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Part One - Kombucha FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Kombucha Colony
 
 

© Copyright 1995 -2000  Colleen Allen



 

Tea

Sugar

Water

Containers

Storage

Miscellaneous (part 1 of 2 -  6.1 - 6.50 )

Miscellaneous (part 2 of 2 -  6.51 - 6.96)

Kombucha Colony

Bibliography

Glossary

Kombucha FAQ Home Page
 


 
 

7. KOMBUCHA COLONY

7. KOMBUCHA COLONY

 

7.1 Can I ferment Kombucha without adding a colony, by using only fresh Kombucha tea?

Yes, you can.
Example:

*To ferment a smaller amount of Kombucha, use a ratio of 1:3 [1 part fermented KT starter, to 3 parts prepared nutrient solution].
*The ratio to use for nutrient solution per quart is:  1/3 cup sugar, 2 tea bags, 1 quart water.

NOTE:

The new Kombucha colony will start to form on the surface in just one day, and it will look like a layer of clear gel covering the entire area. After a couple of days you will see many CO2 (carbon dioxide) bubbles just underneath the new colony -- new growers often mistake these bubbles for mold. In a day or two the new colony will start to turn opaque. When the colony is ready to be harvested -- 8-14 days -- it will be about 1/4 inch thick or thicker, and look like a cream colored pancake. Your new Kombucha colony can now be put into another cooled tea solution [made with 3 1/2 quarts boiled water, 1 cup sugar, and 5-6 tea bags or equivalent amount of loose tea] with the addition of 8-12  ounces of the fermented tea the colony was grown in. It will then produce another colony on the surface.  Cover and refrigerate the remaining fermented Kombucha Tea.
 

7.2 Will a Kombucha colony form in a bottle of Kombucha Tea?

Yes it is possible while there is oxygen and some sugar for food.

7.3 Does environment have an effect on growing Kombucha colony?

You can ferment Kombucha in a dark or in a light place. It is best not to grow it in direct sunlight because that may destroy some of the beneficial bacteria needed to produce Kombucha Tea. The temperature where the Kombucha Tea is being fermented should remain between 75-85° F. If it gets too cool it will take longer to ferment.

7.4 How do I store Kombucha colonies between batches?

It is best to store Kombucha colonies in a covered glass bowl with some fermented tea added. Be sure the cover will allow air to reach the colony.

7.5 Can I use more than one Kombucha colony in a fermenting tea?

If you have a large container there is no problem with putting in more than one colony. Many people don't separate the colonies but just let them stack up in the fermenting vessel, while periodically removing the oldest one from the bottom of the stack. However, a single colony is sufficient to ferment Kombucha, additional colonies will just take up volume in your container.

7.6 Can I cut up a large Kombucha into smaller pieces?

Yes. Because of the acidic nature of the colony, using metal may turn the cut edges black, so be sure to use a stainless steel knife or scissors.

7.7 Why is the Kombucha often called a fungus or Manchurian mushroom?

There are many names for Kombucha, both common and scientific; however, there seems to be little agreement among consumers as to what to officially call it. The colony is composed of yeasts (which are fungi) and bacteria. While the term mushroom is very misleading, people have "nick-named" it that because of the way it grows.

7.8 Do I put the shiny side up to produce a new Kombucha?

It doesn't matter which side is up. A new colony will form on the surface regardless of where the "mother" colony is situated in the container.

7.9 What can I do with my left over Kombucha that I can't give away?

If you have extra colonies you can't give away, put them into a blender with some fermented Kombucha Tea and pulverize them into a cream. This cream can be used on the face as a skin cleanser, or, when put on abrasions, it seems to help them heal faster. You can also toss them into your compost bin for use in your garden.

7.10 Is it possible for Kombucha to grow within the intestine?

No. Although Acetobacter (the main bacteria in Kombucha) often comes in contact with humans--due to its widespread presence in the environment--it does not colonize human skin nor does it inhabit the human body. The optimum temperature for the growth of Acetobacter is below that of the human body.

7.11 How long can one use the parent Kombucha before discarding?

You can use the parent for three or four months with no problems.

