Ahhhhh, kombucha… Just saying it has the ability to mellow me out…
In case you can’t tell – I LOVE kombucha. I have never been much of a drinker of anything but water and coffee before. Oh, and wine. And a good micro beer. But then I met kombucha.
Kom-what? Confused yet?
Kombucha is basically a fermented sweet tea, full of super amazing fizzy probiotic goodness! In the store, a single serving bottle of kombucha will cost you a spendy $3 or so. Making it yourself, however, is cheaper than you can imagine.. Also, think of the health benefits here! Replace your daily soda crud (full of non-nutriousness and chemicals) with a energizing boost of probiotics and antioxidants – that taste out of this world!
In our house, I brew a gallon of kombucha a week. Literally takes me 10 minutes. Not even 10 consecutive minutes. Pretty much put water on to boil, walk away, come back, throw in tea bags, walk away, add sugar, walk away, then come back to it in a week. Then comes the fun part – you can leave it plain, or doctor it up when you bottle it. Really folks. Easy stuff here.
The hardest part will likely be acquiring a SCOBY. A SCOBY is a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. This is what causes the fermentation process. Sounds pretty cute before I got into all that detail, huh? Not as scary as it sounds. So where do I get one of these? Lots of options out there…
- Know an acquaintance that brews their own ‘booch? I was lucky enough to score a baby SCOBY from a dear, like-minded friend (Thanks Cara!). One of the cool things about brewing kombucha – every week after brewing, a new little baby SCOBY has formed on the bottom of my “mother” SCOBY! I have already brought several in to work for curious co-workers!
- Check out local sites like Craigslist or Freecycle.org – You would be surprised to know that some people actually have an abundance of SCOBYs. You can also post a request for a SCOBY – I have responded to a cry for help on my local Freecycle from a desperate kombucha drinker. Gotta help the habit here, people.
- Finally, you can also purchase one online. You can get them in a whole, fresh, moist state – or in a dehydrated state.
Once you have your culture, it’s time to jump right in!
What you will need:
- Purified water
- 1 cup sugar (or sucanat)
- Tea bags (I usually use a combo of green and black teas, to equal 5 bags – you can really experiment with teas here. One of my favorites is a Lemon Lavender Mint tea)
- A SCOBY with 1 cup of starter liquid (saved from previous batch)
- A container to keep it in: I use a 1 gallon glass container from Walmart, of all places – Like 5 bucks. Can’t beat it.
- Bottles for the ‘booch: Here you can use pretty much whatever you have on hand that has a tight lid. I use these babies and old store-bought kombucha bottles.
Start by bringing 4 cups of your water to boil. Remove from heat and add your tea bags – allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Remove your tea bags and add your sugar – mix until completely dissolved. I have always used sugar or sucanat when making my kombucha, although I use raw honey for all of my other sweetening needs in the kitchen. I read somewhere that the culture thrives better and metabolizes the sugars better with the white stuff – and I haven’t felt the need to prove that wrong. It if works, I’m going to stick with it. After the sugar is dissolved, add 8 more cups of the water. Your sweet tea mixture should be close to room temperature now. Go ahead and slide that SCOBY into the warm jug. Happy SCOBY…. Now cover it up with a square of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Keeping your jug in a warm, dark place is said to encourage better brewing, but I will be honest – my first few batches hung out right on my kitchen counter, and turned out just fine.
At this point, you just need to sit back and LEAVE IT ALONE for 1-3 weeks, depending on your taste. If you are wondering if it’s ready, just slide a straw under the SCOBY and taste it! It really is personal preference. At our house, we like it best at the one week mark. The longer it is in there, the more of a vinegary taste it can pick up – fine by me, but the hubby and kiddos aren’t too fond of the vinegar.. When you are ready to bottle, the fun really starts! I love to get the kids involved in choosing different flavors to mix in our kombucha. You can really add anything to the bottles to tweak the flavor: fruit juices, whole fruit, herbs, flowers, etc. A few things we have tried:
- Bottled pomegranate juice – all flavors! Use the 100% juice please. Our favorite is the pomegranate blueberry combined with the Lemon Lavender Mint tea – Sassy!
- Orange Mint leaves – fresh
- Fresh blackberries, quartered
- Plain – because you can always doctor after bottling too!
This is our method, but remember, this is strictly by taste – what works for YOU: Pull out the SCOBY and set aside in a glass dish; cover with 1 cup of kombucha liquid. Using a funnel, in my blue bottles, I put about a half an inch of the juice, then fill up the remainder with kombucha – leaving about an inch of head room. After filling, clean the tops of your bottles, then close securely. By capping them, carbonation will start to build up. I leave my bottles on the counter for 3 days – you can do less if you prefer less bubbliness. Important note: please burp your bottles daily while they are hanging out on the counter – From experience, I can tell you that you will run the risk of a messy explosion upon opening if you don’t. Not really worth the mess – and a bit sad to see your hard work sprayed all over your kitchen.
After three days, you can stick them in the fridge, halting the fermentation process. When chilled, you are ready to roll! I told you. Easy peasy.
This is the end-product of a bottle of kombucha that was brewed with fresh blackberries – only 3 whole berries per bottle! Check out that color! And the ahhhhh effervescence!
So there you go – kombucha brewing, made easy. Go forth! Enjoy!