is OATS. (I use instant, but I hear those aren’t the best for you. If you want to take the longer, healthier route, go ahead.)
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk (obsessed with Califia Farms brand)
  • Real maple syrup
  • Real peanut butter

Follow the instructions for making the oatmeal, but use the almond milk instead of dairy milk or water. Then stir in about a tablespoon and a half of peanut butter (two if you’re feeling it) and pour in about a tablespoon of maple syrup. This has been the most filling and amazingly delicious breakfast. It would also be great if you add sliced banana and cinnamon to the top.

These have been my go-to’s and I think for good reason.

Let me know if you guys give either of these a try and let me know if you have any good breakfast recipes for me to try in the comments. I’m always looking for new food.

Thanks for reading,

Emily

A day at the farmers market

Did someone say fresh local honey?

This weekend I ventured over to a little town called Wheaton, IL to check out their Saturday French Market. I’m a sucker for the words “fresh”, “local”, “natural”, “non-GMO”, “better than the grocery store produce section”, and I was not let down with the beautiful choices of fruits, vegetables, honey and even homemade cheese.

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Fellow market browsers checking out the local bargains.

There is something so special about knowing exactly where your food came from, and the people who run these stands are proud of their products. I was intrigued by one stand that had a giant British flag hanging off the back of it, and it turns out that there were some very British men selling sausages. Of course, I had to hear their accents so I asked them a few questions. They were a little insulted when I said that I don’t eat sausage, but they got over it.

The produce was gorgeous. I saw a poppin’ red pepper that looked like I could see my reflection in it. There was a head of romaine lettuce that looked out of this world. Don’t even get me started on the wonderful assortment of berries.

Aside from all the delicious food, including some donuts and crepes, there were beautiful fresh flower bouquets for a bargain price, handmade soaps and a super adorable home decor shop.

Not only are you getting a better product when visiting your local farmer’s market, but you are supporting a local small business which is oh-so-important to me. While the hot summer days are almost behind us, maybe it’s time you check out your own local market this weekend and pick up some great stuff to add to your meals.

I ended up leaving with some homemade, fantastic cheddar cheese, a whole bunch of fresh blackberries and a big jar of honey.

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Have a great Monday everybody and keep eating local.

-Emily

 

TEA WITH EMMY

Hey everyone,

I hope you are all having an actually fantastic week. I am, despite it being midterm week, but I really can’t wait for the weekend. The Super Bowl is happening on Sunday which means I get to see some great commercials, watch Beyonce slay us all and of course hear Gaga bless us with the National Anthem. These are all very important things in a young woman’s life. Other than the actual football playing, the Super Bowl is totally my thing.

So, through all the hectic-ness (not a word, I made it a word) of the past few weeks, I forgot to tell you guys that I have a 2nd blog! It’s primarily for my college course where we are forced to post a few times a week. I chose to make mine all about tea (obviously) and if you guys want to check it out click this: teawithemmy

I just put up a post entitled “Perfect Teas To Gift For Valentines Day” since I’m a crazy tea lady.

I have some pretty exciting posts coming up soon, so be on the lookout for those.

But, until next time,

Thank you guys for following and reading!

-Emily

8 Signs You’re Dating The Right Guy

The twenties can be a rough time for relationships. Between work and school, it’s hard to make time for getting to know someone.. which leads to the unfortunate meeting places: parties, bars and walking home drunk at 3 AM. Those are all 10/10 places you (probably) don’t want to meet your future boo-thang.

Chances are there have probably been a lot of wrong turns in your previous relationships and THAT’S OKAY. The reason we are all where we are now is because we made dumb decisions and learned from them.

Here are 8 signs you KNOW you’re dating the right guy:

  1. He’s Also Your Best Friend

You get each others jokes and find some of them hilarious. You have a billion inside jokes that nobody else cares to understand. You don’t judge each other for your weird food cravings at 1 AM. This is so important to a solid relationship. You should be able to be 100% real with one another. I mean, you probably don’t want to live with this person in the future if they aren’t your BFF. Test this by taking a weekend trip somewhere and make sure you don’t kill each other. If you survive and have a great time.. you’re in a great relationship!

2. Your Fights Only Last An Hour (Or Less)

As the true American hero Hannah Montana once said.. “Nobody’s Perfect”. If you have yet to fight in your relationship, sorry to tell you this, but there is probably something wrong.. or you just don’t express your feelings the way you should. There is no way you are ever going to be 100% happy and okay with each other. ONE OF YOU WILL MAKE THE OTHER MAD.. even if it’s over something very stupid like not choosing where to eat fast enough (I’m very guilty of this). If you do fight, unless it’s something hardcore enough to end the whole relationship, it probably should not last more than an hour. One of you will give in and forgive.. because you really just like each other too much to waste time fighting.

3. He Cares About Your Feelings/Well-Being

Whether it be emotional, medical or you’re just feeling down.. he is there to help you through it all. You may be the biggest mess ever known to man and he still thinks you’re a shining star (IMPORTANT). If there is something that is bothering you, he will quickly be able to figure it out and try to make you feel better.

4. He Doesn’t Let You Go Hungry

Food is so important, duh! If you are anything like me you are aware of the phenomenon that is starting fights all over the world: being HANGRY. Hangry is the feeling you get when you’re so hungry that you’re angry. It’s an awful way to be. You become the real life Snicker’s “you’re not you when you’re hungry” commercial. Luckily, your BF should be able to recognize this and work with you to find the hungry hippo some good eats.

5. You Share Similar Hobbies/Interests

Going back to #1, much like any of your best friends.. he likes the things you like (to an extent). Maybe you both love to go watch figure skating competitions on the weekend (weird, but cool). Maybe you both love AC/DC. No matter what weird little quirks you have together, they will help prove your relationships strength. Date someone as weird as you are and it will pay off.

6. He Takes You On Cute Dates Once In A While

After the initial beginning-of-dating phase, chances are the adorable, thought-out dates will slowly decrease. After all, it can get expensive for young people still in school to go on elaborate dates all the time. But, that’s no excuse for never doing anything for the next 6 months. Plan a few cute dates a month to get out of the usual grind. Go have a picnic (it’s basically free).

7. He Understands Your Celebrity Crushes

How can I not swoon over Chris Pratt. It’s impossible. Every woman has at least 10 celebrities that they want. You know you’ve lucked out when you can talk about them and your BF just kind of goes “mhm”. Whether or not he’s secretly jealous or annoyed at your 14-year-old fan girling, he sure won’t stop you. (Don’t let him act like he doesn’t have a huge list himself.. because he does).

8. He Lifts You UP

He thinks that most of your ideas are great ones. He thinks that dress looks really cool on you (even if that dress looks really dumb). This is how you know you have a good one. You should always try to encourage each other and make each other feel like beautiful, shining trophies. Seeing him should make you SMILE and visa versa.