I’m really excited to talk about kombucha today! And share with you how to make kombucha.
Before We Learn How to Make Kombucha…
Kombucha is called many things. From “superfood” to “ancient beverage” to probiotic powerhouse” to immune booster. Many labels and descriptions for kombucha…but what is it REALLY? And why is it healthy?
In a nutshell…
Kombucha is essentially a fermented tea drink. It’s been around for centuries (dating back as early as 3,000BC in China). The English word kombucha has been in use since at least 1991, but no ones really knows how it got its name. The etymology is not important, however. Many cultures make some form of a fermented tea such as kombucha and call it by their own names.
Kombucha is a tea beverage that is fermented by a S.C.O.B.Y,
which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
Why is kombucha healthy, or good for you?
According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, “the kombucha mushroom (which is actually a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria) acts on sugar and tea to produce not only acetic and lactic acid but also small amounts of a potent detoxifying substance, glucuronic acid. Normally this organic acid is produced by the live in sufficient quantities to neutralize toxins in the body — whether these are naturally produced toxins or poisons ingested in food and water. However, when liver function becomes overloaded, and when the body must deal with a superabundance of toxins from the environment — certainly the case with most of us today — additional glucuronic acid taken in the form of kombucha is said to be a powerful aid to the body’s natural cleansing process, a boost to the immune system and a proven prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases. More importantly, kombucha is a cure for a hot day — it tastes delicious and refreshing. A fizzy, dark colored, energizing beverage.”
Kombucha contains vinegar, enzymes, probiotics, vitamins, and a high concentration of acetic, glucuronic, and lactic acid.
So..kombucha is good for you because it is:
- a powerful aid to the body’s natural cleansing process1
- helping gut and digestive health
- detoxifies the body of..toxins!
- a boost to the immune system2
- it is rich in antioxidants!
- a proven prophylactic against cancer3
- again, because it is rich in antioxidants
- an aid against degenerative diseases4
- such a arthritis
- a great energizer!
- and a cure for a hot day!
Step-by-Step Picture Tutorial: How to Make Kombucha
Makes about 1 liter or 1 quart or 1 mason jar (all the same amounts!)
What You’ll Need
- 1 quart water (1 liter or 4 cups) (1 electric kettle full)
- 1 cup organic raw sugar (Best types of sugar)
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup* loose green or black tea (or 6-10 tea bags)(enough to make a strong brew and depending on how strong you like your teas) (Best types of tea?)
- 1 cup starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought kombucha (plain is best)
- 1 Scoby per fermentation jar (where to get a Scoby)
*The amount of tea you choose to use is completely up to you. I have used 1/2 cup black tea to 1 quart water before, but I think 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup tastes good too. Making tea using 1/2 cup black loose leaf makes a VERY strong brew. You may want to start with 1/8th cup first then increase tea amounts to find the strength you like. The strength of the tea doesn’t affect the Scoby or fermentation much, unless you use green tea, which may increase carbonation. Remember, the less tea you use the cheaper it will be in the long run.
- Large pot
- Large glass jar (bigger than 1 quart) (or large glass or ceramic containers) (Why glass?)
- Tightly woven cloth, napkins, coffee filters, or paper towels (to cover the jar)(cheesecloths don’t work well because critters can still get in)
- 1-quart mason jars with lids, or any airtight glass bottles (for the second ferment)
- Small funnel
Make sure all your supplies have been cleaned well!
Instructions for How to Make Kombucha
**The First Ferment**
- To make a strong tea: boil 1 quart water (I use an electric kettle full), add in your loose-leaf tea or tea bags, and 1 cup sugar. This makes a very strong black tea. Place the pot on the counter and allow to cool.
Note: I usually do this at night so the tea is cool in the morning.
2. Strain the strong black tea through a fine mesh strainer. Or if you used bags, just take the bags out.
3. Pour the strong tea into a (>1-quart) large glass jar.
Note: Remember, don’t use metal. I always do this in the sink as to not make a mess.
