Did you know that you can easily brew kombucha at home? Kombucha, aka, the fizzy fermented tea drink that has been lining the shelves of health food shops and turning those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves overly health conscious into probiotic guzzling fanatics, can also be a fascinating DIY project. I personally love kombucha and discovered that love over a year ago. It was also during this time that I figured, why not try and make my own batch at home? Because let’s be honest, after you weigh the costs of a $4 bottle of kombucha every other day against a gallon-sized batch that can be made for pennies in comparison, making your own home-brewed kombucha makes a lot of sense.
The biggest hurdle in beginning your own kombucha brew is acquiring what you’ll need to get it started. Consider the initial costs as an investment, or as a gift that keeps on giving, because once you gather the supplies you need, you’ll rarely need to go out and get any more, which brings me to the basics of kombucha, the culture. Let’s talk about this for a second. Kombucha is rich with healthy bacteria that thrive in its acidic environment, and this great benefit comes from a pancake looking object called a “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This is also referred to as “The Mother,” because one scoby can provide all of the probiotics and fermentation from batch to batch to batch. It’s pretty awesome, really. There are a few options on how to get a scoby of your own.
- Grow one yourself
- Get one from a friend
- Buy one
I chose option #1 at first, but had little luck with it, so I then opted for option #3. If you really get into home brewing, option #2 will soon make a lot of sense. Once you start with a scoby, it keeps growing, and new layers keep forming on top as it multiplies. The original scoby I had kept growing and multiplying until I soon had 4 or 5 of them. You can take a look at what my biggest scoby looks like at the top of this brew. It’s probably about 5 inches in diameter and around an inch thick.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
- large container
- thin cloth
- rubber band
- 4 tea bags (black tea is recommended, but green tea works, too)
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of starter tea from a store-bought bottle of plain kombucha
- 1 SCOBY
The container I use is a 1 gallon Ball Mason Jar container with lid. You can find that here. If you’d like to purchase your own starter kit and scoby, I highly recommend places like The Kombucha Shop or Kombucha Brooklyn. In my personal experience, I definitely had an easier time purchasing a full-grown scoby this way, but if you’re interested in growing one from scratch, here is the tutorial I referred to.
HOW TO BREW:
When you have all of your ingredients assembled, you’re ready to brew! Get a big pot with 3 quarts of filtered water and bring it to a boil on the stove. Place 4 bags of tea into the pot and brew for 5-10 minutes. Reduce heat, remove the tea tags, and stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved. Turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat until completely cool, which will take about an hour. If you find yourself making this in the winter, leaving the pot to cool outside speeds up this process. It’s important for your tea to be cool before adding your scoby, so as not to damage it.
Pour your cooled tea into your container of choice. Next, pour in 1 cup of starter tea from either a store-bought bottle of plain kombucha or a previous batch. With clean hands, place your scoby into the tea. The scoby may sink or float, and either is ok. Place your cloth around the opening of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This allows the contents to breathe while also keeping out any pests like fruit flies. When you’re finished, it should look like the picture below:
Your kombucha will need 7-12 days to ferment, depending on your tastes. After the first week, check the kombucha by reaching in a small cup or spoon to taste test. Once the brew has reached its peak, it will taste just slightly sweet, tangy, and light. If it tastes too sweet, give it a few more days, and if it tastes too sour, or like vinegar, it’s been fermenting for slightly too long. If you completely forget about your kombucha and it does turn into vinegar, one really great way to utilize that is to create your own oil and vinegar salad dressing. You can also use the soured kombucha as starter tea for your next batch, or simply toss the batch and start over, but just always remember to keep your scoby.
When your tea has finished fermenting, a new layer of your scoby or perhaps an entirely new scoby will have formed on the top of your jar. You may also notice sediments at the bottom or floating fibers inside the jar, all of which are completely normal. You can see what the top of my brew looked like when it was finished fermenting in the photo below:
When you’re ready to bottle, remove your scoby from the jar with clean hands. Place into a clean container or onto a clean plate. You can use any jars or bottles of your choice to bottle your finished kombucha, as long as they seal tightly. You can use a strainer or ladle to strain out any globs or strings of culture that are floating throughout the jar. These are harmless, but if you’d prefer not to drink them, now is the time to get them out. Next, use a large funnel to pour your tea into your bottles of choice. The large bottles that I use are tightly sealed and provide a great environment for what is called “second fermenting,” or the way that kombucha gets its well known fizz. If I want to add flavors to my kombucha, this step is a great time to do that. Some great ingredients to add to your kombucha are chia seeds, blueberries, strawberries, and even herbs like rosemary or lemon verbena. Because this was my first batch of the year, I opted to keep my batch plain and will add different flavors as I go.
- When not brewing kombucha, keep your scoby in a tightly sealed container filled with 1-2 cups of plain kombucha/starter tea and place it in the fridge. You can store your scoby for a very long time this way with no ill effects.
- Purchasing PH testing strips is a great way to test if your kombucha is done, but also your taste buds are a great indicator as well!
- Be sure to thoroughly clean your brewing container in between each batch to keep bad bacteria from invading.
- Kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol, more or less depending on the sugar levels, amount of time brewed, and the temperature. Still, it isn’t a significant amount, but is always good to note.
Thinking of starting your own kombucha brew? Go for it! It’s a great and cost effective way to get loads of healthy probiotics into your body. Let us know if you have any questions or flavor ideas, we’d love to hear what you think!
Also, since we’re on the fermentation train, another great homemade recipe to try is kimchi! Kimchi is a cabbage based fermented condiment that has a great kick to it and is yet another way to get even more of those awesome probiotics.