Layering for the outdoors

Gone are the days when we can simply wake up, roll out of bed, gulp down a fresh green juice, toss on yesterdays shorts while refilling packs with water and snacks before taking advantage of 16+ hours of daylight.

Now it seems like we have to decide between boots, shoes, shorts, pants, convertible pants, leggings, base layers, longsleeve or short sleeve, puffy jacket or fleece jacket, rain or wind jacket, beanie or simply just a trusty ball cap?

Seems like enough layering options these days to require a fist full of Ativan!

Where to begin, how can the adventurist possibly decide which is best, or what will keep them safe? Is there any magic combination that will ensure a safe trip into nature and back? Not really, but we can certainly aspire for darn close! So how can we make some sense of a 10,000 sq ft box store full of gear?

Be prepared for the worse, but hope for the best!

First, since this fits into each and every category as a “no, please don’t”.. cotton. Cotton soaks up moisture and takes too long to dry, some exceptions exist on a hot summer day, but I am stubborn in my ways: cotton has no place in a hikers backpack unless it is after the hiking and climbing is done for the day, perhaps for lounging around camp.

Layering for Summer

What should you look for when purchasing clothes for fair weather hiking? Lighter colors, breathable fabrics, if it was not apparent in the last paragraph.. cotton is not a great option for hiking in, so it is best to choose synthetics or light wool layers during the warmer months.

*Short sleeve vs long sleeve shirts – synthetic materials are the way to go these days, prices have come way down in synthetic materials since the 1980s, so we might as well put them to use! A snugger fit will help transfer sweat and moisture away from the body faster, while a looser fitting shirt will act like a wind tunnel and funnel wind right up and over the hikers back or chest.. while this may be refreshing after a good climb, sitting on a bare summit trying to enjoy a sandwich could have you reaching for additional layers sooner! Also, a longsleeve shirt gives a person the option of rolling the sleeves up or down as needed – and at least having the option of sleeves allows you to block UV rays from the sun.

My vote: a light longsleeve shirt with a zip or button up neck, collar to help cover the neck as needed, sleeves that can be rolled down to block the suns rays or rolled/pushed up to help vent sweat during an ascent.

*Shorts vs pants – shorts are lighter (typically) and breezier, letting that mountain air flow wherever you need it most! Pants help with UV protection from the sun, any extraneous sticks or pricker bushes a hiker may encounter while bushwhacking, but possibly most important pants offer protection from ticks and other biting insects found along the trails.

My vote: while I often hike in running shorts, if I know the trail is wide and I’ll be moving quickly, however.. my longstanding preference is for zip-off, or ‘convertible’ pants that offer the option of legs that zip off, switching into shorts on the fly, and most of the pant legs that zip off can even fit over boots without removing them!

A side note that can and should be applied to any garment while choosing clothing for layering is the color; keep in mind that lighter colors will help reflect sun rays, helping to keep the wearer cooler longer, but also lighter colors help deter ticks – while darker layers will soak up the sun rays, keeping the hiker warmer, darker layers have also been found to attract ticks!

*Buff – at least one of these stretchy fabric tubes can be found in my running pack, super versatile, these can be worn as a hat to absorb sweat and block the sun, around the neck for much of the same or even on the wrist like a fancy tennis player to wipe sweat before it gets into the eyes!

*Sunglasses – offering year round protection, and not just for sunny days – sunglasses offer eye protection from pointy sticks while bushwhacking and comfort while traversing snow or bright colored rock, I always have a pair of sunglasses on my face or in my pack – just in case!

*Hat – brimmed hats offer not only additional UV protection from sun rays, but can help block some glare.

*Boots vs trail runners – boots offer additional ankle support, especially beneficial while backpacking or carrying multi-day heavy loads into the mountains, typically boots are more water-resistant than simple trail runners while running shoes offer more flexibility in the foot, better range of motion, occasionally better grip on slab rock also! Some consideration will have to go into what the trail conditions may look like, how wet, eroded, grade/steepness all should be factored in when determining footwear in the hills.

*Gaiters – in some form or another, these are year-round for me. Whether they are ‘expedition’ style gaiters, more insulated and fitted for winter travel, or simple fabric ‘dirty-girl’ gaiters, some shoe companies like Altra are making gaiters specifically designed to fit their trail runners. Gaiters are just an additional form of protection, blocking sand, pebbles, twigs, pine needles, anything you don’t want falling into your shoe and inevitably under your foot while hiking!

My vote: gaiters year-round, heavier insulated gaiters are great for winter travel, keeping snow our of your boots while keeping warmth against your calves – but unfortunately a lot of the taller, knee-height gaiters are not terribly breathable and can trap a lot of sweat against the lower legs, quick fix? Unzip or loosen them for a minute when a snack break is taken, let your legs breathe too!

Layering for Spring or Autumn

The same applies as far as synthetic layers and zip-off pant options, but now begins the magic of layering –

+ Base Layer (wicks moisture away from the body)

+ Mid-weight Layer (traps warm pockets air next to the body)

+ Outer shell (repels wind/precipitation)

Often a debatable rule, but one that I have found to work well – I have found it is best to start hiking in a layer that will have you cool, but not chilled, definitely not actually shivering – knowing that the body will warm up gradually over the first 10-15 minutes, or during the initial 1-2 miles. If you are still cold after a mile, put light gloves or a hat on, still cold after that? Put an extra layer (shirt/fleece) on.

Like the saying goes: if your toes are cold, put on a hat.

*Long sleeve – wool is classically known for its ‘anti-stink’ properties, great for distance hikers! One longstanding downside to wool however, is its itchiness – but this has been somewhat remedied by treatments during production, but can also be achieved by washing wool gently with a bit of vinegar (google it.. to find how much vinegar to put in your laundry!), synthetic long sleeve shirts can become smelly faster – I find it easiest to just wash any of my tech layers by hand with gentle soap (Dr Bronner’s works wonders..for everything!), whatever you do – fabric softener cannot be used on synthetic layers, the chemicals will strip your clothing of all moisture-wicking properties!

My vote: a brightly colored (think..hunting season), collared long sleeve that has the option of rolling or pushing the sleeves up to block sun rays, fitting just snug enough to not waft air up my chest and become drafty, but not tight enough to be constricting or overly noticeable to the hiker!

*Mid-weight/fleece – some can be found with a laminated outer layer, or DWR (durable water repellent) coating from the factory, but I have been relying on a fleece shell for years! Why fleece? I grew up hearing my parents say “your fleece is made from recycled Coca Cola bottles!”, which I thought to be fascinating.. many fleece jackets are manufactured from recycled materials, which I love to support! Fleece jackets are moderately breathable, allowing sweat to vent out but adversely letting that pesky wind tear through right down to your base layer. Another downside to fleece is that it does not pack away as easily as other options, remaining a bulky layer from start to finish.

*Mid-weight/”Puffy”/insulated jacket – first off, I love these jackets.. but not so much for during the hike. So far in my short history of owning a down/synthetic insulated jacket I have grown to prefer them before or after climbing or hiking, but not during. Why? Many reasons.. they are not as durable as other options (like fleece), one snag on a branch and there goes all your filling! Insulated jackets are not all created the same, here again, there are also synthetic and ‘naturally occurring’ fills (goose, duck, or other waterfowl). Both variations take quite some time to dry once wet or sweat-through, but synthetic fills are raved for retaining their loft when wet. However, over the longhaul – synthetic insulation looses its ability to re-fluff after being wet, while natural down can go through a wet-dry cycle many more times, lasting much longer than synthetic in the long haul!

