Kombucha home brewing is easier than it sounds!
Updated: Sep 20, 2018
About a year ago I set about gathering all the things I would need to make Kombucha.
I had only had commercially produced Kombucha before, and many of the ones you see in the supermarkets now are not only expensive, but some have hidden sugars and preservatives in them...which kind of defeats the purpose of Kombucha; so I was keen to have a go at making my own. Once you have collected all the items you need (which I will list later on), it can be really cost effective to brew your own, and you know what is in it...no nasties!
So what is it? What is all the fuss about?
Kombucha is a fermented tea, where sugar is metabolised by a SCOBY, who produces beneficial bacteria which are probiotic to humans. It can be consumed daily as part of restorative program to improve your gut flora, and can be a great alternative to carbonated soft drinks, as you can flavour it in almost any way you want.
Other health benefits of consuming Kombucha regularly may include; improved digestion, improved immune system, cholesterol reduction, liver cleansing, and may help to prevent diseases such as arthritis and cancer. High in antioxidants if using all green tea it may also contribute to prevention of heart disease and diabetes. Here is a helpful article about the benefits of Kombucha!
What is a SCOBY? A Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts, or SCOBY, often gets referred to as a mushroom, but in fact it is called a Zoogleal Mat or "Mother", similar to the mother found in Apple Cider Vinegar. Each time you put a SCOBY into a Kombucha brew, it will grow a new baby, so you really only need to purchase a SCOBY once, and if you take care of it, you can produce baby SCOBYs and keep brewing forever!
The SCOBY is the most crucial part of making Kombucha. Without it, you are just making a super sweet tea. Super sweet, I hear you ask?! Yes. There is a lot of sugar put into the Kombucha brew, but the SCOBY metabolises it, and you actually can tell when your brew is ready when it is no longer sweet tasting. Some people then put sugar back in to it, to drink it - but there are many ways to flavour your brew. More on that later.
Ok, so you have your SCOBY. What else do you need?
I bought a huge Jar from Kmart. It cost about $7. It probably holds 2L or more of liquid. I got some muslin and an elastic band, and those are the main hardware items you need for the first stage of fermentation.
You need tea. I use a combination of both Black tea and Green tea, but it really is a matter of preference so you can play around with your own combinations and find what you like. Organic tea is preferable - the least amount of nasties present, the better.
Organic raw sugar is also necessary.
First stage fermentation is not too tricky.....
Fill a stainless steel or glass sauce pan (mine holds about 2L of liquid) with distilled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is not ideal here; again we are trying to keep the nasties to a minimum. Bring the water to a boil and add 6 tea bags. I use 3 black and 3 green, but you can use whatever combination you choose.
I cut the tags off my tea bags before placing them into the pan.
Turn the heat off and leave the tea bags to steep for 15 minutes. I usually put a lid on the saucepan, to stop anything falling into it during the steeping time.
After 15 minutes, carefully fish out the tea bags with a sterilised utensil (I use apple cider vinegar to sterilise everything before I use them in this process, including my hands!) and pop on your compost pile!
Next you need to add the sugar. I add 3/4 cup of raw organic sugar, to approx 2L of tea. Give it a stir to make sure it has dissolved, and then replace the lid on the pan.
And now you wait. For hours and hours until it reaches room temperature. This is very important because if you put the SCOBY into liquid that is too hot, you risk damaging it or killing it altogether, and that would be very upsetting!
Once you have got a room temperature tea, pour it into your 2L jar, then carefully add the SCOBY into the top of the liquid. You should have some liquid with your SCOBY (and when you take it back out later, you need to take about 3/4 cup of liquid with it, for the SCOBY to live in) so pour that in too. Now cover the top of the jar with the muslin, or a clean thin cloth, and secure in place with an elastic band. You don't put the lid on the jar. The muslin allows the liquid to breathe, and let out any fermentative gas. Put the jar somewhere cool and dark and safe.....
And now you wait again. In the climate where I live in SE QLD, I usually only need to wait about 5 days in the summer, but in colder climates or winter it can take longer.
On day 5, take the cloth off the top of the jar, and with a clean sterile spoon, scoop a little of the liquid out and taste it. If it is still sweet (more like iced tea) then you're not quite there yet. If it tastes a bit like vinegar then your brew is ready! Carefully remove your SCOBY and its newly formed baby, and 3/4 - 1 cup of the tea you have just brewed. Put them in a glass jar and seal tightly. You can keep them for 2-3 months in the fridge, although bring to room temperature before you put into your next brew!
So, you can choose to stop right there. Some people prefer it to be still and vinegary and just drink it as is. But there is another stage you can put your brew through which will cause natural bubbles and fizziness, and allows you to flavour your Kombucha.
For stage 2, you will need some other things. I have 3 or 4 Jars with tight fitting lids - these jars probably hold about 700ml of liquid.
You will also need flavouring - if you wish to use it. Ideally, fruit is what you would use. Citrus are not recommended as they can interfere with the secondary fermentation process. However, if you want your Kombucha to taste of lemon for example, you could just add lemon juice before consuming, rather than at the second fermentation stage.
Strawberries or raspberries work really well. Ginger is amazing. I used pineapple once, and it tasted excellent, but it didn't really fizz up much either, which I assume is due to all the amazing enzymes that pineapple has (Here is what Dr. Axe has to say about it!).
My favourite combination has been slices of fresh raw ginger and fresh raw turmeric. The health benefits of both ginger and turmeric are huge - but I will cover them in another article.
I tried mint leaves and rosella petals...that did not go well. The mint just ended up tasting really strange. I think fresh herbs may not fare too well in the second ferment, because it involves being in the liquid for another 3 days, but experiment for yourself and see what happens!
So for the second fermentation stage, put your fruit or whatever you are using to flavour the tea into the jars, then fill with the tea up to about 1cm from the top. Close the lids tightly and store in a cool dark place for 3 days.
After 3 days you can discard the fruit in the bottom, and sometimes a mini scoby may have formed at the top of the jar. Compost all of them, and transfer your Kombucha tea into a bottle with a sealable lid. Store in the fridge and consume within a few weeks.
So there you have it...My kombucha brewing process. Give it a go. Its pretty cheap once you have got your initial start up items - I am still using the original tea and sugar I bought a year ago!!
To recap -
You need a Large 2L glass jar
A muslin or cloth and elastic band,
Organic Tea bags (green or black or both)
Raw Organic Sugar
and for the second stage, glass jars with sealable lids and fruit/flavouring of choice!
If you have any questions, or my instructions haven't been clear enough, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk Kombucha!
Images are not mine :)