7.12 What do I do if I get mold in my Kombucha colony?

Some say you can wash the mold off the Kombucha with vinegar, but I would advise that for safety's sake you throw out this batch of fermented tea as well as the Kombucha colony and start again with another Kombucha. Always add a 10% solution of ready fermented Kombucha Tea to each new batch you start. This is done to acidify the fermenting solution at the very start--to deter mold growth.

See also:


http://freespace.virgin.net/eddy.weir/myco.htm
http://www.harmonicharvest.com/mold.html
http://pollenuk.worc.ac.uk/Aero/FUNGI/images.htm

 

7.13 Does the Kombucha have to lay flat in the fermenting container?

No. Sometimes it grows on its side, sitting on the bottom, or floating halfway up in the container. It doesn't make any difference. A new colony will form on the surface no matter where the old one is situated.

7.14 Can you propagate the same Kombucha colony indefinitely?

Although the original Kombucha will eventually wear out from age and use, it can be used repeatedly for quite a few months--as long as it remains in healthy condition. The life-span of a particular colony probably varies with use and feed-stock as well as growing environment, etc.

7.15 What do I do if the Kombucha colony is too big to fit in the growing container?

Just trim it to fit the new container using a sharp stainless steel blade.

7.16 Does the parent Kombucha have to float before it forms a new one?

There is not much difference whether the Kombucha colonies float or sink. Its density is close to that of water or a little heavier, so when undisturbed, the gas out of fermentation will keep it afloat on or near the surface until someone disturbs it and releases the bubbles underneath, then it will sink. A new Kombucha will start on the surface whether or not the parent is floating or has sunk.

7.17 Does the Kombucha colony need air?

Yes. The bacteria and yeast which make up Kombucha are aerobic.

7.18 My week old refrigerated colony--in a zip-lock bag-- smells like vinegar, is it all right?

Yes. However, it has recently been established by lab tests conducted by the Kombucha Consumer Research Group ™, that some plastic components in Ziplock bags will be leached into the contents of the bag during long-term storage.

7.19 Will the yeast in the Kombucha colony die if left unrefrigerated for long periods of time?

The following advice is provided by Carl Mueller, a former member of the Kombucha mailing list. "I state the following based on my knowledge and experience brewing wine and beer. I feel that this is applicable here because a lot of what has been previously stated i.e., sterility, alcohol production, etc., are the same. Yeast will die in a fermented liquid after the food source has been exhausted--a process known as drying out. Yeast is also killed from long term exposure to alcohol, although the amount we make in the tea in small. When a batch is allowed to stand at room temperature for long periods of time all the food sources for the microbes are used up, and some will die, others may go into a suspended state in a cyst and survive, which ones I don't know, and from what I have seen stated, I wonder if anyone else might know.

Allowing the tea to stand for long period of time causes another phenomenon to occur, and that is oxidation. This occurs in wines when the surface boundary of CO2 dissipates, and oxygen is absorbed. While the yeasts are active this is constantly produced, keeping the oxygen out. I keep hearing everyone refer to the colony breathing, but what is taking place, is the release of pressure from CO2 production. If it isn't released the container will rupture. Oxidation will cause an off-flavor to occur in the tea as oxygen reacts with the alcohol that is present."

7.20 Is it all right to rinse off the Kombucha colony with tap water?

No. Chlorine can cause damage to the Kombucha colony. The best way to clean your colony (to remove the brown stringy yeast etc.,) is to simply bathe it in some of the kombucha ferment it came out of. This practice will also serve to maintain the pH of the colony. Washing it in water--even cooled, boiled water, could change the pH and make it susceptible to mold growth.

7.21 How do I prevent contaminating the Kombucha?

Be sure to thoroughly clean your hands (or use latex gloves) and the equipment used in fermenting the colony. This is very important.

