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I've been getting so many questions lately from friends and family about how we brew our kombucha at home. I had not intended to write a post on our process, because I felt like there were so many posts already out there, but with some encouragement from a friend, here I am writing one of my own!
When I first started looking into incorporating kombucha into our family's repertoire of strange and amazing “real food” choices, I read countless articles and how-to's. However, truth be told, I still found myself overwhelmed by the process… until one day I stumbled onto one more random article about how someone else brews her kombucha, and I had an “aHa!” moment, and it's been much easier ever since! I hope this simple tutorial will be just that for you… easy enough to digest, but plenty of info so you're not still left scratching your head 😉 Enjoy!
Ok, so before we start, I'd like to get a couple of terms cleared up, just so we can all be on the same page!
1. a delicious, naturally-fizzy, fermented beverage that's rich in prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins, and helpful enzymes
2. a really fabulous alternative for someone with a serious soda addiction
1. a symbiotic culture (or colony, but I prefer culture) of bacteria and yeast, also known as the “mother”
2. a jelly-fish like disc that resembles a mushroom, but is not one
“Kombu Cha Cha”
(cohm-boo-chah-chah) noun, verb
1. The inevitable happy dance that happens as a result of the party happening in your mouth while drinking Kombucha… this is unavoidable, don't try to fight it.
Okay, you caught me, I made that last one up. But seriously, Kombucha is one of my favorite drinks, and although you can purchase it in most whole foods grocery stores now, it can come with a pretty hefty price tag. Luckily, it's really easy to make at home, with just a little know-how and some safety precautions. So let's get started!
Before we begin, I need you to… Gather your supplies
~ a large stainless steel cooking pot (for brewing tea)
~ a steel mesh tea infuser (I use one like this for my large batches – that is, if you are using loose tea)
~ a fine mesh strainer (like these)
~ a funnel (if using mason jars – we have this one)
~ a ladle (for transferring the tea to your container… optional, but very helpful!)
~ a piece of breathable cloth, large enough to fit over the mouth of your container of choice… I personally use leftover fabric cut into “circles”, but you could use cheesecloth or old t-shirts too! The point is to allow your scoby to breathe, but keep the bugs out.
~ something to secure the cloth to your container… I use the rings of the mason jars, but you could also use a simple rubberband
*It's important that you only use glass or porcelain to keep your kombucha. Ceramics can contain trace lead which can leach into your kombucha, and of course plastic is not the best choice for the same reason, that harmful chemicals can transfer to your kombucha… not good for you, and not good for your scobys!
We have found that we prefer using glass mason jars, simply for ease of use. We do use a porcelain container (this one in fact), but I've found that it can be challenging to keep the spout free-flowing, which can be frustrating at times. Although it definitely holds more tea in less space, so that's an upside!
~ a scoby (if you have some hippie friends, ask them if they have one they can give you, otherwise, you can purchase one online here)
~ a small amount of “starter” kombucha tea from a previous batch
~ organic black or green tea (this is the tea we use, which works well. You could also use pre-made organic tea bags)
*Cultures for Health recommends black tea as the best option, but other teas can work as well as long as they are organic.
~ filtered water (we use a Berkey Filter for all of our water cooking/drinking needs… it filters out all contaminants, including fluoride and chlorine which can harm your scoby, but keeps the minerals)
~ organic, refined cane sugar (we usually get our organic cane sugar from Costco, but if you don't have it locally available, this one is good)
I can already hear you… “SUGAR?! Have you lost it?! I thought sugar was bad for you?! Doesn't it cause inflammation and diabetes, and…”
woah woah… slow down there sugar police… I'm right there with ‘ya, but this sugar's not for you… it's for your scoby! Happy scobys produce a bounty of nutrients… and happy scobys are well-fed scobys… guess what scobys really like to eat? You guessed it… SUGAR!
Glad we cleared that up! 😉
And, just in case you're still considering using another “more natural & healthy” option… please note that your scoby doesn't need honey, or sucanat, or maple syrup… it just needs some plain old simple, organic and easily-digestible refined sugar. You'll need “organic” because the bleach leftover from the refining process in non-organic can kill your scoby, and other choices for sweeteners don't provide the proper pH balance and could end up leaving you at risk for mold or an imbalance that could pose as a safety risk for both you and your scoby… let's try to avoid that shall we? 😉
(still need more convincing?)
