Kombucha has lately become quite a fashionable health beverage, several ‘how to’ videos can be found online and a visit to your local health food market you will most likely find a few different bottled brands in a variety of flavors. This wonderful refreshingly, slightly fizzy drink is a great alternative to sugary juices and sodas, and I am quite addicted!
A really old new drink
The recorded history of Kombucha dates back to Russia in the late 19th century, with some sources suggesting it began in China or Japan, either way this wonderful beverage has been enjoyed for centuries. What is it really? Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, made with strong black sugary tea, in which floats the magic ingredient, the ‘SCOBY” or tea mushroom, which feeds on the sugar and tea fermenting to produce acetic and lactic acid, and small amounts of a potent detoxifying substance, glucuronic acid.
While we can not make health claims for this wondrous brew, it is known to be a powerful aid to the body’s cleansing process, a boost to the immune system and prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases. I find my ‘booch’ to be a wonderful ‘pick me up’ drink, and great for curbing sugar cravings, particularly in the evening. My kombucha habit began with buying the bottled brands, and at a couple of dollars a pop this adds up fast, so I was delighted to learn how to brew this at home, at a fraction of the cost.
Here is a video of how to make kombucha:
The how to
To get started, you will need a ‘SCOBY”, this stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, this can be ordered online, or from a friend who brews kombucha, as each batch makes a new ‘Scoby’, I pass these along and most kombucha brewers are happy to do the same.
It is possible to make a ‘Scoby’ completely from scratch , I have not done this myself, I believe it takes a few weeks and instructions can be found online.
On to the equipment, you will need:
- A nice big jar like a wide mouthed glass candy jar or vase, the size depending on how much you want to brew at once. Glass is great as you can see the progress, ceramic will work fine, however plastic containers are not recommended as they can become contaminated.
- A thin cotton muslin type cloth to place over the jar, to keep insects and dust out and allow the culture to ‘breath’. New flatfold cloth diapers which really are just edged cotton multi purpose cloths, work great.
- Tea bags; organic black teas such as Ceylon, English Breakfast and Darjeeling are a good choice, other options are green tea and oolong tea. Other teas such as red tea (rooibos),and white tea are best made in mixed with black tea. Herbal and flavored teas do not work well, as the oils are harmful to the Scoby and will contaminate it.
- Sugar; as contradictory as it may seem to recommend white sugar on a health blog, this is what works best for making kombucha, as this gives the highest amount of glucuronic acid. I prefer to use organic white sugar, brown sugars, rapadura, turbinado or sugar in the raw are not recommended as these sugars contain molasses and are difficult for the ‘Scoby’ to digest and will interfere with the fermentation process.
The most important thing here is to brew the tea and sugar to the right proportions, so that the resulting brew will have the right pH. It is key not to skimp on the sugar in the recipe, as the ‘Scoby’ feeds on the sugar and using less may result in a bad batch, most of the sugar is eaten up in the fermentation process.
The ‘Scoby’ mushroom can be of any size, a small ‘Scoby’ will adapt to a larger jar, and the new mushroom will take on the size of the jar. You will also need around a cup or two of kombucha from the brew it came from, or from an unflavored store brand.
I like to brew a gallon at a time, in a large 1 1/2 gallon wide mouthed glass candy jar. This recipe can be halved or doubled, the important thing is to keep the ratios correct.
8 to 10 tea bags
1 cup sugar
12 cups filtered water, boiled
2 cups starter kombucha
Place the tea bags and sugar in the jar, boil the water and pour over, stir to dissolve. Allow to cool down the room temperature, this is very important as hot water will destroy the ‘Scoby’.
Remove the tea bags once the tea has cooled, wash your hands very well when handling the ‘Scoby’ as not to introduce competing oils and bacteria, and slip it into to container, opaque side up, along with the starter kombucha.
Cover with the cloth, secure with a rubber band, and leave in a dark, warm spot (ideally 70 to 80F), which has airflow.
The brew is ready to drink after a week to 10 days, taste a little to see if it is to your liking, it can be left up to three weeks, the longer it is left the more acidic it will be.
To harvest the kombucha, carefully remove the ‘Scoby’ , pour off, bottle and refrigerate the kombucha, leaving behind just enough for a starter culture for the next batch. The ‘Scoby’ will have made a new mushroom usually on top of the old one, this can be given away, or used again in the new batch.
A ‘Scoby’ can be used over and over for many months, watch it for signs of contamination, if it does not produce a good batch it is probably time to use a new one.
Video on flavored kombucha:
Add a little flavor!
Kombucha is good plain, but even more delicious flavored, these can be added right before drinking, or left to brew for a second fermentation process.
Once the kombucha has been harvested, place it in glass bottles or containers that seal well. The options for flavors are vast, fresh fruit cut up, herbs, ginger, or fresh fruit juices. Even though the ‘Scoby’ has been removed the live yeast and bacteria in the brew will allow for this acting on the sugars in the flavors.
If you are using fresh fruit use around a third fruit to two thirds kombucha, for juices use around a quarter juice to the rest kombucha. Bottle and leave out for two to up to fourteen days to allow for the second fermentation process. The sugars turn to carbon dioxide which give a nice fizz, but also mean the bottle should be opened with caution!
A last note, as a result of the fermentation process a small amount of alcohol is produced, usually around 0.5%, however a second brew with sugary fruits can result in a higher alcohol content, so consume at your descretion, and enjoy!
In Health and Wellness,