The first time I tasted kombucha, I almost spat it across the room. I know that kombucha is a fermented tea drink, but I honestly didn’t expect it to taste like rotting garbage! Why on earth were all of my health-nut friends clamoring for kombucha, and I couldn’t stand even the smell of it?!
It must be me. So I set out to try all the different brands, searching for the holy grail of kombucha. It eluded me, my friends. It completely eluded me. No matter what the flavor was, I couldn’t seem to get past the taste of ROT.
The Benefits of Drinking Kombucha
Why did I care so much? This fermented tea is packed full of beneficial probiotics that nurture our gut and support our health. A review of recent studies, published in The Journal of Medicinal Food in February 2014 states: “It is shown that KT (kombucha tea) can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity… it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders.” I wanted these benefits for my family!
When All Else Fails, Make Your Own!
Before giving up on kombucha altogether, I decided to try to make my own. Commercial kombucha can be expensive, and I’d already established the fact that I thought it was disgusting. So, I signed up for a class with an experienced kombucha-maker and bought a starter kit. If this isn’t an option for you, here’s a list of what you will need to make your own kombucha:
What You’ll Need to Make Your Own Kombucha
- Distilled White Vinegar
- A large Pot
- 1 Gallon Spring Water (Spring water tends to be your best option as it contains all the nutrients that feed your SCOBY. Tap water is full of fluoride, chloride and other chemicals that can damage your SCOBY. Distilled or filtered water makes for a very sluggish brew and may not grow new baby SCOBYs.)
- A mixing Spoon (avoid touching your SCOBY with metal!)
- Depending on your taste, either
- 1 cup Organic Cane Sugar
- A SCOBY and starter fluid. The best place to get a SCOBY is from a friend. If your friends aren’t into that sort of thing, try Etsy, Facebook Groups or even Amazon.
- A gallon-sized glass or porcelain Brewing Vessel with a spigot or nozzle (like this one)
- Coffee Filters
- Rubber Bands
- 3 Quart-sized Mason Jars or sturdy Flip Top Jars
I was shocked to see how simple it really was to make kombucha. I had done some reading online and had come to the conclusion that the process was ridiculously complicated and I would never have the time or energy to do it. So, I was delighted to find out that I was completely wrong! Not only that, but my first time brewing kombucha resulted in the most delicious drink I’ve tasted in forever! It was the perfect blend of tart and sweet with a fizz that rivaled any carbonated beverage. It was refreshing and addicting and best of all – my children couldn’t get enough of it!
The Modified Continuous Brew Method
There are several different ways to make your own kombucha. I was taught the Modified Continuous Brew Method. It’s unbelievably simple – in fact, after the first time making it, you won’t even need the recipe! And as a special bonus, you really don’t have to handle the SCOBY.
So what is a SCOBY? SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s the big, slimy glob that contains all of the bacteria and yeast that work to ferment your sweet tea into delicious, tangy, fizzy kombucha. Now you may think I’m crazy – and maybe I am – but my teacher taught us to love our SCOBYs. Name your SCOBY, talk to it, and let it know that you are grateful for what it is doing. I swear, your kombucha will reflect this in its’ taste!
In preparation for your first brew, wash out your brewing vessel and Mason Jars with the distilled white vinegar. Do not rinse with water afterwards.
Instructions for First Ferment
1. Pour approximately 1/4 of a gallon of water into your pot and turn it on high. Keep your eye on the water. You will start to see a swirl pattern develop in the water. Next tiny bubbles will start to accumulate on the bottom. When these little bubbles start to pop and release, remove the pot from the heat. Do not allow it to get to the boiling point. This will burn the tea and will make your brew bitter.
2. There are a million different ways to flavor kombucha. Depending on your preference, I recommend brewing with different teas. I love berry-flavored kombucha, so I brew with the Black Tea and Hibiscus blend. You may prefer a more spicy flavor and would do better with the Black Tea and Green Tea blend. Be sure to choose organic teas. Otherwise the tea leaves will release pesticides and insecticides which will damage your SCOBY. Whichever you choose, always include Black Tea as this includes the tannins which will feed your SCOBY. Place your tea bags into the hot water to soak for about 10-20 minutes. Once the time is up, remove the tea bags without squeezing them (I know this is so hard, for whatever reason!)
