Kombucha is something that took me a few tries before I ended up loving it. Storebought “booch” is a great way to test the flavor if you aren’t sure this is for you, but keep in mind, homemade is a hundred times tastier!
This is a fairly easy ferment process for beginners. The longest part is waiting the minimum of 7 days before you start the second ferment with the added flavors -if desired. I always recommend using organic ingredients, especially in the first ferment, to keep your SCOBY nice and healthy. The second ferment its not as important to always use organic, but its good to aim for all organic if you want to avoid unnecessary chemicals in your final drink.
To keep things simple, this post uses organic black tea and organic cane sugar. There are many variations you can experiment with to find something more suitible to your tastes, you can read more here.
Due to the long fermentation time, I make mine in one gallon batches. At several points in the past few years I have had 2, or more, gallons brewing at once! That was quite the little kombucha factory! If you think you want less, it is easy to use half the ingredients suggested and brew only a 1/2 gallon at a time.
Ingredients for 1 gallon brew:
- 1 gallon of filtered or spring water*
- 8 regular size organic black tea bags
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 healthy SCOBY
- 2 cups of starter tea
- Boil your water. Add in the tea bags and turn off the stove heat. Allow to steep 10+ minutes. If you let it steep longer, you will have a stronger ‘tea’ flavor in your finished drink. I usually steep between 10-15 minutes. Add in your sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Pour your cooled tea into a clean gallon container. (I reuse those big glass gallon pickle jars from the bulk food section for my process). Once it has cooled to room temperature, add in your SCOBY and starter tea. You don’t want to add this in until the tea is cooled or it could kill the cultures.
- ‘Top off’ your jar with more filtered , but not all the way to the top, stop just before the jar curves up to the lid. I usually give a good stir to mix everything also. Your SCOOBY will ‘dance’ in the jar for a few days and likely eventually settle at as the new SCOBY begins to form along the top of the liquid.
- Cover your brew! This part is very important to keep out dust and other unwanted contaminates from the environment. I typically use a cloth napkin secured with a big rubber band. You can also use a few coffee filters together and secure with rubber band or kitchen twine. You do want it to be able to breathe, so no lids that keep air out.
- Place your jar in a corner and forget about it for 7-10 days. This is the easy part, leave it alone while the new SCOBY grows and the tea ferments. If it is winter, you want to be mindful to keep the jar in a warm area. I put mine on top of my fridge this last winter. Some wrap Christmas lights around their jars too.
- The minimum time for a brew is 7 days. After day 7, you can begin tasting the brew to see what point you prefer it at. I usually like it best at 10 days for the first ferment.
- Bottle your finished kombucha into air tight , keeping 2 cups in your jar to start your next brew. I use mason jars with plastic screw on lids if I add fruits or flavorings to my second ferment. You can do the second ferment on the back of the counter or in the fridge. My personal preference is to add fruit and set it on the counter a day or two before I strain it out and move the jars to the fridge. Second ferment is only 1-3 days, however long you prefer. You may want to ‘burp’ jars once a day if you choose to leave them on the counter (just open the lid to let out any carbonation that has built up).
- Repeat steps 1-5 for your first ferment on your next round.
There are countless flavoring options and ideas out there!
- Fruit is easy to use and you can do fresh or frozen. Mash the fruit before you add it to the jar, even thaw frozen fruit to mash before adding -it’s not necessary to do this step, but does help with end flavor! Pineapple is a personal favorite of mine.
- Check out this suggestion list from Cultures For Health.
- Herbal Tea: Herbal teas can be used to brew kombucha, however your SCOBY health will be affected, so be mindful you may not want to do this until you have built a ‘hotel’ of spare SCOBYS. You can make a strong brew of herbal tea to use as flavoring for your second ferment. Read more on herbal teas from Organic Kombucha.
- Other types of sugar suitable for brewing kombucha by Kombucha Kamp.
Some important notes:
- It is very important you do NOT use tap water with your brew. Make sure your water is filtered so there is no chlorine or other chemicals and addatives. I personally use my Berkey filter. Spring water is another great choice for brewing.
- If you have any issues with your brew, check out the group Kombucha Nation on Facebook. Lots of people who can help troubleshoot any issues you may come across.
- You can store your SCOBY for long periods if you keep plenty of tea with your SCOBY. I have done as long as 8 months without feeding mine and then picked back up with brewing again.
- I typically drink all my jars in the same week or two they are made, you can keep them in the fridge much longer but they will continue to ferment the longer they sit, even in the fridge.
- I assume if you are reading this, you have a SCOBY (also known as symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). However, if you do not, check your local farmers market, or crunchy/natural/holistic parenting group or ask in a Kombucha brewing group to see if anyone has one avaialble. Most people will mail one to you if you cover cost of shipping.