How to make your own Kombucha
After the Christmas and New Year’s festivities I am probably not alone in saying my gut could do with a bit of love. Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, is one of my favourite ways to get my probiotics (as well as sauerkraut but that’s for another day). While delicious, the issue with store bought Kombucha is that it is generally very expensive & depending on the brand can also be quite high in sugar. Making it at home is the cheapest thing ever, about $3 if that for a big batch & you control the fermentation time, ergo the final sugar content! During the fermentation process, the beneficial colony of bacteria consumes most of the sugar, so it has minimal effect on blood sugar. The sugar is simply the food for these beneficial bacteria and the beneficial acids, enzymes and probiotics are a result of the fermentation.
What the f*&^ is a SCOBY?
The Kombucha is brewed with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria) that “eats” the sugars in the sweetened tea and creates an acidic, vitamin and probiotic rich beverage.
SCOBYs are living and thriving colonies of bacteria and unfortunately, you can’t just pick one up at your grocery store. There are several ways to acquire a SCOBY. The best way to get one is to find someone that is brewing Kombucha themselves. The SCOBY’s multiply during the fermentation process and so if someone is making up a batch they will soon have one to share. If all else fails you can buy them online but there is something cool about sharing the SCOBY love with others!!
A scoby will last a very long time, but it's not indestructible. If the scoby becomes black, that is a sign that it has passed its lifespan. If it develops green or black mold, it is has become infected and is best to ditch.
For 4L Brew:
4-5L glass or ceramic container
1 x Wooden spoon
Paper towels & Rubber bands
Cotton tea towel
4L Pure Water
1 cup Organic Sugar
5 bags Black tea
250ml of starter Kombucha (see note).
1 x SCOBY
Brew some tea
Bring 500ml of water to the boil. Once the water is boiling, switch off the heat and dissolve the sugar & add the tea bags. Allow the tea bags to seep until the water is cool.
Transfer to your Kombucha vessel
Once the water is cool, use the wooden spoon to remove the tea bags. Add the starter tea, remaining 3.5L water. Transfer the liquid to the glass or ceramic container.
Add the SCOBY
With clean hands, gently place the SCOBY into the tea. Smooth shiny side up with the little dangly bits underneath. Cover the jar with a tea towel or muslin cloth and secure with a rubber band.
Time to ferment!
Place the jar somewhere at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. In the bottom of the pantry or cupboard is great. The longer you ferment the lower the sugar content. I find a 12-day ferment results in a low sugar brew that still tastes delicious, but start trying from around day 7 to get the best taste for you. Keep an eye on it as if you brew it too long it will become vinegary which is not nice for anyone!
It is also good to note that seasonal temperatures affect the brewing time. Warm summer weather results in a faster ferment, whereas winter might mean the ferment may take a bit longer.
Bottle the goods!
When you are happy with the taste of your brew bottle it up. The trick to super fizzy ‘buch is to seal it up super well during this process. Glass clip top bottles are perfect. Make sure to reserve 1 cup of liquid to be used as starter tea in your next batch. Ensure you leave approximately 1-2cm at the top of the bottles. I usually add some grated ginger at this stage to add a nice flavor but plain is delicious too.
Leave the TIGHTLY SEALED bottles of Kombucha on the bench (away from sunlight) for 2 days. This is when the brew will become fizzy. After that move to the fridge and store for up to 6 weeks.
Repeat the process! The SCOBY does multiple and within a few batches you will see your one SCOBY has become two. This can be left on, thrown out or better yet given to someone else to make their own!!
Starter tea: When someone gives you a SCOBY, it will be submerged in a liquid. This is the ‘starter tea’ and can be used to make your first batch. If for some reason you are worried about whether there is enough you can use store bought Kombucha as your starter tea for the first batch. My favourite store bought Kombucha is the Organic Mechanic range!
If you are going away for a while and don’t want your SCOBY to die while you are gone. You can store it in a sealed container with 1 cup starter liquid in the fridge. It will then go to sleep and rest until you are ready to get back into it! Remember though, if there are any signs of green/black mould, it is time to start from scratch!