Kombucha is simply fermented tea which is brimming with probiotic bacteria. The taste is similar to apple cider, it’s effervescent, fruity and can be sweet or tart, depending on how you like it. I love it and drink it most days.
I religiously make kombucha at home because my health has improved so much since I started drinking it. The main thing I have noticed is the boost to my immune system. You can read about it on my other blog post ‘My experience of using kombucha for allergies’.
Making Kombucha is really easy and you don’t need a lot of equipment or ingredients. Just use clean hands and make sure your equipment is rinsed well of soap residues.
What you need to make kombucha
- green or black tea (it must be camellia sinensis, not fruit tea or herbal tea.)
- sugar-white or golden, not dark
- a SCOBY, which stands for ‘Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast’. It looks like a huge jelly! You can buy them online or get them from someone who makes their own kombucha.
- starter liquid/tea, which should come with the SCOBY. Starter tea is just unflavoured strong kombucha.
- large pot ( I use my Instant Pot liner as it has measurements on the side)
- plastic spoon (not wooden as bacteria can live in the cracks)
- Measuring cups (American US cup measures)
- a glass brewing vessel, I use one with a stainless steel tap
- a cotton fine meshed cloth (I use a tea towel, do not use loose weave muslins as fruit flies can get in)
- elastic band for securing the cloth
Basically, I make a sweet tea and once it has cooled, I add a the starter tea and SCOBY to it. It ferments in a warm place for roughly 7-10 days and it can then be drunk or bottled.
I don’t recommend making a tiny batch, because even if you don’t drink it all, it keeps for ages after it is bottled. You also don’t have to make kombucha continuously, the starter tea and SCOBY can be kept for months and months, so you can just make a large batch now and then to suit you, rather than brew tiny amounts continuously.
This is the chart I use, it comes from The Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory and I highly recommend you read this if you want to know everything about kombucha and making kombucha at home; I learned so much from it! Here is a link to Hannah’s website, Kombucha Kamp. As I am based in the UK, I have added metric measurements to the chart by hand. Sorry, it got a bit creased from overuse!
According to the chart, if I want to make 4 litres (1 gallon) of kombucha, I will need 4-6 tea bags, 1 cup of sugar, 1 large SCOBY and 1 cup of starter liquid.
Boil the water, add tea and sugar to it. Stir and cool to room temperature. Rather than boil the full amount of water which takes a long time to cool down, I typically make the tea with only 1 litre of boiling water. Once the sugar has dissolved and the tea infused, I top it up with cold water until I have the amount I need. If you have used tea leaves, you need to strain them out before proceeding.
Once at room temperature pour all the tea into your glass brewing vessel with the SCOBY and starter tea. Place the cloth on top and secure with an elastic band. I also like to tuck a sheet of paper into the band with the date on it, so I know when I started the brew.
Is it ready?
It now needs to sit undisturbed in a warm place. I put mine into the airing cupboard which stays at around 25-27 degrees celsius. A new baby SCOBY will form at the top if you don’t touch the jar! Start tasting the kombucha after about a week. I usually dip a clean straw down the side and then put my finger over the top before drawing it out. This traps a small amount of the brew inside the straw and causes as little disturbance as possible. How does it taste? It should be sweet and tart. If it’s too sweet, it needs longer, if too sour, it’s fermented too long! It is ready when you like the taste! Well done, you have made a first fermentation!
At this stage you can drink the kombucha as it is or bottle it for a second fermentation. Make sure you leave some tea and the SCOBY for your next batch, it becomes your next lot of starter liquid and you can repeat the whole process again.
Why bottle? You don’t have to do this, but this can add a new dimension to your kombucha. The yeast inside creates fizz, and you can also add other flavours at this stage if you wish. You can try adding spices, herbs and fruits to the bottle. These extra sugars help the yeast to create even more bubbles! Be sure to use bottles which are pressure rated, such as swing tops. Avoid rectangular bottles with corners as they cannot withstand the pressure and may explode. Sometimes the kombucha is only mildly fizzy, at other times it can blow up onto your ceiling, so be careful if you second ferment. If you just want fizz without the fruit, you can add a little sugar to the bottle before sealing it. You can keep the bottled kombucha for several weeks, but it does get a little sour over time as it continues to ferment. The second fermentation can be done at room temperature. Allow a few days before drinking it to let the flavours infuse and the yeast to do its work.
Erm, what about this baby SCOBY?
A new baby SCOBY usually forms at the top of the brewing vessel and will even happily grow inside your bottles! I normally don’t touch them for a couple of months. They happily sit in my fermentation jars without affecting the brew. That means that at any time, there can be many SCOBYS in the same fermentation. When it becomes a Godzilla SCOBY and is taking up too much room, I will put it into a separate jar called a SCOBY hotel, leaving behind a young SCOBY for my next batch. My SCOBY hotel is full up of old SCOBYs and I occasionally add some fresh tea to keep them alive. I keep it just in case something goes wrong; if your fermentation gets infected with mould or insects, having spare SCOBYs is useful. It’s basically a storage facility for them. When you have extra, you can have different batches going with different teas. If you prefer, you can separate the baby from its mother and just use the baby for the next batch if it’s big enough. Sometimes the baby is paper thin, sometimes it’s several millimetres thick depending on the conditions. If your hotel is getting too full, you can compost the SCOBYs or give them away. Online, you can find crazy uses for them…fancy some SCOBY jerky? Or SCOBY face cream?
Make kombucha at home again and again!
When you have made it once, you simply repeat the process by reserving some of the plain kombucha and the SCOBY (plus babies if you want), and adding it to sweet tea. If you are going on holiday, you can just leave the SCOBY and starter liquid in your fermentation vessel, covered with the cloth and elastic band until you get home and add tea to it. It’s easy to care for but gives a lot back!