Kombucha, put simply, is fermented sweet tea that is touted to have many health benefits. Claims of health benefits are unsubstantiated however, and that’s not why I decided to make it at home. I made it because I like how it tastes. Any health benefits are a bonus.
Kombucha is produced by brewing a batch of tea, then fermenting the tea using a Symbotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast — otherwise known as SCOBY. The yeast is similar to what we use to brew beer – Saccharomyces. The bacterial component? Gluconacetobacter xylinus, which oxidizes yeast-produced alcohols to acetic and other acids.
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA
You’ll need a few things to get started, and they’re all relatively inexpensive. Most importantly (outside of the obvious — outstanding tea), the SCOBY culture. It’s readily available online. I ordered mine from Amazon.
1. Brew 1/2 gallon of tea – any flavor you like to drink. I used a pomegranate/hibiscus blend. Bring 8 cups of filtered water to around 150 degrees — not to a boil. Adding tea to boiling water will make your tea taste astringent. Add 8 tea bags or 8 tablespoons of loose leaf tea. Sweeten with 1/2 cup of sugar – more if you like your tea really sweet. Remember, this is going to have a tang to it when it’s done, so don’t be shy with the sugar. Steep overnight.
2. Pour the cooled, brewed tea into a sanitized glass container with a wide opening. Add 1 cup of distilled vinegar, then add the SCOBY culture. Cover the container with cheesecloth and a large rubber band, then place it in a dark place where it can remain undisturbed for up to a month. The temperature in the room should be no cooler than 68°F and no warmer than 85°F. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste. Your Kombucha should take between 7-14 days to achieve desired level of acidity. The PH needs to be <4 or mold will grow, which is why you need to add vinegar.
3. At around the 10 day mark, my Kombucha formed a layer of SCOBY of its own. This is a strong indicator that your Kombucha is ready.
4. Bottle the Kombucha. You can drain the contents of your container into any vessel that you’d like to serve it from, but I like the idea of individual bottles. Add 1 teaspoon of corn sugar to each 22 ounce glass bottle, pour the Kombucha into the bottles, then allow the bottles to sit at room temperature for 5-10 days before refrigerating.
Don’t try to get cute by experimenting with different types of vinegar. Use distilled white vinegar and nothing else. It’s cheap, it’s simple, it works. Apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar are not recommended.
When you get your SCOBY, it will be approximately 2 1/2 – 3 inches in diameter and about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. The SCOBY will be packed in 1/4 cup of starter liquid. This will be enough to ferment about two quarts of sweet tea.
That white SCOBY that grew in my Kombucha is a new baby SCOBY. You can use it to brew a new batch. When your Kombucha is finished, save your SCOBY in enough of your finished Kombucha to cover and store in a ziplock bag. Always leave your SCOBY at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate it. When you order your initial SCOBY, it comes with instructions on how to set up and maintain your Kombucha brew.