Let’s Talk Kombucha
Kombucha is the name the Japanese gave this drink in around 415 AD, but it seems to have originated in China around the second century BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as “The Tea of Immortality”. It has also been used in Eastern Europe and Russia for several centuries.
Well. Making Kombucha is a no brainer. It is produced by fermenting tea and sugar using a “Kombucha Mushroom” (which isn’t a mushroom at all, it is actually a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, but don’t think about that part) other wise known as a “SCOBY”. You can make the beverage year in and year out simply by keeping the “mushroom” healthy and happy (as in a steady diet of tea and sugar). It’s tasty. It’s cheap. It’s tasty. It’s fast. So lets get into it.
It’s A Lot Cheaper To Make Than To Buy At The Store
The basic ingredients are tea of your choice, both black or green tea are used, organic sugar and the Kombucha SCOBY ( which you only need to get once if you keep it healthy). We recommend using a high quality and/or organic tea, which makes for a healthier food choice.
Often Kombucha makers get their SCOBY from a friend that has been brewing long enough to need to divide the SCOBY. SCOBY’s grow continuously making them fun and easy to share. We got ours from a trusted friend when her mushroom was ready to be divided.
Otherwise you can buy a “Kombucha SCOBY“. Our recommendation is to buy a SCOBY that is already active and comes in a pouch surrounded by strong Kombucha starter liquid (tea), ready to be used. Dehydrated SCOBYs can be difficult to activate.
It’s Healthy, Tasty, and Fast
Kombucha has a beneficial effect on the digestive and immune systems, the same way as other fermented foods. Which makes it another delicious source of probiotics in your diet. Kombucha is also great because it’s an inexpensive fizzy beverage that is not detrimental to their health. And because you made it yourself you know exactly what your family is ingesting.
Kombucha is tangy, can be effervescent (sparkling) or flat. We like it both ways. It can taste sweet or tangy depending on how you choose to make it. The longer it ferments, the more tangy (think tart) it becomes. Some choose to ferment up to 30 days, many ferment somewhere around 7 days – which is what we prefer.
Fruit juices or other ingredients can be added after the initial fermentation, NEVER PUT FRUIT JUICE ON YOUR SCOBY, PUT IT IN THE FINISHED KOMBUCHA TEA YOU ARE PREPARING TO BOTTLE. Peach, pear or apple juice are some of our favorite additions. We just tried black cherry, it’s delicious!
The actual time spent to make Kombucha is about fifteen minutes. Bottling is as simple as pouring the finished beverage into mason jars and putting it into the refrigerator, ready to drink. You can also choose to make it effervescent which just requires a second fermentation stage of two to three days (more on that below.)
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- 1 1/2 Gallon Glass Kombucha Jar, OR for a larger batch, 2-Gallon Glass Kombucha Jar for the fermenting process
- Clean lint free 100% Cotton Tea Towels, to cover the Glass Jar while fermenting
- Stainless Steel Strainer, fine mesh. We find that an 8″ size works well for this as well as other projects
- Kitchen Thermometer, which includes lower temperature readings, down to at least 75 degrees
- A large glass bowl for steeping the tea. A 2 Quart Measuring Bowl with a pour spout works great because the tea can easily be poured into the Glass Fermenting Jar
- 3-Piece Glass Measuring Cup Set
- Kombucha SCOBY plus 2 cups of tea from the last batch of Kombucha. If need be, buy an activated “SCOBY” in it’s own liquid.
- Tea of you choice: About 16 Black Tea, Tea Bags OR 8 Tablespoons of Quality Loose Leaf Black Tea Buying bulk loose leaf tea is economical for an ongoing Kombucha project, AND tea leaves are wonderful for composting or for acid loving plants.
- 6 Cups of boiling water, we use well, spring or filtered
- 8 Cups of cold water, well, spring or filtered – Try not to bathe your Kombucha mushroom in chlorine or fluoride.
- 1 Cup Organic Fine Granulated Sugar
- Organic Fruit Juice to add to finished Kombucha during bottling phase – Our favorite Kombucha flavors are Mango and Pineapple.
- Flip-Top 16 Oz. Amber Glass Bottles AND/OR Regular Mouth Quart Jars
for bottling the finished beverage
Other Wonderful Tea Choices
Ok Ready? Here Is What Ya Do…
- Make sure all your equipment is squeaky clean including your hands. The fermenting jar should be clean and dry before you start. While you are actually fermenting you will remove the lid and replace it with breathable cloth ( an old fashioned cotton tea towel) and a rubber band.
