A little over a year ago I was introduced to the joys of kombucha, that oddly energizing fizzy fermented tea that comes in a dizzying array of flavors and costs almost $4 a bottle at my local health food store. I knew that it was possible to brew it at home, but was intimidated by what I thought was a difficult and mysterious process involving strange sounding things like “SCOBYs” and “second ferments.”
Then for Christmas this year I received the wonderful book Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods by Jill Ciciarelli and decided that the time had come to face my fears and start brewing my own “booch”! What follows is the progress of my first batch and a very simple recipe for making your own kombucha.
The first thing I needed to do is procure a SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” If you have friends who make kombucha, they probably have one they would be happy to give you. A new baby SCOBY is produced with every couple batches and kombucha brewers seem averse to throwing them away! Unfortunately, I do not have any local kombucha brewing friends, so I purchased one through my local CSA.
After a SCOBY, the second most important item for brewing kombucha is a large glass vessel – one gallon is a nice size and you can purchase one affordably online and in many kitchen supply stores. I got this one: Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass Cookie/Candy Jar, 1-Gallon
Other necessary supplies and ingredients –
- Black or green tea
- Sugar (regular cane sugar is fine – I use organic)
- A coffee filter or cheesecloth and rubber band to cover the gallon jar while brewing
- Bottles (I reused bottles from storebought kombucha, but another option is to buy swing top bottles)
The only other ingredient needed is some patience! The fermenting process takes at least a week, but it is worth the wait!
I posted daily pictures of the progress of my first kombucha batch on Instagram. It was fascinating to watch the SCOBY first float, then sink to the bottom, and then float back to the top. I have no idea why it did that, but others assured me that was not abnormal.
A Basic Kombucha Recipe
- 6 bags of black or green tea
- ¾ gallon filtered water
- ¾ cup sugar
- Bring water to boil.
- Add tea bags and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes, then remove tea bags.
- Add sugar while still hot and stir to dissolve.
- IMPORTANT - Allow tea to cool to room temperature. Adding the SCOBY while it is still hot will kill the SCOBY.
- Transfer sweetened tea to glass jar and add SCOBY.
- Cover with coffee filter or cheesecloth and secure with rubber band.
- Leave undisturbed for at least one week, then test flavor.
This recipe will get you started, but to take your kombucha making to the next level as well as explore other fermented foods delight, you should get the ebook Culture Your Life by Louise Kane Buckley. [Note: Louise is based in Hong Kong so you’ll see the price listed in Hong Kong Dollars. That converts to approximately $19 USD.]
So I’ve Made Kombucha. Now what?
You can just start drinking it, or you can bottle your kombucha for a second ferment. I did this and made each bottle a different flavor – strawberry, orange, meyer lemon, ginger, strawberry-orange, and peach. My favorite was the strawberry orange. My least favorite was ginger, but that may have more to do with the quantity I used. I’m looking forward to trying other combinations in the future!
Want to keep making batch after batch of kombucha? Here are directions for continuous brew kombucha from Elston Backyard Farms.
Looking for other ways to use your kombucha? Don’t Mess with Mama has a list of non-traditional uses.
Like a fruitier flavored kombucha? Here is a recipe for mango-apricot kombucha from Our Small Hours. Want something a little more grown up? The Darling Bakers has a recipe for kombucha-based mason jar sangria.
For even more recipes, check out this huge list from Cheeseslave.
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