What is it? Kombucha is a fermented tea. It is made with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), tea bags, water and sugar. The origin of kombucha is not known, but it is thought to have been in existence for over 2000 years! Kombucha is a naturally fizzy drink, so it is great for anyone trying to wean themselves off of soda!
Why drink it? Kombucha is full of healthy bacteria and probiotics that are good for the gut, it helps promote immune health, and boosts energy. Kombucha is said to help the body work better – it will work with your body’s natural immune system and balance everything out. However, there are critics that say there is no real research to say that kombucha will benefit the body, and can in fact be harmful. My suggestion is that – if you have never had kombucha before – buy a bottle from your health food store, and drink a little bit of it to: 1 – see if you like it and 2- see how it affects your body!
What is this SCOBY? The SCOBY can also be called a mother, or a mushroom, or a funny looking thing. It can be kind of scary looking. It starts out as a plastic looking disc, and when put into some tea with sugar, it will start to eat on the sugar and transform. It produces vitamins, minerals, and all kinds of fun things! As it ferments the tea, the mother culture will have a baby! A new layer will form on the SCOBY, and this can be removed and put in another pot to make more kombucha, or you can leave it with its mama. In essence, every time you brew a pot of kombucha, a new culture will form. Personally, I have 2 pots of kombucha constantly brewing. You can give away the new cultures, keep them in your current jar of kombucha, or click here for some other uses for the kombucha SCOBY! Some crazy stuff!
How do I get started? A few months back, I posted here about my dehydrated culture that I bought. It needed to be rehydrated, and then I could start making kombucha. I’m sorry to say, I think my kombucha died. It never took off, and had some weird spots on it. I felt bad, but I threw it away. I ended up buying a SCOBY off EBay. This is what I would suggest if you want to start making kombucha. It was SO EASY, and I had my own kombucha in one week! The directions are so clear and easy to understand. Plus, it was so much cheaper than the dehydrated culture I ordered from Cultures for Health — on EBay I spent about $5 including shipping! It came with the culture and some starter tea. If you don’t want to buy a SCOBY, did you know you can grow your own? I wish I would have known that when I was starting out!
Homemade Kombucha – The Process
What you will need:
A 2 gallon glass jar (the instructions say you can use a one gallon jar, or even a fish bowl, but I like using a 2 gallon. This is the one I got. I like it because it has a wide opening, and is a sturdy glass container. You can also use afood grade plastic container, but just don’t use metal or stainless steel!
Wooden tongs – I use this to insert/remove the culture. You don’t want to use metal. You can use your hands, but it grosses me out to touch the culture! It is a living organism, and I feel weird touching it!
Tea bags – I use organic black tea. You don’t want to use herbal tea, or any tea with added oils, like Earl Gray. You can use Oolong, Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea .. I really only have used black tea because I like it so much!
Sugar – I use organic cane sugar. You don’t want to use sucanat or rapadura – you want regular white granulated sugar. The culture will eat on this sugar, so you will not be eating it! Promise!
First, fill your largest pot with water, and heat to a boil. I use my largest stock pot. Note – if you are going to make kombucha in a one gallon container – you will want about one gallon of water. Since I use a 2 gallon container, I add about 2 gallons of water.
Add 1 1/2 cups sugar. Heat the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. It doesn’t have to be boiling, just enough to dissolve the sugar. Add 10 tea bags. (You can also use loose leaf tea if you would like).
Let tea cool to room temperature – anywhere from 68 degrees – 85 degrees. You want to make sure it is cool before adding in the kombucha culture!
Once the tea cools, remove the tea bags and pour it into the glass container. If this is your first time making kombucha, add the culture and the starter tea (you might be instructed to add some vinegar at this time as well – it helps the kombucha reproduce for the first time.)
Let it sit a week at room temperature – out of the sunlight. I put a towel over my glass jar, just to keep any bugs or stray dust, etc out.
After a week, check on it. Here is what I saw:
The smaller culture definitely is there, and there was a film all the way around the top of the jar! You have no idea how excited I was!
At this point, taste the kombucha. I used a straw and sipped some out. If you think it tastes too sweet, let it ferment a little longer. I thought mine tasted good! Next up – bottling it!
First, remove the culture to a container, and add 2 cups of the kombucha. This will be the “starter tea” for your next batch. If you aren’t going to start a new batch right away, just let the scoby hang up with the starter tea until you are ready!
For the last couple months, I have been stock piling some glass jars. Every time I bought some kombucha from the store, I just kept the bottle. They work great for my homemade kombucha!
Fill the jars 85% full of the kombucha, and then add some fruit juice. I used some grape juice. This will help the kombucha be a little fizzier.
Line up your kombucha and a funnel lined jars:
Fill up the jar with kombucha :
Add some juice:
Twist on the lid, and let the bottles sit out at room temperature for a few days. This will allow the kombucha to continue to eat on the sugar in the juice, and make it fizzier! After a few days, refrigerate the kombucha. This will stop the fermentation process.
When I run out of jars, I just use glass canning jars, or any other glass jars I have sitting around. It doesn’t make them quite as fizzy, but it works!
There will be little stains of the yeast in the kombucha. If you like, you can strain that out. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, so I keep it in there.
It took a couple of weeks, but just this last week, my kombucha culture had a baby!
The dark spots and little strains are normal – just the yeast doing its thing! I separated them out so I could have 2 jars of kombucha, add added 2 cups of starter tea to each. As you can see, before I removed them from the jar, they were all over the place – from the top of the jar all the way down the side!
I absolutely love the process of making my own kombucha, and having kombucha anytime I want to drink it! I drink at least one bottle a day. It is good, good for me, and it fills me up! Sometimes when I think I am hungry, but not really too hungry, I will just drink some kombucha.
You can bottle the kombucha without adding any juice to it. It is still good.However, I agree with what Shay from The Elliott Homestead says… Flat kombucha just isn’t as fun as fizzy kombucha!
So what’s stopping you … try it!