Turning My Kitchen into a Science Lab

After my great experience with Kefir grains and fermenting my yogurt drink, I came across a great book in my library that was recently returned all about Fermenting for Good. I spoke with the person who checked it out, and they had great things to share about the book, so I went on to read more and learn all about various fermented foods.

Within the book, I learned more about my milk kefir, as well as kombucha, and making homemade mead. I decided to jump into kombucha as the next thing to test out in my kitchen.

My Kitchen = My Science Lab

For those who have known me since I was a wee little one, I’ve always loved science. Especially kitchen science! As a kid, I could often be found mixing all sorts of foods and playing with my chemistry set. Many a carpet were ruined by my deeds much to my parent’s dismay.

Once I came across Alton Brown’s Good Eats show, I always wanted to grow up and have a science kitchen. Chris has held me off for many years now; I always wanted test tubes and beakers for measuring. Well, hold off no more. My kitchen is slowly growing with fermented goods all over the place.

Fermenting Kombucha at Home

About a week or so ago, I bought a kombucha scoby on Amazon as I was too impatient to wait for spring when a coworker was going to give me a scoby from home (I had given them kefir grains to try out!).

What I’ve learned about myself is that once I get an idea in my head, I start going into intense weeklong learning sessions to find out everything I can about it. Then, I start planning for the supplies and how I’m going to make it happen.

Here’s what I purchased to get my kombucha brews going:

  • Kombucha Scoby
  • Gallon Jars
  • Swing Top Bottles
  • Organic Black Tea / Sugar
  • Heating Pad (after finding my house was way too cold to ferment)
  • PH test strips (mainly for the first ferment)
  • Temperature strips (aquarium department)

Next thing I know, I’ve got to make tea with sugar, and build a happy little home for some bacteria to grow on my counter. It was so much less difficult than I had thought it would be.

In addition to making kombucha, I made fresh pickles with Monkey at the same time. Monkey happily cut the pickling cucumbers with kid chef knives, and then we boiled the saltwater solution as per directions and covered our cukes.

Once the kombucha was set up, after a few days, I learned my house was way too cold to ferment kombucha and that it would possibly lead to mold if I didn’t do something about it. While the milk kefir grains do fine at the lower temperature, the kombucha wasn’t looking like it was doing enough after three days.

Instead of turning the heat up in the house (we keep it at 60 during the day in the winter), I ordered inexpensive heating pads to wrap this brew and others. The heater uses 7 watts which isn’t much at all compared to using what I did the fourth day or so; a back heating pad for 50 watts!

After the first week, we grew a nice new baby scoby on top, and then I was able to make another batch while I’m second fermenting the first batch with some peach puree.

I haven’t tasted it yet after carbonation, but I’m excited that it might “hit the spot” for any desire to drink the bubbly drinks anymore. I don’t typically buy soda, but I have been on a GF brew kick the past few months and look forward to this helping kick that habit as well. I found I like drinking bubbly drinks to “relax,” but it doesn’t matter if it’s seltzer or something else. Kombucha should be fun to experiment with flavors as well.

Now Turning to Mead Making

I mentioned above I’m also currently making homemade mead. Once I learned all about kombucha, I had taken notes from the same book to try mead. It turns out; it’s relatively easy!

While the straightforward recipe in the book seemed reasonable, after a few days I wasn’t sure it would turn out well just based on yeasts in raw honey and mixing with water. So, I went down the rabbit hole of learning all I could about mead and then went to my local brewery shop.

Most of the supplies for the mead making were much cheaper in the local store than on Amazon. I’m glad I made a choice to drive over there instead of shopping online. I picked up 2-gallon jugs, small food grade tubing, yeast nutrients, 1-step sanitizer, and airlocks for both jars. I ordered wine yeast on Amazon in another order.

I did pasteurize my honey ahead of time, only because I had 1/2 the amount in raw honey left over and 1/2 in regular honey to use for the recipe. I didn’t want to chance anything growing in it. The mead process will take a few weeks to a few months, so I’ll come back when it’s all ready, and I’ve tasted it.

The bubbling sounds are also a fun addition to the kitchen.

Here’s a good video to get you started if you want to learn, too!

Now, I know I said above I was trying to limit alcoholic drinks with the GF brews, and then I tell you I’m making mead. The mead is more of an experiment, but I don’t know how “often” I’ll make it as the other ferments are pretty needy. Milk Kefir needs to be changed out daily (though I take a week off at a time by throwing it in the fridge), and Kombucha is weekly. The Mead is months in the making, which will be good because even if it tastes great, I only have enough equipment to make some every few months! So, I’d say that’s a good win, right?

And beyond…

Another thought I’m considering after the mead is hard cider. Making GF brews seems like more than my cup of tea, but anything relatively simple I’m down to learn more.

In the end, I’m happy to spend a little money on experiments. While I may not buy new clothes all the time, or travel the world, I love to buy the goods for my kitchen and experiment in new ways with foods and beverages. Maybe one day it’ll lead to a commercial kitchen of my own sharing this wonderful food I create with others.

I’m thinking my area needs a great local gluten-free and egg-free bakery…

Just a quick update on the Kombucha scoby I ordered online: After a few short days and following all of the instructions (it didn’t look like it was doing well) it grew mold. Yep, the entire batch in the trash and the second ferment I tried – not a drop of carbonation. It was disgusting!

Luckily, my colleague’s husband has a scoby to give me in the next few days and I feel more confident his will be a healthy scoby than the one online. I removed the links to the one I bought, just so no one else ends up with the same sad story!

I read more reviews and apparently the seller does not provide enough liquid (1/4c), adding white vinegar isn’t ideal to do at all as per many brewers I’ve interacted with, and the scoby was just too small to produce a batch in a week and could’ve taken weeks to get to regular size baring no mold growth. Even with PH testing! All things I didn’t know! I’ll update on the new one when I get it going!

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6 Responses

  1. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m going to bookmark it to try the Kombucha, although now that I’ve looked up mead and know what it is, perhaps we’d enjoy that more.

    It’s fun turning your home into a science lab. I prepared homemade yogurt and was amazed at how easy it is.

    • Kate Nesi says:

      Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Groovy! I’ve found over the years it’s so easy to make so many “expensive” grocery store foods at home much cheaper. Good luck with the mead and if you try the kombucha!

  2. we get this magazine at home. i read this article about a fermenting crazy chef that might interest you. https://www.saveur.com/living-larder

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