How to Brew and Share Kombucha
Kombucha is a fizzy tart beverage with a hint of sweetness derived from brewed tea fermented by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The drink has been revered as a health tonic since the Chinese Tsin dynasty (212 B.C.), and modern chemistry tells us the body benefits come from its plethora of probiotics that promote good gut health and more, including:
- Improved digestive health and functionality
- Boosted energy
- Immune support (70% of our immune system is located in the GI tract)
- Brain and mood function (gut bacteria create up to 95% of the body’s serotonin)
- Weight loss
- Vitamin and mineral absorption
- Better skin and dental health
With a list like this, no wonder kombucha has been called “Immortality Tea.” Since learning to brew my own, gone are the days when I would spend $4 on a single bottle of kombucha at a café or rely solely on expensive probiotic supplements. Making your own kombucha is much easier than you think. Not only is it economical (just pennies per batch after you are set up), it’s a fascinating process that can result in delicious flavor concoctions and significantly better overall health.
Here are several tips and tricks I use when brewing my own kombucha. Remember, you can DO this. If humans have been brewing kombucha since 200 years before the birth of Christ, and we can only guess at the environments in which they worked, you will be successful in your own kitchen.
- You will need a very good set of instructions for brewing your own. I like this web site because the pictures are excellent and you learn a lot about the science of kombucha along the way. Essentially, you brew tea and add sugar, add water then SCOBY, monitor its fermentation for 10-14 days, add flavors to taste, and bottle the final product.
- SCOBY is a culture of yeast and other microorganisms embedded in a thick pad of pure cellulose. You can order SCOBY online to start your kombucha manufactory, or you can ask for some from a fellow kombucha brewer, or grow your own. Think of it like sourdough starter—it’s shared between friends.
- The tea I use is high quality black or green tea. Don’t use any herbal teas or blends. I recommend the Equal Exchange brand because it’s fair trade, organic, and delicious.
- Do not allow the SCOBY to come into contact with metal at any time. Remove your jewelry before handling the SCOBY.
- If mold forms, or if you see any flies in the kombucha or on the SCOBY, toss the entire batch including the SCOBY and start over. No worries.
- Wash your hands and your equipment well before every batch. I suggest you use vinegar for cleaning because it doesn’t leave a soapy residue.
- Ultimately, you will transfer the finished product into reusable bottles like these which I sourced from World Market. They must be airtight to hold the fizzy fermented drink. (I appreciate things that are pretty and practical.) If you have Mason jars with tight screw-on lids, these will also work.
- New layers grow on top of existing SCOBY each time it’s put into a new batch of sweetened tea. If the bottom part gets too thick or crumbly, peel off the ragged layer and throw it away.
- If you bottle early, your kombucha will be sweeter; if you leave it longer, it will be more acidic.
- After the kombucha has fermented for 10-14 days and it’s passed your fizzy/tart/sweet taste test, (you will detect a vinegar smell, and this is good), remove the SCOBY and strain the liquid. Set aside some of this liquid in a small container. This is where the SCOBY will “live” until you need it for another batch.
- Now the fun starts—flavors! Add room-temperature syrups, teas, and fruits to your taste and cover the container of strained liquid for a second 2-day fermentation period at room temperature. For a one gallon batch, you will need only 1/3 cup of flavor ingredients. Then strain and funnel the finished product into your pretty-and-practical bottles or jars and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to drink them. A couple of my favorite flavor blends:
- Elderberry ginger (ask at your health food store for Source Naturals elderberry syrup and chopped fresh ginger)
- Raspberry lime (cooled raspberry tea and fresh squeezed lime juice)
- Hibiscus lime (cooled hibiscus tea plus fresh squeezed lime juice)
- Cherry vanilla (crush fresh or frozen organic cherries and 1 TB of fair trade organic vanilla extract)
- Blueberry vanilla (crush fresh or frozen organic blueberries and 1 TB of fair trade organic vanilla extract)
- Cherry ginger (crush fresh or frozen organic cherries and chopped fresh ginger)
Three Reasons to Brew Your Own Kombucha
- Get kids sipping kombucha early and they’ll ask for it instead of soda or juice. Making your own is fun and affordable for the whole family.
- Fine-tune your digestive system with lots of types of kombucha. No two SCOBY concoctions are exactly the same, and this biodiversity is just what your gut needs.
- SCOBY is duplicated with every batch you brew. Make friends. Share your SCOBY.