#BuchaBinghamton – Hipsters Unite!

Dickie White standing on a deck displaying his lack of abs while holding a blue chihuahua with his right arm.

We all want it, but very few people want to put in the work to get it.

No I’m not talking about my “wicked shredded abs” or a handsome Blue Chihuahua……

I’m talking about a healthy digestive system!

Hi, I’m DickFarm, and if you’re looking to improve the health of your digestive system, then have I got great news for you!

In fact, this solution is so easy, even an idiot (like me) can do it!

Introducing the latest hipster craze to hit Ironworks Gym- making Kombucha!!

Hey DickFarm, What The Hell Is Kombucha?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with “the Bucha,” here’s a quick rundown.

It’s essentially a fermented beverage that is the byproduct of a nasty looking bacteria colony (a “scoby”) that feeds on sweet tea.

In fact, if you nourish your colony consistently with lots of sweet tea, it will start talking to you with a nice, southern drawl (hello to all my family down south!).

The fermented beverage that is left over is full of good bacteria that will aid in improved digestion and overall better gut health.

In addition to improved digestion/detoxing, here are some of the benefits most websites claim that it has:

1- Weight Loss.

2- Increased Energy.

3- Immune Support.

4- Reduced Joint Pain.

5- Cancer Prevention.

Dickie’s Operation

For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis over 7 years ago. Almost immediately my doctor suggested I take a probiotic pill and/or eat yogurt regularly. Since then I’ve done a lot of reading on the benefits of probiotics, fermented foods, and overall gut health.

However, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that my brother finally convinced me to start making Kombucha. He said it was super easy and that even a dummy like me could handle it.

Thankfully, he was right for a change!

Here’s how I got started…

First, I got a bottle of unflavored Bucha from the great Wegmans.

Then, I made a small batch of sweet tea by boiling about a cup of water and pouring it over a green tea bag and a few tablespoons of sugar. I put all of my ingredients in a gallon sized glass jar with a spigot (think lemonade container).

Once my sweet tea was cool (room temperature) I dumped in the store-bought Kombucha. And, by the way, the temperature of your sweet tea is important. Don’t ever use boiling, or even hot, liquid to make Kombucha. The heat could kill the bacterial colony.

A bottle of unflavored Kombucha being added to sweet tea.

I then covered the top of container with a large coffee filter and placed a rubber band around it. This allowed air to pass through but kept any critters from getting into it.

I put it in one of my kitchen cupboards and let it sit for 2-3 weeks.

After that time, a thin scoby (the bacterial colony) formed on top.

From there, I repeated my original process of making sweet tea, only this time I used 4 cups of water, 5 tea bags, and about 1/4 cup of sugar. Once the sweet tea was cool enough, I added it to my Kombucha base in the gallon-sized jar and replaced the coffee filter cover.

With the ratios above, you can harvest every week or two when you first start out. It all depends on how strong you like your Bucha to be.

However, over the last year and a half my scoby has gotten pretty monstrous and now my Kombucha ferments at a much faster rate. I don’t like to let my Kombucha get too vinegary, so I now use 4x the sugar, and “harvest” it about once a week.

How much you let your Kombucha ferment is a matter of personal preference. See what frequency of harvesting, and what level of fermentation, are best for you and adjust the amount of sugar you add accordingly. To be honest, it’s a lot of trial and error.

Anyway, here’s a beautiful picture of the current setup I use at home:

A picture of homemade Kombucha in a gallon sized glass jar with a spigot.

Don’t act like you’re not impressed by the size of my scoby!

Most websites suggest using glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. Using plastic could result in chemicals leeching into your Bucha and/or odd flavors.

My brother suggested getting a glass jar with a spigot to make bottling easy and I’m glad I listened. It is way easier to flip up the spigot than it would be to dump the Kombucha out of the container without the scoby going with it. I think this jar cost me about $20.

The seal around the spigot of my container leaked a little, so I used Gorilla Glue around the outside to help reinforce the seal. I haven’t had any problems since.

Basically what I do about once a week is make sweet tea consisting of the following:

4ish cups of water.

5 bags of black tea.

1 cup of sugar.

Here’s a sweet pic of what it looks before I make the sweet tea.

A picture of a 4 cup glass Pyrex container with 1 cup of sugar in it and 5 bags of black tea on the counter next to it.

I used to use green tea, but read that it was brewed optimally at 170-degrees. Black tea is best brewed in near boiling water, so I switched over. I was worried I was negating the benefits of the green tea by brewing it in water that was too hot.

Once the sweet tea cools to room temperature, I harvest the existing Kombucha from my container and pour the new batch of sweet tea in.

Rich Zwolinski’s Operation

I tried making Kombucha for the first time after buying several way too overpriced bottles from the store. Wasn’t exactly rocket science from what I could figure.

