Tag Archives: tibicos

Waning Moon Brew

4 Aug

Red Raspberry Leaf is traditionally known in the midwifery sphere as a uterine tonic herb.  Tonic herbs have the great effect of being generally good for you with minimal risk factors involved.  Uterine tonics are a great way to nourish the womb during pregnancy, and to give it strength for the act of childbirth.  Here’s a nice blog post about red raspberry leaf.  I started drinking raspberry leaf at the beginning of the year for menstrual cramps.  And, interestingly, my cramps this year have been significantly less severe:  except during the month of June when I was traveling and didn’t take my raspberry with me!  So, I think it’s working.  I was inspired to start drinking the infusion while reading Robin Rose Bennett’s book, “The Gift of Healing Herbs.”  She talks about drinking the tea after ovulation each month.  As my cycle has been corresponding pretty closely to the moon these days, it turns out that my raspberry leaf tea has become my waning moon brew.  The most basic infusion method looks like this:


Red Raspberry Leaf Infusion

Pour 1 Quart of Boiling hot water over 1 oz of raspberry leaf (about 1 c).  Let the brew steep for about 8 hours, or overnight.  Strain and consume.  Store unfinished infusion in the fridge.



red raspberry:  image from botanical.com

The taste of Raspberry Leaf infusion alone is quite astringent, so you may find that you want to reduce the amount of herb in your infusion.  The resulting brew will be less potent, of course, but if you drink more of it, you will still get the good stuff into you.  Another way to dilute the astringency of red raspberry leaf is to make it into a mixture.  Lately, I’ve been into mixing red raspberry leaf, nettles, and mugwort together, 1/3 cups of each in a quart infusion.  Nettles works kind of a like a general multivitamin tonic.  I drink this frequently anytime, anywhere.  Mugwort is a bitter herb, also, so you may or may not like this added to your brew for taste.  As Bennett, says, though, “mugwort moves energy in the uterus and can be especially helpful for women with clots.  Be aware, however, that it may increase the menstrual flow as it does this. (p. 317).”    So, use mugwort in your brew only if you find it helpful for your particular situation.

I often drink the straight infusion, or the infusion watered down, but sometimes a little extra oomph is fun.  Last month I discovered a delightful way to stir things up and make them into a probiotic ferment, by adding 1/3 infusion, 1/3 maple water, and 1/3 plain tibicos.  I bottled them together, and left them at room temp for a while so that the tibicos could process and ferments some of the sugars from the maple water and build up some bubbles.  Here is the recipe below:

Waning Moon Brew

1.  Prepare plain/ brown-sugar tibicos:

  • Fill a quart-sized jar with 1/4c of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of water kefir grains, and filtered water.  Mix well to dissolve the sugar. 
  • Cover with a cloth to prevent dust and flies from entering, and stir the mixture a couple times a day, for approximately two days, or until the brew is sour enough for your liking.  The longer you ferment, the less sweet it will be. 

2. Prepare your infusion:  

  • In another quart sized jar, put 1/3 cups each of dried nettle leaf, red raspberry leaf, and mugwort.  Pour boiling water over the herbs and let them infuse overnight, or about 8 hours.  Strain the herbs from the infusion, squeezing them well to extract all of their good stuff.

3.  Mix your plain tibicos, your herbal infusion, and 1 quart of either coconut water or maple water.

4.  Bottle the mixture into airtight bottles and leave at room temperature until they have built up some fizz.  BE CAREFUL not to leave them too long, or you can create a bomb!  See this post.  “Burping” your bottles periodically can help to prevent too much gas pressure build-up.

5.  Refrigerate your brew, and consume!




mugwort:  image from botanical.com

Dandelion-Burdock Soda: British and Beautiful.

16 Jul

Recently my sister went on a trip to England, and she sent me this picture of this during her travels.

