How I Make Kombucha

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of "good" water, not treated or filtered.  I use natural spring water from here.)

  • 1 cup white sugar, any kind.  (I use organic from Costco.)

  • Black tea (6 tea bas or 2 Tbsp loose leaf) as shown in the photo.

  • 1 SCOBY.

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup "starter kombucha" from a previous batch.

  • Some people feel the cheapest tea and sugar are fine to use for kombucha, which reduces costs.

SCOBY

  • ​SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  It's what that funny, gelatinous thing floating on top of fermenting kombucha tea actually is.

  • Pictured here is a SCOBY viewed from the top of the jar. 

  • Every batch of kombucha grows a new layer on the SCOBY, so anyone making kombucha will have extra SCOBYs to share. 

  • Feel free to contact me for free SCOBYs!

Steep and Strain

  • Place the tea into a 2-cup glass measuring cup.

  • Bring 2 cups of water to boil and pour over the tea.

  • Let steep for 7 to 10 minutes, or more.

  • Remove the tea bags or strain the tea leaves and pour into a 4-cup glass measuring cup.

  • Add the sugar to the strained tea and let dissolve.

  • Let the tea cool to room temperature, or add cold water to cool more quickly.

Fermentation

  • A 1-gallon mason jar works well for the first fermentation.

  • Any jar will do as long as a hand can fit in easily to remove the SCOBY.

  • Avoid old/vintage jars as they may contain lead that would leach into the kombucha during fermentation.

  • I typically have 4 jars going at a time as we consume 1 gallon or more each week.

  • Pictured here is kombucha that has fermented for 3 weeks and is ready to strain.

Remove the SCOBY

  • After 3 weeks of fermentation, remove the SCOBY.

  • Place the SCOBY in a glass bowl along with 1 to 2 cups of kombucha from that batch, to become the "starter" for the next batch.

  • Pictured here is my SCOBY and starter in a bowl.  On the left are the layers built up over the past few batches.  On the right is the new SCOBY that grew with this batch.  I simply put them all in this next batch, along with the starter.

  • Leave a couple inches of breathing room at the top of the jar.

The SCOBY Difference

  • So, what difference does the SCOBY make to the sweetened tea?

  • Pictured on the left is the sweetened black tea.  On the right is the tea after fermenting with the SCOBY for 3 weeks.

  • The SCOBY feeds off the tea and the sugar, resulting in a beverage that is lighter in color, fizzy, and full of probiotics and other benefits.

Let it Sit

  • Cover the jar in some way to keep out fruit flies and dirt.​

  • Some people use a piece of clean muslin or other fabric.  Don't use cheesecloth because fruit flies will find their way in and ruin the SCOBY.

  • I use an unbleached coffee filter and rubber band.  I also write the date that I started the initial ferment on the filter.

  • Place the securely covered jar on a shelf or somewhere out of direct sunlight and with adequate ventilation.  Let it sit until it tastes good to you.

  • Pictured here is a new batch of kombucha, reach to be shelved for 1 to 4 weeks.

  • I let my kombucha ferment for 3 weeks or so — less in the summer when the warmer temperatures results in faster fermentation.

  • Some people let their kombucha ferment for 10 to 14 days.

  • The less time you allow for fermentation, the sweeter the kombucha will taste.

Plain or Flavored?

  • The completed kombucha beverage can be enjoyed as is.

  • Or add juices, herbs, or other flavorings and let sit 1 to 3 days for a second fermentation.

  • To do a second fermentation, put the kombucha in a clean jar.  (I often use 2 smaller jars and make 2 different flavors of kombucha.)

  • Add any spices, juice, or flavoring, and cap tightly.

  • Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 3 days.  The longer it sits, the more fizz the beverage gets.

  • In almost every batch of kombucha I make, I add some lemon juice (I think it helps remove some of the potential yeasty flavor), a cinnamon stick, and fennel seed.

  • Experiment to come up with the best ratios and combinations for your taste preferences.

Tasty Flavorings

  • Pictured here are the ingredients I added to this batch, focusing on antioxidants and eye health.

  • From top left: lemon juice, elderberry syrup (in brown bottle), tart cherry juice concentrate, cinnamon stick, star anise pod, rosehips, spearmint leaves, hawthorn berries, bilberry, and fennel seed.

  • Other favorite additions are holy basil/tulsi, ginger (fresh or dried), licorice, pineapple juice concentrate, any fresh or frozen fruit, cacao/cocoa, roots such as burdock or dandelion, hibiscus flowers, lavender, peppermint and other mints, stevia... 
    Let your imagination run wild!

Second Fermentation

  • Pictured here is a second ferment ready to sit tightly covered for a day or two.

  • When I stirred in the flavorings, it began fizzing up right away (notice the white foam already forming on the top). 

Cap Tightly

  • Cap the second ferment tightly to let the carbonation occur.

  • Some people use a special airlock, but I typically just use a 2-quart jar with a tight-fitting lid.

  • Using powdered herbs makes it very fizzy, but be sure to check the brew after 24 hours to make sure it doesn't get too much carbonation.  I've only had a jar "explode" on me once due to the pressure.  It. Was. Messy.

Tea Anyone?

  • Pictured here is the finished kombucha after the herbs and other flavorings were strained out.

  • To make it a bit sweeter or more carbonated yet, add a bit of honey at this point.

  • Kombucha can be stored in the refrigerator or on a shelf, depending on whether you prefer it chilled or at room temperature.

  • I reuse old kombucha bottles and other glass bottles with tight lids.

  • Finally, I take the strained herbs, put in a tea pot of some sort or a French press, cover with just boiled water, steep and enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea.

Final Notes

  • Never store a SCOBY in the refrigerator.

  • Keep a SCOBY "hotel" for backups and extras to share.  The Kombucha Kamp website has more details about the SCOBY hotel.

  • Sanitize your jars and bottles with hot water and vinegar.  Do not use soap — it kills the kombucha culture.

  • Keep all metal away from the kombucha brew and the SCOBY.  Remove rings, do not use metal spoons to stir, and use glass containers for brewing.

  • Airflow is key — find an open area for brewing your kombucha.

  • If you see mold, throw everything away.  SCOBYs are not salvageable when mold strikes.

  • SCOBYs can also be used for brewing JUN TEA.  Use the same process as kombucha but replace the black tea with green tea and replace the sugar with honey (I use raw honey). And the initial ferment is only 5 to 8 days.

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