DIY Recipes

It’s Alive! – A beginners Guide to Kombucha

I was first introduced to kombucha while vacationing in the backwoods of Maine. I was offered this lightly tan liquid poured from a ceramic jug by an older lady who was a family friend of a friend of mine. “Would you like some Kombucha?”, she asked with the sweetest grin. My friend responded with a quick, “yes, please!” and I followed suit. I had heard of kombucha before, but knew very little about this mysterious (and expensive) “new age drink”, as it’s so endearingly categorized at my local grocery store. As it turned out, this woman was my friend’s kombucha teacher. Kombucha brewing seems to still be a skill lovingly passed down from one friend to another. Beth was her name and I feel in love with her kombucha tea that day. So much so, that I’ve been making it myself ever since. Now, I’m passing my knowledge to you.

A (Tiny) Bit of History

Kombucha has gained a lot of mainstream popularity within the last 10 years. It may seem like a strange come and go dietary fad, but the truth is, kombucha has been around longer than you may expect. This fermented black tea beverage is said to have originated in Northeast China around 220 B.C. As one story goes, kombucha gets it’s name from a Korean physician named Dr. Kombu, who brought the fizzy tea to Japan. It is said that kombucha made it’s way to Europe through various trade route expansions. Other stories state that kombucha was invented as a tea of “immortality” by the Qin Dynasty for the Emperor. Whatever the true origin, It’s popularity was mainly due to the belief that the beverage had medicinal benefits. Some of these benefits have been proven true and other remain folklore.

Okay…But What is it?

Kombucha is a probiotic drink that is made by fermenting sweetened black tea with a mother mushroom or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). This fizzy drink has slightly sweet, sour, and tart flavor. It’s made much like wine, beer, or ginger beer. Small remnants of yeast and healthy bacteria can often be found floating in it of settled at the bottom. Kombucha is highly acidic, contains sugar, B vitamins and antioxidants, as well as some alcohol that results from the fermentation process.

Health Benefits

There have been a lot of health claims thrown around about kombucha since it’s invention/discovery. Many of which are a little outlandish, so we will only stick to the logical and proven facts. When consumed raw or unpasteurized (from a reliable source) kombucha is extremely gut healthy. Like yogurt, it’s rich in healthy bacterica called probiotics. Probiotics have been proven to benefit your overall health and boost your immune system. A healthy gut often means a healthy mind, higher energy levels, and a healthy weight. The unfortunate part is that this healthy and beneficial bacteria rarely survives the pasteurization process. This means that your store bought kombucha is probably lacking the most important part of this beverage

Grow Your Own SCOBY

A SCOBY isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at, but I promise you’ll be in love with this disk of bacteria as soon as you grow one. A SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast is a completely naturally occurring living thing that’s home to all the good bacteria that transforms sweetened black tea into fizzy fermented kombucha. The recipe below will make a very large SCOBY. I personally like to brew big batches, because well….I love the stuff. You can choose to drink this batch or not. I typically don’t. The growing batch can run a little vinegary for my liking depending on how long it takes for the  SCOBY to form.

kombucha

 These bubbles are a beautiful indication that CO2 is forming under your healthy baby SCOBY. The second fermentation should happen soon.

A basic list of things you’ll need:
  • 2 Gal. Glass Jar
  • 1 bottle of plain Kombucha
  • 8 Regular sized Organic Black Tea bags
  • 1 cup Organic WHITE Sugar
  • A tea towel larger enough to cover lid
  • 1 Gal. of filtered water (Extremely important)
  1. Be sure to wash all your pots and utensils extremely thoroughly. A dishwasher is preferred to avoid transfer of germs from sponges. You also want to avoid soap residue.
  2. Once everything has been cleaned and inspected, bring 1/2 a gallon of your filtered water to a boil with your 8 tea bags. Once water is at a boil, turn your burner off while leaving the pot there to continue to steep and cool. You want a very strong tea.
  3. Once tea has steeped and cooled slightly, transfer it to your glass jar.
  4. Bring the remaining 1/2 a gallon to a boil in the same pot. Once at a boil, reduce heat and stir in 1 cup of sugar until completely dissolved.
  5. Once cooled slightly, add sugar water to tea in glass jar. Allow the two to cool COMPLETELY.
  6. Once the sweetened tea is completely cool, add your bottle of plain kombucha.
  7. Cover the top with a tea towel and secure with a large rubber band or tightly tied string. You want and need air. Without it, your SCOBY and Kombucha will become unhealthy.
  8. Store in a dark place away from sunlight and possibility of fruit flies. A cabinet or pantry works well.
  9. Wait 2-6 weeks, without touching or moving jar, for SCOBY to form. It will first appear as a white cloudy layer and gradually get thicker. Grow the SCOBY to your desired thickness. It will be ready to make a new batch of Kombucha once it’s at least a quarter of an inch.
  10. Take newly grown SCOBY and a 1/2 cup of it’s kombucha to make a new batch!

