First Look: Hot Process Soap

I’m not sure what piqued my interest in soapmaking, but it was just that. The whole process seemed difficult and fascinating, but I knew it was something the average DIYer could handle. One night, I picked up the book “Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps” to learn a little more about the subject. This led to late-night binges of YouTube tutorials and more reading. I wonder if this is how most people get the spark to try something new?

I purchased a few soap-making books including David Fisher – The Complete Photo Guide to Soap Making, Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps, Soap Crafting – Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps, and a few others. These books helped me better understand the process and get me to the starting line. So – I asked the kiddo if they wanted to learn to make soap. The answer was “Yes”, so I began ordering supplies and picking-up kitchenware to dedicate to the cause.

There are two main processes to make soap: hot-process and cold-process. We decided to start with hot-process soap instead of cold-process because it seemed easier. Hot-process soap becomes usable (fully cured) in a few days. Cold-process on the other hand, takes months to cure. The curing time with hot process is much faster (1-2 weeks vs. 4-6 weeks for cold process) because you literally “cook” the soap though most of the curing stages. Heating the mixture accelerates the saponification (a fancy chemistry term for turning fats and oils into soap) process. Because you need to cook and stir the mixture, you will want to have a crock-pot and other utensils strictly dedicated to making soap. Eventually, we’ll try cold-process, but we didn’t want to wait to test our product!

Here are the items I bought to get started:

Oils (Fats)
Palm Oil (Buy from a participant with the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO))
Coconut Oil
Castor Oil
Olive Oil
Sweet Almond Oil

Essential Oils
Lavender Essential Oil
Tea Tree Essential Oil

Other Ingredients
Lye
Plain Greek Yogurt
Lavender Buds
Activated Carbon (the chunkier version of activated charcoal). See notes or you can buy Activated Charcoal.

Tools
Crock-pot
Immersion Blender
Soap Mold (32oz)
Soap Cutters
Digital Scale
Digital Thermometer
Measuring Cups
Spatula

Soap is much like kombucha in that you can tweak the recipes to suit your style and tastes. It is best to stick to a recipe until you really understand how the ingredients work. Once you understand how it all goes together, feel free to get creative! The recipe below is what I used. It will fill a 32oz mold and is 5% superfat (superfat refers to the small percent of extra oil that is not saponified because there is not enough lye to change it to soap. Having superfats will ensure your soap is lye free and mild).

Ingredient Mesurments:
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) 130.31g / 4.60oz
Water Total: 299.38g / 10.56oz **reserve 20% of the water for later use
Castor Oil 36.29g / 1.28oz / 4.0 %
Coconut Oil (76 degrees) 290.30g / 10.24oz / 2.0%
Olive Oil 272.16g / 9.60oz / 30.0%
Palm Oil 272.16g / 9.60oz / 30.0%
Sweet Almond Oil 36.29g / 1.28oz  / 4.0%
Lavender Essential Oil 0.5oz
Tea Tree Essential Oil 0.5oz
Activated Charcoal 1 tbsp
Greek Yogurt 1 tbsp
Sodium Lactate 3% weight to oils. 27.22g / 0.96oz

**Note:For this recipe we will be splitting our water.
Reserve 20% of the water for later use in the recipe : 59.8g / 2.11oz.
80% of the water will go into our lye solution: 239.58g /  8.45oz

Activated charcoal was priced at $3-$4/oz. online plus shipping. If that seems high to you here’s a pro tip – Go to a pet store and buy activated carbon (it is the same thing as activated charcoal). This is a bit more solid than what you would buy in powder form, so you will want to grind it down to a powder. I used an old coffee bean grinder, sifted and repeated. A mortar and pestle would also work. The process is a little messy and I would recommend using a dust mask to reduce the chance of inhaling charcoal powder.

Our hot-process method became a mix information from several sources.  There are a few important safety rules you need to observe when making soap:

  1. ALWAYS be careful when working with Lye and use gloves and safety goggles.
  2. ALWAYS add lye to water. Never add water to lye.
  3. Work in a well-ventilated area when mixing lye. We used the oven hood to mix our lye under, along with turning on the ceiling fan, and opening the kitchen window. You may also choose to mix your lye outside.
  4. Keep children and pets away of the area you are mixing lye. Also, keep Vinegar on hand in case of spills.