*Mid-weight/”Puffy”/insulated vest – same as above concerning the fill, fabric and durability, but some prefer the puffy vest to keep warm air against the core while allowing free-range of motion for the arms. Once again though, I would save an insulated vest for a snack break while on trail or for back at camp, but not while actually hiking or climbing due to its ability to simply soak up sweat easily.

*Mid-weight options: hood vs no hood – natural instinct tells me it would be better to have a hood and not need it, best to have it right there if it is needed, but what if your outer shell has a hood – would that become too cumbersome and restricting to have two hoods? Will the hood fit over a hat, beanie, or helmet for climbing? Will a second hood run the chance of getting in the way, or blocking your view when you need to see your rope while belaying? All of these questions must be asked when purchasing layers.

Layering for Winter/colder temps

Now that we have the basics of layering down, what can be done to help protect our base and mid-layers? Another layer or two, of course!

*Outer shell/wind jacket – often can be packed up to the size of an apple when not needed, but can be tossed over a long sleeve or fleece layer in seconds to add a layer of light water-resistance. The wind jacket will keep your hard earned heat trapped and close to the body, for a short period a simple wind jacket will help light rain or snow bead up and fall away – while it doesn’t take long for these layers to become saturated, they typically do dry rather quickly.

*Outer shell/rain jacket – typically just a bit heavier than a simple wind jacket, these shells are usually treated with DWR from the factory or contain a GoreTex layer (as durability and water-resistance increases, often so does price!). While these layers work great to keep rain and snow on the outside of your layers, they often times work just as well at retaining heat and moisture inside of the jacket – but now-a-days better jackets can be found with arm pit zippers and vents of all sorts to help breathability.

My vote: base layer + fleece + thin (easily packable) GoreTex (seam sealed) jacket. Highly versatile and can be combined with a plethora of other layering options, a good rain jacket can often times double as a wind shell. The only drawback to a treated rain jacket that I have found is the maintenance (hardly troublesome as far as gear goes..), a treated layer must be kept clean, free from oils (sun tan lotion, grease, etc), dust and dirt, scratches and tears as small particles easily enter the pores of the jacket that are designed to allow the hikers sweat to escape while being too small for fallen water droplets to penetrate. A bit of gentle soap and cool water can help keep your rain jacket working like new – and for DWR treated layers, another coating can be store bought and applied at home, or sometimes a quick trip to the dryer, tumbled on low heat can help revive the DWR treatment!

*Outer shell/winter jacket/parka – basically a one-use type of layer, these are not stowable, winter coats do not collapse and fit easily into a pack, they often times are heavy and do not breathe, and what’s more.. parkas are typically expensive. So when should they be used? In extreme conditions, cold and wind – or when the hiker is just not moving much, such as belaying or in between strenuous activity, they are also great for lounging around camp.

Of course, by now combinations of these layers can be found – companies trying to come out with the next best idea, zippers in new locations, features that guarantee you’ll stay cooler and dryer longer. Endless amounts of money can be spent on layers and a hiker these days will probably not feel as if they have “everything for every situation”, the key is being able to use what you have and adjust layers for varying weather conditions; build up a small arsenal of quality clothing that can be utilized.

The key to layering is just knowing that heavier is not always better, knowing that a hiker will have to add or remove layers throughout the day or week-long backpacking trip.

As one famous adventurer stated: “You sweat, you die.

Basically what they meant was.. once you get soaked with sweat and you are forced to stop mid-hike without dry clothes to change into on a windy or chilly day, you will become hypothermic extremely quickly.

Pack smart, think ahead, hope for the best but plan for the worst conditions, and always dress in layers!

 

Happy climbing!

– Erik

 



A fantastic company who has been helping modern climbers, hikers, boaters, skiers, get their layering down correctly since 1938, REI has a great selection, frequent sales and discounts, and a membership program that offers real cash back rewards on all your outdoor purchases!

Simply click any of the REI links and images around here and REI will kick us some loose change, it costs you nothing other than one click on the link so they know who sent you!

Cheers and happy trails!

 

Refreshing Summer Sammies

Well summer is in full swing and what is the best thing to fuel yourself on in the warmer weather?

Watermelon – of course! But that would not result in a terribly exciting write up now would it? Let’s see… Step One: Cut watermelon in half, Step Two: Eat all of the watermelon, Step Three: Repeat – all day every day. The End.

Okay, well what about those days when you want something.. a little, perhaps.. more solid than watermelon? I have just the perfect summer treat to fuel your long runs, bike rides, frisbee golf, whatever your preferred warmer weather events may be!

Behold.. the Vegenaise and Tomato Sandwich!

While there are endless varieties of this sandwich – whatever you are in the mood for – just toss it right on that bread! Avocado works spectacularly well, cucumbers are cool, ever tried carrot bacon or sliced tempeh? Throw it on the sandwich too!

What makes up a Vegenaise and Tomato Sandwich anyway?

  • Let’s start with the base of it all: the bread. Ciara’s bread, simply put, is a culinary masterpiece – fluffiest and tastiest bread that I’ve ever sunk my chompers into – so obviously that would be my first choice! But when we aren’t in bread-making-mode, the next best option would have to be rye bread – we love the earthy, slightly sour, full-bodied spicy funk of rye bread. But of course if you have a longstanding personal fondness for pumpernickel or Ezekiel sprouted seed bread.. then by all means – use what you love (craving a whole wheat hot dog bun.. or gluten-free burrito wrap? ..use that, I suppose!)
  • The tomato will come next (kindly supplement ‘tomato’ with anything you are feeling more in the mood for at the time of making your sandwich.. ie cucumber, spinach, sprouts, tempeh, jackfruit, bell pepper, avocado.. get crazy with your cravings!). Roma tomatoes taste a little bland when compared to some cousin varieties, but retain their shape well once sliced, but still not my first choice (unless I am trying to dip the tomato.. then the Roma is first choice!). Golden tomatoes that I have tried have a very mellow to sweet hint – definitely a go to around here! Basically any tomato that has a good, crisp bit of flavor – give it a shot on the sammich.. it’s your funkadelic creation!
  • Vegenaise! Say.. Vege-what? This mayo substitute will absolutely make your summertime sammich! Produced by a growing company known as Follow Your Heart, Vegenaise is a tangy, mildly salty egg-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, vegan friendly – mayonnaise alternative. Follow Your Heart has been producing Vegenaise since the 1970s and is now made entirely with solar power! Sweet!

What can you do with Vegenaise?

This fluffy white stuff has been a staple in our pantry for quite a while now, why? Because it is so dang versatile! We have been known to add dollops of it into our blender to spice up aioli sauces, drop in a hint of hot sauce to make a fantastic dip for our homemade potato wedges, or spread it by itself onto bread for these wonderful mouth-watering summertime sammiches! I’ve heard of so many other uses for Vegenaise, such as adding into a plant powered brownie mix.. but I’m not much of a baker, so I cannot vouch for this.. yet!

The masterminds over at Follow Your Heart have come up with several varieties for anybody with a restrictive diet, or those who would simply like to try more amazing alternatives! The Original is by far my favorite, but has canola oil as it’s base. A second go-to would be the same recipe but swaps out the canola for grape-seed oil, it has been said around here that this version tastes more true to say.. a Hellmann’s mayo.

But is it more healthy than the authentic.. I mean, mayo is mayo.. right? Heck no! Just for starters.. one glimpse at the ingredient list sets my heart right at ease!

