how to make kombucha

My sister, whom I live with got me into making kombucha.  I’ve always been pretty happy just to buy it.  However it turns out to be really fun and super easy to make, as well as far cheaper if you are a regular kombucha drinker.  Check out my benefits of post in this kombucha series.

All you need is

Purified Water

Sugar (I use organic)

Black Tea

A SCOBY

Starter Liquid

 

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What is a SCOBY?  A SCOBY is symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  The SCOBY is used to ferment the sugary tea mixture and make kombucha by eating the sugar.  It’s jelly-like and strange but totally awesome.  I recommend naming your SCOBY’s.  We named ours Scooby 1, 2, 3, etc.

The SCOBY and starter liquid are what makes the first batch the most difficult to make.  You can grow a SCOBY http://www.sarahramsden.com/growing-a-kombucha-scoby/ and starter tea is just already made kombucha (which can be store bought), but the easiest way which I would highly recommend because it helps take out the nerves of first time brewing is just to buy a starter kit.  We used Kombucha Kamp (http://www.kombuchakamp.com) which came with a comprehensive binder of how tos and need to knows, such as never to drink kombucha that has a moldy SCOBY, and how to know if it’s moldy.

It’s normal to be nervous about making your first kombucha, because it’s unknown and comes with weird jelly like creatures, but I kind of look at it as if I was brewing beer at home (which is far more complicated).  It’s fun, and has been done for centuries.

3 1/2 quarts distilled water

1 cup white sugar

8 bags black tea (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)

1-2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) kombucha

1 scoby per fermentation jar

Equipment

Large pot for brewing tea

1-gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars

breathable cloth

rubberband

funnel

optional: space blanket or heating pad to keep the kombucha warm during brewing if you don’t have a warm space about 70 degrees.

 

Note: Avoid prolonged contact (or better yet, no contact at all) between the kombucha and metal both during and after brewing. This can affect the flavor of your kombucha and weaken the scoby over time.  Also I recommend sanitizes with vinegar your brewing tools (pot, jar, etc).

1. Brew some Tea: Bring 4 cups of the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled a bit.  15 minutes or so.  Remove tea bags (or strain out loose tea).

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2. Transfer to 1 gallon brewing jar:  Transfer the mixture to your brewing jar.  Add the rest of the water and mix.  This will bring down the temperature of the water so it is suitable for the scoby and starter tea.  Temperature should not be more then body temp.  I find its usually around 80 degrees, well below body temp when I’ve added the distilled water.

3. Add the Starter Tea: Once the tea is cool, no warmer than body temp, stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from taking up residence in the first few days of fermentation.)

3. Add the Scoby: Gently slide the scoby into the jar with clean hands. Cover the mouth of the jar with any breathable cloth and secure with a rubber band.

I recommend naming your Scoby and setting an intention for the kombucha.  You can sing to it, etc, just like you would flowers and plants.  Your Scoby is a live creature.

4. Ferment for 7 to 28 Days: Keep the jar at room temperature or slightly above (above 70) out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. You can use a heating mat to keep it warm if you don’t have a warm enough location.  Ferment for 7 to 28 days, checking the kombucha and the scoby periodically.  The kombucha will be pretty sugary still after only 7 days and very vinegary at 21-28.  So depending on your taste.  You can put a straw in and taste it every day or so after 7 days until it’s how you like it.

It’s not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it’s ok if they separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.

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5. Remove the Scoby:   There will now be 2 Scobys in your jar which may or may not be attached.  There will also be strings of yeast and little bits of sedimentation which is normal and healthy.  Before removing the Scoby, prepare another batch of kombucha. With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate or bowl. As you do, check it over and remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting very thick.  As you brew more and more batches you may start having too many Scobys for the amount of tea you want.  So you can start saving them for if one goes bad or to give away to friends.  Scobys can also become too thick after a few brews.  In that case just cut off the bottom layer and add it to the save it, compost, give to a friend, or if you google it you’ll find many uses for your scoby’s such as dehydrating and making jerky or making facial masks, etc.

Grab a clean jar (quart size or bigger), put the extra Scoby in the jar, cover with kombucha and hide in a dark space.  You can cover the jar with cloth (but liquid will evaporate more quickly) or the lid.  Just make sure again not to let the Scoby touch the metal.  From time to time make sure there is enough kombucha in the jar.

6. Bottle the Finished Kombucha: Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha (straining, if desired) into bottles using the small funnel leaving a little room at the top.  This basic kombucha can also be flavored with fruits herbs, etc.  There are a lot of recipes out there.  I love ginger pear.  Adding flavors can create further carbonation in your brew so make sure to watch the bottled kombucha and “burp” it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t explode (would depend on the container you use).

7. Carbonate and Refrigerate the Finished Kombucha: Keep the bottled kombucha at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate.  This will simply make your kombucha fizzier.  Or you can refrigerate right away to stop fermentation and carbonation.

Drink your kombucha within a month.

One scoby will ferment any size batch, though larger batches may take longer.  Keep the ratio of ingredients the same.

It is normal for Scoby’s to float at top, bottom, or sideways in the jar.

 

Cautionary Note:

If you’re new to brewing, seek out multiple sources of brewing kombucha.  It is very important to be aware of all the ways to keep your scoby healthy and signs that it may not be healthy.  You do not want to drink kombucha from a moldy/unhealthy scoby.  Brew at your own risk.  And again we love Kombucha Kamp (http://kombuchakamp.com) as a starter kit.  The binder also comes with great information on continuous brewing, increasing carbonation, what to do if you’re leaving town, making kombucha spa recipes such as face masks, etc.

Other signs of Scoby unhealthiness include:

– Unpleasant, rotten, unnatural smells.  – should smell neutral or vinegary

– green or black mold

 

 The Short of It:   No short version of this one.  You have to follow all the steps. But I will say, brewing is fun!