Now, onto the process.

Hot-Process Method

  1. Set-up your work area.
  2. Put down a barrier to protect your counter from spills. This can be cardboard, newspaper, plastic sheeting, etc…
  3. Set-up crock-pot and turn to LOW.
  4. Set-up emulsion blender, measuring cups, mixing bowl, scale, etc…
  5. Measure and melt each oil.
  6. Combine all melted oils into the same mixing bowl. Be sure to tare your scale before each new measurement.
  7. Add melted oils to crock-pot.
  8. When the oils reach 100°F, measure out lye and water. Set aside 20% of the water at this time.
  9. Add lye to water (the 80%) stirring until the mixture is clear. Set solution aside and allow to cool to 130°F.
  10. When the lye has cooled to 130°F, add the Sodium Lactate to the lye solution from step 9.
  11. Check temperature of the oils in crock pot. They should be approximately 130°F. When at approximately 130°F, add the lye and sodium lactate solution to the crockpot.
  12. Blend with an emulsion blender for about 10 minutes, until we had a light/medium trace

**To learn more about trace visit this article at Soap Queen. https://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/trace/

  1. Once trace was achieved, cover crock-pot with plastic wrap and then set the lid on-top.
  2. Cook for 20 minutes on LOW, keeping a close eye on the crock-pot to make sure it does not overflow.
  3. Check consistency of soap after 20 minutes. At this stage called the separation stage it should look similar to custard around the edges and oil in the middle.
  4. Stir and cover with plastic wrap and lid. Cook another 20 minutes.
  5. Check the consistency of the soap. This time it should resemble applesauce. This is the time to monitor your soap the most to make sure it does not rise out of the crock-pot.
  6. Repeat step 16.
  7. Check the consistency of the soap. It should look similar to vaseline and mashed potatoes.
  8. Test the pH, stir lightly, turn off the heat, and allow to cool below 180°F.
  9. Once cooled, add the 20% water initially set aside and 1 Tbsp of Plain Greek Yogurt. Mix until combined.

Next we add the scent. For this recipe, split the soap in the crock-pot in half. You can use 2 mixing bowls to accomplish this.

  1. Bowl #1 – Add 1 oz. of lavender essential oil. Mix until combined.
  2. Bowl #2 – Added .5 oz Tea Tree Oil and 1 Tbs. (more if you want it darker) of activated charcoal. Mix until combined.
  3. Pour lavender scented soap to the mold. Then, pour the tea tree and charcoal soap on top.
  4. Give the mold a few taps on the table.
  5. If you would like, press some dried lavender buds or other décor on top of soap.
  6. Allow soap to sit for 24 hours before unmolding.
  7. Cut the soap. We used a crinkle cutter.
  8. Evenly space the soap bars on a piece of wax paper and left them cure for 1-2 weeks to allow the soap to harden.
  9. Flip and rotate the soap bars daily.

That’s it!

References and Helpful Links we used
David Fisher – The Complete Photo Guide to Soap Making
Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps
Soap Crafting – Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps
Brambleberry.com
SoapQueen.com
modernsoapmaking.com
theprairiehomestead.com

DIY Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

People often think it is difficult or time consuming to make their own Do it Yourself (DIY) cleaning supplies. I’m here to tell you – This is a myth!

This DIY natural all-purpose cleaner will take you around 5 minutes to make. This includes 4 minutes to gather your ingredients and clean your bottle and about 1 minute to toss it all in a bottle and shake! This recipe relies on vinegar and essential oils to naturally loosen grime to clean and freshen all surfaces. I’ve used this on glass, ceramic, tile, plastics, stainless steel, etc… It is gentle and effective.

If you’re new to using essential oils, the start-up cost may be a little daunting. Fear not! There are reasonably priced mid-level starter-kits out there that may put you out $30-40. Pricey – yes – but your starter-kit essential oils will result in so many bottles of cleaner that you will wonder why you waited so long to make DIY cleaners and will never spend $4 on a bottle of commercial cleaner again. I have not done the math, but given you only need 1-3 drops of each essential oil and a couple tablespoons of vinegar for each bottle of cleaner, the cost per bottle is probably around $0.50 cents.

