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Lifestyle

Homesteading Skills: Brewing Kombucha

If you have ever met me or H, you know that we have a dream of creating a net-zero homestead in the mountains. Our goal of being maximally self-sustainable guides a lot of choices I make as I consider how to spend my free time. I have always enjoyed learning how to do new things, but now the pursuit of knowledge has taken on a special purpose. Every time I am ready to take on a new project, I consider what kind of things will benefit our family in the future when we are establishing our home.

One of these projects has been learning to brew kombucha. H and I drink it regularly to support digestion through a healthy microbiome, but buying it at the store can be extremely expensive. When comparing store prices to the affordability and ease of home brewing, it becomes a no brainer!

For those who are unfamiliar, kombucha is a fermented tea that is made using a culture of gut-healthy bacteria called a scoby. A scoby, for lack of a better description, basically looks like a thick slice of deli turkey and has a slimy feel. It’s not exactly pretty! Every time you brew it “reproduces” by growing a new layer, which can be peeled off and shared! My first scoby was given to me as a gift, and as it has grown new layers I have given baby scobys to others to start their own brew. If you know someone who makes kombucha, ask them to share their next layer with you! If not, you can also order live scobys on Amazon. I know some people who have used this one and had great results.

To start your own home brew you need:
1 gallon glass jar
A scoby
Organic *plain* black and green tea bags
Organic cane sugar (must use cane sugar- NO coconut sugar, honey or sugar substitute, these will harm your scoby!)
Vinegar (plain ol’ white vinegar)
Cheesecloth or paper towels
Rubber band or string
Mason jars with plastic lids or swing top bottles

Start by boiling a gallon of water in a large stockpot. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let sit for one minute or until there are no longer active bubbles in the water. Add 1 cup sugar, 3 black tea bags and 3 green tea bags. Do not use flavored teas, as these can upset the ph balance of your scoby. Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover the pot and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes. I usually just leave the tea bags in until the water returns to room temperature. This won’t hurt your tea and it means you can walk away from your pot as soon as the sugar is dissolved and come back to it later in the day.

Once your tea cools to room temperature, rinse your gallon jar with water and then rinse with white vinegar. Don’t worry about drying it, leave a coating of the vinegar on the inside of the jar and dump out the excess. Add your tea, then add the scoby (which should be stored in some “mother tea” from its original jar- add this to your jar as well). Make sure the rim of the jar is completely dry, then cover the mouth of the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth or paper towels. Secure with a rubber band or tightly tied string. Make sure the covering is well secured! Using cheesecloth or paper towels allows your scoby to breathe, but prevents fruit flies or anything from else getting in. You can store the lid of the jar for some other use, you won’t need it for kombucha.

Store your jar in a dark place, such as a kitchen cabinet, and leave for 10-14 days. The longer you leave your kombucha, the stronger it will be both in terms of flavor and fermentation. Do not leave longer than 14 days.

At the end of this first fermentation period, it is time to prepare for the second fermentation. This is when the kombucha carbonates! This is also where you can get creative with your kombucha. You may prefer to have it unflavored, but if you would like to flavor your kombucha there are endless options!

For unflavored kombucha, remove your big jar from the cabinet and rinse the insides of your small mason jars or swing bottles with the white vinegar. Fill each jar or bottle with the kombucha, reserving 2 cups of it to stay in the gallon jar with the scoby as mother tea for your next batch. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and enjoy within a month.

For flavored kombucha, begin by filling the small jars or bottles about 4/5 of the way full with the kombucha from your big jar. Then, top off with organic fruit juice, other kinds of tea, fruit, ginger, or other flavorings! My favorite combination is lemon ginger, which can be made by adding slices of fresh organic lemon and a little knob of peeled, fresh ginger root to each jar. Blueberry mint is also very tasty and can be made by adding mint tea and fresh blueberries or blueberry juice. You can experiment with adding rose petals or lavender, basil, etc! You can find a million other ideas for flavorings online. Just keep in mind that whatever you are adding to your kombucha needs to be organic and clean- anything with chemical pesticides can mess with your culture. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period strain any solids from the tea, then transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy within 2 weeks.

You may notice when you prepare to enjoy your kombucha that a small scoby or some stringy bacterial colonies have grown in your tea. This is totally normal. The small scobys can be discarded and while some people choose to drink the stringy bits, I personally don’t have the stomach for it and I choose to discard them as well.

