How to Make Kombucha

Kombucha tea is gaining popularity as the beverage of choice for may health conscious people in today’ world. It’s no longer just for the hippies and can now be purchased in a variety of flavors at just about any supermarket. But at nearly $4/bottle, have you ever thought of brewing your own kombucha at home for a fraction of the cost? It’s a lot easier than you might think. All it takes is an adventurous spirit and a few basic kombucha brewing tips and you’ll be well on your way!

How to Make Kombucha

What exactly is kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented tea made with the help of two key components – sugar and a scoby. SCOBY is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. It’s job is to eat most of the added sugar and ferment the tea into a tasty carbonated sour, fruity-tasting beverage that is relatively low in calories and sugar (about 30 calories and 2g of sugar per 8oz glass).

What are the health benefits of kombucha? Probiotics, probiotics, probiotics. Remember that symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast I talked about? Well that scoby provides healthy “gut flora” for our intestines. We need good bacteria in our gut for optimal health. A healthy culture of beneficial bacteria will help fight off any harmful bacteria that we might ingest from the environment.

What does kombucha taste like? Emma from the Kitchn describes it best as “ tart green apple with sour stone fruits with an underlying sweetness that keeps it all together’”. It’s almost kind of “vinegary” (as any fermented food usually is) and it’s deliciously fizzy (carbon dioxide is a byproduct produced by the scoby after it gobbles up the sugar in the tea.) Thank you scoby.

Tell me more about this scoby character… Ok, I’ll be the first to admit, the scoby is weird. It looks like a brown rubber Frisbee. It’s gelatinous and slimy with weird stringy bits sometimes hanging off it and doesn’t really seem like something that would be welcome in a well-kempt kitchen. But it’s a friendly culture and if you are adventurous enough, it would love to cohabitate with you and your kitchen appliances while fermenting some delicious tea for you in the meantime! You can see my scoby floating around in my jar of kombucha in the background in the above photo.

Ok, I’ll try it. What supplies am I going to need? To home-brew kombucha, all you need is water, a stock pot, store-bought tea bags (regular black tea works best for starters), sugar, a one-gallon glass jar, and a scoby. Most kombucha starter kits sold online include all of these items. You can also pick up a scoby from a kombucha-brewing friend – I got my scoby from a fellow swapper at the Chicago Food Swap!

 

How to Make Kombucha

Tips and Tricks:

Do not skip adding starter tea to your mixture – this makes the liquid acidic and prevents unfriendly bacteria from growing in your tea during the first few days of fermentation.

  • Do not let your scoby or tea come in contact with metal surfaces as this will affect the flavor of the tea and weaken your scoby.
  • Keep your fermenting tea covered – you don’t want bacteria from the environment finding it’s way into your tea.
  • During your second ferment to obtain carbonation, do not let your kombucha ferment covered for more than 2 days. I ignored mine once for 3-4 days and came home to a disaster of  exploded glass bottles and kombucha tea everywhere…I’ll never make that mistake again.
  • Store your scoby in the refrigerator until you’re ready to brew your next batch of kombucha. Change out the tea every 4-6 weeks to keep your scoby fresh.
  • Feel free to use green, white, oolong, or herbal teas to brew your kombucha. If using herbal teas, be sure to add a few black tea bags with it to ensure your scoby is getting all the nutrients it needs. Don’t use teas with added oils like earl grey or flavored teas.
  • Every time you brew kombucha tea, your scoby multiplies. If your scoby becomes too thick, remove the bottom layer and discard it, compost it, or give it to a friend! My loving husband described the miracle of multiplying kombucha scoby as a “bad chain letter”. :)
  • Inspect your scoby before and during brewing. Signs of an unhealthy scoby include black, green or white mold. If mold begins growing on your scoby, discard the scoby and the kombucha. Mold is not to be confused with brown strings or brown spots which are all signs of a perfectly healthy scoby.

Happy brewing!

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