Straight off the back of the FYH Vegenaise label, you can find: Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Filtered Water, Brown Rice Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Protein, Sea Salt, Mustard Flour, Lemon Juice Concentrate – things that are easy to read and don’t tie your tongue all in a hot mess trying to pronounce!

When compared to a popular eggy “real deal” mayo we can also find the typical water, sugar, lemon juice, distilled vinegar, but then things start to get a bit outlandish.. “modified food starch”. I had to look into this one: it appears to be a combination of modified corn and potato starch.. more or less a thickener or ‘stabilizer’! “Natural flavor”.. could use a bit more lengthy description than this of course! And my favorite: Calcium disodium EDTA, or better known as the “white crystalline powder.. used as a preservative”. I’m not here to say what is good or bad for you, but when I see tests that indicate this ingredient is safe in ‘small amounts’, but has been known to cause liver damage when taken over a period of time, I’ll stick to my plant-friendly alternative, thank you!

Part of me wanted to include the fancy charts, graphs, slides, images – anything to show you how much more health-friendly the Vegenaise mayonnaise can be, when not eaten by the spoonful (which is how I would like to consume it some days after a long run or hike! ..don’t tell anyone though! 😉 ). I’ll compare it to the newer Vegan dressing put out by Hellmann’s.

First off, the serving size is recommended at 1 tablespoon – good place to start. Identical calories for this serving while FYH has less fat, less saturated fat, no polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat to compare to what Hellmanns stuffs into their variety. Less cholesterol, a considerable amount of less sodium and a trace amount of calcium can be found dancing on your taste buds from the folks at Follow Your Heart. So while I’m not saying this should be consumed at every meal, or eaten by the spoonful when you do indulge – but quite simply that it is the alternative I’ll be going for – even if Hellmann’s can stuff the V-word onto their packaging!

While plant-based mayonnaise is an awesome starter and can be used to perfectify just about any condiment, dipping or dressing addition, please don’t think for a second that the friendly folks over at Follow Your Heart won’t have you covered for your other plant based cravings, you can amp up your kitchen creations with: cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, gluten-free tortillas, and what’s this now… introducing.. vegan eggs!!

Back to these delightful sammiches!

Is two pieces of bread too much? Sometimes I say yes, in which case we implement simple results to this common problem: introducing the open-faced sandwich; one slice of bread making up the base of your sammich – and that is all! This way you can pile those veggies a mile high over the cloud-like Vegenaise layer!

I hope this helped make your sandwiches and sammiches a bit healthier, happier and heartier!

What’s your favorite veggie to put on your sammich? Send me a photo or let me know in the comments below!

I’m always amped to try something new!

Are you traveling? Don’t forget to look around as you shop for local companies putting out their take on plant-based condiments, mayo, dressings, sauces.. it is a growing ‘backyard’ hobby all over, resulting in some truly epic creations!

 

Have an epic day and enjoy your sammich!

Erik!

 

 

 

Brew your own: Kombucha

Kombucha.

The name rings of a particular blend of ancient alchemy mingled with medieval mystery. Some folks who are in the know will just simply call it ‘booch’, giving the image of a secretive bathtub brewed beverage that you don’t tell others where you found. Others overwhelm me with bewilderment, preferring to call it ‘kAhm-boocha’, leaving me scratching my head as to where they found the elusive extra A at the outset of its name. Even fewer, it seems, just simply say the word as it appears: Kombucha.

Now that we have you saying Kombucha without adding extra vowels all over its name, can I ask you what it is? Oh.. you don’t know? I’m sure that’s why you are here reading this! I’m supposed explain this mystery stuff to you, got it! Essentially, Kombucha is fermented tea. “Say Whaaaat?” That’s probably what you just said to yourself as you choked on your morning coffee. How do I know? Because there was a time when I had a similar response.

It is a ‘controlled’ fermentation of tea; typically the brewing begins with black tea, but I have been successful using green tea (white tea soon to come!) – just not artificially flavored or any tea varieties with added oils, that would destroy all of our hard work and make our SCOBY very sick!

Wait.. all these terms that I have never heard of! What the dickens is a SCOBY??!

Okay, well I don’t want to jump in too fast and overwhelm you already, but SCOBY is quite simply just an acronym. It stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s a good thing, a friendly colony of allies all working together to create a delicious, super healthy, bubbly liquid for our taste buds! The SCOBY is something that I will break down a bit further and simplify real good for you in a bit – so hang on there..and put that tea on the back burner!

Like I said, this beverage is made with tea. Always, always, always tea, never coffee beans (unless you want to make coffee), never anything but tea – this is the base for kombucha (did I say always?). But how do they (as well as me and soon to be you..)get so many incredible flavors and varieties of this bubbly tea beverage? That all takes place in the second round of fermentation, once all of the creating as taken place. We get the base for the beverage, then we can get wild and wacky with fruits and other flavors. I say fruits because our friends in the yeast and bacteria department need sugar, they need a type of sugar to eat and they love real sugar (during the second fermentation, in the bottle!) that comes from fruits.

Have you ever homebrewed beer? If not then here is a quick background to show you I’m not crazy and not just getting my yeast all buzzed on added sugar for the fun of watching it: In beer making we boil water and grain, what is grain? Starch, carbs, sugars! The fermenting of the sugar extracted from the grain is consumed by the brewers yeast; the result? carbonation and alcohol. Similar here, Kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol – honestly not even noticeable, but if you wanted to get crazy with your kombucha down the line.. there are ways to amp up the alcohol production, (look to GTs Black Edition of kombucha.. must be 21 or older to even buy!) but I’m not going to get into that here – I like my Kombucha tea plain or with fruit!

Alright, so now you know more than I did the first time that I made my first batch of Kombucha! Great! So let’s recap: Kombucha is a bubbly beverage made with tea, boiled water, and sugar added in. The sugary tea slurry is left for a given amount of time (or forgotten about as has been the case with some of my batches) for the SCOBY, which is a big ol’ disc of GOOD and HEALTHY bacteria and yeast that eats the sugar we provide after the boil and in return produces byproducts of carbon-dioxide and probiotic filled yummy beverage.

Then once you think the first round has had enough, we transfer (minus the SCOBY, save that for future batches in your “SCOBY Hotel”!) the young Kombucha into some type of bottle, we prefer swing top bottles, but it is totally eco-friendly to reuse any glass with a good sealing lid! (we have even used pasta jars on occasion!) 

As soon as your early Kombucha enters the bottle, this is called F2 – or Fermentation #2. What does that mean? Basically by process of elimination the entire stage from boil to bottle was known as F1, or the ‘initial fermentation’. F1 was more-or-less an open top fermentation where the off-gasses are free to escape into the atmosphere, however.. in F2 since the liquid is contained in a sealed bottle, it is either going to explode or the gas will get trapped in the liquid.. creating that bubbly, tongue tingling carbonation we all love and associate with Kombucha!

So when do I enjoy Kombucha tea? Anytime is always my response!

Since homebrewing our own batches and saving literally thousands of dollars this year alone, I find that I actually enjoy starting my morning routine with a bottle. Sometimes chilled, sometimes not – depending on the time of the year and what I’m in the mood for! But for the record – once the batch has been put into F2 and bottled, if you start noticing too many bubbles or you become suspicious of your batch, putting the bottles into the refrigerator will halt the fermentation process. So, as you will notice: opening a room temperature bottle of Kombucha may get messy on you and bubble over, rarely will a bottle straight out of the fridge, although it hopefully will still contain all of the carbonation that we do want!