4. Add in the Scoby and starter tea to the glass jar.
Note: If you are doing a continuous brew (meaning you leave the Scoby in the jar after each ferment), then just pour the strong tea over the Scoby and the starter tea from previous batch.
5. Ferment for 7-10 days if you have a new or young Scoby, or 5-7 days if you have a well-established Scoby. I’ve left mine for 3 days and the kombucha was ready. How to know? If your Scoby is large and has many layers, it is well-established. If it is thin and has a single layer, it’s fairly new.
Note: it is normal for the Scoby to float to the top, sideways, or even linger at the bottom. A new, baby Scoby will start to form on top. It will be gel-like like the mother Scoby. See the Troubleshooting section if you’re not sure about the health of your Scoby.
To really know if you kombucha is done –> taste it!
- If it tastes kind of like apple cider (tangy, sweet, and fermenty), it’s finished.
- If it tastes too sweet, it’s not finished.
- If it tastes vinegary, you’ve left it too long.
See Q & A for more details (Why 5-10 Days??)
6. After your first ferment and after tasting to make sure the kombucha tastes done, take the kombucha out of the cupboard.
Note: Taste the kombucha usually at day 3-4, and if it tastes too sweet still, ferment for another day or more. Not sure if your kombucha is ready? See step 5 above.
7. Now you’re ready for your second ferment. The second ferment adds flavor and fizz.
Note: If you don’t want to add flavor or fizz, your kombucha is ready to drink!
My favorite combo for flavors is blueberries and ginger. The recipe is below!
- Do you need a break from brewing? No problem. Just keep in the fridge or freezer. See Q & A for details.
- Not sure if your Scoby has gone bad? See Q&A “Can a Scoby go bad.”)
**The Second Ferment** (to add flavor and fizz)
Blueberry & Ginger Flavored Kombucha
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and cut up or grated
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 2-3 tablespoons organic, raw sugar
- Optional: 1/2 – 1 cup pure blueberry juice
- 1 quart homemade kombucha (per above)
- Separate the kombucha into mason jars (2-3 jars).
2. Split up the blueberries and ginger evenly between the jars. Add in the blueberry juice if desired. Add in about 1 tablespoon of sugar to each jar. Stir well with a wooden spoon.
Note: Some people don’t add extra sugar because it can cause A LOT of fizz. With too much fizz, there is a greater risk for bottles exploding. See below on how to avoid this.
3. Cover each jar with Saran wrap, then a metal or plastic lid. Alternatively you can use any airtight bottle or jar. Place jars in a warm place for 1 to 3 days to allow for the second fermentation (depending on the temperature of your house. If really warm, 1 day may suffice).
All about that fizz. Yeah, I’m all about that fizz…
OK, a couple notes here!
Note 1: !IMPORTANT! Kombucha is a fermented, carbonated drink, which means the gas creates pressure in the jars. Jars have been known to explode because of the gas pressure. For this reason, take precaution. Here are some tips:
- Use good quality jars or bottles. Glass bottles like old beer bottles are too thin.
- You can always cover each jar or bottle with a sock (clean one!) during the 2nd ferment. This is to keep the glass contained.
- Be careful when opening!
Note 2: Fizz is what some people love love love about kombucha. Creating fizz is usually the result of a couple of factors: the right bottles, the right amount of sugar in the kombucha, etc. Here are some pointers for how to create MORE fizz:
- Airtight bottles!!! Make sure the bottles you are using are completely airtight. Beers bottles = no good. Clean wine bottles = usually great. Reusable kombucha bottles = great!
- Mason jars with WHITE lids may leak in some air. That’s why I use Suran wrap. A metal lid on its own is usually fine.
- Make sure you use enough sugar in the first ferment.
- Some people put a few raisins into the second ferment to help with fizz. I use 1 tablespoon of sugar.
- If using really sweet fruit, don’t add the extra tablespoon of sugar.
