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 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

Health Kick: Cutting Processed Foods + Sugar

Here’s a little history: A few years ago, I got in SHAPE. I made the decision to change my absolutely awful diet and work out as often as I could. I lost a good amount of weight and for the first time in my life, I had a flat stomach. It felt amazing! 

Not only did my body feel great, but I was feeling so much better mentally. I was constantly motivated and energized. 

For the past year or so, I have kind of found myself going back to my old ways. I eat whatever I want, and I’m not necessarily gaining any weight, but I feel like crap all the time.

So, I’ve made the decision to start eating healthy again and to start incorporating more exercise into my week. 

  
I am going to cut out most (nobody’s perfect) processed foods and stick to a whole food diet. I also want to try to limit sugar as much as I can, aside from natural sugar in fruit. 

These are my personal goals for right now and I’m very excited to see how I start to feel.

Kind of ironic that I’m staring this on Fat Tuesday..

I will post updates and other health related posts as I go along on this journey. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you all have a lovely Tuesday!

-Emily

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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.

FALL TRADER JOE’S HAUL

PUMPKIN PUMPKIN PUMPKIN PUMPKIN

We are in september now which means it is fully fall and what better place to celebrate the changing of seasons other than Trader Joe’s. This store is awesome in general, even more so if you’re vegan or have allergies.. they have a wide selection (neither apply to me), and they have so many yummy fall goodies. If you haven’t ever been here.. you need to go.

The cool thing about Trader Joe’s is that most of the store is “Trader Joe’s” brand. It’s like shopping at a ma-and-pa place with super cool employees who pretend to be your best friend.

So, Tom and Me decided to do yet another fall-related review. This time we chose some new food items the store put out for AUTUMN. Let’s begin:

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#1: THIS PUMPKIN WALKS INTO A BAR

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First of all, that packaging is adorable. These cereal bars are super delicious and Trader Joe’s has them in different flavors all year long (apple, blueberry, fig), but now they are here IN PUMPKIN.

REVIEW: Tastes like actual pumpkin pie without the cool-whip. It might say low-fat, but that does not in any way effect the flavor. The spices are perfect and we wanted to eat the whole box, but we settled on splitting one. They are soft, chewy and absolutely perfect for fall. You. Need. Them.

RATING: 8.5/10


#2: PUMPKIN PANCAKE & WAFFLE MIX

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Check out those perfect pancake making skills

How can you not want a pancake or waffle when the temperature is dropping. I want them all year, but I am a special breakfast-loving human. When I saw these in the store, I instantly fell in love without even tasting.

REVIEW: All the pancake texture with a subtle pumpkin flavor. If you are looking for a slap-you-in-the-face type of pumpkin taste, you probably won’t get it eating these, but they are pretty delicious. It’s everything you need to get your hot, buttery pumpkin fix. (PRO TIP: Add some homemade cinnamon butter on top)

RATING: 8/10


#3: McINTOSH APPLE JUICE

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I’m always in the mood for apple juice. I saw this one today while shopping and just had to get it. Okay, actually Tom saw it.

REVIEW: Honestly, the most crisp, refreshing apple juice we’ve ever had. It tastes like it’s fresh out of the orchard. It’s an amazing fall drink. BUY A FEW GALLONS. (PRO TIP: It would be an amazing apple juice to use to make a hot drink w/ caramel)

RATING: 9.5/10


#4: FIG BITES

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HOLY MOLY. I don’t know about you guys, but this tickled my fancy just with it’s name. It was an automatic throw-it-in-the-bag.

REVIEW: Are figs even fall related? I’m not 100% sure. But, I made them fall related, so here we are. If you are a fan of Fig Newtons, you need to get these amped up, more delicious FIG BITES. We were actually blown away and ate a ton. They are so light and fruity.

RATING: 9/10


#5: TRADER JOE’S PEANUT BUTTER (Creamy + Unsalted)

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If you’ve never heard anything about this peanut butter, then you better get in your car as soon as possible and go get some and try it.. now.

I mean unless you’re allergic, then please do not. **DO NOT CONDONE**

REVIEW: Technically not a fall item.. I know. But, when is PB ever a bad option? I love this peanut butter because the only ingredient is.. peanuts. How natural and refreshing. The taste is a classic, clean flavor that makes you feel good about eating it. I wanted to bathe in it, but Tom is scared of peanut butter. I would definitely suggest trying this.

RATING: 10/10 DUH.


I hope you guys get the chance to try some of these out!

End of Summer Recipe — Pineapple-Mango Green Smoothie

I have been on a crazy smoothie kick lately after taking a break (I was SMOOTHIED OUT). It helped having my wisdom teeth pop through my gums and make solid foods really hard to eat.

This smoothie is a perfect taste of those last few weeks of Summer. It is tropical, fruity and all kinds of refreshing (and HEALTHY). I prefer to drink my fruits and vegetables and this drink has really helped me do so. Don’t think it’s just limited to summer either, you can drink this whenever you are craving a taste of the tropics. (Don’t worry, Fall Lovers, I’ve got you covered with a smoothie recipe soon).

GUYS, this is so good.

Recipe:

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  • 5 Full Cubes O’ Ice
  • 3/4 Cup Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Mango
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Pineapple Chunks
  • 1/4 Cup Frozen Strawberries
  • 1/2 banana
  • 3/4 Cup Non-Pulp Orange Juice
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • OPTIONAL: Chia Seeds, Honey and Granola

Directions (VERY EASY):

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  1. Prepare all of your ingredients. I have a specific order of adding things in (this works well if you have a Nutribullet, If you don’t.. I’m not totally sure it matters). This is the order: ice, spinach, mangos, pineapples, strawberries, banana, liquids. Throw them all into the blender.
  2. BLENNNNNNNNND. I usually let it go a solid 2 minutes to make sure all the ingredients have fully blended for a perfectly smooth smoothie. If you notice it’s struggling or too thick, add a little bit more orange juice or water.
  3. Pour into a glass, or into a bowl to top with granola, chia seeds, bonus fruit and nuts (smoothie bowl!)

FINISHED PRODUCT:

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You will have ALOT to drink. This is about 1 & 1/2 Smoothies. I always drink it all, but if you can’t.. save the rest in the fridge!

I hope you guys enjoy this recipe and try it out

-Emily