Feel free to stop reading after the recipe, but if you would like a more in depth review of the ingredients, and why they make this a solid All-Purpose cleaner, keep reading!

Ingredients List:


Buy Essential Oils

Steps:

  1. If bottle is not new, clean it out. It does not need to be sterile, but a good scrub with soap and hot water is encouraged.
  2. Fill bottle with water adequate room to add vinegar and prevent splash-back. I use filtered tap water. You may use unfiltered tap, distilled, whatever. Just add water.
  3. Add essential oils
  4. Top off bottle with water
  5. Shake!
  6. Success!

Store in a cool, dark place for best shelf-life.

Disclaimer: I have not tested the shelf life of this product beyond 3 months. I use it almost daily and almost always end up making a new bottle monthly. I imagine it should keep upwards of 6-12 months, but if in doubt (it smells weird, looks weird, or there is mold), throw it out.

If you’d like to make and use Citrus Peel Vinegar:

Citrus Peel Vinegar – Literally just that. Take a glass jar and fill with lime, lemon, or orange peels (mix and match if you’d like). Fill to the top with of white, distilled vinegar. Allow to soak. The peels will look super ugly after about a week, but the vinegar itself will stay preserved and usable for well over a year.

Now, for the curious readers:

If you would like a little more substance behind the recipe, we get to the science behind the spray. We’ll start with a few definitions to keep you from glazing over or wondering “Wait, isn’t this all natural?”. I assure you it is, but the natural world runs on chemistry. We are chemistry. The world is chemistry. It’s pretty awesome.

Disclaimer: The information presented below is regarding the properties of the ingredients only. Please be aware that I have not run lab tests (though I would love to do some agar testing on this recipe – that may be a future post) on this cleaner and make no claims that this will prevent, cure, or otherwise magically protect anyone from anything. This is DIY natural cleaner, not commercial. In my personal use, this has cleaned better than any other natural and commercial all-purpose cleaner, which is why I’m sharing this recipe with you lovely folks. 


Key Terms:

Acetic Acid – A characteristic constituent in the vinegar humans eat. Most vinegars consist of 4% to 8% acetic acid. The rest is water. Vinegars are a weak acid, a 2-4.5 on the pH scale.
**Linalool – Naturally occurring compound found in the oil of citrus peel and some flowering plants. This ingredient can cause skin irritation or allergy in high concentrations. If you or your loved ones are sensitive to citrus skin, swap out the orange essential oil.
pH – Power + H, H being the elemental symbol for Hydrogen. The pH scale is used to specify how acidic or basic (alkaline) a solution is. The scale ranges from 0-14. A solution is acidic from 0 to less than7, and basic (alkaline) when greater 7 to 14. A pH 7 is neutral.
Phenol – An often-fragrant organic compound often found in garlic, green tea, grapes, olive oil.
Terpene – A fragrant organic compound produced by some plants, insects, etc…

Ingredients List in Depth:

The ingredients included have been shown in numerous studies to inhibit the growth of a number of bacteria and viruses including those that contribute to food-poisoning and urinary tract infections, and some also have anti-inflammatory and anti-biofilm properties.

**Lemon essential oil – Derived from the peel of the lemon fruit (Citrus limon). If using lemon essential oil instead of lemongrass, please see the orange essential oil listing below for details. They are very similar, and both contain linalool as an active component.

Lemongrass essential oil – Derived from the culinary herb commonly known as lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). Lemongrass oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of several strains of streptococci and lactobacilli bateria. In laboratory studies, it was shown to significantly reduce the number of viable cells and reduced the bacteria’s ability to stick to surfaces.

**Orange essential oil – Also called Sweet Orange essential oil. Commonly derived from the peel of the orange fruit (Citrus sinensis). One major component of orange essential oil is linalool. Linalool is an aromatic terpene, which oxidizes (i.e. smells) when exposed to air. Linalool has been shown to be an effective anti-bacterial component inhibiting the growth of Listeria monocytogenes (nasty bacteria causing Listeriosis) and Bacillus cereus (can be a cause of diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting). As orange essential oil contains linalool, it does have a risk of skin irritation or allergy in higher concentrations. If you or your loved ones are sensitive to products containing linalool, swap this essential oil for another on the list or skip it. The concentration is incredibly low in this spray, but you know yourself and your family better than I do. If irritation occurs, discontinue use.