- The tea of your choice. We use a variety, black, green, and white. They each give their own subtle delicious flavor to the Kombucha. Place 16 bags or about 8 tablespoons of loose leaf tea in a large container, we use a measuring bowl with a pour spout. Boil 6 cups of water (well, spring or filtered is best) and pour over tea, steeping for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Place 1 cup of organic sugar into fermenting jar.
- When tea has steeped, pour it through the strainer and into the jar pressing the bags or leaves to release the rest of the tea, stir with wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar.
- Add 8 cups cold water to the tea and sugar in the fermenting jar.
- Don’t scald your SCOBY! Be sure to wait until the temperature of your tea mixture is around 72 degrees or room temperature, which actually feels cooler than you think. What I thought was probably around 72 was actually about 85 degrees! Now I always check the temperature before adding the SCOBY.
- Once the tea has cooled to approximately 72 degrees, carefully, with freshly washed hands (I don’t dry mine that way they are cleaner and lintless) pick up the SCOBY (Kombucha Mushroom) out of the starter tea, hold it in one hand or place it on a plate.
- Pour the 2 cups of tea from the last batch (that your SCOBY was resting in) or the liquid that came with the SCOBY you bought, into the jar (to act as a kombucha starter) and stir. Gently place the SCOBY on top of the tea mixture. It is not unusual for the SCOBY to lay on the bottom for quite awhile (days) until it gets it’s bearings. The SCOBY will eventually float on top, covering the tea at the top of the jar. After awhile (in a couple of batches) you will notice that the top of your SCOBY looks different (lighter) than the bottom side does. Once that happens always place your SCOBY right (light) side up on top of the tea.
- Place a clean lint free cloth, like a tea towel (NOT TERRY CLOTH), over the mouth of the jar and secure with a rubber band, allowing the SCOBY to breathe. The cloth needs to hang down the sides, keeping the Kombucha environment dark and clean. Keeping Kombucha in the dark is
important as light may encourage molds to grow. Mold ruins the batch and also means you have to throw away your poor SCOBY !! Then you will have to buy or bum a new one.
- Place your Kombucha in a quiet place where it won’t get jostled for 7 days (or longer if you wish). You can carefully take a sample, to see if the tea is as tart as you would like, if not leave it for a while longer.
- When the Kombucha tea has brewed to your liking, with squeaky clean hands, lift the SCOBY out and place in a bowl with 2 cups of its own Kombucha tea. This is the starter for your next batch
- Bottle it! Pour the plain Kombucha into mason jars or flip top bottles and refrigerating, ready to drink. That’s it!
Making Flavored Kombucha
For flavored Kombucha add 1 cup or to taste.of organic fruit juice to each quart mason jar, fill with the plain Kombucha and refrigerate. We try to use organic juices not made from concentrates but that is not always possible to find, It’s ready to drink!
You can choose to make an effervescent beverage by adding fruit juice and other ingredients like ginger, AFTER the first fermentation phase is finished. Add your fruit juice, one cup per quart of tea or to taste, or other ingredients to the finished Kombucha (having first saved out 2 cups of starter for the next batch) and bottle it in flip cap bottles. Allow it to sit two to three days at room temperature before refrigerating, the longer it sits the fizzier it becomes. WARNING: If you forget your Kombucha at this phase, it may build enough fizz to blow it’s top!!
We especially like organic Mango, Peach or Pear Nectar or Apple juice. Sweeter juice with more pulp like the nectars allow for more fermentation and a very bubbly beverage which our family thinks is a real treat!
The last picture above is an example of flip top bottles, which can be clear or colored such as amber . Use after the first fermentation when adding fruit juice and allowing to ferment a second time for a sparkling or effervescent beverage. If you are not interested in the second fermentation, it is possible to use a mason jar and lid instead, but it’s a lot more fun to serve guests from individual flip top bottles.
Kombucha is a super alternative to what most Americans resort to for a refreshing drink. All of our family members from Grandkids, including teenagers (Kombucha is now hip and expensive) to Grandpa, who drinks it daily, love finding a bottle of Kombucha in the refrigerator. I can’t seem to make enough! I started with the one gallon recipe but am now making two gallons a week before adding fruit juice. Once you get into the Kombucha swing it becomes an easy part of your kitchen routine.
There you have it!
This ends Kombucha 101. There’s lots more delicious ways to use Kombucha so check back for more Kombucha recipes in the future. Also, be sure to check out our Sauerkraut blog for another great fermented food to add to your diet.