Now that you've gathered all of your supplies, we can start!
How to Brew Kombucha
A (hopefully) Simple 5-Step Tutorial
1. Brew sweet tea.
- Bring filtered water to boil in your steel pot over the stove
- Add mesh tea infuser & sugar and stir using a wooden spoon and reduce heat to “steep”
We use about 4 tbsp of tea and about 2 cups of sugar for our large pot of water that fills four – 1/2 gallon mason jars… check out the helpful chart below to see how much of everything you'll need.
2. Let the tea cool.
This step is crucial. If your tea is too hot when you add it to your scoby, it will kill the scoby. Let it cool to around room temp… I've put ice cubes in it to speed up the process before, but try not to do that too often.
3. Transfer sweetened tea to your scoby and starter tea.
Using your ladle (if you like), pour tea through your fine mesh strainer (using funnel if necessary) to get out any tea leaf bits.
So… I don't want to stray off topic too much here, but I'll mention that we use a continuous brew system for our kombucha. Basically what that means is that we continue to use the same vessel and rather than cleaning out new jars or containers each time, we simple take out the newly formed scoby, leaving some of the starter kombucha and the original scoby, and add the fresh new tea to this. We clean the containers when necessary, but do so very seldomly, as washing with soap, etc can disturb the pH and inhibit proper growth and wellness of your scoby culture.
If this is still a little confusing to you, you can read more about the process here.
Regardless of whether you are using a continuous brew system or have a fresh new scoby with starter tea, this step is the same. Add the new tea to the original scoby with your starter tea.
4. Cover your container with a breathable cloth and secure.
You can use a rubber band or the ring to your mason jar, but make sure your kombucha brew can breath, while simultaneously keeping pesky bugs out!
5. Let your brew sit, undisturbed and out of the sun for 7-10 days.
After about a week, I simply pour a tiny amount out of the jar to do a taste test, if it's still too sweet, I'll let it sit for another day or two. If it's nice and tangy-tart, I know it's done and can either drink straight or do a second ferment to add flavor, sweetness, or just extra carbonation.
(*Optional*) Do a second ferment
by taking your finished kombucha tea (minus the scobys and needed starter tea for next batch) and add fruit or other spices, or simply juice. I wish I could play around with this more, but honestly we go through the straight, unflavored kombucha brew so quickly that I rarely get a chance to experiment with different flavors. We have tried juices, which has been great!
I use a ratio of about a 1/4 cup of juice to every 1 & 1/2 cups of kombucha tea, put in these containers, seal, and store on the kitchen countertop for about a day or two. After this, you can pop the bottle and you should have a lovely, nice effervescent beverage. (*please note that if your kombucha is not fizzy, this is totally normal too, sometimes it just doesn't happen, and that's okay… you will still reap the benefits and have a nice tasty treat!)
Are you a visual person like I am?
Here's a nice video tutorial from Cultures for Health for your viewing pleasure –>
*Just one more quick word of caution*
Because kombucha is very effective at aiding in digestion (keeping a proper and healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut), it is also comes with a word of caution so as not to cause any unnecessary digestive distress (if you catch my drift)… I started with only about 4 ounces a day, and actually only enjoy it on occasion now (although I wish I could enjoy it more!). I would suggest “working up” to a higher amount (say 8-16 ounces per day) if you enjoy the taste as much as I do!
Here are a few of my favorite resources & recipes… in case you still haven't had your “aHa!” moment 😉
- Cultures for Health – my Absolute favorite resource for all things fermenty and cultured!
- Top 17 Kombucha Recipes – Elizabeth from The Nourished Life has gathered a ton of recipes & resources (actually, 17 to be exact) here for your information-devouring pleasure
- Delicious Strawberry Kombucha Smoothie Recipe – from Noelle over @ Coconuts & Kettlebells
- More info on the second fermentation process – from Cultures & Health
Have any more questions?
I certainly haven't touched on everything here, so if you still have questions, ask away friends! And, as always, thanks for reading 🙂