Oregano essential oil – Derived from the culinary herb commonly known as oregano (Origanum vulgare). Oregano essential oil contains a naturally occurring phenol; Carvacol. Carvacol, like Thymol, has been clinically shown to inhibit the growth of several strands of Salmonella and other lactic acid bacteria and E.coli.

Rosemary essential oil – Derived from the culinary herb commonly known as rosemary (Rosemariunus officinalis L.). Rosemary essential oil has been shown to have an antimicrobial effect against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other bacterial strains.

Tea Tree essential oil – Derived from the Melaleuca tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). This tree is native to Australia but is also an invasive species commonly found in south Florida. Tea tree oil has been used to treat everything from acne and dandruff to inflammation. The data tends to support the long-held beliefs that tea tree oil is useful as an antimicrobial and in treating inflammation. Some studies show tea tree oil significantly inhibits the growth of the flu virus; however, more studies would be fantastic to support this.

Thyme essential oil – Derived from the culinary herb commonly known as thyme (Thymus vulgaris). to contain a naturally occurring phenol called Thymol. Thymol, a major component in thyme essential oil, has been shown to inhibit the growth of several strands of salmonella and other lactic acid bacteria, and uropathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Vinegar – Vinegar is essential to add to the cleaner. It lowers the overall pH of the formula, which is a good thing! It makes the spray slightly acidic, which amplifies the active properties in the essential oils. Aside from that, vinegar has been used as a disinfectant for thousands of years. The acetic acid in vinegar is an efficient disinfectant. It can effectively kill the bacteria known to cause tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) when allowed to soak for 30 minutes at 6% acetic acid concentration.


References:

Araby, E., and S. Y. El-Tablawy. “Inhibitory Effects of Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis L.) Essential Oil on Pathogenicity of Irradiated and Non-irradiated Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. June 2016. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26995672.

Bråred, J., P. Forsström, A. M. Wennberg, A. T. Karlberg, and M. Matura. “Air Oxidation Increases Skin Irritation from Fragrance Terpenes.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. January 2009. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19125719.

Burt, S. “Essential Oils: Their Antibacterial Properties and Potential Applications in Foods–a Review.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. August 01, 2004. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15246235.

Carson, C. F., K. A. Hammer, and T. V. Riley. “Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: A Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. January 2006. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16418522.

“Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.” Plant Management in Florida Waters. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/melaleuca-quinquenervia/.

Cortesia, C., C. Vilcheze, A. Bernut, W. Contreras, K. Gomez, J. de Waard, W. Jacobs Jr., L. Kremer, and H. Takiff. “Acetic Acid, the Active Component of Vinegar is an Effective Tuberculocidal Disinfectant.” mBio. March-April 2014. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3940030/.

“Definition of PH.” Chemicool. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.chemicool.com/definition/ph.html.

Fisher, K., and C. A. Phillips. “The Effect of Lemon, Orange and Bergamot Essential Oils and Their Components on the Survival of Campylobacter Jejuni, Escherichia Coli O157, Listeria Monocytogenes, Bacillus Cereus and Staphylococcus Aureus in Vitro and in Food Systems.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. December 2006. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17105553.

Foodsafety.gov. “Bacillus Cereus.” FoodSafety.gov. August 24, 2009. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/bcereus/index.html.

Garozzo, A., R. Timpanaro, A. Stivala, G. Bisignano, and A. Castro. “Activity of Melaleuca Alternifolia (tea Tree) Oil on Influenza Virus A/PR/8: Study on the Mechanism of Action.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. January 2011. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21095205

Gutierrez, J., C. Barry-Ryan, and P. Bourke. “The Antimicrobial Efficacy of Plant Essential Oil Combinations and Interactions with Food Ingredients.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. May 10, 2008. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18378032.

Johnston, C, and C. A. Gass. “Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect.” MedGenMed. May 2006. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/.

Lee, J. H., Y. G. Kim, and J. Lee. “Carvacrol-rich Oregano Oil and Thymol-rich Thyme Red Oil Inhibit Biofilm Formation and the Virulence of Uropathogenic Escherichia Coli.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. December 2017. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28980415.