From my traveling sister in England.  (I've blurred out her student's face for privacy)

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve actually seen this soda in New York (yeah, we have everything here).  But, it’s not so common, and it is British in origin anyway.  Nevertheless, her picture and enthusiasm inspired me to try making some of my own dandelion-burdock soda.  I chose a roasted dandelion root, which gives the brew a nice roasted, nutty flavor.  The burdock adds a pleasant sweetness to the drink.  The combination of dandelion and burdock is great therapeutically, as well.  As my friend Maya commented “double ammo for your liver!” Read my article on burdock here, and dandelion here. For my first batch, I went for simplicity and didn’t bother to add any ginger, although I might play with this same soda the next time I make a ginger bug.

Here is how I made my Dandelion-Burdock soda, with tibicos aka water kefir.  Over fourth of July weekend I brought a bottle up to New England for a taste-test from my newly returned sister.  She liked my version better than the commercial brew, which she says was much sweeter and less herbal.

Dandelion-Burdock Soda

In a herb pot or saucepan, combine:

1 and 1/2 Tbsp roasted dandelion root

1 and 1/2 Tbsp burdock root

1 quart of filtered water.  

Bring the herbs and water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.


This is my handy herb pot from chinatown: the best $7 investment I’ve made in a long time! The clay pot keeps my brew hot for longer during steeping time. Any saucepan will do, though.

Turn off the heat and allow them to steep for an additional half hour. Filter your herbs as you put the tea into a 2 quart container.


The leftover “wort” (herbs) after steeping and straining.

Add an additional:

1 quart of water

1/3 cups birch syrup*

1/3 cups sucanot*

Mix your ingredients well, and test the temperature of the liquid.   It can be warm but should not be painful to the touch before you add your culture, or you will burn the tibicos– it is alive, after all!  They traditionally call this temperature “blood warm.”


1/2 cup of tibicos grains.

Give the whole thing a hearty stir, and cover it with a breathable lid, like a cloth napkin or a paper towel, and secure the towel with rubber bands to keep flies out. Taste test your brew the next day to see if it is done.  If it is too sweet for your taste, leave it another 12 hours and test again.   Fermentation could take up to 48 hours, depending on your taste and the ambient temperature.  Each time you check on it, give the tibicos a stir.  When the brew is sour enough for your taste, bottle it, and put it in the refrigerator.


The brew, wedged between my kombucha an djun ferments, on my fermentation shelf. Fermentation time for tibicos is much shorter, though!

You may want to leave the bottled brew at room temperature for a few hours to build up some fizz, but beware of leaving it too long.  Tibicos has exploded in my refrigerator, (see my cherry explosion article).  If in doubt, it’s a good practice to “burp” your container after leaving it for this secondary fermentation.  I recently have taken to using old wine bottles for my secondary fermentation, as opposed to Grolsch bottles.  If the pressure in the wine bottle builds up too much, the cork will pop out and you will get a mess, but you avoid the danger of exploding broken glass!


*These are the sweeteners that I happened to use:  Sucanot also goes by the brand name rapadura, or evaporated cane syrup.  It’s just unrefined sugar.  You can find it at most health food stores.  Birch syrup is particularly pricey and hard to come by, so this can be easily replaced with maple syrup or additional sucanot.  I bought some online to try out making birch beer over a year ago, and I’ve had the leftovers sitting in the fridge ever since.  Usually, I deem it too precious to use for any old occasion.  I finally got over that and decided to use it up!


There is the tibicos and the birch syrup, mid-process.

High Season: what’s brewing in your cabinet?

26 Jun

As we sweat through another midsummer, fermentations thrive! Here’s what I have in my cabinet today. A few are alcohol infusions, most are ferments.



I have some writing to do about these, I guess! Stay tuned.

Ginger Beer: Warmth in a Cool Drink

14 Dec

Last month I made my latest batch of ginger beer, a project which I tend to do once a year around this time.  Ginger is great at any time, but cool weather prompts me to use warming spices.  There are different ways to go about making ginger beer.  Three methods are listed below.

A few years ago, I invested in a ginger beer plant from a fermenter in England.  Ginger beer plant purportedly is the most “genuine” way to make ginger beer.   Unfortunately, my ginger beer plant did not last very long.  The process of using it is a little bit like fermenting with water kefir, but the grains of ginger beer plant reproduce more slowly and are much finer than tibicos.  With each ferment I did, I lost some of my grains.  I was using a kitchen towel to strain the grains out, and inevitably, the fine grains would adhere to the towel and I would not be able to recover them all.  I already have three other types of starter to play with, so I was only a little sad as I watched the ginger beer plant whittle itself slowly away.   The beverage that the ginger beer plant produced was pleasant and different, but not necessarily superior to my tastes.