Take some tea, some sugar, a little bit of an old bottle of Kombucha and *poof* some magic happens and you have this wonderful elixir that helps with digestion and tastes good.

After a few failed attempts at getting a good batch that tasted like the wonderful concoctions the store sold me instead of straight up vinegar, I decided to ask for a little help.

Enter Dickie with his simple advice:

Get a glass jug with a spigot.

Use more sugar than you think.

Put it in a warm, dark place to ferment.

Taste it often.

Let me back up.

I gave Kombucha a try because, like most people, I wanted to see what the hype was about. I read all the stuff about how it’s good for your gut, but never from a lifter. It was always some skinny guy that looked like he was afraid of the gym. And then I finally got a few bottles on sale.

There were all sorts of flavors, but I found the less exotic sounding bottles tasted better and made me feel better.

By better, I mean the stomach issues most heavy lifters get after a diet heavy in protein.

The biggest problem?

I was spending a lot of money for something I can make for less than $10.

Back to the failed attempts.

I did several things wrong, that you can easily avoid.

I didn’t use enough sugar.

I fermented it in the fridge.

I didn’t clean my SCOBY.

I used only flavored tea bags.

Since then, I’ve learned to do a few things to make the batch better.

½ Gallon of filtered water.

2 cups of sugar.

4 tea bags, no more than 1 flavored (be careful with flavors as they get strong, quickly).

Keep ½ cup of the previous batch in the jar.

Clean your SCOBY with warm water every few batches.

Create a SCOBY vault to keep in case something goes wrong.

I’m no expert, but with a few extra minutes of research and a freshly cleaned starter SCOBY, I started making fresh batches every few weeks and have learned to tweak them to taste just like I like them.

Here’s my process for making my own Kombucha:

Boil the water, sugar, and tea until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. It takes a few hours.

Clean your vessel with hot soapy water, being sure to get all soap residue out.

Every 2-3 batches I will clean the vessel again.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar and swirl around the vessel and then dump out.

After the tea is cooled, pour it into the vessel and add approximately 4 ounces of unpasteurized kombucha from a bottle or the last batch. The acid in the previous batch will help ward off the bad things we don’t want.

Add your SCOBY if you have one. If you have one, it ferments faster, if not, you can order one or just go get a non-pasteurized bottle of Kombucha from the store.

Cover the mouth of the vessel with a coffee filter or paper towel.

Place in a warm, dark area.

Check it every 2-3 days for taste.

My personal favorite is made with 3 bags of green tea and 1 bag of lemongrass tea. I’ve also tried using cinnamon tea, orange tea, and mint.

Be sure to taste the tea often as it doesn’t take long to go from sweet, digestion helping tea to vinegar, and no matter what you’ve read, vinegar is not something that tastes good as a drink.

One of the biggest things I had to get over was the yeast growth. After the first batch and the first cleaning, the yeast growth subsides.

It is perfectly natural to have some yeast growth and if you are grossed out by the idea of drinking a strand of yeast, you can always run your Kombucha through a filter before placing it in a bottle for storage.

One thing you have to be very careful of: MOLD.

Mold is not ok in any stage.

If you see mold (and you know what mold looks like), get rid of the batch and start over.

Tierney Wallace’s Operation

I never even thought about “gut health” until 8 years ago when I wound up ER for what turned out to be an ulcer in my esophagus. I later learned that it was caused by the slow burn of chronic G.E.R.D. (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

I had been using every reflux product available to mask the symptoms while avoiding the real issue- my digestive system was as weak as a (insert hilariously weak thing)!

Since then I’ve become a fangirl for all things gut healthy.

I especially love Kombucha, but at $3.99/bottle it was too pricey to have regularly…until the great Dickie White offered me a chunk of his SCOBY!

Now I’m brewing at home like a champ.

Typically I ferment a gallon a week which might not sound like a lot, but you don’t need to drink much bucha to get the benefits.

My bucha lives in the corner of my counter next to various other hipster food products.

Kombucha brewing in a clear glass jar next to coconut oil and apple cider vinegar.

I prefer my bucha to be sweeter and bubbly so I do a second fermentation to add flavor and carbonation. If you’d like to try a second ferment it’s just 3 easy steps:

1. Bottle your bucha (without the scoby).

2. Add some form of flavoring that contains sugar. I like a splash of pure fruit juice like the one pictured.

3. Seal and let set for 2-14 days before consuming.

Kombucha in a clear glass jar next to a glass jar of tart cherry juice and an empty glass bottle.

Mike Benjamin’s Operation

While not an Ironworks member, Mike is still a kick ass guy. He trains Jiu Jitsu up in Liverpool with me. One day we got talking about Bucha. He told me about his experiences and it sounded like he had a pretty serious operation so I asked if he would contribute to this post. Here’s what he sent me:

My process starts after you have a fully functional scoby (SCOBY – Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) hotel.