7.22 Can you freeze the Kombucha colony?

DEEP-FREEZING THE KOMBUCHA COLONY

By Günther W. Frank , author of the book, Kombucha - Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East ISBN 3-85068-337-0 http://www.bawue.de/~kombucha/english.html

One is also often advised to deep-freeze the culture in the freezer during a break in production, together with a little of the ready-fermented beverage. To do this, the culture can be heat-sealed into a freezer bag or else put into a screw-top jar. When using screw-top jars, they should be left open at first so that they won't burst, and the lids only screwed on tight once the culture has been shock-frozen. The lids should be removed again before thawing, so that a vacuum does not form above the liquid.

Prof. Dittrich (1975, p. 70) writes about the influence of cold on the general development of micro-organisms: "Compared with heat, it is virtually ineffectual. Reproduction is certainly very much slowed down by low temperatures, but death by freezing is hardly possible. This is of course in line with natural conditions, for whereas boiling heat hardly ever occurs, freezing of the substrate containing bacteria (e.g. earth) for months on end is the rule, even in our latitudes."

Prof. Henneberg (1926, Vol. 1, p. 6) confirms this: "In general, cold does not kill fungi. Bacteria, yeasts, mold spores can remain viable in ice for a long time. Even a temperature of - 113 Centigrade (about 235 Fahrenheit) does not kill yeasts."

In my opinion, one has to be careful when freezing the culture that it does not suffer any damage due to the freezing process. If the temperature sink so slowly during freezing that the culture remains for a very long time in the critical zone of 0 Centigrade to -5 Centigrade (32 to 41 Fahrenheit), this can damage it. This temperature range is critical because long sharp ice crystals slowly form during this time, and they destroy the cell walls. Crystals need time to grow. If they are not given this time, they cannot form. So it all depends on the culture being frozen to sleep very quickly - if possible, shock-frozen. It may therefore be advisable to turn on the fast-freeze equipment or flick the super-frost switch and get the temperature right down ready before you put the culture in. Because of the speed of freezing and the intense cold, the critical zone of low temperature is passed through so quickly that large ice-crystals with their dangerous sharp edges and points cannot form. Rather, only small crystals develop which cannot injure the cell walls and the structure of the culture.

When thawing out the culture, the block of ice should be laid in fresh nutrient solution. In my experiments with frozen Kombucha cultures I have observed the following (the cultures were frozen from 8 days to 3 months): At first the cultures lay as if dead on the bottom of the fermentation container, and I thought they had frozen to death. Then little bubbles gradually began to rise - sign that the yeasts were beginning to work and that carbonic acid was being produced. Only after some delay - about 14 days after thawing out the culture - could I observe a thin skin beginning to form on the surface of the tea. This told me that now the bacteria had taken up their production of cellulose, from which the skin is formed. After a little while a beautiful culture had formed again, although it seemed to me to be rather more jelly-like than usual. These processes happened much more quickly in control glasses.

For a long time I could not explain the reason for this delayed development, and wondered whether some of the micro-organisms had not been destroyed or damaged by the freezing process after all, and the remaining bacteria and yeasts must first build themselves up again. Then I came across the following statement in Dr. Helga Schroeder's book "Mikrobiologisches Praktikum" (Microbiological Practice - 1975), which could account for my observations: "If a nutrient solution is inoculated with bacteria, then growth does not begin in the 'typical' exponential way, but goes through a more or less marked phase of delay. This initial phase is called the latent period. The length of time it takes is influenced among other things by the age of the inoculum (Note: the substance which is added; old cells go through a long latent period) and by the composition of the milieu (when the composition of the nutrient solution in which the inoculum is cultivated and the one which is to be inoculated is the same, the latent period is shortened)."

The above-mentioned exponential growth means the phase during which the bacteria divide so quickly and so well that at certain intervals a doubling of the number of organisms takes place: one bacterium divides, and two cells are formed. They grow and divide in their turn, so that after the second division there are four cells. The number of cells are therefore doubled at every division. This system of constant doubling causes the quickest growth and in all cultures only lasts for a short time. We should otherwise soon be up to the ears in Kombucha culture.

I suspect that the micro-organisms need the long starting phase, as explained above, because of the complete contrast of the change in their living conditions. This should be understood, and concessions made for the culture if you think it should be frozen. Some people have even thrown the culture away because they thought it was dead after they had thawed it out.

Enjoy your Kombucha!