Want to brew your own Kombucha tea and watch your creation come to life?

First of all – you will need a SCOBY to begin with. Where do you get a chunk of bacteria and yeast to add to your tea? A friend, of course! If you know someone who is already homebrewing Kombucha, ask them for a sliver of their SCOBY and in return help them bottle or brew – or later on, give them a few bottles of your brew when its ready! It really does not take much for a teeny-tiny SCOBY to grow, and it will grow to be as large around as the fermentation vessel you provide it.

Don’t have friends who are into this crazy alchemy game? No Problem!

You can also shop online, many websites are packing and shipping their ‘starter’ SCOBYs by now. OR..in the case of what I did, I wanted to start my homebrew and at the same time (of course!) drink the Kombucha! But how? Pick up a bottle of raw kombucha (completely unflavored and NO added fruits) – GTs is actually the route that I went, I find they are always reliable!

I drank all of the GTs Kombucha aside from the flemmy looking chunker, brewed a small batch of starter (F1 style) tea (listed below!) and added it in after the brew cooled. Starting with a small batch, two 32oz Ball jars with cloth (not paper towel or anything that frays apart!). I started with two jars in case anything catastrophic happened to the first jar, then I’d have my back up! Luckily they both propagated just perfectly and now I have TWO batches always going in rotation!

So let’s make this tea!

Let’s assume that you have your SCOBY, either from a friend, just received it in the mail, or you did what I outlined above and let it rest for 3-4 weeks until it covered the surface of the liquid in your starter jar.

Collect what you need before you start!

  • 1-5 gallon pot to boil water
  • 6-8 Tbsp loose leaf black tea
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 re-usable tea bags
  • 4 1/2 gallons filtered water

First things first, that water needs to boil, but make sure it’s just water to start. And if you need to boil your tea in multiple batches – that is A-okay! Just split the sugar and water.. might take a bit of math, but I’m sure you can do it!

While you wait add your loose leaf black tea (we love the way darjeeling tea turns out!) to your reusable tea bags and cap them off, set aside.

Got bubbles in that boil already? Turn it off and add your tea bags and sugar. Give it a stir every minute or so until the sugar is incorporated – you don’t want sugar to crystallize on the bottom of your pan (I’m telling you.. you just don’t!), and be sure to use wooden utensils on any metal pans. It sounds much more pleasant, plus you wouldn’t want to scratch your pans, that just provides bad bacteria a place to call home until it gets you sick! Yuck!

Really all there is now is to let it cool, you cannot add your SCOBY to the sweet tea until the tea is room temperature, after all – the SCOBY is living and breathing.. please don’t scorch the poor fella!

Let’s pretend that this isn’t your first go around with Kombucha – this is a perfect time to rinse your bottles, get your caps ready (unless they are swing tops, in which case just dust them off!), grab your cutting board, a knife, and your older batch of F1 tea. Depending on your level of patience, you may want to use a funnel and measuring cup with a spout for the bottling phase!

This step is where all of the fruit and experimentation comes into play. You can get creative, wacky and wild with your brews – just be warned though, if you do, be sure to keep an eye on your bottles for bubbles and activity! You can quickly “burp” the bottles if you want to see how they are coming along.. just break the seal, listen, and close it back up quickly! If your carbonation is off the charts.. toss it gently in the fridge until you are ready to consume!

We have found that always adding ginger to our kombucha while in F2 gives our tea just enough of the necessary sugars and gives the brew just a bit of zing that we enjoy!

Some fruits that we use regularly in addition to our ginger slices:

  • apple
  • mango
  • pineapple
  • beet
  • sliced grape
  • spirulina
  • peach
  • lavender

You’ll learn over a few batches what your SCOBY wants to eat, but we add in 3-4 thin slivers (thin to make it easy to get in and out of the bottles..what goes in, must come out!) of whatever fruit, and small pieces of ginger without the outer ‘skin’. I’d start by adding the fruit/ginger to your bottles (or nothing if you want to go the simple route!), set them aside and bottle all at once.

Got your fruit in the bottles? Great!

Like mentioned above, I like to use a ladle, scoop, or measuring cup – something that will fit into your F1 brewing vessel and a funnel that will fit neatly into the mouth of your bottles, I just like to keep it clean, especially when dealing with sugary tea that sticks and stains!

With clean, clean, clean hands (clean but free of soap!), gently pick your SCOBY up out of the F1 vessel, don’t freak out, even though you probably will initially at the sensation of picking up a SCOBY: soft, squishy yet rigid enough to be handled.. it’s one heck of a thing you’ve created! Set the SCOBY aside, in a bowl with about a cup of the F1 batch that you just removed it from. Also, I’d recommend not keeping the SCOBY out in the open unless you want to risk fruit flies laying eggs all over it! (again.. from experience, don’t do this, it is very gross a week later..crawling with larvae.. super gross!)

Fill your bottles with F1 kombucha (some bottles are pre-marked with a fill-line) bottles to about an inch from the top, whatever you do – NOT to the absolute top of the bottle.. gotta let your tea breathe, man!

Think they’re filled and ready to go? Seal ’em up and set them in a closet, or on a shelf, anywhere out of direct sunlight and preferably somewhere in the 50-65 degree range, the hotter the batch is, the faster it will ferment and you really start running the risk of bottles exploding on you!

Fast forward and your F1 is all bottled, your tea on the stove is sweetened, mixed, tea bags have been taken out (check how long it says to steep your tea, I leave mine in 10 minutes, 15 or so if I walked away and forgot it.. oh well, it always works out one way or another!).

Gently pour your fresh batch of cooled down sweet tea back into the F1 brewing vessel, gently add your SCOBY and that cup of older F1 fermented tea back in – the bacteria helps kick start the fermentation and creation of more awesome bacteria to eat up the new sugars you just fed them!

Lastly you will want to cover your F1 batch with something breathable that fruit flies cannot permeate. I have tried tripled over cheesecloth, I thought I had those fruit flies out-smarted, yikes was I wrong! I have heard horror stories from paper towels being used, fraying into the brew and contaminating the tea from the bleaches used to process the towels.

What does that leave you with? How about a t-shirt material? I ordered cloth covers with elastic bands that fit snuggly over various side jar mouths from Kombucha Kamp, which have worked amazingly – as they should! I just give them a rinse as I think they need between batches and they are good to go!

Keep a good eye, (especially in the early life of your SCOBY!) on your batches, check it every couple of days for signs of bubbles. The top may form a new layer of white-ish haze which is great, new SCOBY layers – your SCOBY is always evolving and growing, but if you ever see blue or something out of the ordinary.. it could be mold, in which case you will need to toss your batch and start fresh, unfortunately! Of all my batches over 1 1/2 years of brewing, this has never happened to me, fruit fly larvae, but never any mold, your SCOBY is in a good environment, resilient to many maladies!

Much like the bottles, you will want to keep your F1 brew in a dark, cooler, well ventilated area.

Most importantly, keep an eye on your brew, and if you have a glass or metal straw at home, I would encourage weekly tastings of your F1 brew – your tea is much more palatable if you bottle it before it becomes vinegary and too tart. We have two 5 gallon batches constantly going, alternating bi-weekly with bottling and brewing, almost more than we can drink – in which case, once you get consistent (don’t worry if it’s not “perfect” and bubbly as store bought, it took us about 1 full year of brewing kombucha to feel that we really have an excellent product!) share your batch with friends and folks who may not know what this beverage is, really “wow” them with your carbonated craftiness!