Making Kombucha W/ a SCOBY

This is essentially the exact same recipes just with the addition of your newly grown SCOBY and freshly home-brewed kombucha. This recipe also included instructions for your SECOND fermention. This is the step that gives kombucha it’s lightly bubbly characteristic.

ezgif.com-crop (3)

After a few days into it’s second ferment, this strawberry Kombucha was fizzier than ever!

A basic list of things you’ll need:
  • 2 Gal. Glass Jar
  • 1 SCOBY of the same size
  • 1 cup of plain home-brewed kombucha
  • 8 Regular sized Organic Black Tea bags
  • 1 cup Organic WHITE Sugar
  • A tea towel larger enough to cover lid
  • 1 Gal. of filtered water (Extremely important)
  • A few air tight bottles
  1. Be sure to wash all your pots and utensils extremely thoroughly. A dishwasher is preferred to avoid transfer of germs from sponges. You also want to avoid soap residue.
  2. Once everything has been cleaned and inspected, bring 1/2 a gallon of your filtered water to a boil with your 8 tea bags. Once water is at a boil, turn your burner off while leaving the pot there to continue to steep and cool. You want a very strong tea.
  3. Once tea has steeped and cooled slightly, transfer it to your glass jar.
  4. Bring the remaining 1/2 a gallon to a boil in the same pot. Once at a boil, reduce heat and stir in 1 cup of sugar until completely dissolved.
  5. Once cooled slightly, add sugar water to tea in glass jar. Allow the two to cool COMPLETELY.
  6. Once the sweetened tea is completely cool, add your plain home-brewed Kombucha and SCOBY
  7. Cover the top with a tea towel and secure with a large rubber band or tightly tied string.
  8. Store in a dark place away from sunlight and possibility of fruit flies. A cabinet or pantry works well.
  9. Wait 2-3weeks for new SCOBY to form on top. DO NOT move jar during this time.
  10. After 2-3 weeks, you should notice a few things. Your new SCOBY has formed, your tea has lightened, there are plenty of little bubbles present underneath your new SCOBY, and there are brown strings of yeast hanging/floating about. These are all signs that it’s time for the second fermentaion.
  11. The second fermentation is easier than it sounds. At this point, you pour your unfiltered Kombucha into bottles with an airtight seal. During this stage, you add any natural fruit flavors you’d like. The added sugar from the fruit aids in this second fermentation. Add anywhere from 1-3 tablespoons of fresh fruit juice to each bottle.
  12. Add your kombucha, filling it up almost to the very top. With no where for the CO2 to escape, your kombucha will be fizzy in 4-7 days! Be sure to burp the bottles everyday and open as you would champagne – with a towel over to catch the cap in case it decides to shoot across the room. Once they are all fermented to your liking, store them in the fridge to slow down the process – burping every so often to avoid an explosion.

Pro Tips

  • Kombucha naturally has a bit of a sour smell. However, the only sour smell it should have should be reminiscent of apple cider vinegar.
  • You must wait until the tea and sugar water have completely cooled before you add your kombucha and SCOBY. You don’t want to harm all that bacteria and yeast that you worked so hard to grow.
  • Healthy yeast and bacteria should be white, tan, and brown. If you have any other colors, discard, retrace your steps on where you may have gone wrong, and start again.
  • If you happen to get a fruit fly infestation from not using the proper cover – you MUST discard and start over. I’ve had my best luck with tea towels and my worst luck with cheesecloth.
  • Your kombucha needs air to grow and thrive. Do not over the kombucha with a lid that seals it from oxygen. If you do so, you’ll grow unhealthy mold and bacteria instead of a happy baby SCOBY
  • Always save about a cup of your plain Kombucha for the next batch.
  • Store extra SCOBY in another jar covered in plain Kombucha.

Favorite Flavor Combinations

The second fermentation are where all my favorite parts happen, the flavor AND the bubble. I personally use a juicer to get my fruit juice as fresh as possible with no additives. If this isn’t possible for you, I’d recommend at least blending it to a pulp.

– Fresh Strawberry, Lemon, + Basil

– Beet + Hibiscus

– Lemon, Ginger, + Honey

– Apple, Lemon, Ginger, + Cinnamon (this tastes just like apple cider)

– Watermelon + Mint

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s