What is kombucha?
An effervescent fermented tea made from regular black/green tea, sugar and the starter culture, also known as the Scoby.
What is that alien-looking thing and why do I want it in my tea?
Scoby is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.
The bacteria is Acetobacter (a genus of acetic acid bacteria). The yeast eats the sugar in the tea and excrete alcohol. The bacteria in turn eat the alcohol and create acetic acid. If you let your kombucha ferment long enough, it actually becomes vinegar.
Supplies needed for one gallon of kombucha:
- 1 one-gallon jar (glass)
- 1 flour sack-style dishcloth (tight weave; do not use cheese cloth)
- Rubber band or cord that can be pulled tightly around jar
- Distilled/filtered water (do not use tap water)
- Something to heat water in
- 1 cup white sugar (do not use agave syrup, honey or other sweeteners)
- 6-8 tea bags (either all black, all green, or a mix of the two)
- 1 scoby
- 1/2 cup previously-brewed kombucha (not essential but will speed fermentation and make scoby happy; can use commercial kombucha brought to room temperature)
- bottles for fermented kombucha
- funnel for bottling
- Boil one quart of water.
- Add tea bags and allow to steep for 10+ minutes.
- Remove tea bags.
- Add 1 cup of sugar to gallon jar, and pour in hot tea. Stir/swirl to dissolve all of the sugar.
- Add filtered water until jar is about ¾ full.
- Add scoby to jar along with kombucha from a previous batch.
- Cover jar tightly with towel and leave on counter for one week to 10 days. Fermentation period will vary depending on temperature – the warmer it is indoors, the faster it will ferment.
- Taste it after a few days. It’s ready when it no longer tastes like sweet tea and has a slight acidic bite.
Time for bottling!
- Make sure your bottles are clean; if recycling from other beverages, wash out with hot water to remove any chemicals or other foreign matter.
- Remove scoby from jar
- Pour kombucha into bottles, trying not to disturb the cloudy liquid at the bottom too much
- Reserve the kombucha at the bottom of the jar and the scoby for the next batch. You can peel apart the pancake layers to expand your production or share with others!
- At bottling, you can add flavoring. My favorite is one rasberry or 2-3 blueberries (fresh or frozen) per 500ml bottle. You can also add fresh ginger, a small slice of lemon, or other fruit. A very small amount will flavor an entire bottle.
- Once bottled, leave bottles unrefrigerated for a week. This will allow the kombucha to continue to ferment lightly and increase carbonation.
- After another week on the counter, you will refrigerate the bottled kombucha. This will slow/stop the fermentation process.
- Make sure everything is super clean before starting. You can boil jars/bottles or use a brewing sterilizer. Do not wash with dish soap as soap residue can harm scoby.
- Use only filtered/spring/distilled water. You do not want the chlorine etc. from city water or the extra minerals from well water in your kombucha. Even water filtered through a brita filter is okay.
- Spring-top, grolsch bottles are ideal for kombucha as they are strong and the lids seal air-tight; the lids also remain attached.
- Kombucha is temperature-sensitive. Do not expose to high heat (could cause over-fermentation/bottle breakage) or freeze (will kill beneficial cultures and allow harmful bacteria/molds to grow).
- If allowed to ferment longer, kombucha can be used in place of vinegar in nearly any application apple cider vinegar would be used. It’s been used locally as a cleaning agent, hair rinse, in place of wine in cooking, and other creative uses.
- Fermented kombucha can build up a lot of pressure. Do not shake bottles and use care when opening!
- If you get a lot of extra scobies, you can store them in their own jar with just enough kombucha to cover. No need to replenish kombucha regularly. This is called a “scoby hotel”.