“Listeria (Listeriosis) | Listeria | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html.

Oliveira, M. A., A. C. Borges, F. L. Brighenti, M. J. Salvador, A. V. Gontijo, and C. Y. Koga-Ito. “Cymbopogon Citratus Essential Oil: Effect on Polymicrobial Caries-related Biofilm with Low Cytotoxicity.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. November 06, 2017. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29116300.

Ozogul, Y., E. Kuley, Y. Ucar, and F. Ozogul. “Antimicrobial Impacts of Essential Oils on Food Borne-Pathogens.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26072990.

Salehi, B., A. P. Mishra, I. Shukla, M. Sharifi-Rad, M. D. Contreras, A. Segura-Carretero, H. Fathi, N. N. Nasrabadi, F. Kobarfard, and J. Sharifi-Rad. “Thymol, Thyme, and Other Plant Sources: Health and Potential Uses.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. September 2018. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29785774.

Homestead Concept Designing with Chief Architect – Part 1

I came across Chief Architect Software when I was looking around for a program to design blueprints. I tried several free programs online and some trial versions of others. Nothing seems to give me exactly what I was looking for. When I found Chief Architect I was thrilled. I played around with the trial version and watched many of the starting videos they have available. The blueprint design window in itself is great, I was able to switch views, create new ones for things like water and electrical.

Being a visual person though the option to have a blueprint layout and also go into a 3-D view, Framing View and Cross-section views to get a real-world look at what I was creating, and a place to make visual adjustments that fit my style and liking. There are also many landscaping features that I have not experimented within their full capacity, yet! I will be looking more into those as I continue learning about the programs and diving in deeper.

The program was a little hard to understand and a little intimidating when I opened it up for the first time, but there were many videos, help tutorials, and forums to help me figure out the basics, and some of the more complex questions I ran into. The only down-side of the program is the cost, and it is not really beginner type software. The similar version Chief Home Designer is around $400 and the Chief Architect Premier is a whopping $2,795. But, if you are like me, you want to have control over what your future home will look like and Do-it-yourself. Though I am by no means an Architect, I do have some ideas of what I want, and how I want them to look so getting the experience of learning and designing that idea and being able to visually see the layout and blueprints is rewarding.

In this section of videos, I will be using the Chief Architect to work out some design ideas, and hopefully give anyone out there some pointers that are looking to take a similar path in designing their homestead home. I am in no way an authoritative resource for the Chief Architect Programs, and this series will be a learn as I go, but if you have questions I am sure I can help to the best of my ability.

Bottling Kombucha

Bottling Kombucha helps build up the the carbon dioxide produced during this second fermentation cycle giving your kombucha that fizzy effervescence it is known for. When bottling you need to have enough sugar still renaming in your jars to give the yeast food to help build up the carbon dioxide, and a bottle with a good air-tight seal is super important when making Kombucha, else you will have a flat Kombucha.

Choosing Bottles for Storing Kombucha:
There are many bottling options, and most any glass bottle with a good air tight lid will do. Some of they styles we use are Boston Rounds, Flip-Top bottle, and reusing store brought Kombucha and Tea Bottles. Most metal lids, for us anyway, only seem to work well for 2-3 used then start to corridor. So far the best lids we have found that work well when ordering new bottle are ones that come with F217 caps or Polycone Seal Caps.

Some Bottle Ideas:
Amber Boston Round with Black Poly Cone Cap
Clear Glass Boston Round Bottles with Black Phenolic Poly-Seal
Swing Top Glass Bottles

Instructions for Bottling Kombucha:
We recommend if you are using fruits or herbs to strain your liquid before bottling. This is optional and up to you. If you are using juices the need to add extra sugar is not needed in most cases. The more sugar added, the faster the carbonation will build. Temperature also plays a part in how quickly carbonation will build up in your bottles.

  1. After you have stained your Kombucha, add 1/8 tsp. of sugar per 8oz to your bottles or 1 raisin per 8oz of Kombucha. This will awaken the yeast and help produce carbonation.
  2. Fill your bottle with Kombucha, leaving about 1/2 inch of head space.
  3. Cap and leave at room temperature for 2-5 days.
  4. The length you allow your kombucha to ferment depends on your personal taste preferences, the temperature, and the amount of sugar added or in your flavoring. Check your bottles daily, and burp the bottles to release any excessive build up of carbonation. Please use caution when opening bottle.
  5. Store bottles in the refrigerator, chill and enjoy.

