The Kombucha bug bit me last year. I’m not talking about some fancy Asian bug. I’m talking about the fabulous drink that is basically fermented tea. I love it. And, amazingly, it’s healthy!
From what I have read, kombucha has been around for over 2000 years. It originated in the Far East, but has also been popular in places like Russia and Germany for a long time. It has only recently become popular in the West.
Kombucha is simply made of tea, sugar, and a colony of bacteria and yeast. It is slightly carbonated and much better than soda, in my opinion. Now, I am not a doctor, and I don’t claim to be an expert. I have, however, read a lot of info about kombucha and the health benefits. Some people even believe it can cure cancer. Since it is a probiotic drink, the benefits to the digestive system are fabulous. Besides improved digestion, it can help with immune support, reducing joint pain, cleansing and detoxing, increasing energy, weight loss, and possibly even preventing cancer.
You can make your own kombucha or you can buy it in stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Trader Joes. I have even found bottled kombucha at some WalMart stores. Since it is around $3-$4 a bottle in stores, I decided to have a go at making it myself.
I was lucky enough to have a good friend who had already grown her own starter scoby. The scoby is the most important part of the kombucha. Scoby stands for “Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast.” Some people call it the Mother because it reproduces and is necessary to the fermentation process. I have never grown my own scoby. There are instructions online if you want to grow your own. I would recommend buying one from a reputable source or getting one from a friend.
Below are the instructions that I use to make about 1 gallon of kombucha. You will need a large stock pot, a 1 gallon glass jar or container (or 2 half gallon jars), coffee filters, a small funnel (optional), and bottles for the final product. My favorite bottles are actually store bought kombucha bottles that I clean, sterilize, and reuse.
It is very important not to use bottles with metal on them. Try not to use metal, if possible because it can weaken the scoby and ruin the flavor of your kombucha. The pot is fine though, since it isn’t in there for long. Also, make sure that everything is clean and sterilized well. Anything that touches the equipment, counter, or brew must be sterile in order to avoid bacteria and mold from growing in your batch.
3 ½ quarts of water
1 cup of sugar (granulated regular organic)
8 bags of black tea or green tea
2 cups of starter tea from last batch or from store bought unpasteurized kombucha
1 scoby (per jar)
Make the tea base by first bringing the water to a boil. Stir in the sugar to dissolve and remove from heat. Put the tea into the water and let it steep until it is completely cooled. You can set the pot in an ice bath to make it cool faster, or you can just let it cool overnight. I usually make up the tea base right before I go to bed and let it cool overnight.
When the tea base is completely cool, remove the tea bags and add the starter tea and stir. (If you already have a batch with a scoby in it, remove the scoby to a clean plate and set aside the starter tea, prior to step 2) Adding the starter tea makes the tea base acidic. This is important to prevent bacteria from growing.
Carefully pour the tea base into a clean gallon jar (or 2 half gallon jars) and add a scoby to each fermentation jar. Make sure your hands are very clean when you touch the scoby.
Cover the top of the jar with 2-3 coffee filters and put an elastic band around it to hold it on tight.
Ferment for aprox 7-10 days at room temperature, where it won’t get bumped, and out of direct sunlight. This is considered the first fermentation. I usually set it on my dresser with a small towel wrapped around it to keep the sun out. In my RV, counter space is limited, and my bedroom maintains the most consistent temperatures.
After 7 days you can taste it to see if it is close to the flavor you like. In warmer weather, I only need to ferment mine for 5-7 days. So, be aware that different times of the year may change this process.
When you are happy with the flavor, then it is ready to bottle. First go to Step 1…brew and cool a new batch of tea base. Then (with clean hands) take the scoby out and place it on a clean plate. You can remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting too thick.
Measure out 2 cups of the starter tea to use for the next batch. Set it aside.
Pour the brewed kombucha into sterilized bottles. I like to strain it into a large measuring cup before pouring it into the bottles. Make sure to leave some headroom in the bottle to allow for carbonation expansion.
Let bottled kombucha set in a room temperature area, out of direct sunlight for a few days. This is the second fermentation. The time that I let the bottles set out depends on the time of year and how warm it is. Some people recommend starting off by using plastic bottles so that you can get the idea of when they are carbonated. You can feel the bottles harden when the carbonation is good.
Place bottled kombucha into the fridge to stop carbonation and fermentation. This is when you can drink your delicious kombucha! Experts recommend drinking within a month. However, that’s irrelevant because mine never lasts that long.
Clean out the fermentation jar (no soap), then put the new batch of tea base in it with starter and the scoby. Start over at step 1…
A side note: I have recently reduced the amount that I brew because kombucha jars were taking over my house! I had multiple jars with scobys fermenting and dozens of bottled kombucha bottles, as well as tons of empty jars and bottles around my RV. The problem is that I have a small house and a small fridge! RV living is better suited to smaller batches.
All of this talk has made me thirsty for some delicious kombucha! Mmmmmmmm!