Much like our kombucha batches, the process is always changing, our craft is evolving. New ingredients are being tried, so we can always provide updates, but I believe I covered the basics on how you can get started for mere dollars!

Got a question? Let me know!

Either on here below, on Instagram or my email!

Am I doing something inefficiently? Let me know!

We love what we do, and what we make – and it works, but I’m no expert!

Follow along for any updates as I come across them..

But for now, it’s time to pop a bottle of bubbly brew and relax.

Thanks for reading along and best of luck with your Kombucha endevours!

Warm regards,

– Erik

 


Factoids!

  • Batches brewed: 37
  • Roughly $$ saved per batch: $75.81
  • Roughly $$ saved in the past year by homebrewing: $2,274.30
  • Favorite flavor brewed: lavender

Today’s Featured Ingredient! (yes.. this is the tea we use!)

 

Make Your Own: Oat Milk

Growing up in the early 90s I used to enjoy playing kickball or riding my BMX bike through the trails behind our house after school before the sun would set for the day, riding until my lungs burned and the sweat beads would sting my 6 year old eyes. At that time of my youth there was not much I enjoyed more than going home, tossing my bike off in the driveway anywhere (it may have gotten hit as a result of this on more than one occasion!), running into the house a sweaty mess and pouring a tall glass of milk, and then another tall glass of milk – it felt so refreshing and cold as it tumbled all the way down to my belly.

Later I would find out from friends that this was just weird, my friends did not drink milk the way I did – they would drink their Pepsi (yes..at that age..yuck!) or their Hawaiian Punch and be left with matching red lips. I just didn’t like sticky, sweet beverages like this, water was a strong runner-up in my glass during the summer months. I suppose I got into this habit because I would see my father with his tall glass of milk nightly at the dinner table, I didn’t care to be like him at the time, I just knew it was cold and I could drink a lot of it!

Fast forward a decade or so and I was still quenching my thirst with water primarily, but my milk consumption plummeted, choosing it only for my bowl of granola in the morning. I just grew tired of milk over time, it may be that my parents decided to switch fat percentages in the milk, opting for the paper-thin 1% milk that one could just about see through. It was just gross to me, I remember it not tasting good anymore, it was not the refreshing beverage I grew up with during the warm months of summer vacation from school. I had to pour it on some type of cereal just so it would absorb the sweetness and other flavors to be able to drink it down.

It was around the time that I finally moved out, had a refrigerator of my own and could finally buy whatever I wanted that I picked up some of that “fake” milk stuff – it was almond milk at the time, and it was soooooo good!!! It was everything that I remembered from my youth: full-bodied without being ‘heavy’, super tasty without the bitter/sour milk taste (if you don’t notice how sour cows milk is, try nut milk and then go back to dairy milk… just give it a try!). Recently these nut and other varieties of ‘alternative’ milk have taken on the lingo of “mylk” because the industry does not want the consumer to be confused and think these other choices are actually dairy, well I’ve always called it ‘nut milk’, so that’s what I’ll be sticking with for the remainder of this fun write-up!

So, are nut milks the only type of non-dairy, dreamy, delicious alternative?

Heck no! While cashews by far make up my favorite kind of nut milk, folks have also been milking their almonds, walnuts, pistachios (which I haven’t tried yet, but it’s high atop my list of to-do!), pecan, macadamia, hazelnut – even peanut milk exists out there, which is not actually a nut at all (but I’d bet it’s still deee-lish!).

So.. now with all that, are nuts the only things that can be used to make this amazing dairy alternative??

Once again, heck no! A strong runner-up in my favorites has always been coconut milk, but of course there are so many options! Folks have dabbled with soy beans, rice, quinoa, oats, even a vast majority of seeds can be made into milk (pumpkin, hemp, sesame, flax seed, etc), and pea protein – which makes me want to point out the one word there that may catch your eye here: protein. Yes, while all of these varieties vary in how much protein they contain, they all have protein (some nearly double the amount of plant-based protein when compared with regular dairy – and a fraction of the sugar as dairy! Wahoo!)

While I want to have fun here making oat milk – I would also first like to raise a bit of attention to a long believed myth about milk: that it is needed for strong bones. Just one article that has been published discusses studies where patients who drink more dairy milk are actually linked to premature death and did not actually help protect the bones from fracturing, and in several studies actually increased the aging process while the higher milk sugar content promoted inflammation in the body. I first read of these studies years ago, and have been fascinated by the stories of athletes cutting dairy from their diets to successfully reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints post-exercise; I have since turned myself into my own study and have nothing but positivity to report since cutting all dairy from my consumption back in 2016. 😉

Come on Erik.. You want me to drink my oats?

I knew that I loved cashew milk and coconut milk (still do.. can’t lie about that!), I would see the oat milk there in the refrigerator section and think “some day, oat milk.. some day..” but today never seemed to be oat milk’s day. Well today is the day for oat milk to shine brightly in my tall glass! Like any other dairy-free milk, it is super creamy and is best suited for cereal and granola bowls, straight up drinking, or for those fancy latte’s that so many people post on their Instagram pages displaying the decorative fern leaf of froth adorned atop!

Traditionally ‘oat milk’ is made with regular rolled oats, but can also be made with barley, groats or whatever else you can find in your local bulk department! For my oat milk, I opted for good ol’ fashioned conventional rolled oats which were $0.79 per pound at my local co-op. I can hear you cringe right now as you read this thinking “conventional oats..what about organic everything??” I have immersed myself into the pro’s and con’s regarding this subject and the studies that I have come across have shown higher ‘toxic residues’ in organic oats, but the conventional oats which had tested positive for toxicity measured higher concentrations. So I am neither for nor against organic in this instance, for me conventional rolled oats are about $1 less per pound so that is what I decide to use.

Now, how in fact do I “milk my oats”..?

A quick search on the internet will give you dozens of recipes for oat milk, but for this I’ll be using our Optimum 600 juicer, primarily because I don’t have the patience for filtering with cheese cloth or t-shirt scraps that I have read nightmares about. This technique really is not much different overall from the traditional filter method, we’ll still be soaking our oats – the only real difference is that we press the ‘milk’ out of the oat slurry instead of letting gravity work its magic over time using a filter (less waste this way too!).

So let’s get milking! What do I actually need?

With a quick search on the internet you can find varying recipes and ratios of water/oat depending on the viscosity of milk that you crave! But here is what I have come up with and is my go to for our oat milk:

  • 1 cup – Conventional Rolled Oats
  • 3 cup – Filtered Water
  • 3-6 – Medjool Dates

*Optional if you want to spice up your oat milk!*

  • Carob Powder (chocolate oat milk!! Yes!)
  • Cinnamon/Nutmeg (pumpkin spice?)
  • Maca Powder (a great superfood that gives the oat milk a graham cracker sweetness!)

While I am using our Optimum 600 juicer for this recipe, I have my doubts as to how well dates will work with cheese cloth, unless they are blended real well, otherwise I may recommend using something more like the carob powder for a cloth filter and saving the sticky, sweet dates for date balls or snacking on the side, with the oat milk!

We soaked our rolled oats in the filtered water for about 4 hours while we ran morning errands and went for a nice long run, then came back and rinsed the oats – which was more or less pouring the liquid off the top, I was surprised how much of the cloudy particles had settled, and then let the oats bathe in 3 cups of fresh water for another 4 hours or so; but you may find it easiest to be a bit less ‘hands-on’ with your oat milk – just soak them overnight, rinse once and toss them in your juicer in the morning – like fresh juice for breakfast .. oat juice!

