Kombucha is a delicious, refreshing, low in sugar, fermented tea, known as a "functional beverage" filled with antioxidants and probiotics, that has been around for thousands of years and thought to have originated in China or Japan. Major health claims abound, and while many cannot be proven, I personally have noticed that in the year that I have made my own kombucha, my husband and I seem to be much healthier than those around us.
In 2019, I made it a goal to learn how to make kombucha. I'd developed a fairly expensive dependency on it, and after watching an episode of Shark Tank with a lovely woman giving a great presentation on her home kombucha kit, I decided to order one. In essence, kombucha is wildly easy to make. Using organic sugar, tea, and purified water, a sweet tea is made, brought down to a specific temperature, and then starter kombucha and a SCOBY (also known as the mother) is added which converts the sugar to acetic acid and CO2, leaving you with a fizzy tart drink in 3 day-2 weeks depending on the conditions.
The bacteria and yeast form a new SCOBY: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, which looks like a gelatinous blob, some even think it looks like a mushroom, which is why kombucha is sometimes referred to as “mushroom tea” (but there is no actual mushroom in it). The fermentation process produces acetic acid (also found in vinegar) and several other acidic compounds, trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated. As a byproduct of the fermentation process, kombucha can contain a minimal amount of alcohol, usually less than 1%. This is why you are now carded at the store when you go to buy it.
Kombucha is flavored in a second process. After the kombucha has been strained off (reserving 2 cups for the next batch), and placed into clean glass jars(preferably flip top, or with a lid with a flip top), you can add fruit, herbs, juice, and other seasonings, and allow it to go through a second fermentation, infusing the kombucha with more flavor, and increasing the carbonation. Both processes are done at room temperature, ideally in a dark environment. After two days, strain the kombucha into new clean bottles, and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
I've been leaving a bottle in the mini fridges of my AirBnB rooms, have hand delivered them to sick friends with a jar of homemade bone broth, and pour my husband and I a glass almost every morning. I started with a gallon batch, but we soon discovered that we were drinking that in half the amount of time that it took to make a full batch, so I started a second gallon that is fermented simultaneously. I love experimenting with the flavors, using fresh juices, and ingredients from the garden. Perhaps our favorite and most beneficial, is a carrot, apple, ginger, lemon, and local honey mix that feels like drinking a glass of immunity.
In March I will begin hosting AirBnB experiences, where I will be walking guests through the process of making kombucha, and each guest will receive a SCOBY to take home and start their own batch. I'd love to see you there if you're ever in town!
Cheesecloth or a Paper Towel
4c Filtered Water
3T Organic Black Tea loose, or 9 individual tea bags
1c Organic Sugar
8c Cold Filtered Water
2c Kombucha Starter
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the tea, and remove from heat. Let sit for 8 minutes. Remove the tea from the water, and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Have your 1 gallon glass jar filled with 8 cups of cold water, and the room temperature kombucha starter. Carefully add the hot tea to the cold water. Including the starter, you should now have just over 14 cups of liquid (8c cold water, 2c kombucha starter, 4c +/-sweet tea). The temperature will need to be between 68-86 degrees before you gently slide the SCOBY in. Test the kombucha, it should be 4.5 pH. Attach cheesecloth or a paper towel to the opening of the container with a rubber band. Place in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight, and with airflow.
The SCOBY may float to the top, hover over the bottom, or even float vertically in the middle. Once a batch is done, a new SCOBY will form on the top, creating a barrier between the kombucha and the top of the jar. There will be brown stringy things that are part of the SCOBY, bubbles, and you’ll smell a bit of a vinegar scent when it is ready. Gently extract a bit of the kombucha and taste it, and test the pH, which should be between 2.5-3.5 pH. If it is too sweet for your liking, let it continue to ferment for a few more days. If it is too tart, you can sweeten it in the flavoring step.
IMPORTANT: Save 2 cups of the finished, unflavored kombucha for your next batch. This will be your starter. EACH BATCH OF KOMBUCHA WILL REQUIRE 2 CUPS OF STARTER KOMBUCHA, AND ITS OWN SCOBY.
The kombucha is now ready to drink or flavor. After you reserve 2 cups of the kombucha, and have gently removed the SCOBY and placed it into a bowl for your next batch (or 2 since the scoby forms a new scoby with every batch), you can strain the rest of the kombucha into either 2 glass jars (I use the half gallon ball jars), or into flip top glass bottles. Kombucha can be flavored any number of ways. I like to keep them bright and fun, and inspired by the seasons and what is growing in my garden or available at the farmers market. I like to use local honey or agave to sweeten the ones that need a boost. Always use organic ingredients.
Pour about 2 ounces of the flavoring liquid into the glass bottle. I use the 16 ounce ones with a flip top, or two quart mason jars with flip cap lids, in which case I add closer to 8 ounces of flavoring. It's all about experimentation. I leave the bottles or jars on the counter for a few days while they go through a secondary fermentation (they will be creating a lot of CO2, so be careful when you open them). After the flavors have all integrated, I will strain the kombucha and put it in clean glass jars and into the fridge.
The glass flip top bottles are great to give as gifts, or to have on hand if you are running out the door and need a quick bevie. You can filter out the gunk that will start to form, it is a non harmful byproduct of the SCOBY, but I’ll usually strain it to avoid the textural surprise. Instead of smaller glass bottles, you can transfer the flavored kombucha to a large mason jar with a flip top lid to keep in the fridge and easily pour from.
Hibiscus and Rose Geranium
Concord Grape Juice and Lemon Juice
Carrot, Apple, Ginger, and Local Honey
Cherry Juice, Lemon, and Vanilla
Mint, Lavender, and Lemon Balm
Grapefruit Juice, Pink Peppercorn, and Rosemary
Lime Juice, Mint, Agave
Apple Cider, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Star Anise
Cranberry Juice, Tangerine, Vanilla
Beet Juice and Lemon
*A great article on Kombucha in Forbes*