A picture of a scoby in a glass jar with Kombucha brewing.

A close up of Kombucha brewing in a clear glass jar.

After each brew you get a brand new scoby + the original gets slightly bigger.

The kombucha drink is basically a large batch of sweet tea with some bacteria. The bacteria is said to be healthy to the human body.

Some of the benefits of the drink are introducing millions of beneficial bacteria and balancing the PH of the digestive tract.

Some people have also used kombucha as a healthy natural way to cleanse the skin as well as balance skin PH. To do so you simply soak a cloth in kombucha and rub it over the skin.

Items needed for 1 gallon of kombucha:

– 1 Gallon mason jar.

– 1 Scoby.

– 1 Pot large enough to boil 1 gallon of water.

– 1 Cup of plain cheap white sugar (Dont use honey, it has anti bacterial properties).

– 5 Bags of tea (I prefer black tea because of its cheap price. Green tea is also a good choice).

– 1 Large spoon.

– 6 Flip top bottles (Found on amazon for cheap. Local beer brewing supply stores will also carry these).

– 3 Rubber bands and a couple old shirts. The old shirts are optional. I cut an old shirt and use it like a coffee filter over the top of my gallon jar. I also use 1 shirt wrap around the jar. This shirt is to prevent light from coming into the jar. The scoby prefers dark places. The rubber bands are to hold it all together.

A picture of a clear glass Grolsh bottle.

A piece of black cheesecloth type material.

A black fabric covering over a jar near a sink.

A red dutch oven on a stove.

A bag of Newman's Own tea.

1) Boil 1 gallon of water (tap water is fine) along with 1 cup of white sugar. Stir and cover.

2) Once brought to a boil kill the heat and add the 5 tea bags. Let the bags steep in the water for about 10-15 minutes.

3) Place the hot liquid into your 1 gallon jug. Allow to cool over night. I also add some cold tap water to top off any water I may have lost during the transfer.

A red dutch oven boiling water in preparation to make tea.

A picture of a clear glass jar in a sink being filled with water.

A red dutch oven with hot water and tea bags in it making tea.

 

4) Once cooled, pick out the scoby you want from the hotel and add it to the 1 gallon jug.

Someone's left hand holding a scoby up so you can see the thickness.

A picture of a scoby and brewing Kombucha in a glass jar with black fabric held on the top with a rubber band.

A picture of a left hand holding a scoby to show the thickness.

 

5) Cover the top with a material that will allow air exchange (coffee filter, shirt).

6) Wrap a blanket, old shirt, etc around the 1 gallon jug to prevent light from getting in. You can also put it in a cupboard or closet.

7) Let the kombucha sit at room temperature for about 2 weeks or until the taste is right for you. You can also tell when its done by taking PH measurements of 3.6 – 3.9. I usually just allow about 2 weeks and bottle.

8) Take out the newly formed scoby and its mother from the jar and place into the scoby hotel for the next batch.

9) To bottle you can use all sorts of tools from the beer supply store to assist. I use the simple pore and pray method. You pour it with a funnel and pray you don’t lose to much by the time the bottles full. Be warned you will lose some so you may want to do this in the sink.

A top down picture to show the scoby sitting at the top of a batch of Kombucha brewing in a clear glass jar.

Kombucha being poured from a clear glass jar into a funnel running to a bottle.

A picture of Kombucha in a clear glass jar.

 

10) After its all said and done, you should end up with about six 16oz flip top bottles full of mouth watering kombucha.

A picture of clear glass Grolsh bottles filled and capped.  The bottles contain freshly brewed Kombucha.

Scoby Hotel

The scoby hotel is the made the same way as the above only you typically increase the batch size. You can cram the hotel with scobys. You should have plenty on hand after a few batches.

The hotel liquid will stay good for about 3 months. After about 3 months or so you’ll want to make a fresh batch of tea to help fuel the scobys.

Notes On Sugar

The sugar used in the sweet tea is for the bacteria colony to consume. When the fermentation process is done (indicated by acidic taste and/or vinegar smell), there is anywhere from 2-6 grams of sugar per 8 ounces of unflavored Bucha.

Obviously, if you’re not buying a bottles from the store, there’s going to be some variation. But I found that info in a search and wanted to include it.

Conclusion

I hope this post gives you the info to get started making your own Kombucha (it’s certainly long enough, right?!).

If you have any questions or input on something you do a little different, please leave a comment below.

2 Responses to #BuchaBinghamton – Hipsters Unite!

  1. Raymond March 18, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

    My buddy is new to the Binghamton area and is wondering where he can acquire a SCOBY up that way. Thanks

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