The first time I ever tried kombucha I remember thinking it was gross. I believed that “fermented” was code for “sour” or “rotten” tea and I didn’t go out of my way to buy it at the grocery store. Bill on the other hand loves kombucha. He’d be drinking a bottle and would offer me a sip, and I used to always turn up my nose and turn him down. Even so, he kept offering every time he had some (isn’t he sweet?) and eventually I gave in, taking a swig of whatever flavor he had. As time went on, this pattern continued, and I soon found myself asking for a few sips before being offered. Yup, I was converted to a kombucha fan. I guess it is an acquired taste?
Unfortunately, kombucha isn’t cheap. We try to only buy it when it’s on sale at the grocery store, but sometimes, you just can’t help it. So, we started doing some research and realized that it seemed pretty easy to make kombucha at home. Why not give it a whirl ourselves?
And that we did!
And you know what? It was pretty good! If you’ve got a bit of patience and you can get your hands on a SCOBY (more on that soon), you’re in business!
Here’s how we brewed our first batch:
Step 1: First, and most importantly, you have to have a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. Um what? Basically, bacteria and yeast form this jelly looking disc that sits on top of your tea. It helps the fermentation process and keeps the perfect environment for the sweet tea you’ll be converting to kombucha below it.
How do you get it? From fresh kombucha! One of our good friends brews kombucha at home and she gave us two jars of her homemade, plain kombucha. We loosened the caps on the bottles and then let them sit unrefrigerated for several days until they each started to grow their own SCOBY. It’s important to loosen the cap, because the yeast is releasing CO2, which, if in a closed bottle, will make it explode! I’m pretty sure you could also buy a bottle (unflavored) at the grocery store and leave it out of the fridge.
You can see the SCOBY forming at the top of these two bottles.
Step 2: Make sure you have a container for your tea. We ordered a large ceramic container with a spout to hold our brew. You certainly don’t need one this big. You could use anything really as long as there are no metal parts. I don’t know why but everyone says to keep your SCOBY away from anything metal.
Step 3: Get your tea! Black and green tea are preferred. I haven’t experimented with flavored teas, but from what I can tell they don’t work as well. Because we would be brewing in larger batches, we bought a big tea ball.
We had some green tea at home already, but we ordered some loose-leaf black tea from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Step 4: Now that you have all your supplies, you can brew your tea.
For this batch, here are the proportions I followed:
3 liters of filtered water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons black tea
3 teaspoons green tea (aka 3 tea bags)
Boil the water and sugar. Add the tea and let it steep. Let cool completely. <– That is super important because if it is too hot it will damage the SCOBY.
Step 5: When your tea has cooled (I usually do it the next day), add your tea, some starter kombucha, and your SCOBY to your big container. Cover with cheese cloth, and wait. In this case my “starter kombucha” was the kombucha from my friend that was growing the SCOBY.
Seven to ten days later, you’ll have fresh kombucha!
The beauty of making kombucha at home is that you can taste it along the way, and when its flavor is to your liking, you can bottle it and stick it in the fridge so it stops fermenting!
If you let the kombucha ferment too long, it will turn out really vinegary- so just make sure you’re tasting it along the way.
If you want to flavor it, it is recommended that you do that separately, and not in your main vat with the SCOBY. We haven’t tried that yet- it’s good enough plain!
So, there you have it! See, it’s pretty simple!
Have you tried making kombucha before? How’d it turn out?