A couple years ago my friend and I were at the local Natural Grocers, and she bought a Kombucha. “What is that?” I asked. She explained that Kombucha is a probiotic drink, made from something like a mushroom. I’m a huge believer in probiotics, homemade yogurt, and cultured veggies, so I bought one too, and I liked it.
(Read about the health benefits of Kombucha and why Ronald Reagan drank it.)
Then a week later I bought another one. Then another one. And so on. I was hooked. Like I crave my homemade yogurt and cultured veggies, I now also crave Kombucha. But this stuff really adds up. They cost about three dollars per drink in the store. Yikes.
I heard about making Kombucha at home, but I thought it would gross me out too much. With time I came around to the idea. So when another friend told me that she made her own Kombucha, I was so excited. She told me to start collecting my equipment, and offered to give me a SCOBY. That’s how it happened.
First I got organic sugar at Costco. That was weird for me. I wondered if anyone would see me buying the sugar. So if you did, then now you know why My husband had organic black tea already, so that was done.
Next I bought a huge pitcher with a spout, which can hold two gallons at a time. I’m not using the base so I can keep my Kombucha on the counter, under the cabinets, where it’s warm (the pantry or the basement would be too cold). I’m not using the lid, because you have to let the Kombucha breathe by covering it with a cloth and rubber band.
If you don’t have a friend who can give you a SCOBY you can make one yourself. Learn how by clicking HERE.
Here is what you need to make your own Kombucha
- a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)
- reverse osmosis water (I’m told RO water is best, because there is chlorine, fluoride, etc in tap water)
- organic black or green tea, without added oils (Earl Grey, for example, contains bergamot oil), because the oils can cause mold
- organic evaporated cane juice, not bleached (This is what it eats.)
- a glass container (they’re really common now, I see them at Target all the time)
How to make your Kombucha:
Using a medium sized pot, bring a gallon of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add a cup of organic sugar and 8 bags of organic black or green tea the water. Steep the tea for about 15 minutes, then remove the bags with clean tongs. Put the lid on the pot of sweetened tea and let it cool overnight. (It must be room temperature to continue.)
Make sure your glass container is nice and clean. Carefully pour the room temperature sweet tea into the container. Add one cup of Kombucha either from the previous batch or plain store-bought Kombucha (not flavored).
Add your SCOBY. (make sure your hands are clean if you use them). Cover the container with a cloth and rubber band. Keep your brew somewhere warm (around 70 degrees F), out of direct sunlight, and at least several feet from anything else you’re culturing, like yogurt of sauerkraut. Brew for 7 to 30 days. A new culture will form on top. The longer it sits the thicker it will become.
Brown wispy yeast tails are normal. They are a byproduct of the fermentation. If you ever see green mold you must throw everything out. The longer you brew your Kombucha the less sugar it has, so go ahead and keep brewing until you get the flavor you like.
When your Kombucha tastes to your liking you can put it in canning jars or a glass pitcher. Remove the culture and strain those yeast tails out if you want. Always use clean hands and clean equipment. Remember to save some Kombucha for your next batch before adding fruit juice or ginger.
At this point you can put it in your refrigerator and begin drinking it, OR do a second fermentation to make it bubbly. Even though the culture is removed, the natural bacteria and yeast will continue to eat the sugar and create gas in an airtight container. This gives Kombucha a soda-like fizz.
If you choose to do the second fermentation, keep your Kombucha in a glass airtight container at room temperature for another 2 to 5 days. Open the lid once a day during this time so that the pressure doesn’t build up too much. When you open a Kombucha that has done a second fermentation you can cover the lid with a towel and release it very slowly just in case.
There will be very little sugar left in your Kombucha after this process is complete. Refrigerate your Kombucha after the second fermentation (which lasts 2 to 5 days). Every few batches the SCOBY will “have a baby,” that can be used as compost or given to a friend.
UPDATE: Some great questions in the comments now. Make sure to check them out!