When you add your bottles to the refrigerator this will slow the build up of carbonation. To restore effervescence when serving, remove the bottle from the refrigerator, and let it sit for 5 minutes at room temperature.

Flavoring Kombucha

You have a fresh batch of Kombucha, now what? Once your Kombucha has finished fermenting and you have removed the SCOBY. Your kombucha can be enjoy unflavored or you can flavor it many different ways in a secondary fermentation stage.

One of the things we really enjoy about brewing Kombucha is creating and experimenting with new flavors to infuse our Kombucha with. You can use a variety and mix of fruits, juices,teas, herbs and spices to create blends that make your kombucha fruity, sweet or spicy that you and your family will enjoy. The sky is the limit here.

Many people flavor and add the mix straight to the bottle, this really works well if you are using juices or flavored teas. You can also add fruit to the bottles and allow the second fermentation to take place with in the bottles. When we use fruits or herbs, since we are usually storing our bottles for longer than a week we always add these agents to our vessel for a second fermentation, strain then bottle. This is the method that works best for us, and the method we will be discussing below.

Fruits:
Using fruits is a great starting point when learning to flavor your Kombucha, and readily available. When using fruit you can use fresh cut, frozen or pureed. Experiment with the amount of fruit you add, and the combination amounts. Use more of 1 or more flavors for a stronger flavor, or less for a hint of a flavor.

To use fresh fruits; peel if needed, and cut in to small pieces. For firmer fruits e.g. apples and pears we usually give these a light smash to help extract more flavor.

Frozen fruits are a great option when a fruit you are wanting to use is out of season. I have ran in to this problem with peaches a few times.
Ratio of Fresh Fruit or Frozen Fruit: 1-2 cups per gallon of Kombucha.

Fruit Puree:
Puree is a stronger concentration of fruit flavors. When using a puree starting with less is better.
Ratio of Fruit Puree: 1/2 cups per gallon of Kombucha.

Herbs & Spices:
Herbs and Spices can bring many interesting flavors to Kombucha, and even heat things up a bit. Herbs & spices have many varieties and strengths. A small amount can go a long ways. Start with small amounts. Let them infuse for a day, taste and add more to reach your desired flavor. Many herb can be added as tisanes, a similar process to steeping teas. Find some herbs here or here to start experimenting.

Juices:
Using fruit juices is an the easiest process when flavoring your Kombucha either fresh squeezed or bottled organic juice.
Ratio of Fruit Juice: 1 cups per gallon of Kombucha.

Teas:
You can also flavor kombucha with flavored teas as well.
Ratio of Tea: 1-2 bags or teaspoon for loose leaf tea steeped in 1 cup of water for 5-10 mins. Let cool, then add the tea to your Kombucha batch. Find some great teas here to infuse with your Kombucha.

Infusing:

Once you have your new batch of Kombucha, remove your SCOBY and 1 cup of starter liquid to continue your next batch. Next add your fruits,herbs, and/or a combination of both. Recover your vessel with a cloth and secure with a rubber band or string. Let this sit for 1-2 days, giving your fruits and/or herbs a chance to infuse into your Kombucha. Taste the brew after the end of 1 day with a straw to test if the flavors are to your liking. Once you your Kombucha is infused with our flavor agents see our post on bottling Kombucha.

Straight to bottling:

When using juices or teas with out additions of fruit or herbs you can skip ahead to our section on bottling your Kombucha, since the process of infusing is not needed. If you plan to use a combination of Fresh Fruit, we recommend adding your juice and/or teas first and continuing with the steps below. See our post on bottling.

Remember to take down notes on your ingredients and length of time you let your flavors infuse, that way you can make adjustments if needed in your next batch. The key to flavoring Kombucha is experimenting until you find a flavor and combination you are happy with. There have been several batches I was not happy with, but some small tweaks and adjustments made the next time I tried that recipe much more enjoyable.

Find some flavor ideas here to get you started!

For the next step continue to our post on bottling.

Happy Brewing!

