I’m a newbie to the fermenting world, and I’ve always wanted to try making kombucha, but I admit I was definitely intimidated by the whole process. Which is really silly considering how much canning and preserving I do, which is way more labor intense than home brewing. I love fruit-flavored tea, so I decided to make the plunge and brew my own kombucha. Kombucha has a world of health benefits, as the fermentation process develops good bacteria that your digestive system loves. As I’ve given up soda and am weary of drinking plain water, kombucha seemed to be the way to go for me.
I originally ordered 2 SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) from Amazon. This is what turns sweet tea into fermented kombucha and adds all the wonderful health benefits. When my family first saw a SCOBY , they weren’t too thrilled about the idea of something that looked like a blob of gelatin floating in their tea, but they’ve come around and really do like kombucha now.
There are literally hundreds of places to buy a SCOBY (if you don’t have a brewing friend who can give you one to start). If you buy one, make sure the SCOBY comes with enough starter kombucha fluid (about 1-1/2 cups). On my first purchase of 2 SCOBY , there wasn’t enough starter, so that batch didn’t ferment like it should. I found a different vendor on Amazon, however, and they sent me one huge SCOBY and more than enough starter tea. The first batch turned out great, and it made a new baby SCOBY (it grows on top of the original SCOBY ), just like it was supposed to.
You can do an Internet search and find multiple different recipes on how to make kombucha, and everyone has their own tricks of the trade. I read a lot before I decided to make my own. What I did may be different from someone else who brews, but here’s what I did, and it turned out very tasty.
You can see the SCOBY to the right side – the dark shadow is a new baby SCOBY that has yeast tendrils hanging from the bottom side. This is normal.
The first picture was taken right after I added the fruit.
This picture is after the kombucha sat for a day. The colors really deepened.
How to Make Kombucha
5 to 6 tea bags (I used black tea)
1 cup sugar
1 gallon water less 1 cup
SCOBY and 1-1/2 to 2 cups starter tea
Cover for jar (I used a coffee filter and a rubber band)
Boil 2 quarts of water in a stockpot. Turn the heat off and add 5-6 teabags. Let steep for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the tea bags, and add the sugar. Stir to completely resolve. Let tea cool to room temperature.
When the sweet tea is at room temperature, pour the tea into a clean gallon jar. Add the additional 2 quarts of water (room temperature), making sure you leave room in the jar for the SCOBY and starter tea. With clean hands, add the SCOBY and starter tea to the gallon jar. Cover the top of the jar with something that is breathable (kombucha needs oxygen to ferment), and let sit out of the sun for 7 to 10 days.
Fermentation time will depend how warm your room is. I brewed mine in mid-March with an average room temperature of 72 degrees, and my batch took 10 days. Obviously, cooler rooms will take longer, and it won’t take as long when it’s hot outside. You should smell a sweet, vinegar-like smell.
You have to taste your brew to see when it’s ready. Some people like it sweeter, and some don’t. After about a week, remove the lid. Carefully slide a straw underneath the SCOBY, and taste. When it tastes good to you, carefully remove the SCOBY and place it in a small dish. Remove about 1-1/2 cups of your fermented tea, and place it in the same dish as the SCOBY – this will be your starter tea for your next batch.
Now it’s time for the fun part – flavoring your kombucha 🙂
The flavor possibilities are endless. If you do an Internet search (and Pinterest is a great starting place), you’ll find both sweet and savory ways to flavor your “booch.” I’m more of a fruit tea person, so I experimented with peaches, red raspberries, and blueberries on my first brew. Now, you don’t need special equipment to do the second fermentation where you’re flavoring your kombucha. You can use Mason jars or whatever you have on hand – just make sure if you want it to be fizzy that you can cap the container to let the carbonation build up. I purchased Grolsch bottles on Amazon, which are pretty inexpensive and work perfectly for this.
When I was ready to flavor my kombucha, I chopped up peaches, blueberries, and red raspberries and added about 2 tablespoons of fruit into each bottle. Pour the kombucha into the bottles, and cap the lids. Let the bottles sit on the counter for a day or two (out of the sun), but keep an eye on the fermentation. The tea will interact with the sugars in the fruit, and it won’t take long for carbonation to take place. You may need to “burp the lids” to release some of the pressure – you don’t want your bottles or containers exploding (it can happen).
After a day, taste your brew. If the taste is pleasing, place the bottles in the refrigerator. Fermentation will still keep occurring, but it does slow down once in the cool.