If you have water kefir (tibicos) grains hanging around, this would be another way to make ginger beer.  The brew method would be comparable to making ginger beer with the ginger beer plant.

I’ve taken to the ginger “bug” method to make ginger beer.  It’s a wild-ferment way to create your own scoby culture.  I would compare it most to the concept of sourdough, as the process is about feeding a culture every day with the right stuff to attract the right local yeasts to your jar.  The ginger bug method I use method comes from my Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, by Sally Fallon.  Sandor Katz also offers an adaptation of Sally’s recipe in his book Wild Fermentation.  You could also get creative with ginger bug as a starter,

and create any number of flavored sodas with it.

Making a ginger bug:


That’s the ginger bug right before I decanted it. It got to a point where it was bubbly enough that I was keeping the jar inside a bowl in case of overflow, to save my countertop from stickiness.

Grate 2 tsp of fresh ginger.  Put it in a pint sized jar.  Get as much of the juicy stuff in as you can.

Add 2 tsp of white sugar, and 1 c water.

Seal the jar and shake it.  Let it sit.

Every day, add another 2 tsp of ginger and 2tsp of sugar, and shake the jar daily or more.

After a few days or up to a week, your mixture will get bubbly.  You will see the bubbles when you shake, but also beforehand.  This bubbly brew is your ginger bug.  You have effectively  invited the yeasts from the air to inhabit your sugar-ginger-water mix.

Making ginger beer from your bug:

Boil half a gallon of water.

Add 1 to 1.5 cups of sweetener to the water.  While the ginger bug is necessarily made with white sugar to attract your yeasts, this sweetener could be anything:  maple syrup, birch syrup, sucanot, brown sugar, molasses.  I recommend staying away from honey.  This last batch I did was with molasses, and it gave the whole drink a beautiful, rich color.

Mix well to dissolve your sweetener, then mix in another half gallon of water.  Your mixture should now be cool enough to comfortably touch.  Add the juice of 2 lemons, and the liquid from your ginger bug.  Taste your mix.  If you want it to be more gingery, grate some more fresh ginger and squeeze the ginger juice from your gratings into the pot.  Let this mixture sit for about a week, covered to keep out flies, and then bottle it.


The bottled brew. Notice how I have a couple plastic bottles in the batch. These are handy in testing your carbonation levels: when the plastic bottle gets more rigid to the touch, you know it’s ready to transfer to the fridge.

Depending on how active your culture is, you can leave the bottles out at room temperature for some time to build up bubbles.  A good test is to use at least one plastic bottle.  When the plastic becomes rigid from the pressure of gas build up, it’s time to “burp” your bottles and put them in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, you can end up with glass bombs that are quite dangerous!  (See my cherry explosion incident from last summer).  The safe bottle time at room temp could be as short as a few hours, especially if you do this in the summer, to about two weeks.  I have had batches at both extremes.

If you really dig ginger beer, you could now add another cup of water to the sediment left over from your ginger bug, and begin feeding it sugar and ginger every day again.  The culture may be ready sooner this time, as you have already gotten the organisms started.  I’ve never tried to keep my bug going, as I couldn’t keep up with drinking it.

If you want to make this an especially “warming” drink, add some dark rum to your glass, and an optional wedge of lime.  Now you have a dark n’ stormy!

Cherry Explosion (and a new recipe)!

2 Jun

English: explosion symbol

It’s been a rough couple of days.  The heat in New York is oppressive, and to top things off, our refrigerator decided to give out yesterday afternoon.

Recently, I made a batch of cherry soda with tibicos (water kefir).  I left the bottled brew out only a few hours for the secondary ferment, but it was enough to create TONS of fizz!  I think this is due to the heat.  The first  bottle I opened up in the sink spewed all over the sink area before I could hold the bottle cap down to contain the fizz, and I lost 3/4 of the bottle all over the place.