Simple Kombucha Recipe

A while back I was recommended to try Kombucha by a friend of mine since I drink a good bit of Apple Cider Vinegar and Scrub. I was instantly hooked and went in search of more information on Kombucha and the process in which it was made.

I spent countless hours reading blogs, DIY websites, and also picked up a copy of the Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum. A great starter book that answered a lot of questions and worries I had when starting out. I spent a good bit of time experimenting with different types of teas and sugar, then slowly moved into adding flavors (which opens up a whole big world of possibilities). In this process we will making 1 gallon, usually called a Batch Brew. There are other methods like the Continuous Brew Method that is 3-5 gallons. I have not tried this method, since 1 gallon is enough for my personal use. If you are interested in the other methods I would suggest grabbing the book above to find out more on the subject.

I really enjoy the experimental part of Kombucha and the assortment of products that can be made with it. Some of which we will be learning and sharing in the future.

Once you have your SCOBY and strong starter liquid starting a new batch of Kombucha easy. If you do not have a SCOBY check these previous post to find out more. Growing a Kombucha SCOBY and How to get a Kombucha SCOBY

Servings: 1 Gallon
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup of raw Kombucha
  • 1 SCOBY that is 1/4 inch or more think.
  • 14-16 Cups Water
  • 3-4 tbsp Loose Leaf Black Tea 4-6 Black Tea bags work as well. We Use
  • 1 Cup White or Cane Sugar Like This
Tools You will Need
  • 1 gal Wide Mouth Glass Jar Best to Buy 2.
  • Strainer
  • Glass Bowl
  • Tea Towel
  • Rubberband or String
  • Wood Spoon
Instructions
  1. Sterilize all equipment and jar with boiling water for 5 mins.

  2. Bring 3 cups of distilled water to a boil.

  3. Add 1 cup of sugar to the boiled water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Add tea to the 3 cups of boiled water/sugar mix and let steep for 20 mins.

  5. Let the sweet tea mix is room temperature.

  6. Add the sweet tea mix to the 1-gallon glass jar along with the additional water. *Leaving enough room at the top for the extra cup of Raw Kombucha and the SCOBY. You will want to keep the finished level of fluids below the shoulder of the jar.

  7. Move your SCOBY into the sweet tea mix. *Before handling your SCOBY and moving it to the new vessel wash your hands with a non-antibacterial soap.

  8. Slowly add 1 cup of Raw Kombucha from your starter or previous batch in to the sweet tea mix.

  9. Cover the top of the jar with the tea cloth (Do not add the original jar's lid).

  10. Secure the tea cloth with a Rubberband or string.

  11. Set your jar in a warm, dark area of the house.

Recipe Notes

Your new batch of Kombucha will need to sit for 1-3 weeks.

It is best to start tasting your Kombucha after day 4. Tasting will give you an idea of the changes in taste the Kombucha goes though. Continue tasting until you reach the desired strength. Around 1 week in your Kombucha should start tasting less sweet and more tangy and tart. This is the transformation from Sweet Tea to Kombucha. The longer it sits the stronger your Kombucha will be. Temperature also plays a role in the length of brewing, and cooler temperatures below will take longer. The best is between 75-85F.

Take notes and a log on each attempt. After a few batches you will find what works for you, and the average time the brewing process takes to get your desired batch.

If your mother SCOBY has sunk or floating in the center of your batch, this is not a problem. After a few days you will notice that a new (child) SCOBY will start to form on top of the Kombucha (usually on top of the mother).

Your child SCOBY can be used together with the mother in your next batch, or set aside in a SCOBY Hotel for use later on.

Once your batch is ready, you are now ready to start exploring a new way to experience your Kombucha. Check out some of our Kombucha Recipes to see what you can come up with. Be sure to read our post on Flavoring Kombucha as well.

When I start a new batch a second 1-gallon jar is set aside, while the kombucha in the first batch will be used for flavoring. Before I start flavoring the first batch I remove the SCOBY and 1 cup of starter liquid (liquid poured off the top) from the original batch to start my second batch. Repeat the step above.

Troubleshooting
Kombucha is usually simple and easy, but some problems can arise.