Greetings from Germany,

Günther

7.23 What should I keep, the mother or baby Kombucha colony?

It doesn't matter. There is no advantage to using one or the other. Each will produce a new colony when put into a feeding solution.

7.24 Will holes or thin spots affect the Kombucha colony?

No. Thin spots or holes or if the parent colony tears while being separated from the baby, doesn't mean there is a problem with the Kombucha. However, if the colony smells "off," and tears or falls apart very easily, throw it out and use a different one in your next batch.

7.25 How do I mail a Kombucha colony?

Günther W. Frank, author of Kombucha-Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East, suggests the following method: "I mail Kombucha colonies like this: I put the colony, including about 9 ounces of ready fermented beverage (very important!) in a plastic bag--like one use for deep freezing food in a deep-freeze. Then I seal the bag with a bag sealer. This bag I put into another bag, which I seal again. So it is double sealed. For mailing, I put the double sealed bag into a box and fill the inner space with Styrofoam flocs. Thus, I send colonies round the whole world, and they all arrived in good condition."

7.26 If a Kombucha colony doesn't float, should it be thrown out?

John A. (Jack) Barclay -- a member of the Kombucha mailing list, stated the following : "Someone was told that if the Kombucha colony doesn't float to the top within a day or two, it should be thrown out. Not so. Whether the Kombucha floats or sinks or rests somewhere in the middle is a function of the density of the Kombucha compared to the density of the liquid. The density is affected by the amount and kind of sugar, temperature, water hardness, kind of tea etc. Each Kombucha will be slightly different in density depending on where and how it was grown and how dense the cellulose matrix is and the number and size of air pockets in the matrix. Which normally can't be seen with the naked eye, but affect whether the Kombucha colony sinks or floats. It has often been recommended that if one can't figure out where the new Kombucha is when looking at it, weigh the mother Kombucha to the bottom and the one that forms at the surface is the obvious offspring."

7.27 Is it safe to use a moldy Kombucha?

Absolutely not! Do not try to salvage a moldy colony, throw it out along with the tea it was growing in. Chances are very good that the mold has already infiltrated into the colony itself. Sterilize the equipment and start over with a Kombucha colony from another source

See also:
http://freespace.virgin.net/eddy.weir/myco.htm
http://www.harmonicharvest.com/mold.html
http://pollenuk.worc.ac.uk/Aero/FUNGI/images.HTM
 

7.28 If mold developed while fermenting Kombucha, what would it look like?

Mold is usually hairy or fuzzy looking--like the mold on cheese, bread, or fruit--and can be either black, green, yellow, gray, or white and usually grows in circular patches.

See also:
http://freespace.virgin.net/eddy.weir/myco.htm
http://www.harmonicharvest.com/mold.html
http://pollenuk.worc.ac.uk/Aero/FUNGI/images.HTM
 

7.29 What are the most common molds found on Kombucha?

According to Michael R. Roussin, Director of the Kombucha Consumer Research Group ™ "the two molds which are found most often to be growing on Kombucha are: "Penicillium notatum," and "Aspergillus niger."
 

7.30 What can I do to help prevent mold growth?

Here are some possible causes and prevention tips posted over the Kombucha Mailing List by Ariana Estelle-- Author of the kombucha booklet, Kombucha 101-A Kombucha Primer.
http://www.harmonicharvest.com/

CLEANLINESS is of utmost importance

7.31 What are the names of common molds and where are they found?

See also:

http://freespace.virgin.net/eddy.weir/myco.htm
http://www.harmonicharvest.com/mold.html
http://pollenuk.worc.ac.uk/Aero/FUNGI/images.HTM
 

7.32 Will the acids in KT give protection from molds when exposed to tobacco smoke?

Michael Roussin, Director of the Kombucha Consumer Research Group ™, has the following to say: "On the topic of nicotine and molds, I have to disagree about acids preventing molds on one point. Tobacco smoke is highly alkaline (about 12.0). Ferments that are exposed to tobacco smoke, get an alkaline layer on top of the new culture, which quickly grows common molds. Even ferments with a pH below 3.0, will grow a mold on a new culture in a room where tobacco is smoked. If you smoke, find a room where you can grow Kombucha that is a no-smoking area. Keep the door closed, and do not smoke when you are around your ferments. We established this in an experiment. Two cultures cut from the same parent, raised in the same nutrient, and with the same starter tea. One was exposed to cigarette smoke, and grew mold. The other was not exposed to cigarette smoke, and grew Kombucha. It is also covered in the books by Frank and Tietze."

