Decaf Kombucha

Rob and I quit caffeine about 3 months ago (for these 50 reasons). So I put my Kombucha Scoby to sleep until I could figure out a way to make decaffeinated Kombucha. There is much controversy about how much caffeine is left in the finished batch of tea, and I wasn’t about to take a chance on getting hooked on the stuff again. Some people say that all of the caffeine is consumed by the bacteria in the Kombucha. Some people say 50%…I have even heard that none of the caffeine is consumed by the bacteria, and that Kombucha is full of caffeine. According to Energy Fiend an 8 oz glass of Kombucha contains approximately 24 mg of caffeine. What to believe? Honestly, I couldn’t find any hard research that convinced me either way, so I decided to make my own decaf tea and test it out myself.

First of all, I use regular old Lipton black tea bags and plain white table sugar to make Kombucha. Doesn’t sound like a very healthy beverage right? I have called the Lipton company twice, and the assured me that they have never sprayed their fields, or used any preservatives in their tea. Tea is naturally very resistant to pests and disease so there is no need.  You can use organic tea if you like, or green tea. According to the experts you cannot use herbal or flavored teas. Herbal tea contains no caffeine, which the Scoby needs. Flavored teas contain oils and additives that harm the Scoby.

As far as the sugar is concerned, the bacteria DO eat that. There is very little sugar left in the finished batch of Kombucha, and this I have tested out plenty of times. If you don’t have white sugar around (I buy it specifically for making Kombucha) you can use sucanat, rapadura, or evaporated cane juice. Do not use honey, as it contains its own colony of bacteria and  yeasts that compete with the Kombucha.

To remove caffeine from a regular black tea bag:

  • Place 5-6 tea bags in an empty bowl or coffee mug
  • Boil 1 gallon of water for Kombucha
  • Ladle out 1 cup of water and pour it over the tea bags
  • Steep for 30-45 seconds
  • Remove the tea bags, and place them in the large 1 gallon pot of hot water
  • Steep until dark. Adding 1 cup sugar
  • Make Kombucha as you normally would.

Up to 80 percent of the caffeine is released in the first infusion of water so only minimal amounts will remain when you add water the second time. This method eliminates very little of the tea’s flavor and aroma. I decided to go with this method, because I believe that the Kombucha Scoby needs a small amount of caffeine to grow and thrive properly. I am hoping that it eats up the remaining 20% of caffeine!

I have been making it this way for 3 weeks now. When the first batch was done, I waited until 30 minutes before bedtime and drank 16 ounces of Kombucha. I am normally very sensitive to caffeine, even when I was drinking large amounts of coffee, I always had to cut myself off by 3pm or I’d be awake all night. I noticed no sleep disturbances after drinking the Kombucha. I know that is not very scientific, but at this point anecdotal evidence is all I’ve got 🙂

So if the 24 mg in an 8 oz glass statistic from above is correct than an 8 oz glass of naturally decaffeinated Kombucha should contain around 4.8 milligrams of caffeine.

Has anyone else made it this way? Have you been able to find any solid research on the caffeine needs of a Kombucha Scoby? Why isn’t anyone studying this stuff?

Cherry Kombucha Soda

P.S Sometimes we like flavored Kombucha Soda in the summer. I wait until the Kombucha is all done fermenting for 7 days. I line up several glass bottles (I had people from work save me their old glass, juice bottles) and I add 2 ounces of juice to each bottle. Fill each bottle with Kombucha and screw the lids on tight. Wait 24 hours and then put them all in the fridge. Very bubbly and delicious! Try grape, pomegranate, cherry or pineapple juice. This would be an excellent way to shake a soda pop addiction!

Ginger Beer: A Probiotic Summer Drink

I try to get as many beneficial bacteria in my diet as possible. Right now in my kitchen I have a healthy, bubbly sourdough starter, a jar of sauerkraut fermenting away on the counter, a jug of kombucha on top of the fridge, a gallon of fermented lemonade inside the fridge that’s almost gone, a ginger beer bug on my night stand, and homemade yogurt sitting on the dryer.