Of course with any juicer, there is a somewhat dry combination of oats and date pulp that gets spit out (not bone dry by any means though!), what to do with this? Well, well, well.. I have some ideas for you! My initial thought was to add it to make banana pancakes after a run, or rejuvenate it for some date balls to create a nice energy packed on-the-go snack for your hiking or running adventures! If all else fails, and you make your own dog food/treats – go ahead and toss it into their puppy mix! (I recommend in moderation however, as dates do aid in digestion.. we don’t want an unnecessary mess on our hands while we are trying to enjoy our fresh oat milk!!). I’m sure the uses for the spent oat/date combo is just about endless, so if you would care to share what you enjoy adding your oats to – let me know! I’d love to hear your fresh, new ideas!

So that is how I make my oat milk, and like I mentioned earlier – I plan on adding in some carob powder and making chocolate milk real soon! I used to love, love, love chocolate milk growing up – but it was always so full of unneeded sugars, but by adding carob powder there will be no milk fats or unwanted sugars! I’ll follow up and let you know how it turns out.. but if it is anything like adding carob powder into dairy-free nicecream (frozen bananas + other frozen fruit as desired), it will be just downright dee-lightfully scrumptious!!

Follow along as I take you to other milk alternatives in the near future, what’s it going to be – the hemp heart superfood milk? The richest nut milk you have ever tasted? Milk straight from the rice fields to your frappa-latte-mocha-chino?

Dairy-free alternatives have never tasted so delicious!!

 

Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message with tips, ideas or requests!

Thanks for reading and have some incredible Veggies, Vistas and Vert out there! 😉

– Erik

 

Salty, Syrupy, Coconutty Goodness!

How many types of sports hydration can you name? Jumping for joy over the coconut water

Probably something new for every day of the month, if that’s what you are in the market for! Sports drinks with electrolytes, or maybe just straight up soda like I’ve seen some long-distance runners do on occasion; Gel packets, salt sticks, energy beans, drink mixes, supplement capsules or perhaps those purple fizzy things? If forced to choose from this list – I would prefer something with ingredients that I can pronounce – or my old faithful: real water!

For as long as I’ve been running, I never let myself get overwhelmed with the surplus of colorful packages out there! Back when I began running, I used to carry a bottle of spring water – 16oz was typically my go-to because it fit in my hand just right and felt natural – without being too weighty or bulky. Back then I never needed to drink any of my water mid-run, but as soon as I finished and began my walking-cool down session, the water was all I wanted! Fast forward some years and for reasons that I am not sure of – I got out of the habit of carrying water, even while I was doing up to double the mileage!

When I got my current running vest – a Salomon S-Lab 12L (12 set as they dubbed it) featuring two 16oz soft shell bottles, Ciara and I were primarily running the White Mountains of NH; I had not really begun taking – or needing my vest on more local runs yet. But even when we did get vested up for the mountains, the first several months contained just plain water, which was super convenient for refilling at the many huts throughout the National Forest (I have also always carried aRocking the vest 2018 Sawyer mini-water filter in my vest, which I have used many times!).

Fast forward again to that time when I thought I would have my first go at a full marathon – I knew that I would need water for that one! While we both agreed there were some ‘reputable’ hydration/electrolyte replenishment options out there, we always prefer to be resourceful with what we have and we decided that making our own would be the way to go!

I knew using ingredients that my body already knew (being fully plant-based for over two years at the time) would definitely be the way to go. We did our research into what other folks had come up with – so it’s not as if we really invented the concoction ourselves, we just tweaked what other folks had previously done, and we found that it worked well..

so well in fact that for 26.2 miles, I did not crave any other food!

I desperately wanted to try our liquid creation on a long run, just to ‘experiment’, and see how my body would react (it’s either going to love it or I’d be in the woods with it coming out one end or the other!) to it, but time proved to not be on our side, once again!

The weekend of October 13th found us in a cabin on a chilly evening prior to my first full marathon, consuming all the home-Orange + Lemonmade plant based food (some in the crock pot, some raw desserts – which, of course, were amazing!).

We had everything we needed to re-create the recipe that we tweaked to our standards:

  • Coconut Water (4 cups/ 32oz)
  • Maple Syrup (0.25 cup/ 4 tablespoons)
  • Himalayan Pink Salt (1/4 teaspoon)

*Our original recipe also called for, but we did not add in on race day:

  • Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice (1 cup/ 8oz)
  • Fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice (0.5 cup/ 4oz)

I give both options because the first three ingredients worked completely fine for my race, powered me through just fine – but, if I have the luxury of running water and a place to wash knifes and clean up sticky citrus – I will totally be adding the fruit portion into the mix next time!

What I recommend, and actually what I did (and what I am incredibly thankful of..) was fill this coconut water hybrid into one of my 16oz water reservoirs, and the other 16oz bottle with just plain filtered water. I began my race by sipping on the blended coconut water, Himalayan Pink Salt -topnot sure how it would settle for me (and not wanting to spoil my race only 6mi in with cramps and other annoyances..) so I kept each sip in my mouth, almost ‘chewing’ (ever go to a beer tasting? think of this..) it for 30-60 seconds before slowly swallowing it – sounds waaaay to tedious for some, but I was determined to baby my stomach as I was coming from a habit of taking in no nutrients while I ran 20+ miles (for my fear of cramping).

Now I am sure, by now, you are probably asking yourself why would anyone go with some hippie-junk like this – salt? citrus? maple syrup? coconut water? what the heck is this trash?? Everything listed is here for a reason –

each ingredient is in there to replenish our bodies and help it to persevere!

First off here, coconut water? Come on, were not on Survivor here..why would we need coconut water? Coconut water is one of the best, all-natural ways of re-hydrating the body – containing many minerals and nutrients that we just don’t get from water alone (and I’d rather know that I am getting these nutrients from a plant instead of some rainbow colored powered shit Coconut Watermade in a lab!)

Coconut water is:

  • 95% water
  • 4% carbs (the good sugars that don’t give you diabetes!)
  • 0.1% fat
  • 0.5% iron
  • 0.02% calcium
  • 0.01% phosphorus

The best (for us) coconut water can be found coming from the young green coconuts; these little fella’s contain the most powerful anti-oxidants, higher levels of vitamin C and B (complex) and potassium. Also, containing trace amounts of sodium (great for when you are sweating!), magnesium, and phytochemicals (studied for its anti-aging/anti-cancer properties!). While coconut water alone has been found to help aid the liver and help return the blood volume back to normal levels post exercise – not much comes to us without a risk, or a ‘downside’, unfortunately!

I cannot suggest re-hydrating with coconut water without being ‘responsible’, and letting you know of the risks! Coconut water alone, while it contains somewhat higher levels of potassium is great for us banana-eaters, but should not be used as a cure-all on super hot days; it has been found (when consumed in stupidly high quantities!) to result in ‘hyperkalemia’, even with some medical knowledge, I had to look this one up! This is basically kidney disease; resulting in the breakdown of both red blood cells and the muscle itself, incredibly high volumes of coconut water (the study I read about involved 90oz of coconut water while exercising in the bright summer sun with no other liquids to Himalayan Pink Salt close-upspeak of: so be sure to drink water too!!) alone can produce an abnormal heart rate and result in a blood pressure that is just too low for the body to survive and will eventually, potentially, kill you – this is the main reason why I brought one water, one coconut water mixture on my marathon, turns out after the salt, maple syrup and coconut water, my body absolutely craved regular water, so listen to your body!!