7.33 What is the URL for Michael Roussin's Kombucha Research Home Page?

http://www.geocities.com/mikeroussin/
 
 

7.34 Where did Kombucha Originate?


Wanted to share something I learned yesterday that I found very
interesting. From what I've read regarding Kombucha to date, it's origins
were thought to be likely in Tibet but somehow got to Korea in more modern
history from where it was administered from a Korean doctor to a Japanese
official - and it's name of Kombucha derived.

An Korean friend who is an elder and highly educated, spent much of her
childhood and early adult life in Korea before moving to the states.
Yesterday she shared with me oral and written history of Korea's Mongolian
ancestry; i.e. the Korean people migrated from Mongolia.  Her mother tells
her this is how Kombucha is found and used widely in Korea - it migrated
also. This is both part of oral history and recorded history in Korea.  My
mind immediately jumped to that part of the world and it was easy to see
the connections of Kombucha being spread by the Mongolian peoples.  It
would explain how it came to be a "staple" of many peoples of Eurasia.

My friend's mother, who helps people heal with herbs and such when needed,
keeps a large crock of Kombucha (a whole different name in Korea).  She
uses it as a general tonic and for some specific complaints in her treating
family members and villagers.  She keeps her crock of brew in a cool house,
protected from sun and heat, covered and apparently does not have mold
problems.  She does not drink it every day nor does she recommend that it
be a used every single day.  Her reasoning is that Kombucha and other
natural remedies are to help the body when it is in need - if the body has
supplements or help all the time that practice can weaken the body's own
"muscle" in producing agents to heal itself. That I also thought was an
interesting perspective on this whole area.  My friend's mother is in her
90's, very good health and strong and still active in her community and
still a healer there as well using herbs and Kombucha and other
elements.  She has at least a few different brews of the culture going
deriving from certain teas.  Some she makes special for a particular person
or problem that includes particular herbs in the brew.  She thinks it is
good to have on hand and to drink regularly for up to two weeks at a time
when one is under a lot of emotional stress or duress - she said when
people are under stress it throws balances off and the kombucha helps the
body eliminate negative "energies" or toxins that can cause illness.

Yes, I am hoping very much to be able to go there some time and visit with
my friend and learn more.

Oh, as far as the name Kombucha, what my Korean friend could tell me (and
my husband's Japanese relatives) is Kombucha is an anglocized version of a
Japanese word that roughly means "water plant that is healing"  (kombo is
a word used for water plants, including seaweeds).  The "cha" is pronounced
closer to a "ssha" sound; sort of like "comboossha"; the only hard
consonant being the "k" sound.  If a woman were saying it there would be
an "oh" sound preceding it.  There are other sounds when I hear the word
pronounced (different spellings) and I am inquiring further as to
spellings/meanings and also the Korean word and it's pronunciation.  Will
post anything of interest that comes up.

good health to all,

D. S. I.
 


10. OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is based, in part, on the personal experiences of the members of the Kombucha mailing list. It should not be regarded as a complete or definitive manual on Kombucha but rather as a collection of practical everyday answers to questions that come up when starting to make Kombucha Tea. This article is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the authors/contributors assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

Permission is granted to freely copy this document in electronic form, or in print if the publication is distributed without charge, provided it is copied in its entirety without modification and appropriate credits are included. On the WWW, however, you must link here rather than copy it. Any other use requires explicit permission by the author.

http://w3.trib.com/~kombu/FAQ/home.html

 


 
 

If you have comments or suggestions, email me

Designed Colleen M. Allen

Copyright 1996 - 2000 Colleen M. Allen  

Maintained by: Bob Williams [E-MAIL]
UpDt: 01/10/2001