Kombucha is the new kale… but buying it on the reg can cost a pretty penny! Learn to brew this delicious belly friendly beverage at home without breaking the bank!
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What the heck is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage available at most health foods stores. Simply, it is a sweet or flavored tea that has been “cultured” – similar to a yogurt. Because it contains probiotics, kombucha is often thought to be good for one’s health.
Kombucha is usually fizzy and tastes like slightly tangy tea. It is most commonly flavored with ginger, which can aid in digestion. I’ve flavored my kombucha with mangoes, strawberries, peaches, and even lavender!
While kombucha is available at most grocery stores (look in the health foods aisle near the probiotics) and health food stores, it can cost a pretty penny to buy if you consume it like I do! If you’re an occasional kombucha drinker, kombucha can often be purchased in a refillable growler from some health foods stores. If you are new to kombucha, I would recommend trying store bought kombucha and making sure you like the taste before brewing your own.
The hippie’s brew
The kombucha brewing process requires a little patience – but your patience will be rewarded! The process begins with a big batch of sweet black tea (although other teas can be used, black tea is the most common). This tea is then cultured using a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast and is often referred to as the “mother”. The SCOBY looks like a slimy wad of gel and is often the part that scares most people from brewing kombucha at home. The purpose of the SCOBY is to protect the kombucha from outside bacteria and provide an environment for healthy probiotics to grow while the kombucha brews. The tea cultures for 1-2 weeks. Once the tea is cultured, the kombucha is flavored, and sometimes rests for another week to infuse with the flavors. It is then bottled, refrigerated, and served cold!
How to Make your Own Kombucha at Home
Home brewing kombucha isn’t as complicated as people think. It requires some patience and protocol but you’ll have a tasty batch of kombucha in no time!
What will I need?
To home brew kombucha, you’ll need
- 2 clean 1 gallon glass jars
- 2 clean flour sack cloths (I use these cloths for a lot of other things too (like making butter or paneer!) or tea towels
- Wooden spoon (don’t use steel, it can kill the SCOBY)
- 2 rubber bands
- 1 SCOBY
- 2 cups of starter kombucha – unflavored, store bought is fine
- 6 black tea bags
- 3 quarts boiling water
- 2 cups of sugar
- Flavorings (Optional)
- 5-6 grolsch style flip top beer bottles
- Mini Auto Siphon and bottle filling wand (optional, you can also use a funnel)
I found a lot of these items on either amazon or at a local home brew supply store. I also grew my own SCOBY which takes a little bit of time and patience (I’ll explain below). Alternately, you can purchase a kombucha starter kit like this one, get a SCOBY from a friend who makes kombucha (SCOBYs grow quickly and layers can be peeled off and shared), or order a SCOBY from your local home brewing supply store.
How to grow a SCOBY
Growing a SCOBY requires a little time and patience. Gather all the supplies except flavoring and bottling equipment. Gather a bottle of plain, unflavored store bought kombucha. Try to purchase one with more “stringy” things at the bottom of the bottle (that’s a baby SCOBY!). In a large pot, boil 3 quarts of water. Dissolve 2 cups of sugar in the boiling water. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep until water is cooled. Remove and discard the tea bags. Pour the tea into the gallon jar. Carefully add in the bottle of store bought kombucha. Cover the jar using one flour sack cloth towel and a rubber band. Place in a safe room temperature / warm place for 3 weeks. Do not move or stir the liquid.
Depending on the temperature of it’s resting place, the SCOBY may take longer than 3 weeks to grow. I grew mine on a clean shelf in the garage where no bugs, gross things, or curious husbands would get near it. I grew mine during the summer and I had a beautiful 1/4 inch thick pure white SCOBY in 3 weeks. A good healthy SCOBY will look like a flat disc of gel but uneven patches, lopsidedness, or brown coloring or stringy things are perfectly normal as well.
How to make kombucha
Once you have your SCOBY, brewing kombucha is a very similar process. In a large pot, boil 3 quarts of water. Dissolve 2 cups of sugar in the boiling water. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep until water is cooled. Remove and discard the tea bags. Pour the tea into the gallon jar. Carefully add in 2 cups of an older batch of kombucha or store bought kombucha. Cover the jar using one flour sack cloth towel and a rubber band. Place in a safe room temperature / warm place for 1 week.
Taste the kombucha after 1 week to see if it has the tang level you like. For more tangy kombucha, let ferment for another week. If the kombucha is to your liking, you can add flavorings, or just bottle straight away. To add flavoring, add in chopped fruit (I find that frozen works best), let sit, covered with cloth, for 2 days – 1 week.
Once your kombucha is to your liking, it’s time to bottle it up! Use a funnel or an auto siphon attached to a bottling wand to fill your kombucha into airtight bottles. then, put your bottled kombucha in the fridge. If this is your first time making kombucha, you can make a “test” bottle in a plastic water bottle. Feel the bottle after a few hours and for the first few days. If the bottle gets hard to squeeze, there is a lot of residual gas built up. In that case, “burp” the bottles for the first few days by carefully popping the top to release any pent up gas. I would recommend this precaution until you’re comfortable with how bubbly your booch can get. It will save you a mess in the refrigerator later!
I love using fresh or frozen fruit in my kombucha. I’ve found success by using frozen strawberries, frozen mango chunks, mango purée, and peach purée. When using flavorings, note that flavors often add extra sugar to the kombucha, which can produce more gas. Use caution and “burp” the bottles until you care comfortable with your own recipe. Also be sure to strain the kombucha prior to bottling to avoid any undesirable textural elements.
People often think of just fruit to flavor the kombucha. I personally love kombucha with chia seeds in it – it gives it a great texture! To try, add 1 tbsp of clean chia seeds to the kombucha and flavorings before bottling.
You can also flavor your booch by carefully selecting which teas make up the kombucha. While black tea is most common, you can experiment with green and white teas, and even flavored teas! One of my favorite mixes was 2 parts chamomile tea with 1 part green tea, and flavored with dried lavender and a spoonful of honey. SO soothing!
What if making kombucha isn’t for me?