I try to keep the ferments at least 15 feet away from each other (which is a challenge in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment) so they don’t cross ferment. You don’t really want bacteria from another strain landing on your kombucha or yogurt, because over long periods of time it will change your scoby/culture into something else entirely. It can weaken your cultures, mutate the strains of bacteria and even kill your “bug”.

I am having a lot of fun with fermented beverages right now. We are really enjoying the lacto-fermented lemonade, and it goes really fast. As the weather warms up, it is the perfect time to start experimenting. Ginger Beer is another really easy beverage to make yourself. It is tangy and sweet and bubbly and would be an excellent soda pop replacement for anyone trying to break that addiction.

Ginger Beer Bug

Small glass jar

1 1/2 cups purified water

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp ground ginger powder

Mix ginger, sugar and water. Cover jar with a coffee filter or towel and leave on the counter at room temperature. Every day feed the bug 2 tsp of sugar and 2 tsp of ground ginger. Around day 7 you should see bubbles when you stir the bug. That means it’s ready. Don’t panic if this takes longer, I have had it take almost 3 weeks in the winter.

While it’s fermenting away, work on finding a good container for your ginger beer. Most people use empty 2 liter soda bottles, because it is easy to tell if your beer is ready with plastic (by squeezing). I have used plastic bottles and 2 small beer jugs that we got from a local micro-brewery. (a great source for cheap fermenting supplies BTW) You can also reuse 1 gallon milk or water containers. What I really should do is buy a fermentation lock for these glass jugs. They are like $2, I don’t know what I’m waiting for….

Ginger Beer

3/4 cup sugar

4 lemons

1 gallon purified water

your finished Ginger Bug

  • If you’re  using several smaller containers, just mix this in a 1 gallon pitcher and pour into the smaller containers by funnel.
  • Let the sediment settle to the bottom of your ginger bug. Pour the liquid off of the top, into the pitcher.
  • Add the juice of 4 lemons, sugar and water. Stir to mix it all up. (leave the sediment in the original jar, you’re going to need to keep this alive for future batches)
  • Pour the beverage into the gallon jug, pop bottles etc…leave 1 inch of head space. Cap tightly.
  • Leave to ferment for at least 7 days. The longer it sits the more sugar the bacteria consume.  Now comes the fun part (and this is why plastic is easier)

Every day squeeze your plastic bottle or jug. When it gets really tight and full of air and there is no more ‘give” it’s ready and should be placed in the refrigerator immediately. If you are using glass, you look for bubbles and can test for carbonation by opening the jug. You’ll see an explosion of bubbles in the jar when you remove the cap, just like when you open a soda pop. It’s ready.

You can also (and I have) not carbonate it at all. I have mixed this in a 1 gallon juice pitcher and covered it loosely with the lid and just let it sit there for 7-14 days. It tasted exactly the same and was delicious, just not carbonated like soda. I honestly don’t particularly like carbonation, I never was a big fan of soda. So I usually bottle half of it tightly and the other half I leave uncovered so the fermentation gasses can escape.

How to Keep Your Ginger Bug Alive

After you’re finished making your ginger beer, you are left with your original “bug”. Which is a glass jar with about 1/2 inch of ginger sediment in it.

Add 1 1/2 cups purified water to the jar

Mix in 2 tsp sugar

Mix in 2 tsp ground ginger powder

Every day (or when you remember) feed the bug with ginger and sugar and stir. After you are finished drinking up your ginger beer, your bug will be ready to make more. It is a very easy “scoby” to maintain and almost impossible to kill once it gets really bubbly. Every time  you make a batch of ginger beer, remember to reserve that sediment in the bottom of the jar, and you can make ginger beer forever.

Has anyone tried making this with fresh grated ginger? I tried it twice, and both times it was a flop. I don’t know what I was doing wrong.

