Summer is upon us so i thought it might come in handy to mention how to look after your Kefir and Kombucha while you are away on holiday so that you don't come back to a lot of dead cultures.
I'll Start with Kombucha...
Kombucha is the easiest to look after while you are away, the best thing to do is simply start a new brew a day or two before you go. You need to make sure that your scoby is in plenty of tea for the time you are away but if you start a new brew just before you go then everything will be fine. It is best to avoid refrigerating your scoby as this can make them sleepy and when you get back and start a new brew it can make them prone to mould as it can take them a day or two to wake up from their slumber leaving them venerable to other pathogens and bacteria.
Key things to consider when leaving Kombucha unattended:
- Leave your Kombucha somewhere that it not going to be in direct sunlight and is not going to be too warm or too cold. (also make sure that if you have pets it is not likely to be accidentally knocked off while they are unattended)
- Make sure that your kombucha has plenty of tea to sit in. If you normally brew in the airing cupboard you might consider taking it out while you are away as you do not want your scoby to get dry and run out of liquid.
- Make sure that your scoby is covered with a good loose weave covering so that no critters can get in your brew while you are not watching over it.
Upon your return, you might find (depending on how long you have been away) that your brew has matured so much it is undrinkable, if this is the case you have a few options a)throw it away (after putting a little to one side to keep your scoby in while you are brewing the next batch and to act as your starter tea for the next brew). b) bottle it and allow it to turn into Kombucha Vinegar (great on Chips!) or use to make a vinaigrette. If you it is not too strong for you (and remember the stronger it is in flavour the better it is for you) then bottle and drink and start off your next batch as normal.
Now storing Kefir over a longer period of time is not so easy... Kefir (either milk of water) can be very demanding and cannot really just be left like Kombucha, even stored in a fridge you will not get very long before your grains die. The method of storage that you use will entirely depend upon how long you are likely to be away.
The first method is for leaving for up to 7 days:
- Place the grains (water or Milk) in a glass jar with the usual amount of liquid that you would ferment.
- Store the jar (sealed) in the fridge for up to 7 days
- Strain the kefir (the drink produced is drinkable)
Basically this method puts the grains into a semi-dormant state and slows down the metabalism of the organism. HOWEVER, when you return to brewing as normal at room temperature you will find that the first few brews will take approximately 24 hours longer as it takes the grains a few days to wake/warm up again.
If you are going away for more than 7 days but have someone who can "babysit" your kefir (while water the plants or feeding the cats) then follow the directions for above but after straining the grains and restarting the batch pop the glass jar back in the fridge and leave for a further 7 days. This method can be used for up to 2/3 months HOWEVER...
resting kefir grains for this long will have a negative affect on the grains and the microflora in them. THERE IS A CHANCE THAT YOUR GRAINS MAY BECOME DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR so it is best to have a back up set of grains in the freezer (just in case!). When you return to room temperature brewing again it will take your grains quite some time to get themselves back to optimum brewing (up to 10 brews) and as above the brews that you perform during this time will take longer to complete.The longer the grains were kept dormant the longer it will take for them to recover I personally wouldn't recommend storing grains with this method this long and think that if you need to rest your grains for longer than say 5 or 6 weeks the freezing method works best.
If you do not have someone who can look after your grains then you can rest them for by increasing the volume of liquid by about 30% for every week that your grains are being left however this method is really only any good if you are leaving your grains for 2 weeks (ie your summer holiday) and not much longer than that. Also this method works best with milk kefir, water kefir can be a bit more choosy and therefore it can be a bit hit and miss.
Please be aware that the same applies with regards to resuming your brew at room temperature no matter which method you use.
I will cover freezing grains in my next post.