Mold – Usually a blue or black coloration. Mold is rare, but can be caused by the batch brewing at to cool of temperatures, too little or not a strong starter liquid, or a contamination issue. Some yeast strains can look like mold but are brown and stringy (these may show up on top of the SCOBY as well). If you have mold, discard your batch, sterilize and start again.

Fruit Flies – Keeping your tea cloth secure and not taking it off for extended amounts of time can minimize this problem. If you do have fruit flies in your batch, discard your batch, sterilize and start again.

 

 

Growing a Kombucha Scoby

Today we’re going to talk kombucha. If you are unfamiliar, kombucha is a bubbly, tangy fermented tea that has exploded in popularity among those in the health-conscious community who yearn for pre and probiotics. Kombucha’s origin story is steeped in mystery. With historical accounts from Japan, China, Russia, and Mongolia dating back hundreds to thousands of years, and touting all kinds of health benefits. While the history of kombucha and its health benefits are mysterious, one thing is not – kombucha is fizzy, effervescent, flavorful, and something you can make at home with patience and practice.

There are a few ways to start making kombucha. The first thing you need to start is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast – otherwise known as a SCOBY or the kombucha “mother”. You can obtain a SCOBY one of three ways:

  1. Grow your SCOBY from scratch
  2. Ask a friend who brews to share
  3. Buy

In this recipe we focus on starting your own SCOBY from scratch. This is the process I used when starting my first SCOBY. The process will take a few weeks to complete, so if you are in a hurry to start you can buy a SCOBY from places like Amazon, or ask a friend who brews kombucha if they have an extra to share. These are the same options you’ll have when it comes to obtaining 2 cups of unflavored kombucha needed for the following recipe. Unflavored Kombucha can be found in most grocery or whole foods where it is labeled “Original”.

You may also want to read one of the many resources out there. The book I found most useful when I was looking to absorb information was the Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum. This book is a wealth of first-hand information, from the history and science of Kombucha to numerous, easy-to-follow instructions and recipes.

Stay tuned and get that SCOBY bubblin’! Our upcoming posts will focus on brewing a new batch of kombucha, adding flavor and other useful ways to use Kombucha.

Scoby Starter Recipe
Ingredients
  • 7 cups Distilled water
  • 3 tbsp Loose Leaf Black Tea 4 Black Tea Bags work as well. We Use
  • 1 cup White or Cane Sugar Like This
  • 2 cups Unflavored Kombucha Can be brought at most grocery stores in the produce department.
Tools You will Need
  • 1 gal Wide Mouth Glass Jar Best to Buy 2.
  • Measuring Cup
  • 1 Thin Cloth Dish Towel
  • Rubberband or String Larger size that will fit snuggly around the Wide Mouth Jar
  • Glass Bowl (Optional) To steep tea in.
  • Wood Spoon
  • Strainer or Tea Ball (Optional) if you are using loose leaf tea
Instructions
  1. Sterilize all equipment and jar with boiling water for 5 mins.

  2. Bring 3 cups of distilled water to a boil.

  3. Add 1 cup of sugar to the boiled water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  4. Add tea to the 3 cups of boiled water/sugar mix and let steep for 20 mins.

  5. Let the sweet tea mix is room temperature.

  6. Add the sweet tea mix to the 1-gallon jar, and dilute with the remaining 4 cups of water.

  7. Add in 2 cups of Unflavored Kombucha

  8. Cover the top of the jar with the tea cloth (Do not add the original jar's lid), and secure with a rubberband or string.

  9. Set your jar in a warm, dark area of the house.

Recipe Notes

Do not move or disturb your batch too much after you have set it into a warm, dark area of your house.

The SCOBY will start to form over a few weeks. Usually 4 weeks. This will depend on the temperature of your home. You should try to maintain a temperature of 75-85 for proper SCOBY growth.

At first not much will happen, you will notice some small white flakes floating on the surface of your brew, then these will start to form a mass at the top of the jar. Once your SCOBY is around 1/4 inches thick it is ready to use in your first batch of Kombucha.

In cooler months to help maintain the temperature, you can use a Brewing & Fermentation Heat Pad

*Keep your SCOBY in the liquid until you are ready to start making Kombucha, you will also need to use some of the liquid from this starter batch.

In the next step Simple Kombucha Recipe we will focus on using your newly created SCOBY to make a batch of Kombucha.