WellnessFX Makes Kombucha!

IMG_3730At WellnessFX, we try to help our members and readers achieve optimal wellness from a variety of angles: advanced diagnostics and practitioner consults, weekly news about the revolution of healthcare, and webinars and talks featuring top experts in the field. And every once in a while, we like to give a small glimpse of the people behind the movement.

We spend a lot of time at our San Francisco office working to offer you the best service possible. Some people may think so much time in the office is a burden to our health, but we say it doesn’t have to be! With standing desks, nutritious food options, and daily physical challenges, WellnessFX knows how to make work enjoyable and healthy.

Our latest initiative? Office-made Kombucha.

Kombucha Origins

You’ve seen it in the stores. You might have even bought a glass or two. But what is Kombucha? Where did it come from? Why does it taste so darn good?

Kombucha is a tasty mash of beneficial bacteria and yeast. The drink is thought to have originated in ancient China or Japan and, according to one author, considered in some cultures to be “a beverage with magical powers enabling people to live forever.” It is naturally carbonated, promotes a healthy culture of biotics (think: probiotics) in our system, and is a great alternative to sugary, processed sodas.

The main thing to remember is that Kombucha is live food. It contains many different species of yeast and bacteria (mainly Acetobacter), called a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). As these cultures grow and go through their own life processes, they produce organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. Kombucha is thought to have been on the scene for more than 2,000 years, so certainly there must be a reason it has stood the test of time.

Kombucha Benefits

Kombucha has gained a reputation for preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases throughout its long history. However, the super drink is relatively new to Western society and there have yet to be any definitive U.S.-based studies that show the health benefits. Still, there have been studies in other countries that support the validity of various health claims, and the live food drink has been used for medical purposes in China, Russia, and Germany.

Warning: Kombucha has been associated with rare health problems, but many (if not all) cases are seen in people who have pre-existing conditions. Studies have been done that disprove correlations with many of the purported problems. As we stress at the end of the article, it’s important to do your own research to see if Kombucha is right for you, and if homemade is the way to go.

With that out of the way, here are some of the possible benefits of Kombucha:

  • Detoxification
  • Joint health
  • Digestion and gut health
  • Immune boosting
  • Promote natural bacterial colony
  • Balances internal pH
  • Energy boosting
  • Weight loss

Kombucha Process

When we realized how many people in our office are avid Kombucha drinkers, the next thought came naturally: why not make our own? Lead Designer, Jeff French, led the movement by starting a small batch in a water bottle using SCOBY from his own homemade brew. The results were so well received and the Kombucha went so quickly that we knew we would need a bigger batch.

A much bigger batch.

Here’s how we created five gallons of Kombucha:

Materials: 7-gallon bucket, sugar, a SCOBY colony, oolong tea leaves, rubber band, water, bowl, strainer, teapot, towel or cloth

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  1. Brew the tea. Since we were making such a large batch we needed a lot of tea. We used a strainer, oolong tea leaves, and a medium-sized bowl for brewing. Generally, black or green tea is recommended.

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  1. Add the sugar. Before you start to panic at the mention of sugar, know this: it’s for the SCOBY, not you! The sugar is used up during the fermentation process. (Don’t believe us? Just check out the nutrition label of Kombucha the next time you’re at the store!) The general rule is to use one cup of sugar per gallon of Kombucha. We set out to make five gallons, so we added five cups.

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  1. Fill up the bucket. While the tea was brewing we loaded the bucket with cold, filtered tap water. By the time we did this, the tea was pretty much done. We removed the strainer with the oolong leaves and added the tea/sugar mix to the bucket, rounding it out to about five gallons.
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It’s ALIVE!

  1. Add the SCOBY. A beginner’s mistake is to add the bacterial colony to the tea too soon after it is brewed. Exposing living things to such heat will just kill them! In this case, the large amount of cold water immediately brought down the temperature to make for a suitable temperature.

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  1. Cover and store your brew. We used a cloth secured with a rubber band to protect the batch from dust, bugs, and random falling things while still allowing the growing colony to breathe. We placed it on top of a shelf because that was the most out-of-the-way location for the office. Any spot at room temperature should be fine.

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  1. Ferment and test. Our brew is only four days old and, with its size, definitely won’t be ready yet. We’re thinking it will take 10-14 days to achieve a desirable result. Remember, that SCOBY needs time to grow! We’re going to test it in about a week, and depending on the taste we’ll decide if it’s ready to bottle or not. The longer it ferments, the more probiotic material we’ll have and the less sugar. Too much fermentation and the batch becomes sour and vinegary. In that case, we’d probably dilute by adding more water and sugar.

Look for our future posts about how the batch turned out, the bottling process, and how to keep your batch going on and on and on . . .

More Resources

It’s very important to educate yourself before embarking on this process. As mentioned before, there have been claims of undesirable effects, especially in people who are not healthy. Also, there are important things to look out for when brewing your own Kombucha, like mold growth and stagnant batches.

Here are some links to help you get started:

  • Kombucha Wikipedia Page: A comprehensive review of Kombucha, its origins, some things to look out for, and how to brew. A great place to start!
  • Kombucha Benefits: As the name implies, a comprehensive overview of benefits and also tips on how to drink and store Kombucha.
  • Easy Recipe Homemade Kombucha: Detailed instructions on brewing Kombucha
  • SCOBY Experiment: Why using SCOBY from store-bought Kombucha may not be the best. Also has useful links for purchasing your own SCOBY starters.

PS: We’re Hiring!

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.