 The next up into the recipe is Himalayan Pink Salt.

And if I know you correctly, you are probably asking to yourself “what the heck is ‘Himalayan salt’ and why do I need to get fancy, can’t I just use my table salt??” You may be able to reap the same benefits from regular table salt – but that junk is so much more processed, I just chose to avoid it! This Himalayan Pink Salt comes from the second largest salt mine – straight from Pakistan. It appears pink (while regular salt is obviously white) because of the trace amounts of iron oxide.

This is one of the easiest ways to escape the clutches of the electrolyte powder, tablet, stick craze; containing sodium and chlorine, salt is absolutely essential (in small quantities, this does not mean dip your greasy fries into heaping piles of salt..) in helping the brain send electrical impulses to nerves and fundamentally – the muscles. So without salt, long runs just don’t exist, your muscles  will lock up and you will be a hot mess on the side of the trail!

Himalayan Pink Salt is:

  • 0.16% calcium
  • 0.28% potassium
  • 0.1% magnesiumReal Maple Syrup
  • 0.0004% iron

And of course, my favorite ingredient: REAL Maple Syrup!!

Corn syrup and high fructose this and that has been cut from my diet for years – just don’t need that trash (is how I try to look at it!)! And going right alongside of that laboratory-made non-sense, is white table sugar – too bleached, too refined, too processed! I suppose one could make the argument that, yes, maple syrup is also processed to a degree (and I’m talking about the local maple syrup that someone’s family is making, NOT the store bought Auntie Jemima fake shit!) but it’s essentially just boiled down – a wee bit different in my eyes.

I’ve always loved the real deal maple syrup – my grandfather had a sugar shack and tapped his own trees, this was a treat of going to visit the grandparents from an early age, I would dream of home made blueberry pancakes on the farm with his cherished maple syrup! It was almost like “top shelf” – being only broken out of the pantry for special occasions (like when the grand-kids came to visit!!).

Anyone who has had the pleasure of going to a maple syrup tasting knows that there are varying grades and colors and densities of real maple syrup, but the majority of the amber sticky stuff out there comes from (but not limited to!) sugar, red, or black maple trees; the trees are tapped in late winter/early spring for the starchy sap, which has been converted to sugar by a combination of colder weather and the tree just doing what it does! The sap is collected (I’ve tried the sap, doesn’t taste like a whole lot at this point!) and boiled down to rid a majority of the water, leaving our beloved syrup.

The maple syrup

The primary ingredient of the sap collected is sucrose along with water, which is decreased from the boiling process to make a sweeter end product. According to the most trustworthy sources over at wikipedia.com, maple syrup provides 260 calories/100g.

Maple syrup is:

  • 67g carbs
  • 32.4g water
  • 0.06g fat
  • 0.04g protein
  • 106% riboflavin (daily recommended value)
  • 138% manganese (daily recommended value)
  • 10% calcium (daily recommended value)

Of course, being a natural plant-based food – there are also trace quantities of thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and a whole slew of volatile organic compounds.

If and when I get to try the citrus portion in our hydration creation, I’ll include that in here with findings and such; but for now this has worked wonderfully for us – like I said earlier, I was able to feel full on just minimal amounts of the coconut water, Stream crossing wack-jobspink salt and maple syrup combination, which is great for us folks who can’t feel weighted down by fuel jostling around in our guts mid-run!

If you end up trying this recipe – and it works (or even doesn’t work), I’d love to hear about it!

Am I missing something from my recipe that you swear by, that hadn’t occurred to us to include in our water – let us know down in the comments below!

And – as I said earlier, but as a friendly reminder.. don’t forget to drink real (filtered) water also, there’s not much better for a body in motion than just plain, regular h2o!

I hope this helps you run, hike, go longer and better than before you read it!

Cheers & Happy Trails

Erik

Smooth Alchemy or Black Gold??

Black coffee & a latte at The Tuckerbox, VTI have minimal recollection of my introductory sip of this blackened beverage, but what I did learn from this “ah-ha” moment was: I would forever be adulting with my coffee in hand.

My mother would make green tea with honey when I was growing up (what seems like 40 years ago), but the first time that I tried coffee.. nope, can’t remember anything about it – good or bad! There is a very solid chance that it was loaded with white sugar and whatever flavor of creme was within arm’s reach.

This is how I knew coffee for more than a decade, so for many years I amped up this caffeinated beverage with tablespoon after tablespoon of white table sugar – because that’s what I saw people do, and creme because that was just the standard that I knew, that’s just how I assumed this black beverage was consumed back in the ’90s.

I thought that the black from the coffee is what brought about stomach issues, my uncle even developed issues – I truly believed that it was from the way he drank his coffee: black; and by the pot! With this in mind, I added more pumpkin spiced, or peppermint heavy creme and artificially sweetened, fake everything to my brew.

Around the time of my 18th Christmas, I was given my first coffee maker;

it was a combo brewer – coffee and espresso in one (not so compact) machine. I loved it! I made coffee all throughout the day just because I assumed that’s how the American public managed to tackle their hectic day.

I would brew my own coffee, go out and meet friends over a coffee, drink coffee for something cold, or for warmth. I traded in coffee for hot mulled cider and the occasional tea, but during my twenties I (as they say..) ran on coffee.

When Ciara and I decided to go cross-country (I had already been drinking my coffee black with no sugar for several years!), I managed to grab a morning cup of joe when we stopped to refuel the Honda, which conveniently was primarily morning time. But when we were in the desert, forest, anywhere that did not have the convenience of “already dripped” coffee, I had to rethink.

Unfortunately this rethinking brought me to the worst time period of coffee consumption of my life, “rock bottom”, as someWhole Bean and Ground might call it; I had opted for a jar of Folgers Instant, which never fully incorporated into the mediocrely warm water that was rushed to a boil on our Coleman travel stove. Point being: it tasted kinda nasty, looked kinda gnarly, and left my teeth all tinted brown from the silt left over from the lack of blending. This persisted several months too long while on the road.

When we got back to New York I vowed “Never again! Not going to do drink that nasty shit ever again!”

I still had my regular Mr Coffee for my early work schedule since it had a fancy timer feature. Luckily this 10pm – 7am logistics job did not last long (and come to think of it – I’m not sure if I ever drank coffee at this overnight job – 2 Red Bulls and I regretted both of those decisions with a stomach that felt as if I just fed it battery acid and artificial sweetener).

I had my actual coffee maker for no more than a few weeks in New Hampshire, taking up valuable space on the counter tops in our tiny kitchen. The coffee maker began spitting water and was all bothered by mineral deposits from years of hard water, toward the ends of my fraying frustration – I picked it up and threw it off the second floor patio, letting it shatter into 10,000 pieces on the concrete slab below – okay, that most definitely did not happen – but my mind envisioned someone overly dramatic, which I have been known to be from time to time.

Electric coffee maker out, in with the manual French Press style I had always adored but never knew how this fancy glass cylinder/spring/mesh on a stick combination worked – come on, I drink coffee, I’m not a sorcerer when it comes to brewing it!

