Kombucha: N. kômˈbo͞oCHə/
- A Delightful, slightly fizzy beverage made from the fermentation of sweet black tea.
- Sweet smelling jar of liquid and slime nearly always found on my countertop.
I have been drinking and brewing kombucha for years. I have developed quite the taste for the stuff. At around $3 a bottle and my daily habit, I prefer to brew it at home. It is really pretty simple, and I find my homemade stuff to have a much more mild, crisp flavor.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about kombucha. My opinion is that fermented foods have tremendous health benefits. I choose to try and incorporate as many different kinds of fermented foods into my diet as possible.
HOW TO BREW KOMBUCHA
Step 1: You need a SCOBY.
While she isn’t much to look at, you are not going to get far without a SCOBY or mother. “SCOBY” stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. I know, right? Yummm! You can bum one from a fellow kombucha enthusiast, order one online here,or here, pick one up at a health food store, or grow one. I have purchased SCOBYs at my local halth food store, and have actually had no trouble at all growing a SCOBY.
Step 2: Grow a SCOBY. (Optional)
If you have a SCOBY skip ahead to Step 3. (Isn’t this exciting a choose your own kombucha adventure!)
Buy a bottle of unflavored Kombucha. It is important that it is raw kombucha. Make sweet tea as described below in Step 3. Once the tea has cooled completely pour it into a large glass jar and add the bottle of unflavored kombucha. Secure a cloth over the top as described below. Wait a week. Then wait another week. Checking the Kombucha wait until you have a thick mass at the top of the liquid. Congratulations you have a SCOBY! Reserve one cup of the liquid and the SCOBY. The remaining liquid will most likely be too sour to drink. Add your SCOBY and that liquid to your next batch of Tea.
Step 3: Make Sweet Tea
On the stovetop bring 4 quarts (16 cups) of water to a boil. Completely dissolve 1 cup of white sugar* into the boiling water. Add 8 bags of black tea. You can use more or less depending on your preference. Let cool completely. Once the tea is completely cooled pour it into the jar and add the bottled Kombucha. Cover the jar with a tightly woven cloth, preferably with a rubber band securing it in place. If the cloth is not tight enough insects can get into your brew. While I have never personally had this happen, I do not wish to risk eggs or larva in my favorite drink. Eww. Place the jar in an area without too much light, where it will not get bumped or jostled.
I generally bottle my Kombucha after a week. Sometimes it is a day before, or a day after depending on my schedule, but I use a week as a guideline. If you find yourself pressed for time you can also slow the fermentation process by putting the entire jar into the refrigerator.
* A note about sugar. Many people limit or avoid completely refined white sugar. It is important to note that it is the SCOBY that you are feeding the raw sugar. Most of the sugar itself is fermented. I have found that the kombucha I make at home is significantly less sweet. You have control about how much (if any) sugar you add back into the brew.
Step 3 ½: Flavorings
I have tried a pretty wide variety of flavorings in my kombucha. There are many suggestions out there, and the options are limitless. But I can share what has and has not worked well for me. I prefer to add the flavor to the entire batch (after reserving one cup for the next batch.) I find that this method simplifies the process and produces better results. I avoid adding any whole fruit or ginger in the bottles. I much prefer adding juice without any fibrous bits. The bits of baby SCOBY that accumulate in the bottle of the bottle tends to cling to anything added, and it is too slimy for my preference. My favorite flavorings are lemon and/or lime juice, and lime juice with coconut water.
Step 4: Bottle your Kombucha.
Add any flavorings you wish to add and pour your Kombucha into bottles. I use reused GT Kombucha bottles, but you can also use swing top bottles. Let your bottles sit on the counter at room temperature for one to three days. The longer you allow this second fermentation the fizzier your Kombucha will be.
A note about sanitation: Because you are intentionally growing bacteria. Please take care to make sure you are very careful about sanitation. You want to be sure you are not introducing any unwanted bacteria into the mix. Wash anything that touches your Kombucha carefully, and be sure your hands are clean.
A note about metal: Metal spoons or containers can disrupt the bacteria growth. Use only glass or wood in the stages of this process that come in contact with the SCOBY or finished kombucha.