My very first sip of kombucha many years ago, I was hooked. This fermented tea's taste is a wonderful fusion of tart, tangy, fruity and sour. I compare it to a really good dry champagne minus the alcohol content. The wonderful part is that it is very healing, quite refreshing and can be made at home with only a few simple ingredients that you probably already have.
What is kombucha and why should you drink it?
Kombucha is a Japanese term, and the basic pronunciation is kahm-BOOCH-ah (which is why you’ll hear people calling it ‘booch’). Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (a.k.a mushroom, mother, SCOBY), black or green tea prepared with sugar, and some kombucha tea from a previous batch (starter tea). The mixture is allowed to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. It can be consumed plain or with added flavoring such as fruit or juice with a second ferment. (Source)
Kombucha starts out as a sugary tea, which is then fermented with the help of a scoby. “SCOBY” (pronounced with an O just like in “go”) is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It's very close cousins to the mother used to make vinegar. The SCOBY, which is comprised of beneficial bacteria and yeast, “eats” the sugars in the sweetened tea and creates an acidic, nutrient rich vitamin and probiotic rich beverage.
Kombucha has been around for centuries and has been shown to have amazing health benefits.
- Helps to heal and seal the gut
- Helps to improve allergies
- Improves asthma
- Improve digestion function
- Help the body detox
- Support the liver
- Increase energy
- Help rid the body of pathogenic bacteria and yeast
- Improve mood
- Act as an all natural multivitamin due to the probiotic activity
How to get a SCOBY to make kombucha
- If you attend your local Weston A Price foundation's meetings, chances are someone there will have an extra to pass on to you.
- If you know someone who already makes their own kombucha, chances are they will happily give you a SCOBY, as you the mother SCOBY has a baby at each batch. Many times you wind up with so many SCOBY's you don't know what to do with them.
- Order a SCOBY from a reputable source online. Kombucha Kamp has trusted unrefrigerated SCOBY's and starter tea.
How to Make Kombucha Tea (First ferment)
Note: Be sure all tools, jars, utensils are set out and your hands are very clean before you start. Also, cross contamination can happen, so be sure if you are also fermenting other items (kvaas, pickles, sauerkrat) to have jars at least a couple feet apart.
- 1 gallon sized jar (be sure it is really clean)
- 1 gallon of brewed black tea or green tea. On the first ferment, don't get fancy with flavored teas, the oils can throw off the pH. (I use decaf)
- 1 cup of organic sugar (per 1 gallon of brewed tea. 1:1 ratio)
- 1 SCOBY along with ½ cup of the tea that the SCOBY fermented in or last batch
- Coffee filter or paper towel
- Rubber band
- Filtered water
- Boil water.
- Add tea bags to the water and let steep, I usually steep about 15 minutes.
- Add your sugar to the pan and stir well.
- Let the sweetened tea cool to room temperature. This is important because if the tea is warm, it can kill your SCOBY and it's fermenting abilities. You can also use less water initially to make your tea and then add more cool water to cool down your tea quicker.
- Once your tea has cooled, pour sweetened tea into glass jar, leave about 3 inches of room from the top of headspace because you still need to add your starter tea.
- Pour your starter teas of kombucha in.
- At this point your jar should be filled up with about 1 inch of head space at top.
- With clean hands, gently place your SCOBY at the top of the tea. It may sink, that is ok.
- Cover the top with your coffee filter or paper towel, so flys don't get in and gases can escape.
- Place the jar in a quiet corner of your kitchen where it won't be disturbed, with a temperature of 70-75 F.
- Let your tea sit and ferment for 5-15days and up to 30 days, checking your SCOBY and tea often. The length of time will depend on temperature (and season).
- Check the taste of your kombucha by slipping a plastic straw into the tea carefully bypassing the SCOBY. It should have a tart, tangy taste. The sweetness will diminish if you let ferment longer, so let that taste test determine if it's done to your preference or if you want to let it ferment a little longer, it will taste more tart and less sweet.
- Your first ferment is done at this point. This means, you will have original kombucha. You can bottle or place in mason jars with tight lids, but keep unrefrigerated. You may drink room temperature or pour over ice enjoy!
Here is a helpful chart from Cultures for Health
|Container Size||Tea||Sugar||Water||Starter Tea or Vinegar|
|One quart||1-1/2 teaspoon loose tea or 2 tea bags||1/4 cup||2 to 3 cups||1/2 cup|
|Half-gallon||1 tablespoon loose tea or 4 tea bags||1/2 cup||6 to 7 cups||1 cup|
|Gallon||2 tablespoons loose tea or 8 tea bags||1 cup||13 to 14 cups||2 cups|
For a Second Ferment to Make Kombucha Soda (this is optional)
- Use these beer bottles with the flip cap sealed tops (I love these and I give them as gifts!). Here are 12-16oz. clear flip cap bottles, otherwise I used Grolsch beer bottles. Not all store carry the Grolsch flip cap, most specialty beer and liquor stores do.
- Fill the jar or bottle with a few pieces of fruit; berries, apples pieces, ginger and/or lemon or grapefruit (my favorite), OR organic fruit juice. Or herbs, licorice root is great tasting and helps support the adrenals.
- Next pour your first fermented kombucha into the jars or bottles, leaving about 3-4 inches open from the top. This is really important because otherwise the carbonation builds up and you can have a mess.
- Be sure you leave at least 1/2 – 1 cup of original tea and the SCOBY in the original first ferment jar to use again as starter for your next full batch of original kombucha tea. And follow the steps above to use this tea and SCOBY to make another first ferment.
- Tightly seal your jar or bottle with the fruit or fruit juice to create your soda with a little fizz. When the jar/bottle is filled (and tightly capped) the carbonation-producing yeasts thrive in an oxygen-free (anaerobic) environment. The carbonation is trapped, but there is little room for buildup of explosive gas in the bottle! (Source)
- Leave at room temperature and allow to ferment for 4-9 days until the soda is carbonated to your desire, then transfer to the refrigerator. Open the bottle very carefully over the sink as it may foam.
- Serve your kombucha over ice.
For further kombucha troubleshooting and more information on yeast and bacteria balancing, click here.
Watch how to make Kombucha by Cultures for Health
How to Store Your Extra and Left Over SCOBY's – The SCOBY Hotel
Never store your extra and leftover SCOBY's in the fridge. The cold temperatures will most likely damage the delicate yeast and bacteria of the SCOBY and can develop mold. Read more here.
Simply use another very large jar and keep your left over SCOBY's in it along with enough original starter tea to cover all the SCOBY's. Place a cloth towel, paper towel or coffee filter and rubber band over it and leave it in a dark, quiet and undisturbed place UNrefrigerated. Check your SCOBY hotel every 7-14 days and when a nice thick SCOBY has formed at the top of your hotel, with very clean hands, reach in and push the newly formed SCOBY down into the jar along with the other SCOBY's …. then recheck in another 7-14 days and repeat! Read more here on SCOBY hotel long term maintenance.
Watch how to make a SCOBY hotel from Kombucha Kamp
Do you make kombucha? What are your favorite flavors? Please share below!