3. While still warm, add 1 cup of sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved in the water.
4. Cool your brew down quickly by adding the rest of the gallon of water.
5. Put your SCOBY and starter fluid in a glass or porcelain gallon container.
6. Pour the sweet tea into the gallon container. This may cause your SCOBY to flip and flop. Its’ position does not matter, and it will usually settle at the top of the fluid in a day or so.
7. Cover the top of the gallon container with a coffee filter, and secure it with a rubber band.
8. Wrap the spigot with plastic wrap to prevent fruit flies from contaminating your brew.
9. Let your brew sit in a dark spot, undisturbed for 5-7 days. The warmer the temperature in your home, the faster your kombucha will ferment. If you keep your home at about 75-80 degrees, your kombucha may be ready at 5 days. I keep my home in the upper 60s and lower 70s, so I let it sit for 7 days. The best way to know when your kombucha is done is to taste it. It should be slightly sweet, and slightly tart.
While your sweet tea is brewing into delicious kombucha, you may notice a few changes. At around 2-3 days, you may notice a clear, thin, mucousy layer growing on top of your SCOBY. Congratulations! This is a baby SCOBY! It will grow and get thicker every day. Your SCOBY will also put off dark, stringy, yeasty blobs. It’s not attractive, but these are all signs of a healthy, properly functioning SCOBY.
Each time you brew, your SCOBY will grow thicker. Once it becomes about one inch thick, it is time to thin it down. You can give part of it away to a friend who wants to start their own kombucha brewing, you can chop it up and feed it to your animals, or you can start a “SCOBY Hotel.” Maintaining a SCOBY Hotel will make sure you have back up if something happened to your working SCOBY.
If you notice gnats or fuzzy growth, your brew is contaminated and will need to be thrown out.
Instructions for Second Ferment
You could bottle your kombucha up after the first ferment, refrigerate it and enjoy it like that. Personally, I need a little more flavoring, so I do a second ferment. This is where the magic happens! Flavoring your second fermentation depends on your taste buds, so add what you love. Mix and match. Experiment – you can’t go wrong! By adding some natural flavoring and a little more sugar, your kombucha becomes a bubbly, zingy treat!
- Take 3 quart-sized Mason Jar that have been rinsed with distilled white vinegar.
- If you chose the Hibiscus Tea, add one of the following flavorings:
- Strawberry or Raspberry and NingXia Wolfberry: 2 tbsp of crushed strawberries or raspberries, 1 tsp NingXia Wolfberry, 1 tsp of organic cane sugar for carbonation optional
- Blackberry: 2 tbsp crushed blackberry, 1 tsp of organic cane sugar for carbonation optional
- Strawberry Mint: 2 tbsp strawberries, 2-3 whole leaves of peppermint
- Blueberry Lemon: 2 tbsp crushed blueberries, 1/2 squeezed lemon
- If you chose the Green Tea, add one of the following flavorings:
- Honey Ginger Lime: 1 tbsp honey, 3 slivers of fresh ginger, 1/2 squeezed fresh lime
- Ginger Lemonade: 1/2 tsp chopped ginger, 1 squeezed lemon
- Ginger Peach: 2 tbsp chopped peaches, 3 slivers of garlic or 1/4 tsp grated ginger
- Apple Blueberry: 2 tbsp finely chopped apples, 1 tsp crushed blueberries
- Pour in your kombucha from the spigot to fill the Mason jars 3/4 of the way to the top. Leave room for the carbonation. This will leave you with your SCOBY and about 1/3 of your first ferment in your gallon container. You can use this to start the process all over again.
- Seal your jars.
- Shake the container to mix it.
- Let your bottles sit on the counter for 2-3 more days. Once a day, open the lid to allow air to escape. If you forget the increased pressure can cause the bottle to explode!
- Store in the refrigerator.
Enjoy your kombucha! Share it with your friends and family. It won’t be long until they’ll all be clamoring for kombucha!