Making Kombucha

Making Kombucha Tea

5 black tea bags

1 gallon purified water

your homemade Kombucha Scoby

1 cup sugar

2 gallon sized glass jars

Boil water and steep tea for 30 minutes. Stir in sugar. Let tea cool for 30 minutes. Pour tea into a clean glass jar. Now since you already made your own mushroom, you should have a large glass jar of tea with a strange-looking organism floating in it 🙂 sitting on your kitchen counter. Remove mushroom from this jar, and place into the new jar of tea, along with a 1 cup of the earlier, already fermented batch of tea. It will float on the top and happily eat the sugar in this fresh tea. Leave out to culture for 7 days. Now drink.

Told you this was going to be easy!

SCOBY: Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast

I stop at this step, because I love the Kombucha just like this. Many people prefer it carbonated or flavored however. In order to carbonate, pour the kombucha into individual bottles with tight lids (glass or plastic is best) and leave on the counter overnight. In the morning move bottles to the fridge. Careful when opening, they get fizzy really fast.

To add flavor mix the Kombucha with juice to flavor it. 1/2 to 1 cup of 100% juice per gallon is plenty. I have tried many flavors and cherry juice is my favorite. We usually only make Kombucha Soda in the summer time.

Scoby floating

Your mushroom will get thicker and thicker with each batch. In a few batches you will be able to separate them into 2 separate mushrooms. You should keep the new “baby” because it contains less yeast, and more bacteria, which is what you want for optimal health. As the Scoby’s get thicker and older, they are composed mostly of yeast, so having a culture that regenerates itself is totally cool!

There is a lot of debate about how much sugar is left in a finished batch of Kombucha after the yeasts and bacteria metabolize it for 7 days. The real answer is that it varies from batch to batch and from household to household. The sugar gets used and converted by the bacteria and yeast during the brewing process. So the final Kombucha tea has a lot less sugar than what you put into it. Many people with diabetes report having no problems drinking it; while others may need to make some adjustments to compensate. My advice would be to drink some after 7 days, if it spikes your blood sugar, try a longer ferment. Just keep tasting and testing your blood until you reach the proper length of time for your body. Keep in mind that after 7 days Kombucha contains .5 to 1% alcohol, which will increase the longer it brews, making it more sour. I have heard of many people who quit their nightly beer habit by replacing it with Kombucha.

Have fun experimenting! And don’t forget to name your Scoby! Questions? Please ask, I am happy to help!

Make your own Kombucha Scoby

What on earth is Kombucha you ask? Well as it turns out, that is a complicated question. Kombucha is an effervescent tea that is fermented with a solid mass of yeast and bacteria often called a scoby, mother or mushroom. Kombucha contains numerous organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids and beneficial bacteria. Kombucha also has been reported to detoxify the liver, aid in digestion, inhibit cancer growth, repopulate the gut flora and boost immunity. Not to mention that it tastes delicious. So how do you get your hands on this miracle beverage? You won’t believe how easy this is!

Make your own Kombucha Scoby

I have let my Kombucha mushroom die many times, so I am the expert at growing a new one. First go to a health food store and purchase one bottle of plain unflavored Kombucha.

1 bottle Kombucha from the store

5 black tea bags

1 gallon purified water

1 cup white sugar

Boil water and add tea and sugar. Steep until very dark and remove tea bags. Let tea come to room temperature. Pour tea into a large glass container and stir in the bottle of Kombucha. Remember that your mushroom will take on the shape of the container, so a very large mouth or wide bowl would not be best. I use a tall glass pitcher. Cover this with a cloth and rubber band it closed (gnats love Kombucha). Wait 7-10 days depending on temperature of the room. (in the winter mine took 16 days once, don’t give up)

You will know that it is finished because a crazy looking mushroom will have grown on the top of your tea! Can you see it in the picture pretty cool huh?

Now instead of paying $3.00 or more per bottle at the store, you can make your own at home for pennies. In my next post I’ll show you how.

Making Kombucha

Making Decaf Kombucha- coming soon

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