From the Editor: Please welcome Julie Feickert, Cultures for Health Founder and Cultured Kitchen Keeper.
As a practical matter, the care we give live cultures must adjust as the seasons shift. Of all the cultured foods in my kitchen right now, kombucha is the one I need to make the most adjustments for as the weather grows warmer.
- I keep an eye on the brew time. Kombucha tends to brew more quickly in warmer weather. While we do have central air conditioning on our home, the kombucha sits near the back door which is constantly being opening and closed as the kids come and go so it’s a fairly warm spot. I usually brew my kombucha in a 5 gallon glass container with a spigot so I’ll often draw just a bit off to taste it and determine if it’s time to stop the brew process (you can also use a straw). In the winter I’ll often brew for 4 weeks. In the summer, it can be closer to 3 weeks. Keep in mind that if your kombucha sits near a central air unit, you may actually need to increase brewing time due to the lower ambient temperature.
- I limit how long any batch brews, even if I’m not home. When I travel, I’ll generally set up a fresh batch and just let it brew while we are gone. Thankfully we don’t have any long trips planned this year but if we did, I probably wouldn’t want a batch sitting for more than 30 days for fear the scoby would run out of food as we generally don’t leave the air conditioner running and it can get quite warm.
- I rethink flavorings that contain sugar. Normally when I bottle my kombucha I’ll put 2-3 oz. of organic juice in a 16 oz. flip-top bottle and fill the remainder with kombucha. This works great during the cooler months as the bottled kombucha slowly consumes the sugar in the juice and I end up with a lovely bubbly brew. But during the summer, that process happens much more quickly and since I generally bottle several weeks’ worth at a time, it’s common for the mixture to turn and end up being most unpleasant tasting. So right now I’m skipping the juice and drinking it unflavored. This is one of the reasons I really prefer brewing with Oolong tea—it makes such a lovely unflavored kombucha.
- I try to store as many bottles as possible in the house or fridge. All that live bacteria and yeast in the kombucha keeps humming along even after it’s bottled so to avoid an over-fermented brew (less of an issue with unflavored kombucha), I try to store as much as I can in the fridge. But let’s face it, fridge space is at a premium especially this time of year, so the next option is my pantry in the house. I try to avoid the very warm garage as much as possible.
Which of your culturing routines change during the warm months?