Note: the above picture doesn’t show the lids, only the Seran wrap. Make sure to have airtight lids if you want good fizzing action.
4. Move jars or bottles to your refrigerator and chill before opening. The kombucha will continue to ferment while in the refrigerator, but very very slowly so you can keep it there for up to 1 month. It will become more flavorful and fizzy with time. However, if left for too long, it can taste vinegary.
5. When ready to drink, carefully open a jar. It should be fizzy so DO NOT shake. Pour through a fine mesh strainer prior to drinking.
Note: I always use a mini tea strainer and pour directly into my drinking glass because I don’t want chunks of fruit in my glass. 🙂
- You can really use any juice blend. I just prefer the blueberry ginger combo for my second ferment.
- You can store kombucha in your refrigerator for up to 1 month.
- Need troubleshooting?? See below in the Q & A section.
Q & A for “How to Make Kombucha”
What is a SCOBY?
Kombucha is a tea beverage that is fermented by a S.C.O.B.Y, which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
A friend, purchase online, Craigslist or you can make it yourself at home. The easiest would be to get from Craigslist. It’s cheap…usually less than $10. If you search Craigslist in your area for Scoby, you should see plenty in the search results.
Because sugar beets are usually GMO, stick with organic, raw sugar. Though any sugar works, NOT all sugars are equal. Granulated, white, raw, brown, coconut palm sugar, jaggery, etc. I’ve used all of these…but…again, stick with organic, raw sugar. Why? White sugar contains chemicals. Coconut palm sugar makes a sloppy, slow ferment. Don’t use honey only because it’s more expensive and it really doesn’t make too much of a different to the Scoby if you use raw, organic sugar or honey. Organic, raw brown sugar is fine…I didn’t have problems.
Loose leaf black tea is best. Bagged tea works too, it’s just a little more expensive. Some people find that bagged tea is more convenient. It really doesn’t make a big different to me. I’ve tried green tea…didn’t like it very well. Green tea is believed to allow more fizz. You can also brew a blend of green and black tea.
Teas to stay away from: earl grey and citrus. Scobies don’t like these.
It’s ok to make the tea in a metal pot but stick with glass when fermenting as Scobies don’t like metal.
A well-established Scoby can make a gallon of kombucha in 5 days in a warm environment (like summer). In winter or if the room is below 65 deg F, it can take longer. A young Scoby also takes a little longer to ferment.
If you don’t feed it, it will. However, it can be refrigerated for months on end. It can also be frozen. How to know if a Scoby has gone bad? It will usually turn a dark brown color or shrivel up.
If you’re note sure your Scoby has gone bad, take a look at this great writeup with tons of picture exampls at HolisticSquid.
What if there is mold?
Clean the Scoby with clean water and restart the process. You don’t want to mess with mold.
What to do with extra Scobies?
- Feed them to the chickens!
- Add them to fertilizer.
- Throw away.
- Give to a friend.
- Or just leave the Scoby layers.
How do I get more fizz?
See above (How to get more fizz?) Still not getting fizz? Please refer to the Troubleshooting section.
This is a great reference from Cultures for Health for how to keep your Scoby alive if you want to take a break from brewing kombucha.
TROUBLESHOOTING “How to Make Kombucha”
- It’s not unusual for the Scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways during fermentation.
- A new cream-colored layer of Scoby should start forming on the top within a few days. It usually attaches to the old Scoby, so many layers can form.
- You may see brown or tan stringy bits floating beneath the Scoby or sediment collecting at the bottom or a jar. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.
- If you see mold, start all over after cleaning the Scoby and all equipment.
- If you left your kombucha in the cupboard for too long, it just become too vinegary. It usually doesn’t spoil. Toss the vinegar out, save the Scoby, and just start the process over.
- Not enough fizz? This is more for advanced brewers –> here are some great tips at Kombucha Kamp.
Need ideas for what to do with kombucha?
- Try making probiotic gummies!
- Add kombucha to your smoothies.
- Try different flavors.
What is your favorite flavor??