Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that has been around for centuries. It is slightly tangy and slightly sweet, and a great treat on a summer day. Just as with water kefir, Kombucha can be double fermented into a fizzy soda with a slight fruit taste.
Kombucha contains high levels of antioxidants, b-vitamins, probiotics and glucaric acid. It has been reported to have a variety of health benefits including:
- liver detoxification
- improved pancreas function
- increased energy
- better digestion
- improved mood (helps with anxiety/depression)
- kills Candida (yeast)
- helps nutrient assimilation
Kombucha is brewed from sweetened tea, though most of the sugar ferments out, so it has minimal effect on blood sugar. It can be made with caffeinated or decaf tea, and even with green tea or herbal teas.
The Kombucha is brewed with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Yeast and Bacteria) that “eats” the sugars in the sweetened tea and creates an acidic, vitamin and probiotic rich beverage.
How to Get a SCOBY?
SCOBYs are living and thriving colonies of bacteria and unfortunately, you can’t just pick one up at your grocery store. There are several ways to acquire a SCOBY.
- If you know anyone who already brews Kombucha, ask them for an extra SCOBY and they will probably be glad to pass one on. the SCOBY has a “baby” every batch or two and this baby can then be used to brew Kombucha.
- You can order a SCOBY from an online source. Just make sure the source is reputable. I’ve seen SCOBYs on sites like ebay or amazon, but prefer a trusted site like Kombucha Kamp.
- Grow your own. I tried this and didn’t have great success with it, but I know other who have. It can be done using a pre-made bottle of Kombucha that you can get from a health food store. Food Renegade has a good tutorial.
Once you have a SCOBY, the actual process of making Kombucha is very easy!
How to Brew Kombucha
Notes: Make sure all ingredients, materials and your hands are clean. If you already ferment other things (kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, etc.) in your kitchen, make sure all the jars are at least a few feet apart to prevent cross-contamination of the cultures.
What you need:
- gallon size glass jar (make sure its really clean!!)
- 1 gallon of brewed sweetened tea (ratio: 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea) I use regular black tea, though I’ve heard of others using green or herbal teas
- a SCOBY and 1/2 cup of liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha
- coffee filter or thin cloth and a rubber band
If making into soda:
- another gallon size jar or 5 quart sized jars
- about 1 quart of fruit juice- we prefer grape or apple for this
How to Brew:
- Prepare the sweet tea. I use 1 family size tea bag or 8-10 small bags per gallon of water. Add 1 cup of regular sugar (organic preferably). Do not use honey!
- Let tea cool to room temperature and make sure it is really cool! This step is very important as too hot of tea can kill your SCOBY.
- Once tea is completely cool, pour into glass jar, leaving just over an inch of room at the top. Pour in 1/2 cup liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha or if starting from a dehydrated SCOBY, pour in 1/2 cup from a store-bought bottle of Kombucha.
- With very clean hands, gently place the SCOBY at the top of the jar of tea. It should float, though if it doesn’t just let it fall and don’t stick your hands in the tea!
- Cover the jar with the coffee filter or cloth and rubber band tightly (flies love this stuff!)
- Put the jar in a warm (around 70-75 degrees is best) corner of the kitchen where it is at least a few feet away from any other fermenting products.
- Let sit to ferment for around 7 days, though the length of time may vary depending on your temperature. You can test the Kombucha by placing a straw in the jar carefully (slide under the SCOBY) and sipping. It should taste tart but still very slightly sweet also.
- At this point, Kombucha is ready for a second ferment. If you aren’t doing the second ferment, just pour the kombucha into another jar or jars with airtight lids and seal until ready to drink.
For Second Ferment (How to Make Soda!)
Just as with water kefir, using fruit juice can make Kombucha carbonated and slightly sweeter, which is often more appealing to kids. It is an easy second step too!
- Get another very clean gallon sized jar or 5 quart sized glass jars (I prefer this!)
- Pour 1 quart of juice of your choice (not citrus or pineapple though!) into the big jar or divide between smaller jars, filling each jar about 1/5 full
- Pour the finished Kombucha into the smaller jars until about 1 inch from the top. Make sure to leave about 1/2 cup brewed Kombucha in the jar with the SCOBY
- Once the Kombucha is poured off, pour the SCOBY and remaining juice into a clean bowl.
- Repeat the steps above for the first fermentation to start another batch of Kombucha
- Tightly cap the smaller jars with the fruit juice added and leave at room temperature for another 2-7 days until carbonated to your taste.
- Refrigerate before drinking or pour over ice.
Ever brewed Kombucha or a fermented drink? What’s your favorite?