If you have never tried Kombucha, I urge you to run down to the store and buy a bottle to try. It’s bubbly and tangy and slightly sweet and packed full of Probiotics.
Now that you are over the sticker shock I will tell you it only cost pennies to make a gallon of the delightful drink , plus it‘s like a little science experiment, and who doesn’t love a good science experiment that the end result is delicious and good for you!
I’m going to take it from the top, and that is growing your own Scoby: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast because I’m fancy like that, but you can also get one from your local health food store or on line. (also called mothers or mushrooms but it’s all the same )
Growing your SCOBY
What you will need :
2-quart or larger saucepan
2-quart or larger glass jar, like a canning jar (not plastic or metal)
Cheesecloth, clean dish towel , or paper towel
7 cups water
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
4 bags black tea, or 1 tablespoon loose-leaf (plain black tea, does not need to be expensive)
1 cup unflavored, un pasteurized store-bought Kombucha
Safety and cleanliness: We are growing a culture in a controlled environment and although this tea has been around for a couple thousand years we want to make sure we are growing a healthy SCOBY. I always clean my kitchen first, I clean all my equipment (yes even though they were put away clean) and rinse well, leave no trace of soap. I make mead and wine and I just follow those standards. I clean and assemble everything I need first so I can stay focused on what I’m doing.
Making your sweet tea:
- Bring the water to a boil, I like to too use half the water to make the tea and then when done add the rest to cool down the tea faster. Remove the pan from the heat and add your sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add your tea and let it steep for 10 min, remove your tea bags and discard , and add your cool water. If you used all your water to start just let it steep until cool.
- Pour your room temp sweet tea into the jar you will grow your SCOBY in, and then pour in the whole jar of organic raw store bought Kombucha on top, make sure it all gets in there you want any blobby bits to get in, I always look for the one with the most stuff floating around in it when I pick out at store but it will still be ok if you don’t. Stir and cover with paper towel or dish cloth and secure with rubber band.
- Store it out of direct sun light in a warm spot. I have a nook by my fridge that is warm and dark, I have a paper towel rubber banded around the top then I put a dish towel over the whole thing to keep it dark.
- Wait…. It will take 2 to 4 weeks, I peek at mine once a week. At first it will look bubbly and stuff will start to gather around the edges and that is normal. My first one I let go 4 weeks to get it nice and thick. It will look odd and that’s normal when you check on it you just don’t want mold, mold green fuzzy or black is bad and you will need to start over, I have not had mold but did have a brown spot that turned out to be a thin spot and was just the tea showing through, it was just fine. Also brown stuff on the bottom with little brown tentacles hanging down is fine and in fact a good thing (it’s yeast)
NOTE: A word on fruit flies…just one fly, fruit or otherwise can ruin your batch. sweet basil will help keep them at bay, I grow all my own Herbs and have a supply but if you don’t pick up a plant or get a living one at the grocery store and stick it in water next to your tea.
Once you have your SCOBY:
It’s time to brew your Kombucha tea.
Hopes homemade Kombucha Tea
What You Need
3 quarts water
1 cup sugar (regular granulated sugar)
8 bags black tea, green tea, or a mix (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)
2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought kombucha (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) Or 1 cup tea from your freshly made SCOBY.
1 scoby per fermentation jar
1-gallon glass jar
Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles
- Make the tea base: Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Add in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled. This will take a few hours. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the pot in an ice bath.
- Add the starter tea: Once the tea is cool, remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea. Stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents bad bacteria from forming in the first few days of fermentation.)
- Transfer to jar and add the scoby: Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar, and slide the scoby into the jar with clean hands. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels, or clean dish cloth, secured with a rubber band.
- Ferment for 7 to 10 days: Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, check on the kombucha periodically.
- The scoby will float at the top, bottom, or even sideways during fermentation it’s all normal. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days like magic. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it’s ok if they don’t. You may see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and healthy.
- After 7 days, begin tasting the kombucha daily. I use a clean straw and slid it down the side of the bottle and pull a bit out to taste, when it reaches a nice balance of sweetness and tartness that you like, the kombucha is ready to bottle.
- Remove the scoby: Before bottling , prepare and cool another batch of tea for your next batch of kombucha, as outlined above. With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. As you do, check it over and remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting very thick.(Keep your extra SCOBYS in a bit of tea because you will have friends wanting to make their own kombucha)
- Bottle the finished kombucha: Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha into bottles using the small funnel, Leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle.
- Carbonate and refrigerate the finished kombucha: Store the bottled kombucha at room temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Until you get a feel for how quickly your kombucha carbonates, it’s helpful to keep it in plastic bottles; the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation and carbonation, and then drink your kombucha within a month.
- Make a fresh batch of kombucha: Clean the jar being used for kombucha fermentation. Combine the starter tea from your last batch of kombucha with the fresh batch of sugary tea, and pour it into the fermentation jar. Slide the scoby on top, cover, and ferment for 7 to 10 days.
- The Tea you used to grow your SCOBY is now a usable vinegar for cooking cleaning or giving to friends!
- Other Tea Options: Black tea tends to work best for the scoby to ferment into kombucha, but once your scoby is going strong, you can try branching out into other kinds. Green tea, white tea, or a even mix of these make especially good kombucha. Herbal teas are okay, but be sure to use at least a few bags of black tea in the mix to make sure the scoby is getting all the nutrients it needs. Avoid any teas that contain oils, like earl grey or flavored teas although some people report having success with them .
- Avoid Prolonged Contact with Metal: Using metal utensils is fine, but avoid fermenting or bottling the kombucha in anything that brings them into contact with metal. Metals, especially metals like aluminum, can give the kombucha a metallic flavor and weaken the scoby over time.
- Check back as I explore new flavors!