I like to always have kombucha brewing, since we drink a lot of it. To make this happen, I make a new batch of sweetened tea on the morning when I know I am going to transfer my kombucha to the smaller containers for second fermentation. Then, once I have filled the small jars, I move my scoby and 2 cups of reserved mother tea to a clean glass (or any non-metal) bowl, rinse the gallon jar with vinegar to keep it clean, then start my new batch just like the previous batch. If you need to take a break from brewing, you can store your scoby in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Just place your scoby in a tightly sealed glass container with 2 cups mother tea and enough fresh, sweetened tea to cover it. This basically puts your scoby into hibernation. Once you hit the 3 month mark, you will need to remove your scoby from the fridge and make at least 1 batch of kombucha with it before returning it to hibernation.

**Caution: If your scoby begins to drastically change color, omit a strong nasty odor (aside from its normal, vinegary odor) or shrivel, discard it and the tea immediately. This indicates a problem with your scoby such as contamination or a ph imbalance. It is better to discard everything and start over than risk getting sick from a compromised scoby. To be fair, I have been brewing kombucha for 5 years and have never had this problem. However, it is possible and should be taken seriously.

Have you ever made your own kombucha at home? Do you have a flavor combination that will rock our socks off? Share with us below!

KD

Lifestyle

Colorado Crush Art Festival

Every September the RiNo Arts District in Denver hosts a week-long festival called Colorado Crush, and it is one of the most unique things I have ever witnessed.

For 7 days a group of street artists descend upon a few city blocks in the heart of RiNo and cover the walls in incredible artwork that will remain until the next year’s Crush.

During the week you can walk around the streets and back alleys, watching the artists work and talking to them about their pieces. It’s amazing what they can do with spaces ranging from a little patch of brick between dumpsters to the full side of a 3 story building.

The festival may be over, the the beautiful artwork remains to be seen! Go check it out, and maybe grab a drink at the brand new Lustre Pearl, an Austin staple that just opened a location here in Denver!

Be sure to take a camera, because these murals are seriously Insta-worthy.

Happy Mural Hunting!
KD

Travel

Elevation and Acclimatization

While living in Colorado I have become accustomed to hearing one phrase from visitors- “It’s so hard to breathe here!”

Denver is famous for being the Mile High City thanks to its elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level (a nickname that now has multiple meanings due to the legalization of recreational cannabis). Much of Colorado, however, is actually higher in elevation than Denver! Colorado is home to 53 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet high) and the average elevation is 6,800 feet. To someone coming from sea level, the air feels pretty thin up here!

When we have visitors from lower locations, I always impress upon them the importance of acknowledging the change in altitude. Some people come here and think they can get by acting exactly like they do at sea level, and that’s just not the case. Here are my best tips for having a great time without getting altitude sickness!

  1. HYDRATE! I don’t mean to yell, but this is the most important tip I can give. You need water to help get oxygen to all the tissues in your body. When operating at a higher altitude, you need to drink more water than you normally would. When I first moved up here, my doctor actually recommended that I drink twice as much water as I was accustomed to while my body adjusted to the altitude. This is especially important if you are drinking coffee, alcohol or other beverages that will dehydrate you.
  2. Be mindful that alcohol will hit you harder up here. Yep, at higher elevations you will get drunk more quickly! Alternate your drinks with water or plan to drink less than normal.
  3. Consume nutrient dense foods. You want to support your body as it is working harder in this environment. When we have visitors, I start them off first thing in the morning with some sort of greens boost- either a morning pack of Onnit Total Primate Care or the Alkalising Greens mix from WelleCo mixed into coconut water.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Move more consciously, pay attention to how your body is feeling. Altitude sickness is a real thing, and trying to push through it only makes it worse. If you start to feel poorly, it is better to back off and rest. Hike more slowly, look up and enjoy the views rather than racing to your destination.
  5. Consider a mushroom-based oxygenation supplement for any truly strenuous activity. ShroomTech Sport from Onnit is the one my husband and I use, it helps your body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. I’ve also heard great things about the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Cordyceps.

If you have any more tips for handling an elevation change, share them in the comments below!

Happy Hiking (or whatever you’re doing),
KD

Travel

Community Finds: Moxie Bread Co.

Tucked away between Denver and Boulder is a sweet little town called Louisville. It’s not a big or flashy place- in fact, you could walk the whole main drag in about 10 minutes. However, what’s there is gold.

I have been known to make trips substantially out of my way to spend time in Louisville, and the biggest draw for me is Moxie Bread Co.

The smell of freshly baked bread will greet your nose with the first step taken onto the porch of the charming white house at 641 Main Street. Inside, the friendly bakers and baristas are ready to fill you up with yummy non-GMO breads, espresso, and chocolate croissants so flaky and delicious they rival those I’ve savored in the best shops in Paris.

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Stop by the next time you’re in the area- you won’t regret it! I mean, look at that chocolate. Yummmmmm.

Happy Carb-Loading To All!
KD