Kombucha. Surely you’ve heard of the healthy, soda-like bubbly drink of hipsters and crunchy people alike, right? Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic tea that has amazing health benefits, plus it tastes fantastic.
At $3.50+ on average for a bottle of raw, organic kombucha, it can quickly become an expensive drink to enjoy. However, it can be brewed at home very easily for less than a $1.00 for a half gallon!
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Grow a SCOBY
You will need a SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to brew your kombucha tea. This icky looking slimy culture is what ferments the tea, eating up the sugar and leaving behind the delicious bubbly.
To start, buy a bottle of original, raw, organic kombucha. GT’s is probably the most popular brand, but it doesn’t matter as long as it is unflavored, organic, and raw.
Pour your bottle into a larger jar. Brew a cup of black tea sweetened with 1/4 cup of sugar. Fully cool the tea and add it to the jar of store-bought kombucha. Cover it with a cloth secured with a rubber band and put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight. (I use the cupboard above the fridge.)
Check your jar starting after a couple weeks and there should be a SCOBY disk! If anything looks moldy throw it and start over, but this should have done the trick.
There is a bit of controversy in the Booch community about whether the thickness/size of the SCOBY matters, or if it is the concentrated starter liquid you’ve made that is most important. I have heard some people say they practically consider the SCOBY a byproduct and just toss it, focusing only on having a couple cups of starter in a batch as being the key to their success. I just keep a 1/4” thick SCOBY and a cup of the starter in every batch and all has been fine for me!
Brew some Booch
Brewing kombucha is actually very easy – here is how. (There are quick instructions at the bottom of this post if you want to print those out without all of these photos and extra commentary.)
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and then turn off the heat and throw 4 – 6 bags of organic black tea into it. Set a timer for ten minutes, then remove the tea bags and stir in a 1/2 cup of organic sugar in. Cool the mixture completely.
(It is essential that you always fully cool your tea before adding it to your starter and SCOBY in the jar, otherwise you will kill off all the bacteria and yeast and it will never ferment.)
In a large, very clean jar pour in the SCOBY you grew and a cup of that strong, vinegary tea it grew in. Then, add the completely cooled sweet tea you just made. Cover with a dish towel or cloth and secure with a rubber band. Return to that warm place out of direct sunlight.
Start tasting your tea after 6 days (7 is usually perfect for me but some people say it takes their’s up to 10 days or more). Is it too sweet? Not bubbly? Give it another day. The longer it brews the more vinegary it will taste as the sugar content disappears. You will need to just taste and see when it is right for you. The warmer the house the quicker it will usually be ready.
Bottle that Brew
Now that your kombucha is brewed you should leave one cup in the jar as your “starter” to begin again. Every brew your SCOBY will grow new layers beneath it. Once it’s thicker than 1/4” I thoroughly wash my hands and split off some older layers off the top and toss them.
Now you can go make another big batch of the sweet tea and start brewing again.
As for all that finished kombucha? You have two options: You can just pour it into bottles and store in the fridge, or you can transfer to bottles and add some fruit or fruit juice and ferment a couple days more for a flavored version. (This second option is called a 2nd ferment, of 2F in kombucha lingo.)
I usually second ferment by putting a couple spoonfuls of frozen cherries, peaches, or blueberries into the bottom of my bottles, then pouring my finished kombucha on top. They go up in the cupboard for about three or four days before I move them to the fridge. If they are really bubbly I burp them by opening them up once a day so that they don’t explode from pressure.
I just put this little cheap strainer above my glass when I pour second-fermented booch out to remove the fruit.
- Use organic black tea – Some have success with hibiscus or green tea but black seems to work best so at the very least use it while you’re getting the hang of brewing before branching out.
- Use filtered water if you can. Distilled or reverse osmosis water can be purchased in many stores now. We have a Berkey Filter in our home which I believe is the ideal water for drinking and brewing kombucha.
- Use sugar – I am always going on about how sugar is bad and to use maple syrup or honey for sweetener, but in this case the sugar is eaten up in the fermentation process and doesn’t have the regular drawbacks.
- Sometimes SCOBYs float, other times they sink. Neither is better or cause for concern.
- Always use glass jars and bottles for brewing – plastic and metal aren’t good options for this.
- Always wash everything thoroughly with soap and hot water to prevent contamination and mold.
- If you haven’t drank kombucha before you should start with a small glass followed by a tall glass of water. It has a detoxifying effect on the liver which is great, but it’s best to build up to drinking a tall glass over a few weeks and drinking lots of water after to flush those toxins out of your system.
- There are many Facebook groups about brewing kombucha – join one and you’ll learn tons about mastering the art of booch!
Kombucha Brewing Instructions:
- Boil 8 cups of filtered water and turn off the heat
- Add 4-6 bags of plain organic black tea and let them steep ten minutes then remove
- Stir in a 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar until dissolved then let it completely cool
- Add the cooled tea into the SCOBY and starter in the jar. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubberband. (do not seal with a lid, it needs oxygen to ferment), and keep out of direct sunlight.
- Start tasting after 6 days
- Once it reaches your desired taste pour out all but one cup of the kombucha into a jar or pop top bottle. These can be put in the refrigerator or you can move to the Second Ferment steps below to add flavor. The SCOBY and one cup of starter in the jar are ready for another brew, beginning with Step 1 above.
Second Ferment Instructions
- If you desire to add flavor or more bubbles to your kombucha, add fruit or fruit juice into the kombucha stored in a jar or pop top lid.
- Ferment at room temperature for 2 to 7 days until taste reaches your liking
- Open the jar every day for 30 seconds to “burp” the kombucha to prevent explosions
- Never add fruit or juice in with the SCOBY. This should only be done with finished kombucha
- Once taste reaches your liking it can be refrigerated.