Grolsch:  My bottle of choice, up till now.

Since then, I have had better luck opening bottles:  I place the bottle in a bowl, cup my hand  the cap and push down hard so that when the fizz bubbles out, it deflects off my clean hand and bubbles down the sides of the bottle into the bowl.

Then, the fridge died.  We are currently waiting for a new relay switch to arrive in the mail.   In the meantime, our refrigerator is packed with ice from the bodega to preserve our foodstuff.  I learned the hard way that it hasn’t been quite cool enough for my tibicos:  this morning, from a room away, we heard a “bang!” from inside the refrigerator.  I opened the door to find that not only had my cherry soda escaped, but it went the crazy way:  breaking the glass bottle into tons of little shards.  Not fun to clean up, but also scary!  Someone could have gotten hit in the face with that bomb!  I posted the incident to my Facebook fermentation forum, and one fellow fermenter recommended always leaving at least 2 inches of space at the top of the bottle.  She said the same thing  happened to one of her bottles before she started leaving the extra space.  I used to just leave one inch… not anymore!  I may even consider switching to plastic bottles, although the thought hurts me so….


Before all of this this bad excitement, I have slowly adapted my original cherry soda recipe into something even more fabulous.  The first ferment is the the same as the original recipe.  When I bottle it, I add to a single Grolsch bottle (12 oz bottle):

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp cherry concentrate

1 tsp wild cherry bark

Let the bottled brew sit out at room temperature for a little bit (maybe not too long at all if it’s hot in your kitchen!) to build up some bubbles and to create a secondary ferment.  You can  “burp” the bottle during this second ferment, to allow some of the CO2 buildup to escape.  You could also just put the bottle with the flavorings straight in the refrigerator.  Cooler temperatures significantly slow fermentation but do not completely stop the process.  After a couple of days, the cherry bark should be sufficiently infused into your brew.  Strain the bark out of your soda when you pour it.

Prunus serotina (Wild Cherry)

leaves of the wild cherry, photo credit Wikipedia

About Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina):  

Wild cherry bark should be stored in an airtight container away from light.  It is most commonly used to ease coughs, although it treats the cough symptom, not the healing of infection.  It is useful along with other herbs to control asthma.  Wild cherry bark is also useful as a digestive bitter, and a cold infusion of the bark can be used as a wash for eye inflammation.  (Thanks to David Hoffman’s Holistic Herbal for this information)

Blueberry Brew

22 Sep

Violet Beauregarde


Fall is settling in, and the equinox snuck up on me and was gone before I barely noticed it.  That means that temperatures have been a little lower lately.  Hallelujah!  For tibicos, that means that the fizz is settling down.  My last few batches have required a little bit more time in their secondary fermentation to build up the same amount of bubbles, now that my kitchen is not 100 degrees!

Meanwhile, I’ve developed a soda hommage to Sunday morning blueberry pancakes.  Blueberry Brew: sweetened with maple syrup.  Mmmm!  If you’ve been following my recipes, this one might look familiar to you, because it’s the same form I’ve been following for any simple tibicos fruit ferment:

Combine in a glass jar:

4 c water

1 generous handful of  dried blueberries

1/4 c maple syrup. 

1/4c tibicos (water kefir) grains

Mix. Cover your jar with a towel so the culture can breathe, but so flies can’t get in.  Let it sit for about two days, stirring a couple times a day if you think of it.   Warmer temps will make it ferment faster:  it’s ready when the taste is sour enough for you.  The brew should bubble when you stir.   If it tastes ready to you, bottle it in an airtight bottle.  Leave the bottle at room temperature for a day or so:  bottling will allow the brew to build up bubbles.  If  you keep it bottled for too long at room temp, beware of explosions!

Here’s the Blueberry Brew. What a satisfying color!


Confetti SCOBY

5 Aug

I recently decided to use beets and sugar in a ferment with my tibicos grains. The resulting drink tastes just like beet kvass, so I wasn’t all that excited about it, but the fun part is that my grains got dyed a wild purple-red color! Here’s a shot of my recently beet-dyed tibicos mixed in with the rest:


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