Beans in the grinder

Over the next several months, I continued to develop quite the morning ritual:

1. wake up, 2. feed the cat, 3. boil teapot water, 4. four scoops of fresh ground coffee goes into the French Press, 5. wait for water to boil as I listen to my cat slurp up her meaty-breakfast, 6. water into the French Press, covering the grounds, 7. wait 2-3 minutes for nature to infuse that water with coffee-goodness!, 8. stir the water/coffee ground combination, 9. let it sit for 2-4 more minutes (or until I remember that I am not yet drinking my coffee..), 10. start plunging those grounds, 11. drink my dang coffee that I waited and worked so hard for .

Making morning coffee using the French Press method has forced me to slow down, take a deep breath, a long slow sip and think about what I’m tasting because this is the one time I allow myself to drink coffee (95% of my days: coffee once in the morning, occasionally a coffee after dinner if we go out to eat or if we go to visit Tuesday – who turned me on to the Art of French Pressing toward the end of About to press the cold brew2017). I prefer this as I don’t feel like I need coffee halfway through the day, I’d prefer coconut water or something to hydrate because typically: “Coffee First, Then Run” is how my mornings tend to unravel.

I had heard Ciara mention several times, and then saw several recipe advertisements for Cold Brewed Coffee; in fact, unknowingly to me, I had this “cold brew masterpiece” from the local Stewarts convenient shops (and loved the boldness of it!), but I did not understand at that time, there is a whole art to Cold Brewed Coffee – and more patience of course – I was all in to give this crazy foodie fad a whirl!

Ciara has always opted away from standard coffee because of its acidity, choosing healthier chicory/mushroom/herbal coffee blends or opting for tea altogether!

“So is this just regular coffee brewed using regular water in place of hot, or what?”

I have been confused on this for too long now, so let my try to answer some of those questions!

Iced Coffee is typically brewed with hot water and left to cool down, or can have ice cubes added after cooling, thus creating a potentially watered down beverage.

Cold Brewed Coffee is brewed using a coarse grind (part of the reason I grind all my own beans) and room temperature water, steeping for a longer time.

From all of my reading on the topic, I have gathered that it is the heat from the water used in standard coffee brewing processes which embolden the bitter flavors, and draw out the acidity of the bean. Naturally, not using hot water would not leech acids and bitter notes into the final brew. Make sense? Starting to!

Higher caffeine in cold brew or just more of a potent brew?

The votes are up in the air whether the process of cold brewing the coffee beans seeps more caffeine into the water or not, I have heard of several theories: typically cold brewing requires more ground coffee ({1cup = 8oz, 1/4cup = 4tbsp} 2.5tbsp/1cup water for regular coffee, 4tbsp/1cup water for cold brewed coffee) and left for a much longer time to steep. I have found recipes stating anything from “overnight in the fridge”, to a strict 12hr, all the way up to 20hr in the steeping (sleeping) phase. Equal Exchange Black Silk Espresso

Let’s make this fandangled mathematic coffee concoction, so just chill out and get everything ready to brew the cold:

  1. 64oz Ball Jar w/ lid (my jar technically holds 8 cups, I’ll just fill up to the 7 cup line to give space for coffee grounds, OR use two 32oz wide mouth ball jars and just split the grounds and water equally!)
  2. 2 cups of coffee beans (my local Co-op score is directly to the right.. Equal Exchange Organic Black Silk Espresso) – coarsely ground (anybody doing the math would note this should be 1 3/4cup coffee, I’ll be getting crazy with 2cups ground coffee/7cups water)
  3. 7 cups filtered room temperature water
  4. French Press to filter out coffee grounds (unless you opt to use the coffee filter and cheese cloth technique!)
  5. Your favorite cup to drink your new cold brew coffee out of
  6. 4-8oz of your favorite plant-based milk
  7. Cinnamon, nutmeg, any spices you might want to try!

“So, you mean I don’t microwave the water?”

We have a generic activated charcoal water filtering system that produces some fine drinking water (we remove some mineral content as we use the same water to brew our Kombucha!). So you’re going to need some good, regular ol’ water – and about 7 cups of it depending on what size brewing vessel you have. I have done both: 64oz with 2 cups of coffee grounds, or so it’s a bit easier to maneuver around in the fridge – 2x 32oz wide mouth jars with 1 cup of grounds in each (or maybe you don’t want 2 jars, no worries! Just make 1 jar – this is your cold brew in front of you after all,

make it how to like – but try it this way first to see if you want it stronger or weaker and tweak it from there!!

Two cups of coarsely ground coffee/espresso bean goes first into the dry 64oz jar, then the water starts to get added (water first will make the grounds clump initially (not the end of the world, you’ll just have to mix longer!), even worse with a damp to wet jar, the grounds won’t want to mingle with the water so you’ll be scraping the sides of your Ball jars as you mix..no fun!). Fresh press and beansWe have anything from wooden chop sticks (my go to!) all the way up to flat wooden mixing spoons, so hopefully you have something to get all your grounds incorporated (if you’re using 32oz jars, cap them and just shake it, like a salt shaker!).

Realistically all you have to do once you think the grounds are mixed up, cap it, or keep the cap on if you never took it off after the shake-session, and place it in the fridge (or on the kitchen counter if you have the luxury of more space than we currently have), go to sleep, go to work, go take your dog for a long walk, just forget it is there! Checking it constantly won’t help it along, and it’s doubtful that you will catch the brew color changing or anything (if you do, seriously, let me know, grab a photo.. that would be a new one!)

If I start it at night, I like to open the jars up and give it a little stir before going on with the rest of my day, just to make sure all of the grounds are in fact saturated and giving their best to my soon-to-be coffee water!

When it is convenient and nearing the 15-20 hour point is when I open them up for good, one last stir with the chop stick and carefully pour into my french press. Slowly and carefully send the meshy plunger down and pour your new cold brew right into a mug/glass to drink, or back into another ball jar to sit for up to another 2 weeks in the fridge – just be sure to get those coffee grounds out!

*On a quick side tangent*

Some folks either prefer to not use a french press, or just don’t have a french press – which is completely understandable – I believe I got mine for around $12, it’s made of glass with a plastic base – totally works for my needs! If you have cheese cloth and a coffee filter – it is possible to put your coffee grounds into the coffee filter, fold it up and wrap it in cheese cloth (essentially creating your own coffee “tea bag”. I just use a french press – but there’s another idea for all the problem solvers out there!

Depending on my mood and where I am, I can be found sipping on my fresh cold brew either straight up black – or with the addition of a bit of cashew milk (I find cashew milk by far the creamiest, but almond, oat, flax, coconut, hemp milk are all perfectly delicious!!). If I want something warm then I’ll heat up the nut milk – not the coffee (just personal preference, I really couldn’t say if heating cold brew re-activates the bitterness/acidity, why? Because I just have not tried it!). Cold brew by the fire!

If you are someone with a kitchen full of spices, feel free to add in some herbal goodies,

cinnamon/nutmeg are both excellent, even perhaps some maca powder or Runners High Herbal recovHerb Plus+ up in that mixture? Sounds great to me!

I hope this helped turn you on to another delicious method to enjoy your coffee beans. Heck – maybe it helped convert a coffee-intolerant reader into a cold brew enthusiast! At the time of writing this – I have only made a handful of batches, so if I find the most irresistible combination – I will surely post my findings here and let you know! And like-wise – if you tweak my recipe and find something that I should try, be sure to comment below and let me know! I’m in no way a cold brew expert – just a guy who found a better way (maybe even healthier? Heck yeah!) to enjoy the ordinary coffee and wanted to share!

Enjoy the cold brew, be sure to share often – and have an epic day!

Erik